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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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November 8, 2004

Not Up to It

"Not mainstream journalism the practice, but the contraption it has for explaining, situating and defending itself has in 2004 finally broken down, given out after 40 years of heavy, reliable use." And an update: Matt Welch replies.

Los Angeles, Nov. 8: Tomorrow I give a presentation on a subject I wrote a long, speculative post about during the summer: how September 11th might have changed everything in journalism. My interlocutors will be ten tough, experienced, and decorated journalists who are grappling with “security and liberty in the post-9/11 era,” including the war on terror, how to cover it, but also how to think about it. (Here’s the list of journalists; here’s the presenters.) When the organizers asked me to participate, I said I would if I could use a title like, “Why 09/11 Challenges Everything You Know About Journalism.” So they gave me my wish.

It’s a How do I know what I think until I hear what I say? situation; and this is the difference between inviting an expert and inviting a writer. An expert is there to tell you what he knows. A writer is there to find out what she thinks. I’ m not an expert in counter-terrorism. But liberty after 9/11? We’re all experts in that, if we manage to discover what we think.

I was struggling with how to phrase one of my key points when an e-mail from Dan Froomkin arrived, alerting me to his new commentary at the Nieman Watchdog site. Froomkin, who writes the White House Briefing column for the Washington Post Online edition, was picking up on my post-election essay: “Are We Headed for an Opposition Press?” Here is what he wrote about shell shock in Big Journalism:

There’s also a wave of self-flagellation going on right now as some “blue-state” editors do public contrition for their alleged blindness to “red-state” values.

But many other media critics are coming to the conclusion that the most dramatic lesson of this campaign is that the impartial, unemotional postwar model of mainstream journalism simply may not be up to covering the current political climate.

Exactly right. But “may not be up to…” is a mild way of putting it. Froomkin quotes (as I did, here) Tim Rutten’s observation in the Los Angeles Times. “Whatever the electoral result of the current presidential campaign,” he wrote on Oct. 30th. “There’s a growing sense that this race may involve tectonic shifts in the landscape of political journalism.” Rutten said it was too early to see what the “lay of the land” would be after the stresses on journalism finally forced the ground to tremble. Jeff Jarvis says it’s not too early to see the shape of things. From Buzzmachine:

Jarvis’ First Law: Give the people control of media, they will use it.

The corollary: Don’t give the people control of media, and you will lose.

Jarvis’ Second Law: Lower cost of production and distribution in media inevitably leads to nichefication.

The corollary: Lower the cost of media enough, and there will be an unlimited supply of people making it.

Many others have held this view, of course. (Like this guy.) But they are generally outside Big Journalism. Jarvis, who works for Newhouse, welcomes the new regime. Tim Rutten, who works for the Tribune Company, is a traditionalist, alarmed by much of what he sees. Froomkin, Washington Post Company, is trying to keep what is valuable in the non-partisan tradition without pretending that the world is the same world it was when the tradition flourished and held sway in newsrooms. And so he asks if I am right about an opposition press:

Rosen wonders if a network like CNN needs to emerge as the “Democratic” alternative to the Republican-leaning Fox News, allowing it to more boldly voice a dissenting view. But there is nothing overtly partisan about questioning authority. Opposition to deception and distortion doesn’t make one a Democrat; it makes one a journalist.

Which is a good point. But I prefer the more sweeping implications in: “the impartial, unemotional postwar model of mainstream journalism simply may not be up to covering the current political climate.”

Not mainstream journalism the practice, but the contraption it has for explaining, situating and defending itself has in 2004 finally broken down, given out after 40 years of heavy, reliable use. And nothing did more damage to the taken-for-granted world of the American press than the shocks of September 11th. Part of the problem is philosophical, which almost guarantees a chronic lack of attention in newsland.

Consider the sentence: “I am a reporter, a non-combatant.” It appears to be a statement of identity: This is who I am. This is who I am not. But it very much resembles the statement: “Jewish by birth, but I am German!” In both cases, the truth of the statement I am… hinges on the actions of others. You are not a non-combatant if they shoot at you when they see PRESS on the car. You’re not a German if you’re born in Germany but Germans classify you a Jew. In those situations you have to be able to think politically to understand exactly who you are.

