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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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December 7, 2004

What is the Internet Doing to Political Journalism and its Public?

"Participants: about 20-50 informed people, interested in politics and technology, most of them wired to the Net, spread out in a law school classroom that has what is called in the theatre a 'high rake,' trying to figure it out."

I will be hosting a session at the Berkman Center’s upcoming conference, (Votes, Bits & Bytes, Dec. 9-11 at Harvard University), which is shaping up as a massively interesting event for me, and others with an interest in what the Internet is doing to our political system. The conference (400 pre-registrants) is organized around four questions. The two most vital are:

Has “citizenship” really changed in the online era?

Did the web, in fact, affect the 2004 election?

Two days of keynotes and panels. Hossein Derakhshan, known as Hoder, the Iranian blogger who now lives in Canada, Joe Trippi of MSNBC and the Dean Campaign, Scott Michael Turk, eCampaign Director for Bush-Cheney ‘04, Scott Heiferman, head of, Craig Newmark of Craig’s List, Esther Dyson, the tech writer and PC Forum creator, Josh Ross, Director of Internet Strategy for Kerry-Edwards 2004 are just some of them. (Schedule.) Jeff Jarvis, Dan Gillmor, Dave Weinberger will be there, among others who blog, and there’s an international track— a vital addition. (The conference is free, by the way.)

My portion is on the third day, Saturday, when the “non-traditional” style takes over. No experts, everyone’s on the panel. One person runs the discussion by interrogating the room. It’s the BloggerCon format, a more “open” style. (Semi-Socratic, a friend of mine calls it.) The Berkman Center debuted it when Dave Winer opened BloggerCon I in Pound Hall at Harvard Law School. So I’m the interrogator for one of these things. It’s among the final sessions— a wrap-up for those who remain.

Participants: about 20-50 well informed people, interested in politics and technology, most of them wired to the Net, spread out in a law school classroom (it has what is called in the theatre a “high rake”)— all trying to figure it out. Here’s the description:

Saturday, Dec. 11, 4 – 5:30pm, Pound 100
What is the Internet doing to political journalism and its public?

The Internet changes the flow in political journalism by giving users way more of it. The Net stimulates writerly invention, which wasn’t a strong point of the traditional press. It creates new competitors, bloggers among them. It allows for more re-writing and checking of the news— more intense criticism. And the Net is luring more and more respectable journalists to the Net. But so what? Does any of that change politics? Does it re-distribute power? Does it make the American people a more informed public? And why does political reporting need to be “interactive,” anyhow? We’ll discuss what’s different about the political press when it is open to more people. This happened in 2004 because of the Internet. Yet the Net is only part of the story. Market forces, political pressures, generational flight, loss of legitimacy, loss of access, confusion in the ranks about where to go from here (and don’t forget inertia)— they happened too. No speakers, no panel, no experts, no guru, but I have a method or two, and I’ve done this before. If you show up don’t be surprised if I ask you tell me a story.

John Palfrey, Executive Director at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, has written to session leaders with a sensible plea: The conference is supposed to be a “skeptical take on the impact of the internet on politics.” We’re supposed to help keep things honest.

“We want to ask hard questions that get past the hype and to what’s real in this story — if anything,” Palfrey wrote. “We are interested, to the greatest extent we can, in uncovering, together, the truth about whether the internet really is changing politics, not just in the US but around the world, for the better.”

What do you think?

  • Has “citizenship” really changed in the online era?
  • Did the web, in fact, affect the 2004 election?
  • What is the Internet doing to political journalism and its public?

UPDATE, Dec. 11: After two days of conferencing, I have a sense of some of the questions that lie inside the main one: What is the Internet doing to political journalism and its public? This includes:

  • What advantages are there for political journalism in becoming “interactive?”
  • Is it true that barriers to entry have fallen in political journalism? Or (perhaps a better question): in what ways is it true that barriers have fallen?
  • “My readers know more than I do,” says Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media. OhmyNews seems to have proven in South Korea that this insight can transform journalism. What are its implications for the political press here?
  • Because of the Net, the costs for like-minded people to “find” each and get together are dramatically lower. That’s a change for the public. What are the implications of that change for political journalism?
  • Some 15 percent of all Americans said the Net was “a main source of campaign news” for them in 2004. 78 percent said TV was a “main source.” 38 percent said newspapers, 16 percent cited radio. Among Americans with broadband at home, 31 percent said the Internet was “a main source of campaign news.” What do these findings tell us? (See this Pdf report, p. 7-8)
  • Pew Internet and American Life project: “As many Americans now say news organizations are biased in favor of one of the two parties as say there is no bias in election coverage (39% vs. 38%). This marks a major change from previous surveys taken regularly since 1987.” What connections do we find between rising use of the Net for political information and declining trust in the “traditional” news media?

Posted by Jay Rosen at December 7, 2004 1:34 AM   Print


" Did the web, in fact, affect the 2004 election?"

Well, sure. Even if only as a fund-raising tool and a way of allowing the grassroots to communicate with one another, I don't think that answer could possibly be no.

