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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 9, 2004

Matt Welch on Shifting Terms of Authority in the Newspaper Press

The bemused political writer Matt Welch is one of my favorite bloggers because he is one of blogging's most independent thinkers-- and he has an eye. After absorbing my last post, Not Up to It, he wrote in with some things newspapers can do as they "react to a world that increasingly ignores them."

Los Angeles, Nov. 9. The bemused political writer Matt Welch, who lives in LA, is one of my favorite bloggers because he is one of blogging’s more independent thinkers— and he’s a journalist with an eye. After absorbing my last post, Not Up to It, he wrote in with some things newspapers can do as they “react to a world that increasingly ignores them & treats them with skepticism bordering on derision.” (MSM, for those who get their news by carrier pigeon, means “mainstream media,” which for purposes of this note could mean the daily newspaper in your typical American town.) Welch:

Jay: Here’s my advice for your rap tomorrow (or more precisely, for the dreaded MSM going forward.)

  • Before you jump off the cliff, remember that you make bigger profits, and have newsrooms filled with more journalists, than any other country in the world. As bad as everything might feel, it just ain’t that bad.
  • Always be understanding your market advantage (a large newsroom full of people with valuable fact-gathering & vetting experience), and how you can leverage that to beat the snot out of the competition. (By, for instance, running fact-checks in the Book Review section, or calling out factual BS in letters to the editor, or assigning web-only editor/bloggers to track inflammatory political stories & rumors.)
  • With great power should come greatly thick skin. Even with their eroding influence, newspapers especially have a disproportionate influence on the communities they serve. The unholy abuse hurled at them is an acknowledgment of their power.
  • If you want to react to the New Reality in the most dynamic way, consider swallowing the Jay Rosen Pill & becoming an opposition press. Or more precisely, a news organization with a specific political profile. Truth is, tons of these already exist (alt weeklies, and dailies like the WashTimes, NYsun & Post, Pitt Trib-Review, etc.); but embracing it with zest could be very lucrative & fun for the trailblazer.
  • If a big paper doesn’t do it, a small free tabloid will, and will eat the big paper’s lunch.
  • If you DON‘T have the cojones to make this leap (and 99% of the papers won’t), then there are other VERY IMPORTANT things papers can do to cost-effectively react to a world that increasingly ignores them & treats them with skepticism bordering on derision:

When ignored and derided:

1) Don’t make endorsements, make confessions. Forget looking down the mountain at the plebes & telling them how to vote. Instead, poll your newsroom about who they’re voting for, who they’ve voted for in the past, what parties they belong to, and etc. Give them the option of saying “fuck off.” Make that data as public as possible (by, for instance, noting that 96% of your staff voted for Kerry, and then providing the personal details of the 22% who were brave enough to weather transparency). The idea is not to advertise your bias, but on the contrary, to be as upfront and transparent as you demand of others. You’ll also be knee-capping the bias-hunters, and figuring out whether your news organization has some ideological blind spots worth addressing.

2) Don’t limit this transparency to politics. Why isn’t there a mini-homepage for every single bylined reporter, with links & headlines & dates on every last thing he/she has ever written for the paper? When that reporter calls, you could look it up, and you’d have a much better idea of who you’re dealing with. Increasingly, I call people who know me from my website (including the resume page), and their knowledge of me makes the interview much better for me. Why shouldn’t we know how old the copy editors are, or what they do exactly, or how many staffers have J-school degrees, or what teams the sportswriters actually root for? It’s a throat-clearing exercise, and it also allows readers to place the writers, and make them come to life. This is what the modern newspaper should do.

3) To hell with the ombudsman; put the editor out there, on the op-ed page, and in public, explaining with passion and humanity the decisions he or she makes.

4) Don’t be defensive. Look for the validity in the criticism, don’t expect the outsiders to understand your mores or speak in your language, and explain your position firmly.

5) Discover & co-opt the obvious blogging talent sitting in your backyard (18 months ago, I almost spit my coffee when an L.A. Times op-ed editor told me “yeah, it’s so hard to find talented people in this town.”)

Matt Welch

Thanks, Matt. Based on nothing more than what I’m picking up between the lines of various conversations and interviews I have had with pro journalists lately, there’s at least some constituency among them—how big? don’t know—whose views are being radicalized by events.