Something like this has happened to mainstream journalists in the domestic arena. They have had their professional identity changed for them by the actions of others, while simultaneously insisting this turn of events is impossible. “We are the Fourth Estate, a vital check on government” is one of those tricky sentences. It may be crucial to professional identity, but then these are the same professionals who must realize that George W. Bush has changed them into an interest group and undone their identity as the Fourth Estate.

If for 40 percent of the country, you’re the liberal media, what that means is that four in ten Americans have changed you into that. This is CNN’s identity problem; and there is no simple solution. If for 15 percent of Americans, you’re on television talking about the news, but you’re a joke, they have changed you into their entertainment. Do you disagree? Well, go ahead, disagree. You’ve still been changed.

It is in this sense, I think, that Al Queda changes the press. Terror today relies on the news media to complete the act. It knows the news media will, most of the time, cooperate, on the principle of reporting “what happened.” Even more challenging is that the threat of further strikes weakens popular support for truthtelling by expanding people’s willingness not to know, if it might hurt the war on terror, and by increasing many times over the portion of state activity hidden from public view: truth untellable.

All these things are happening to the press today— to “old media” as so many have taken to calling it. It is being defined by others because its self-definitions have fallen out-of-date. It is being pressed hard by its opponents because it is unable to say, “we have opponents.”

And then there’s the question I asked in my last post, which I still don’t have an answer to, least of all from journalists: are journalists part of the war on terror? Are they fighting in it? Or is it enough to say they’re covering it? Or do they oppose it?

The way I would put it is this: There is a war being conducted against the open society. Journalists are combatants in that one. They cannot afford to lose it, and they cannot afford to prosecute it with broken equipment. Maybe tomorrow I will find out what I think they should do.

For now, please go read Dan Froomkin: Tougher political coverage needed – but does it mean an end to impartiality? and think…

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Blogger, free lance journalist and Reason writer Matt Welch replies. Jay, here’s my advice for your rap tomorrow (or more precisely, for the dreaded MSM going forward)…

Blogger Alex Whalen responds to this post:

It’s interesting to me that this discussion is taking on some of the same characteristics as the nascent ‘who are we and what do we stand for’ discussion in the Democratic Party. Is it a coincidence the the last time both groups had a major revolution of thought was in the late 60’s/early 70’s? I suspect it is not.

Blogger, philosopher and newspaper publisher Stephen Waters responds with Journalism is up to it:

“Are journalists part of the war on terror? Are they fighting in it? Or is it enough to say they’re covering it?” The answer is Yes, Yes, and Yes. Journalists fight uncivil behavior wherever they find it — at home or abroad. Individuals, journalists, and society operate by the same methods, towards the same end. Lay one on top of the other like concentric circles and they would share the same curiosity, thirst for understanding, and sense of the future. We’re all in this together, trying to understand the full picture, using the same processes, planning for our better future.

How do you know when a column about blogs from a traditional journalist isn’t serious or worth your time? When it debunks the claim that bloggers will “replace” journalists. Eric Enberg of CBS boldly goes where hundreds have gone before: “One of the verdicts rendered by election night 2004 is that, given their lack of expertise, standards and, yes, humility, the chances of the bloggers replacing mainstream journalism are about as good as the parasite replacing the dog it fastens on.”

“Big media must learn that news isn’t over when it’s printed and fishwrap…” Jeff Jarvis was interviewed by Ernie Miller of Corante. An excerpt:

Media, always a one-way pipe, now becomes an open pool. And, most important, the centralization of media — the marketplace, the network, the monopoly — is replaced by a decentralized universe. This changes everything. It changes the relationships. It changes the economics. It changes the power.

There’s more of Jeff’s pithy statements about “the shift,” so read it. I left the following comment there.

The problem with Big Media is that it learned how to “store” trust—in brand, reputation and ritual—and so forgot what it was. But the blogger has to make trust, from scratch as it were. So the blogger winds up knowing more about the current conditions for trust capture.

See Chris Satullo on the Liberal Media Re-Education Camp. Amusing.

Diana West at Town Hall on The Liberal Media and Culture War:

There is something close to poetic justice in the creaky monolith of Old Media showing its advanced age and crotchety bias in a campaign that now ends in the defeat of John Kerry. That is, in important ways, the mainstream and John Kerry are kindred creatures of the far-away 1960s, both setting their anti-establishment ways during both the Vietnam War and, stateside, the anti-Vietnam War. You might even say that together they helped create and perpetuate the poisonous myth of the Vietnam veteran as enemy of humanity — touchstone of the self-hating American.