Posted by: Linkmeister at December 7, 2004 2:02 AM | Permalink

Citizenship has changed and will continue to change in the online era. Despite TV's hold of the core audience, as time goes by, people will indeed turn to the Internet for supplemental sources or even full news. This participation has two problems in that it can allow "citizens" to isolate themselves in information bubbles with little need to corroborate or followup on a story. This happens quite a great deal on the net and in print journalism, but the speed of the net may cause this problem at a higher magnitude. No one needs to be honest. It's easier to get to the tools of a citizen, but it's not necessarily good for democracy as of yet. The old model was dying though, so I expect some orderly chaos.

Like Linkmeister said, even if the effect was just in terms of Internet fundraising, the effect on the election was enormous. Does anyone believe Howard Dean would have gotten as far as he did without the Net?
For a lot of partisan folk (all sides), the Internet reinforced beliefs that were already held by readers, but the availability of materials is rising. Biggest problem is that there's still no need to desegment the already segmented population on the net. Where's the dialogue? For many right wingers, the web provided an easy source for people to confirm what they believe about media bias.

Did the web affect the election? Most definitely. E-mail lists for both campaigns. For Bush voters, it felt like personal contact with the President on some level.
Blogs did affect media stories judging by anecdotal information on how many journalists read blogs.
It's not just media that spreads information, but word of mouth after the information is given.
Did I hear a lot of information from various sites like freerepublic and various blogs? Most definitely. Do I think it's a kind of groupthink. Indeed. Where else does word of mouth work? Movies. Cell phones were blamed, but e-mail and Instant messenging is just as fast in telling us what to think. And when it comes from a friend...

Posted by: Steve at December 7, 2004 5:13 AM | Permalink

Tell a story? I have so many. Here's a good one I wrote about:

Joe Trippi and Howard Dean

"The Dean Campaign was a classic bubble-stock. He was "thinly traded" (no real votes for a very long time). He was hyped by self-interested promoters, having found a new, naive, constituency which could be fleeced (net-heads). He had a gimmick (BLOGS / SOCIAL SOFTWARE, feel the *B*U*Z*Z*!), which was made even stronger for having a kernel of truth (fundraising being more efficient). He tapped into strong emotions (the war). And there was a ready supply of castle-in-the-air builders to tell us all about the New Era (of Regurgitant Pundocracy). All very standard."

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 7, 2004 5:20 AM | Permalink

Citizens have changed in the past decade, and I agree will continue on this path for some time to come. The internet bubble of the 90's was the begining, until it popped. What didn't pop was the consumers and the technology. Jobs and money were lost, but what wasn't lost was the idea's.

Just think, at both parties conventions, bloggers were acredited media memebers for the first time. Their coverage was put under scrutiny, but I imagine so was radio coverage the first time. Howard Dean's campaign still has a blog that I read regularly called Blog for America, and slowly the Republicans are starting to raise money on the internet. It's only right that they come around slower than the Democrats. After all the internet is the most Democratic form of media yet, and it's expanding.

As the current generation of college students and techo's grows up and their children learn from even better internet and better technology more and more people, it would seem, will walk away from the mainstream media.

They aren't doing a satisfactory job anymore, and more and more people realize it. This is what the internet is supposed to be, a cheap, reliable source for infomration. Let the journey begin

Posted by: Danny Angel at December 7, 2004 9:12 PM | Permalink

"And the Net is luring more and more respectable journalists to the Net."

Me thinks somebody doesn't get it.

Posted by: vachon at December 7, 2004 9:15 PM | Permalink

Being bored with my reasonably paid but not intellectually stimulating job (in investment banking), I was attracted to on-line forums for discussion, like Orson Scott Card’s Ornery American forum. But forum posts sort of disappear after awhile -- they aren't really mine.

Slashdot and Kuro5hin web communities allowed be to keep my own stuff, but were less satisfying.

After the 9/11/02 first anniversary, I read all of Peggy Noonan's old columns. And began thinking more about what 9/11 means -- the internal US culture wars between secular fundamentalists and both modern Christians and Christian Fundamentalists; the lack of much modern Islam movement; the need for human rights in Arabia.

I got hooked on blogs for the intellectual stimulation. Not just news facts, meanings in the facts. And biased reporting of facts; and biased reporting of bias -- which at least is usually honest about it.

A fantastic Michael J Totten FrontPage article: Why Liberals should support Bush's War (see his old blogspot blog for a link) -- made so much sense to me. His blog, and his links, and my own playing at different blog technology (was upset at losing my free Movable Type ), and I really like blogging. One of Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Successful People is: keep a journal.

My Blog helps me do that, with my own, personally important intellectual life.

Real bad on finances -- I'm looking to move into lower paid teaching so as to afford the time I want to spend on it.

I'm also convinced MSM is morally sick, and the Leftist/ Dove side of the Democratic Party is sick. (My own? no longer) Libertarians are a bit sick, too. The moral sickness comes from an unwillingness to confront the crucial government question.