They are seriousy worried about the “contraption,” as I called it— the rules of journalism as we know them. They understand that this equipment may not be up to the task of telling the world’s truths. And they are perhaps a bit surprised themselves at how open they are to new directions in journalism, other ways of defining the job. Heresies, even.

“What are we going to be doing in 2008?” one of them said to me. “I’m afraid we’ll go into that election with the same journalism we’re doing now, despite all this…” I could hear the strain in her voice, the disbelief.

Ideas like the ones in your note may find a hearing. I don’t know how many there are out there. They do exist. They’re alarmed at how poorly their profession has equipped them to fight. They’re not aware yet that the Internet makes it far easier for people of like mind to find each other.

Jay Rosen
Nov. 10, 2004

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Don’t miss Matt Welch’s I Pledge Alleigance to … NOTHING!!!

Ed Cone writes:

Matt: “To hell with the ombudsman; put the editor out there, on the op-ed page, and in public, explaining with passion and humanity the decisions he or she makes.”

That’s exactly what the editor of our hometown paper is doing with his weblog. And he’s linking to and playing off other local blogs, too.

Cone is talking about John Robinson, editor of the News-Record, who blogs and has a natural feel for it. Definitely someone to watch. Here’s Cone’s post about Robinson taking up blogging.

And PressThink reader Anna points us to this blog post by the editor of the Greeley Tribune in Colorado, who is doing just what Welch recommended: explaining an editorial line-by-line.

Welch at his blog on how blogging works:

Last night I typed up some nonsense in an e-mail to Jay Rosen about how the Newspaper of Tomorrow should react to the New Reality or whatever, and he went ahead and published it on his site. This afternoon I get an e-mail from the publisher of Pegasus News, who tells me “that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Among “the big loser was the press” pieces, this is easily the most frightening: Stephen F. Hayes, staff writer at The Weekly Standard, The Other Losers Tuesday Night. It’s about, “The failed media effort to oust George W. Bush.” Another is from Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal: 2004’s Biggest Losers: How Dan Rather and the media’s kings lost their crowns. “Big Media lost big,” he writes, “But it was more than a loss. It was an abdication of authority.”

Tim Porter of First Draft was at my presentation in LA (see Not Up to It for background) and filed a report on what I said.

Posted by Jay Rosen at November 9, 2004 11:51 PM   Print


Wow. Right on. Can't argue with any of the above. You go, Matt Welch! And may the MSM follow you!

Posted by: Dano at November 10, 2004 12:33 PM | Permalink

I'd like to see analyses which provide predictions, which would enable compiling track records, which would enable readers to evaluate the credibility of the paper or channel.

And how about a "fewer readers left behind" initiative? Perform reader polls, to serve two purposes - 1) find out what your own readers don't know and thus where your coverage could be improved, and
2) compare your readers with your competitors', to measure who's doing the best job.

And maybe it's time to grow more bloglike: call an end to "professional courtesy" and start fact-checking the competitors' coverage.

Matt Welch: "To hell with the ombudsman; put the editor out there, on the op-ed page, and in public, explaining with passion and humanity the decisions he or she makes."

Please do not consign the ombudsman to hell. The editor can explain the decisions, but the ombudsman, having no vested interest, is better equipped to judge them. (Maybe the Op-Ed space could alternate between the two?) Maybe you (MW) believe the ombuds adds nothing that bloggers can't, but keep in mind that argument from authority (while a logical fallacy(?)) makes a good first-pass heuristic for the reader.

And in general - knowing where reporters stand politically doesn't tell you what you most need to know, which is where they stand methodologically. And it gives partisan critics who disregard methodology yet another tool for bashing the reporters who aren't "theirs".

Posted by: Anna at November 10, 2004 8:32 PM | Permalink

From Tim Porter's blogging of Jay Rosen's presentation, Jay said: in this society of political spin and concerted disregard by politicians for the value of a free press the truth has lost its value

"Truth has lost its value" is a kaleidoscopic statement:

  • Lost its value to politicians
  • Lost its value to readers
  • Lost its value to journalists
--> Readers/viewers -- Did current generation ever value it? Did they ever HAVE to value it? Were there ever consequences for not valuing it? Are there consequences now for not valuing it?
--> Politicians -- Do they not value truth or rather not value the reporters' manipulation of it for effect? Were there ever consequences for not valuing it? Are there consequences for not valuing it?
--> Journalists -- Do they not value it? Do they know it when they see it? Do they care? Do they have to? Did they learn the method but not the reason?