‘And now,” she writes,”with the re-election of George W. Bush, they have been defeated.”

See On The Media’s review of its own segments on the Bush Administration and the press: “This has been a presidency conducted in the dark,” says Brooke Gladstone. “So the press must use even higher wattage in the effort to peer in.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at November 8, 2004 11:31 PM   Print


Mr. Froomkin seems to suggest that the press go past being merely adversarial to President Bush, i.e., further to the left: WTF? How would that help the Press fulfill its semigovernmental role?

While I will admit to professing a fascination with Libertarian beliefs and actually voting for President Bush I believe it is fair to say that the MSM failed to press Senator Kerry as hard as they did President Bush during the campaign. OK, OK, I am part of the 40%, actually part of the 55%. And, I am from one of those colored states; Connecticut. With a couple of degrees, too. In other words, not stupid. Oh, and formerly in a profession which had close contact with working reporters, so, I know how dismaying difficult it is to report any level of fact above the most basic with any certainty of congruence with the on the ground truth. And that is so even before I consider the questions raised in your post.

One answer in the WOT might be to report all the truth, e.g., show all the pictures and tell all the stories necessary to provide an understandable context without aiding the enemy cause in any significant fashion. If, then, your reportage does not resonate with the public, and, if you have given them sufficient facts in context for them to make an independent judgment, you must move on. That is the first failure: the MSM did not move on.

The second failure was that of context. Mark Steyn's column (which was spiked by his publisher) on the hostage from Great Britain is an example of the context of which I speak. After the first hostage beheadings, the story is not the hostages nor their families but the depravity of those who would employ such tactics. If it is a war, and it is, then the context is the good of the country, the collective experience, not that of the individual.

As I write this the assault on Fallajuh is about 12 hours old. A radio host is demanding to know why Bush has lied about the Iraqi troops leading this battle. There is much moaning that 4 troops have died so far.

What planet are they reporting from, or rather to. To his first question, if what he claims is true perhaps it is in the best interest of the United States for the Muslims of the world and the Iraqis in particular to believe in their own army? For the second observation I would suggest that instead there should be a celebration that only 4 troops have died: this is urban warfare being conducted in a splendid fashion. It is not Hue or Stalingrad or any of those other battles where lives were spent like water.

Sorry, I am rambling.... just my views. Thanks for the provacative post.

Posted by: Jack Bunce at November 9, 2004 9:05 AM | Permalink

The American press has, at least since 1979, been a tool used by the enemies of democracy. The "machine" of which you speak was first used against us during the hostage crisis in Iran, when protest signs in the streets of Tehran were written in English.

The problem with publishing a schematic of your machine is that people with an agenda are free to use the operations manual for their own ends. Osama bin Laden knows that a video of his will be broadcast in the U.S., because he is "news." This is one of the chapters of the operations manual. Aberration is news.

Special interests of every hue have used this to get their message out to the masses. It's why I keep ranting about Walter Lippmann's "manufacture of consent." Lippmann was the father of professional journalism -- the author of the operations manual -- and the apple never falls very far from the tree.

Thank you for another thoughtful essay.

Posted by: Terry Heaton at November 9, 2004 9:42 AM | Permalink

To say that Gorge W. Bush changed the press into an interest group and undid their identity as the Fourth Estate is to ascribe to Bush a power he doesn't have -- without the full cooperation of the press itself. The "liberal press" argument has been going on for the last 30 years or more (think Spiro Agnew), not just the last 4.

Posted by: Glynn Young at November 9, 2004 10:34 AM | Permalink

Nancy Franklin, in this week's New Yorker, comments on the early returns from Big Journalism's reaction to the election, and they are far from encouraging. :

"In Wednesday’s coverage, the deconstruction of Kerry’s Grey Poupon-colored barn jacket was given its due, as was, to be sure, the enormous import of Bush’s victory and his historic fifty-nine million votes, but something was missing from the conversation. It was as if commentators, in focussing on polling issues, the Big Red Machine, and those vaunted values, were trying to set their own on-air agenda for the next four years—renewing their own contracts, as it were. Early indications, as we relearned last week, can be deceiving, but so far that agenda doesn’t appear to include very much talk about the concerns and the values of the fifty-five million people who voted for John Kerry."

