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Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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August 26, 2004

The Convention in Section View

I may try it next week, just to see what response I get. I may slip into an elevator at Madison Square Garden and catch the eye of someone who looks to be in charge. "Excuse me, but could you perhaps tell me: What floor is the convention on?" Some notes on the vertical logic of the event.

Cross posted to Sky Box, my convention weblog as a contributing writer for Knight-Ridder. See the welcome post here.

When I was in Boston, at the Fleet Center, covering the last convention, I spent time in the mornings walking around the arena, before it filled with conventioneers. Looking at the space when it was empty made it easier to see how it worked when the red light was on. The more I studied the set-up —what they built at the Fleet Center to “hold” the convention—the clearer it got.

Imagine taking a big knife and slicing the Fleet Center in two from the top. The building is now in cross section and it’s shown there are levels to the convention, a vertical order.

Level One, at the bottom, is the convention floor, assigned to the delegates, who are seated by states. (It crawls with journalists too, and those who have passes.)

Level Two is the podium, set on an enormous and expensive stage, and… directly across the way, on the arena’s opposte side, the big bank of television cameras, clustered for the head-on shot, and centered at mid-court.

Level Three: The print press have seats here, with bad views of the podium. Party VIP’s have seats here, with good views. The Kerry Convention, trying to look even more like a giant television studio, added seating directly behind the speaker— a “studio audience.” For the big speakers those seats were filled with cheering Democrats and an Oprah effect was created. Highly synthetic.

Level Four has the Network Sky Boxes, which I wrote about in my last post.

Studying this arrangement meant checking in at different times of day. Visit “the floor” during the evening when the convention is on, and no matter how close you get to the podium, in feet and inches, it always seems far away, the speaker somehow remote, the vibe traveling elsewhere, not at you. People on the floor may be listening to the podium, but the podium—and the convention program—is hardly ever listening to people on the floor.

The podium, on Level Two, talks to others on Level Two— the cameras across the way, the directors backstage. Negotiating the floor during the event’s peak hours, I constantly had the sensation that I was walking under a power line, or a bridge, and that a busy highway ran over us as we went about the business of “the floor.”

In fact it was television and politics hooking up overhead, as the camera and the podium connected along sight lines worked out in advance. For the organizers, Level Two is where the convention happened for keeps. Two is the where the silent alchemy of politics went on, and where the money shots (“look, the party is united”) were taken. On Two is where the event had to come into focus, or remain unfixed.

On Level Two a kind of live current was available between “convention” and “nation.” That was the thinking built into the Fleet Center. This current ran across the arena, over the heads of the people at floor level. It was something transacted between the podium and the camera, which talked sense to one another.

The other Levels seem to know this. When you’re a delegate you understand without being told that the convention is going on “above” you. Sitting in your section, you may try to pay attention to the program and its message. I did. But you soon get the sense that it’s angled elsewhere, even though the speakers are, in the political fiction of the thing, addressing you and the people nearby.

Of course, it wasn’t always so. There was a time when the mysteries of politics were transacted right there on the floor. Between the podium and the milling delegates ran the live current. For they were “the nation,” or as near as the party could come to representing itself that way.

When television came along, it took the action up one level, and the people on the floor became a studio audience. The people at home were the nation, looking in on what the Democrats were up to. But who says that pattern—and its fictions—have to last? Now we have the Internet. It has information users more than it has an audience.

I may try it, just to see what response I get. I may slip into an elevator at Madison Square Garden and catch the eye of someone who looks to be in charge: “Excuse me, but could you perhaps tell me… What floor is the convention on?”

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Ouch… Readers have been e-mailing me about it. Jack Shafer of Slate, in an extended (and quite interesting) reflection on why we don’t have A.J. Liebling-style press critics, gets around to observing:

Liebling invented, almost from scratch, the journalistic genre of literary press critic, but because he wrote as well as he did he seems to have closed the door on the way out. Liebling’s literary vision is too vivid to imitate, and it’s hard to imagine someone trumping it. So, instead of producing the next Liebling, the field of journalism saddles us with the worry-bead analysis of Tom Rosenstiel and the goo-goo intentions of Jay Rosen, for which there is no audience outside the industry. (Maybe not even inside it.) Daily newspapers, which employ art critics, film critics, dance critics, car critics, book critics, music critics, restaurant critics, and architecture critics by the millions rarely put press critics on staff, leaving the job of press criticism mostly to alternative weeklies, partisan organizations such as FAIR on the left and the Media Research Center on the right, think tanks, and academia.

For those not familiar with the dialects in journalism, “goo goo” is short for good government types, reformers, virtue-crats— always humorless, usually clueless, and quite infantile in their basic understanding of things, though they want to improve them. Thus: “goo-goo intentions.”

Jack Shafer, The Church of Liebling: The uncritical worshippers of America’s best press critic.

From back in September, PressThink: Spokesman for Press Priesthood Laughs. “Jack Shafer of Slate says public journalism bombed. Here’s what I say back to him.”

The Wall Street Journal profiles the fifteen officially credentialled bloggers for the Republican National Convention: Meet the Bloggers, Part Two (Aug. 26)

Posted by Jay Rosen at August 26, 2004 12:06 AM   Print


Ah, but Slate should be read like a Christmas present is opened -- remove and discard the colorful wrapping to see the substance inside.

The substance -- minimal self-reflection -- is a worthwhile nugget. Good for Shafer.

But, Jay, remember that Slate depends on colorful wrapping -- its brazen style overreaching its substance and frequently coloring it. You notice that Slate's reflection is directed elsewhere and not at itself.

The internet will drag newspapers kicking and screaming into Liebling's world both with "goo-goo" and without. So... say "Ouch" but then laugh and continue on.