Is the issue at hand because there were no previously plausible alternatives -- or consequences for journalistic mediocrity -- before multi-channel internet? Or is it at hand because the participants have gotten so much worse?

Finally, are any of the three accountable for their actions?

Rosen nails the important question for journalists, "How can you be useful again?” But a root question to readers and politicians has to be, what are the consequences of your ignorance and/or ambivalence?

Posted by: sbw at November 10, 2004 11:19 PM | Permalink

Another editor blogger who seems to get it - Chris Cobler of the Greeley Tribune, e.g. his Nov. 8 post, A Q&A on the Trib's teacher editorial

Posted by: Anna at November 11, 2004 1:50 AM | Permalink

Among "the big loser was the press" pieces, this is easily the most frightening:

What about Hayes' piece was frightening or why is it frightening?

Not that Dan "Seconds Count" Rather needs to be consistent, but ... "WE'D RATHER be last than wrong."?

Do you think the tone of the press, with its dramatic, sensational, everyone's guilty until proven innocent, bad news bias has contributed to the ... backlash?

Posted by: J-Fan at November 11, 2004 8:01 AM | Permalink


Thanks for the Greely Trib pointer. It's wonderful!

Posted by: sbw at November 11, 2004 9:01 AM | Permalink

This makes an interesting contrast:

The Fog of War
Who's Responsible for Losing the Media War in Iraq?

Posted by: Tim at November 11, 2004 10:30 AM | Permalink

Yes, that was a good one, Anna. I added it to the post and sent it to Matt Welch too. Also, thanks for that link to the social software essay by Shirky.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 11, 2004 10:42 AM | Permalink

"They're alarmed at how poorly their profession has equipped them to fight. "

Jay, that's the problem. It used to be that you needed barrels of ink to be media. Now you need a modem and rudimentary typing skills. It is good media, this new citizen media? Maybe, maybe not. But is MSM good media? Equally doubtful.

Media, journalists, they didn't turn themselves into a profession. The skills are easily acquired, the locus of power is really in the hard goods of the business--printing presses and such. But the journalists never grabbed their own work and scrutinized and analyzed it, the way that, say, physicians, or professional musicians, or police officers, or lawyers have.

Journalists don't have the tight protocols that these professions have, protocols that dictate the methods and practice of the work, and then control the quality of the results of the work. Instead journalists have this loosey-goosey notion of "objectivity" as the guiding light of their profession. That's not a protocol or practice, it's a mantra.

Bloggers don't pretend to be professionals, so they are free to appropriate the non-professional craft of journalism.

Journalists need to rethink what makes them professionals, what makes their work professional, and then find a way to share and teach it. Otherwise, they're just craftsmen

Posted by: Dr. Cookie at November 11, 2004 1:19 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Herman, for illustrating the point. By being a "conservative" issue, the question of Plame's involvement in Wilson's assignment, and the extent either of them tried to cover up this involvement, is no longer worth discussing.

So if the press decide to ignore or bury people's concerns, what's a conservative to do? Increasingly, the answer is "pursue alternatives to the press." Certainly the press didn't earn their four-out-of-ten partisan reputation by careful concern for everyone's concerns.

Posted by: Jeff Licquia at November 11, 2004 4:24 PM | Permalink

Wow good stuff. "Don't make endorsements, make confessions" was my favorite (I assume the model was Slate mag).

I wonder: to counter the lemming "groupthink" that tainted every group this year (Deaniacs, press, party insiders) if the MSM would benefit from outside satellite reality-check touchpoints (if they do not already). Love him or hate him, I think of Adan Nagourney who watched the final debate on tv, from his house instead of flying to FLA to catch spin alley.

Posted by: at November 11, 2004 6:03 PM | Permalink -- My case for vote-disclosure, which does indeed reference the Slate experiments (and similar activity by Reason magazine), is here.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 11, 2004 6:55 PM | Permalink

I worked with a major editor for 30 years and never knew his political pursuasion. I shouldn't have to.