Big Journalism was cowed into submission by 9/11, Iraq and Rove before 11/2/4. They are now scrambling to find new ways in which to debase and prostrate themselves before the Red Regime. My suggestion would be to instead find a spine and stand up on your hind legs and bark back. You will be barking back at more than the Administration, of course, as there remains a large segment of the population that is hostile to Journalists. So what?

Journalists do not need party affiliation in order to validate their approach or their reporting. The Red Regime would love to continue to wage Total Information Warfare as a full-time, rolling campaign, and would love to plug Big Journalism squarely in the Democratic Camp. Those are the very rules they have defined for the game.

It sounds clichéd, but why take, as a polestar, an outpost on the extreme left, when the truth has a quality in an of itself, and does not come in Republican or Democratic form? The truth is not objective. It is itself, and not dependent on its relation to any particular political orientation.

Many of the under-reported Bush Administration's policy disasters failed because they simply didn't make sense, weren't based on reality. The problem with them wasn't that they were the product of a Right-wing Administration, it was that they were based on flawed analysis and flawed execution. Those flaws should be exposed and actively opposed by Big Journalism, without bringing Democratic ideology into the story.

Posted by: Mark J. McPherson at November 9, 2004 10:54 AM | Permalink

If Mark McPherson meant to say above, "Truth is not SUBjective," I would agree.

Andrew Cline at Rhetorica distinguishes between objectivity of outlook and objectivity of method and argues that the latter is central to the credibility of journalism. He's quite right.

The larger issue is that the press is another interest group, albeit not just another interest group and not an interest group in the way that Bush White House would like people to think. Its self-interests lie in the areas of (not to attempt to be all-encompassing) literacy, analytical ability, transparent government, and freedom of speech regardless of political identity, and it should not be shy about saying so on its editorial pages and in its news-coverage decisions. The connection between these self-interests and the press's public-service mission is so clear that, if addressed honestly and transparently, I think only the most irrational readers could complain.

Posted by: Lex at November 9, 2004 2:57 PM | Permalink

Rosen wonders if a network like CNN needs to emerge as the "Democratic" alternative to the Republican-leaning Fox News, allowing it to more boldly voice a dissenting view.
If for 40 percent of the country, you're the liberal media, what that means is that four in ten Americans have changed you into that. This is CNN's identity problem; and there is no simple solution to it.

Jay, those two items say it all about how those of us who watch and read the news, rather than produce it, are completely misunderstood. CNN already is a Democratic alternative. It has been for several years. FoxNews' success is a response to that. I won't lump Headline News into that mash, as its quick roundup of stories provides far more factual information than its big brother.

It is quite plain to those of us outside the newsroom that the mainstream of your profession were not disinterested parties in the election, regardless of protestations. They most certainly came down on the side of Democrats. If FoxNews is "Republican-leaning," they are simply by comparison. Juan Williams and Mara Liassen, for all their intellectual honesty, aren't vangurds of the vast right-wing conspiracy. And Brit Hume is a paragon. I wish Rather and the rest would take some journalistic integrity lessons from him.

I am not a believer in the honest-broker model of news media. Hearst built his castle on bias. And bias provides options. Unfortunately, few cities now have more than one paper, and network news all lean the same direction. Balance has to come from somewhere else. Denial won't work. As with alcoholics, somebody must first admit to the real problem.

Posted by: Mike at November 9, 2004 3:07 PM | Permalink


Before you give your presentation, please read this. I'm thoroughly convinced that Journalism is up to it.


Posted by: sbw at November 9, 2004 3:25 PM | Permalink

off topic - delete me - but read Clay Shirky's latest, Group as User: Flaming and the Design of Social Software
("...the ways simple changes to well-understood software can produce radically different social effects....You could institute a 'Get a room!' feature, where any conversation that involved two users ping-ponging six or more posts (substitute other numbers to taste) would be automatically re-directed to a sub-list, limited to that pair....")