When should violence and War be used against evil?

The anti-Vietnam War left has failed to accept that they supported Peace and genocide. The Killing Fields reality is what Kerry, and Rather and other news folk (Jay? Jeff Jarvis?) were advocating in 1971, even if he didn't know how bad it would be.

When the costs and benefits of one policy are only compared to the benefits of the alternative policy, it's no wonder most choose the benefits only. The Left is consistently dishonest about their comparisons, while usually the pushing the Right to be more honest.

With a reduction in the need to bias the truth in order influence the election, I look forward to more attempts at news--MSM, talk radio, AND blogs-- to get to real facts.

And I suspect more folk will start understanding that what the infotainment industry is offering too often are "facts" about the future -- which aren't really facts yet, and might not be. But it's the future facts that most folks spend most of their attention on.

A small side issue is the growth of e-government, and increasing accountability of government. This has a huge potential to increase citizenship participation, as well.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at December 8, 2004 8:05 AM | Permalink

Has "citizenship" really changed in the online era?

No. But public education was exposed for its aimlessness and lack of attention to developing tools for thought. Recognizing that, we can help prepare students for citizenship responsibilities that have always been there but poorly exercised.

Did the web, in fact, affect the 2004 election?

Non-question of the year -- Kind of like, "Did the internet bring down Dan Rather? No. Dan Rather's shortcomings did."

What is the Internet doing to political journalism and its public?

It introduced Fisking -- Which, in turn, exposed the shortcomings of live candidate debate format. Generals in the next political war will have to be more careful of their bullshit... ah,... their over-generalizations.

It has set up an opportunity for the best written positions to be met with the strongest counter-arguments to those positions such that some synthesis can be considered.

Over all, the internet caused journalism an unfortunate amount of introspective tail-chasing. Journalist is still an earned accolade. Earned fresh every day. it is a practice, not a profession. Trust is the only thing we have to sell.

Posted by: sbw at December 8, 2004 2:50 PM | Permalink

Hi Jay,

I'll be at your session on Saturday. Quick thoughts on your two questions:

Has "citizenship" really changed in the online era?

OK, it hasn't transformed the basic obligations and privileges of citizenship. But other than that, everything else about citizenship does change in the online era: how we deliberate, how we take action, in short, how we make collective decisions.

Did the web, in fact, affect the 2004 election?

Wrong question. Politics impacted the web. Partisan forces are figuring out how to squash the democratic potential of the web to maintain control. Instead of real empowerment, they are figuring out ways to divide the citizenry and activate collect credit card donations ("You have the power to take back the presidency: donate now!"). 2004 is the year the empire strikes back.

Posted by: Michael Weiksner at December 8, 2004 5:09 PM | Permalink

There's something kind of creepy about bloggers having a symposium, and conventions, and making speeches. Not very revolutionary. Looks pretty much like it's just the same old things being rebuilt with new people.

And some of the A list bloggers are starting to get a bit big for their britches. You know, throwing around big statements about how they speak for "me" and "us" while they jet around the Bos-Wash corridor and tell us about their "appearances."

Looks a lot like New Media might just be Old Media with cooler technology. Is it? Or not?

Posted by: JennyD at December 9, 2004 12:37 PM | Permalink

The Internet has affected and will continue to affect the practice of politics. As did the telephone, photocopier, and inexepensive laser printer. I doubt that the advent of any of these provoked a gathering of experts at Harvard Law School. Obviously the Internet surpasses these technologies in enabling cheap one-to-many communication, but it is still just a neutral amalgam of networks and protocols.

Much of the Votes, Bits and Bytes agenda and discussion is engaging but diffuse. Hoder's blogging from Iran is courageous and inspiring. How much light does it shed on the role of blogging in the political culture of the U.S.? Bloggers had a major impact on the South Korean election--but that doesn't mean blogging about U.S. politics has the same impact. One can't talk about all of these things in the same sentence. They aren't equivalent.

Posted by: David Randall at December 12, 2004 9:00 PM | Permalink

Hi, we have a similar weblog community in Hong kong, called chattergarden.

Posted by: Amy at December 13, 2004 4:14 AM | Permalink

Jay gave us five options during the session and I picked item 3 - a "distinction" that is useful in thinking about this topic.

My distinction for evaluating the impact of blogging on anything is always "so far" because the growth of blogging has been so fast over the past two years and the trendline is still up. Blogging is still in the process of becoming so making a definitive statement about the impact of blogging at this point is premature.

So..."what is the Internet doing to political journalism and its public SO FAR?"

There was some disagreement in the session about whether bloggers were journalists or whether blogs was having an impact on journalism or to what degree. Some people (e.g. Dan Gillmor who was in the session) believe that blogs as citizen media are already transforming all journalism. Some questioned that. My view is that if you don't believe that blogs are having an impact on journalism then just wait and you will be convinced soon enough.

Posted by: Robert Cox at December 13, 2004 6:26 PM | Permalink

From the Intro