Posted by: sbw at August 26, 2004 9:25 AM | Permalink

Shafer's a really smart guy, but that comment makes me think he's never read Pressthink. He's using WHAT ARE JOURNALISTS FOR?--a book that's five years old--as a stand-in for an entire movement (Civic Journalism) that's only partially related to the big-picture that Pressthink is about. I agree, and Jay, you probably would too, that the arguments of that book and other like it were never meant for the general public. And no one thought that book, or the arguments others have made for civic journalism, would change day-to-day operations at the Times.

Posted by: Eric N. at August 26, 2004 11:17 AM | Permalink

No audience outside the industry? What am I, chopped liver?

Posted by: Georg at August 26, 2004 11:33 AM | Permalink

Thanks, Eric. That's a good point, Georg.

From back in September, PressThink: Spokesman for Press Priesthood Laughs. "Jack Shafer of Slate says public journalism bombed. Here's what I say back to him."

Shafer is arguing with a stick figure from 1994, a parody version of a civiltarian who wants to replace all rough, tough, agile, interesting and watchdog journalism with relentless do-gooding. Who wants that? No one but a few foundation officers and boring academics. That was his impression ten years ago, five years ago, yesterday, today. It's always the same point. Public journalism and its dreary cliches, for which there is zero demand.

I haven't written much about it for the last five years. I feel I said what I had to say in What Are Journalists For? (Shafer disliked the book) which was about an episode internal to the press and to press think. A breakaway church emerges, and of course it causes a fuss. Shafer scoffs at it, and this is what he wants us to know: "I scoff."

Of course, his piece was about A.J. Liebling and the modern press, not any of this. We were a topic quite in passing.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 26, 2004 2:06 PM | Permalink

There's something viscerally unpleasant about being outside a group of "do-gooders" who value highly - and consider themselves to have - virtues that you yourself are underendowed with.

(I speak as someone who has felt this, and in other contexts no doubt inspired others to feel it.)

I would guess that a considerable amount of gratuitous offhand subgroup (or member-of-subgroup) disparagement stems from this source.

Posted by: Anna at August 26, 2004 4:15 PM | Permalink

Letter to Romenesko today:

After Jack Shafer interrupted my blogging to tap me on the shoulder and say, "you're no A.J. Liebling, man," I read his piece on that problem in Slate. Now I have a question:

A.J. Liebling wrote the Wayward Press column for the New Yorker. Shafer writes the Press Box column for Slate. Those are roughly similar activities. Shafer tells us that Liebling did 82 press columns over 18 years at the New Yorker. Judging by the PressBox archive, Shafer has written 200+ columns over four and a half years. Is it a fair to ask: why has Shafer himself not emerged as the "next" Liebling? After all, he has the most interest in the question. The opportunity has been there for him, week to week. He had motive, means. Is it the anxiety of influence? Other priorities at the time? Lack of competition, perhaps?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 26, 2004 4:42 PM | Permalink

Of course, his piece was about A.J. Liebling and the modern press, not any of this.

Perhaps some (future) Lieblings are being overlooked?

My cynical interpretation of your very well written structural framing of the convention, and some questions:

Level One: The people's political representatives at the convention. Long locked out of the smokey backroom, now denied even the courtesy of recognition from the podium. Besides, the people you represent are watching via Level Two and all the decisions were made before you arrived.

Level Two: The D/s symbiotic relationship between TV and politics celebrating a 40 year marraige, familiar with their roles, mindful of paying the Nielson bills. Serves the dinner hour voyeurs and cable junkies.

Level Three: With all the decisions made, the populous delegates disenfranchised, the VIPs are now freed from the smokey backrooms to hob-nob with each other and spin the print journos.

Level Four: The "View from Nowhere" position where the powerful insiders enthusiastically act professionally disinterested. Horse. Flies.

I'm foolishly thinking the important interaction missing is between Level 1 and Level 3, previously given the pretense of playing out on Level 2 before the television lens captured the focus of the VIPs' at the podium.

So, how do you act as a conduit between Level 1 and Level 3? Does it need to go through Level 2, or can you be the conduit, a wormhole perhaps, between 1 and 3? Is that a role for ("credentialed") bloggers not bound by the rules, in fact looking to establish a new role with new (defined by themselves) rules?

Can the internet create a surrogate for TV between Level 1 and Level 0, where Level 0 is the information consumer, the dinner hour voyeur and cable TV junkie?

Just asking (as someone who is, I think, outside the group(s) of do-gooders and people with "goo-goo" intentions).

Posted by: Tim at August 26, 2004 4:56 PM | Permalink

Be sure to catch the 'Debate for the Undecideds' off the floor. THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE of the 2004 election cycle will be held on Tuesday, August 31, in New York City.

Posted by: Wilson97 at August 26, 2004 8:40 PM | Permalink

You and Shafer both write too long, without the discipline of compression that reaches out to readers with passionate clarity.

There are no musical rests in your compositions, no room between the lines for the reader to engage with your thoughts.

Look up, write to us. What you think is not as important as how what you say furthers what we already understand.

Tease the genius gently, though. We haven't been dazzled often, or lately.

Posted by: A.J. at August 26, 2004 11:33 PM | Permalink

Thanks, A.J.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 27, 2004 1:36 AM | Permalink

Media Moans (H/T: Instapundit)

I've been listening to mainstream-media types talk about the terrible threat posed to the news business by one new phenomenon or other since I began my career 22 years ago. The complaint is invariably, and drearily, the same: Whatever is new is bad because it supposedly lowers the historically high standards of the mainstream media.
The last two years in particular have seen the explosion of a new medium — the personal Internet newspaper, or blog — that has already and will forever change the way people get their information.

Posted by: Tim at August 30, 2004 5:24 PM | Permalink

From the Intro