Posted by: Anna at November 10, 2004 12:03 AM | Permalink

If you start with the understanding shown throughout the Frommkin article, you are doomed. That article imagines that the press is merely seeking the truth, when in fact the MSM this year was seeking to defeat Bush. I'd bet the Prozac consumption in NYC went up just from demand from the NYT building after the election.

The lesson to learn is that the MSM has a lefty bias and has had for 60 years. A whole lot of Americans believe that (hence the huge shift of viewers to Fox News). In spite of the fancy language, the result at the national level is always a leftist bias. Two commenters here have mentioned aspects of this, and they are right.

The press is an opposition press whenever a Republican is president. That has been true for a long time. As another commenter mentioned, Bush didn't make the press what it has now become. I have observed a paranoia in this blog for some time triggered by some comments from the White House. Bush understands that the press is his enemy. This is hardly a surprise, since it is obvious to anyone that the main stream press is his enemy. That he doesn't read it is simply because he has people to do that job for him, and give him summaries.

There was too much made of the fact vs "we make the facts" comment. Do you really think that this means the White House is not fact based and the media is? That doesn't withstand the simplest logic: The White House experiences the results of actions based on its reality model, while the press rarely does. It is obvious to me who is fact based.

Bias Example: Kerry's free ride - Kerry's past was lightly scrutinized. The Globe reports the wrong military discharge year, one that favors Kerry, and never corrected it.

The fact that Kerry refused to release all his records was hardly mentioned (those papers show he got a less than honorable discharge, later changed to honorable as a result of Carter's blanket amnesty).

The Swift Boat controversy was adjudicated in a transparently biased manner - different criteria for each charge, and no mention that it required 60 combvat veterans, most of them officers, to sweara out false affidavits affidavits, with no reward. One of those must-be-lying-veterans is an Admiral in charge of the Navy's justice system (he is head of Navy JAG, just like on TV. At the same time, I have seen no stories investigating the vets that followed Kerry around, and what their incentives might have been.

Now consider the attacks on Bush's National Guard record. They were both extreme and utterly unnecessary. If they were so important, they obviously should have been examined by the MSM in 2000. After 4 years of Bush, what could his National Guard record tell us about his character that wasn't already known? It was simply a long lasting frenzied effort to find a gotcha. Rathergate shows how desperately the press wanted to find dirt on Bush. The reporting as pathetic. I never saw reported that Bush flew armed combat intercept missions many times. I never saw reported that the F-102 was called "the widowmaker."

There are plenty more examples, but the MSM needs to recognize that it is the voice only of the minority that voted for Bush, and that it has absolutely no moral authority. Or, it can try to change.

As someone in flyover country, I didn't read the NYT until recently. But the instant Fox News became available, we stopped watching leftist CNN. The network news has been editorials, not news, for ages. 60 minutes is great to have around because it uses propaganda techniques so well - it's a ogod exemplar. The Network News opereations have lost a lot of credibility this year.

The idea that the purpose of the press is to find bad things in the government is very negative. Obviously there is a need for a watchdog function, but the press shouldn't constantly be in a game of gotcha. Anyway, you have your opposition press. It's the MSM. The interesting question is what the press will do when Hillary wins in 2008. Will it play her protector, or will it manage to ignore its predilections. I am not even slightly optimistic. We will see the opposition press turn into a cheering section instantly.

I know that Jay will not be surprised by much in this post, and I believe he has no problem with the contention that the press has a liberal bias. But that bias "narrative" is very serious - it means the press is delivered a defective product - people want an unbiased source, whether its possible or not. It should be the most important issue to the MSM.

A note to Mark. I rarely watched HNN since Fox became available. However, when I did watch it, it seemed like the program clock was 15 minutes of news, and then 15 minutes of propanda (some of it clearly required by host countries like Cuba, most of it on a small and predictable set of issues of importance to the left and often of no importance to anytone else).

Posted by: John Moore at November 10, 2004 1:09 AM | Permalink

Now about ten different commenters, speaking to me in that charming "get a clue" fashion, have said what Mike above said about my speculations that an "opposition" press might emerge. The Liberal Media already is the opposition, get a clue! See, Rosen, this is what you don't understand. And you never will. Because you're a liberal too. Because you're biased, too. It's so obvious.

Honestly, it begins to sound like a re-education camp sometimes. To wit:

those two items say it all about how those of us who watch and read the news, rather than produce it, are completely misunderstood. CNN already is a Democratic alternative. It has been for several years.