We spoke a lot about issues. We wrote a lot about issues.

Posted by: sbw at November 11, 2004 8:21 PM | Permalink

Thank you for the pointer, other Tim.

Posted by: Tim Oren at November 11, 2004 8:22 PM | Permalink

"But the journalists never grabbed their own work and scrutinized and analyzed it, the way that, say, physicians, or professional musicians, or police officers, or lawyers have."

Nobody was 'policing' the press. When there's no oversight, people get sloppy. This _is_ also true of the police, in many places. Likewise for physicians, who tend to "protect their own", especially if there's a shadow of a doubt (which there usually is).

A combination of "don't rat on your own", "there but for the grace of God go I" and "omigod, there I _will_ go if this becomes de rigeur" makes for powerful restraint.

You need to make it a cultural norm to criticize the work of others in the field. Either that, or find someone else - who lacks the twin ties of loyalty and fear - do do the oversight.

Bloggers are one way to exert quality control on the press, but they also tend to be partisan, which makes for bias in exposure. Ombudsman are another way, but sadly they are not as willing to work for free.

Glad y'all liked the Greeley Trib blog. They do some other things right too, like being upfront with their readers about (not under their control) archive problems (here) that they could have left hidden.

Posted by: Anna at November 11, 2004 8:43 PM | Permalink

Relevant, via Romenesko -
The Chicago Reader says Tribune, Explain Yourself:
"The Tribune owes readers who disagree with its editorial policy an explanation. It needs to tell us why an urban, secular, internationalist, intellectually curious paper such as itself remains in thrall to the [Z] Party, so much so that among Tribune employees there's no surer bet than that in four years the paper will endorse the [Z] candidate for president -- whichever man, woman, or farm animal that candidate turns out to be.
... I mean an editorial, written in the same institutional voice that announces the endorsements, that forthrightly answers the question 'Why are we a [Z] paper?'"

Posted by: Anna at November 11, 2004 10:28 PM | Permalink

2004's Biggest Losers

It is often said that the only sure winner in American politics is the media. Amid GOP victory parties or the ruined dreams of the Kerry candidacy, the one constant is that the media marches on.

Maybe not this time. Big Media lost big. But it was more than a loss. It was an abdication of authority.
Broadcast Networks: "End Of An Era?" (further discussed here)
What happened this summer, and particularly last week, is likely to be recalled as the end of the era of network news. At the very least, mark this as the moment when the networks abdicated their authority with the American public.
No Longer Do the Newsies Decide: Daniel Weintraub on the De-centering of the Press
... I don't think the traditional media--traditional meaning the past 100 years--have any monopoly on the public trust. We have freedom of the press: the right to print our stories without fear of reprisal from the government. And by reprisal I mean physical, emotional or economic coercion or intimidation, not dirty looks and unreturned phone calls.
There will always be a heirarchy of information, some source or sources who will help people make sense of it all. As these original sources multiply, this job will become even more important. Some current beat reporters or columnists or editors may wish to take up that new role. Others may want to strike out on their own and become independent journalists like Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall.

Posted by: Tim at November 12, 2004 9:56 AM | Permalink

I voted for Nader in 2000 (don't ask) and probably cuffed him around on the 2000 campaign trail more than any other reporter. What you're doing by disclosing is allowing the consumer greater access to your decision-making process, and in fact a greater demonstration that you will pursue the truth *regardless* of your political affiliations. And you, on the other hand, are showing that you trust not only your own ability to write fairly, but the readers' ability to process information responsibly & add to your own knowledge via criticism.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 12, 2004 11:56 AM | Permalink

"3. To hell with the ombudsman; put the editor out there, on the op-ed page, and in public, explaining with passion and humanity the decisions he or she makes."

Empirically this doesn't work, because it runs aground on #4 ("Don't be defensive"). The editor ends up using the space to explain with passion and humanity just how friggin' fed up he is with being picked on by ABSOLUTELY EVERYBODY NO MATTER WHAT HE DOES. This may be cathartic for the editor.

Posted by: Anna at November 14, 2004 1:22 AM | Permalink

From the Intro