Let me just say, then, to my friends who would re-educate me that while CNN might be run by leftists for leftists in leftist fashion and with lip-curling leftist intent, it still does not describe itself that way. Even camp commander John Moore would agree with that. Officially, neither does MSNBC, nor ABC, nor CBS describe itself as a liberal network. So for those readers who drink from the deep deep truth of liberal bias and know the real score, every time you see a phrase like "opposition" in front of "press" just slip the word "declared" in front of it. Will the press go into declared opposition? would thus become the question. Get it?

See Chris Satullo on the Liberal Media Re-Education Camp.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 10, 2004 1:38 AM | Permalink


You might consideer why you got all those responses in the form they are in.

For the MSM to declare itself in opposition would be honest, at least, although the question about Hillary remains. Does it stay in opposition when the government shifts from right to left?

Are there any examples of opposition press in the world? I believe that in countries with diverse press, they are declared *for* a particular point of view, which may or may not be "opposition" depending on who is in power. And if we develop variety in viewpoints of MSM components, I think they would go in that direction.

Now as to the re-education camp, it has an entrance fee which you have yet to pony up. You need to get with it.

Posted by: John Moore at November 10, 2004 2:31 AM | Permalink

Read the Satullo piece -- very funny.

But one thing stuck out that has always rankled me about the MSM cadres and their leftist buddies: this claim to be "reality-based" (also see Atrios for this reference).

So I am listening to NPR on the way to work, and they trot out the empty-headed Ann Garruls to report on combat -- AGAIN -- this time from her perch outside Falluja. But it is the same uninformed tripe we heard from her last year from Baghdad:

"many explosions, the sky is lit up, I can hear large booms" -- DUH, very incisive reporting Ann. The Marines (happy 229th B-Day today), with Army & Iraqi support, are taking out an entrenched enemy in an urban assault designed to minimize civillian casualties. She talks like a 3 year-old, describing her senses, as though these events, which have been telegraphed for weeks, are somehow unexpected or bad. She did the same reports last year during OIF, with similarly ridiculous, and innaccurate conclusions. She never gives any real insights into what is happening with the campaign, how it will effect the prospects for January elections, etc....I do not think she has a clue.

Compare this crappy reporting with this: ( or this: ( Absolutely no comparison. NPR staffers are such idiots about military operations they cannot even tell that Garruls is completely useless -- they act like she is some kind of fucking oracle.

"Iraqi people we have met claim this atatck will make things worse" -- based on NPR interviews with a few Sunni loyalists who claim to want to want the Iraqi govt. to provide better security. No context from NPR that reducing Falluja is crucial to improving security. No surprise.

I could go on for pages and pages -- but you get the idea -- this is the kind of reporting that MSM types would characterize as "reality-based", as it fits their limited view of the real world. This claim is beyond preposterous, and it goes along way towards explaining why I continue to insist that traditionally trained journalists, who think they have some kind of special skill set, are delusional. Consumers of news content would be far better served by real world experts, who can be taught the basic, rudimentary investigative & writing skills required to generate useful reporting. It is not rocket science!!!

This continuing narrative, by Jay, Matt and others, that flows from an assumption that modern journalists are like some kind of sainted preisthood with mystical powers and deep insight that makes them "reality-based", or objective, or "truth-seeking" is all a pile of crap.

Journalists are rank amatuers in everything, except what they do in their own life. All the rest is a bogus pose, and I am tired of it.

Posted by: Evor Glens at November 10, 2004 9:43 AM | Permalink

Evor: This continuing narrative, by Jay, Matt and others, that flows from an assumption that modern journalists are like some kind of sainted priesthood

Evor, I'm not sure you got to my last paragraph, "The failings of journalism observed are the failings of ordinary people, showing the failings of our ordinary schools."

Posted by: sbw at November 10, 2004 9:53 AM | Permalink


I stand corrected -- your comments do reflect an understanding that human imperfection is also an issue for journalists. You are the exception however, not the rule, at least in my experience. I have enjoyed and learned from your comments at this site, and I expect I will continue to profit from your perspective.

OT: Doug Kern takes down Eric Engberg, who does not seem to share your belief in the limitations of the MSM as "professionals". Of course, he is from the neolithic tribe called "CBS", where the 20th century is still dawning.

Have a nice day.

Posted by: Evor Glens at November 10, 2004 10:12 AM | Permalink

I find the NYT coverage of events in Iraq to be uneven, though much of it is quite good (Filkins, Burns and others). I was referring to NPR in my post, and specifically Ann Garruls, who thought so highly of her "reporting" from Iraq in 2002/3 that she came back and wrote a critically-acclaimed book, at least that was the view of the MSM.

However, her combat reporting (or whatever she is doing there in Iraq) never rises to the level of the detailed understanding and analysis you get from amatuers like the guy in Texas, who actually knows what he is talking about and is honest about his ideology. Between Chester, Belmont Club, and The Command Post -- all of whom are openly and transparently hoping we will win the war in Iraq -- one will encounter a much more critical and informative discussion than anywhere I have seen in the MSM. They admit they are largely dependent on MSM reports, governemnt news releases, and local bloggers on the scene in Iraq for their own raw data, but they still seem far more able to integrate these inputs into a coherent picture of events. Their criticisms of policy, strategy or tactics, which are presented with the heat they deserve, are far more telling as a result. In my view, this is because they are writing from a vantage of domain expertise that professional journalists rarely possess.

This was my point, and I am sorry I clouded the message by getting profane -- I apologize.

Compare any 15 minutes of NPR mush with 15 minutes reading from these blogs, and tell me who has a more accurate picture of reality. The NPR professionals, or the weblog amatuers?

Let's see if you really care about facts over feelings as much as you claim.

PS: What is wrong with wishing the USMC well on the anniversary of their founding? They always take the opportunity to reinforce morale on this day every year, and take pride in their service. You would begrudge them this? Why?

Posted by: Evor Glens at November 10, 2004 11:17 AM | Permalink

Re: Rosen's "assumption that modern journalists are like some kind of sainted priesthood."

What in blazes are you talking about? What is the referent for this wacky statement? Or is it just another way of saying I need to go to re-education camp and that you, Evor, will be one of the instructors?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 10, 2004 2:28 PM | Permalink

Is the war on the press a war on an abstraction? Reader Bob Ludlow sent this:

I fail to see what The War On An Abstraction has to do with it. As I see it, there are three causes for the quandary in which American journalists now find themselves:

(1) The rise of the World Wide Web, and blogging (duh ?).

(2) Rupert Murdoch's creation of an intentionally slanted media news machine. If you're going to reference Nazi Germany, remember that one of the way-pavers, a great facilitator of Weimar instability, was the concentration of media in very right-wing hands.

(3) A fat-catism in the journalistic profession itself. Face it, prominent journalists are earning too much money to be hungry, or angry. I just don't see the "get the bastards" mentality that often existed when journalists were a looked-down-upon bunch of scribblers and one-finger typists. Washington-based big media journalists seem to regard politicians as colleagues, rather than The Enemy. You can't be a Fourth Estate if you don't retain a sense of
separateness. Is the goal of journalists today to fight vested interests, or to get a plush gig on TV and become part of the entertainment business?

Best wishes,

Bob Ludlow

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 10, 2004 6:52 PM | Permalink

I've considered the populist distain for what the press has become to be a backlash.

It is interesting to read a professor of journalism advocating a press backlash of this populist distain.

Of course, it is not couched as a populist distain here, but it is.

Posted by: J-Fan at November 11, 2004 9:11 AM | Permalink

Years ago, as I was touring a small TV station, I was struck by the sign "Talent" on a door. It was where the powder-nosed, talking faces went after their 3 minutes of glory. Look at the investment MSM (I belong to msm - small main stream media) has in "talent" and the risks involved in changing it, once brand has been established.

Previous comments compared NPR's Ann Garruls or CBS' Dan Rather to worthwhile blogs like Belmont Club, Winds of Change, and the aggragator, Command Post. What technology has wrought is the necessity for MSM to reassess risk, because the audience sure has.

I, for one, turn off NPR whenever they trundle out Daniel Schor. Schor's November 10th, All Things Considered commentary was not -- to use the yardstick Jay Rosen proposed in his recent presentation -- half so "useful" as Belmont Club, Winds of Change, and Command Post. NPR and other MSM can adjust if they appreciate why listeners/viewers/readers migrate.

Looking at the writing on the wall, no wonder "talent" like Dan Rather (CBS), Tom Brokaw (NBC), and Carole Simpson (ABC) attack the value of blogs. If MSM bosses discover the greater risk is NOT changing, "talent" is in jeopardy.

Posted by: sbw at November 11, 2004 9:33 AM | Permalink

In my first comment that suggested Journalism was up to it, I casually proposed two laws. I forgot that I had some years ago proposed another "law". That pushes the current suggestions down to "Two" and "Three". Please discount the pomposity of tacking on my name to Waters' Laws. Labels be damned, it's the ideas that I hope prove useful.

Posted by: sbw at November 11, 2004 10:27 AM | Permalink

Spelling: Ann Garruls, taken from an earlier post s/b corrected to Anne Garrels. Sorry.

Posted by: sbw at November 11, 2004 10:38 AM | Permalink

You quote Diana West as writing "You might even say that together they helped create and perpetuate the poisonous myth of the Vietnam veteran as enemy of humanity -- touchstone of the self-hating American."

As far as I can remember - and I remember a whole lot from that period - no one ever created that myth. The real myth is that anyone ever believed that Vietnam vets were the enemy of humanity, or promoted that view. Most of us had friends and/or family who were either drafted or volunteered. Many anti-war activists spent a lot of time talking with Nam vets about their experiences, after their return. But that's not the story.

In other words, that's a mythical myth. It has been repeated so many times that it's taken as true, and yet I never see anyone refute it. And it still comes up, and many on the Right take it as gospel. So, she's right - you might say it.

And it would be a flat-out lie.

Posted by: GregB at November 11, 2004 2:51 PM | Permalink

GregB, you might want to read "Stolen Valor" by Burkette - it was written after the author, a Vietnam Veteran, kept running into odd reactions from people - they would advise him to keep it quiet, or they would refuse to do business with him. He investigated and found widespread beliefs that Vietnam vets were likely to go crazy at any minute (see Kerry's "monster" phrase) or had committed atrocities (see Kerry's atrocity rundown). Vietnam vets were often insulted in VFW and American Legion get-together.

The most important creator of the myth was self-confessed war criminal John Kerry, in his 1971 testimony to the Senate. His testimony appeared very credible to the naive.

I don't know where the press was in all that. At the time, I wasn't paying much attention to political issues. But the press did develop this habit of pointing out Vietnam veteran status in people commiting violence, while not doing so with Korean or WW-II veterans. I believe it still happens, although these days Vietnam vets are one of the many PC victims categories.

Posted by: John Moore at November 12, 2004 2:12 AM | Permalink

I'm new to this blog and I just finished reading all the comments.

What seems missing from this discussion is asking whether one can believe Americans are well informed on the significant issues facing the United States. I do not think the answer could even be close to yes. I am originally from Ohio but now live in Europe. What is clear to me every time I speak with my sisters in Ohio is that important information is not getting through, particularly regarding matters of terrorism and foreign policy.
The PIPA study (
is one example citing how misinformed Americans are about important matters of fact. Why is this? My guess is that it does not pay to inform, rather it pays to be sensational whether toward the right or the left. Also, I think people like to have their views confirmed rather than challenged. Increasing if you are one of those that does want to be informed you are driven out of necessity to the web.

If MSM would like confirmation of how bad it is, may I suggest they do some of their own “Jaywalking” ala Jay Leno, to see if any of their “information” is getting through.

Posted by: DavidS at November 13, 2004 1:23 PM | Permalink


I agree that the press today has failed in many incredibly important ways. To me the first critical failure was the absence of, and/or weak coverage of election problems beginning with the NYT's handling (or non-handling) of Florida2000.

On the other hand, articles like this,
or , which documents today's conflicts at the CIA (and attendant resignations) triggered by Porter Goss's ascendancy, prove that the current mainstream press **is** up to it sometimes. I don't know where else we could get such articles. You don't expect CIA senior managers to blog these stories, do you?

I think it is important to keep "the contraption" running. This is no time to take it off the road for an overhaul. Pass the duct tape and bailing wire!

Posted by: David S. Isenberg at November 13, 2004 8:21 PM | Permalink

From the Intro