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Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

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

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

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

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

Read: Q & As

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

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

Audio: Have a Listen

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

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

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

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

Video: Have A Look

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

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

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

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

Recommended by PressThink:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group Blogs

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

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

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

Digests & Round-ups:

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

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

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

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

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

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

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December 21, 2004

Greensboro Newspaper Goes Open Source: A Follow Up

"Why aren't more people who think citizen's media important willing to advise a newspaper company that is willing to gamble its site on a citizens media strategy? You tell me. Maybe the prospects for this industry (daily newspapers) are considered so bleak by most that 're-invention' is almost a dead letter." And: interview with founder of

I am going to stay on the story of the Greensboro blogging culture that’s coming of age, and of the local newspaper, led by a maverick editor, that’s going open source on the rest of the press. I think it’s national news.

For the facts and links, see PressThink from Saturday (Dec. 18), Action in Greensboro on Open Source Journalism. (And for background this column from Ed Cone.)

It will be interesting to watch what happens now. My guess is the story will shortly be in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, NPR, Business Week or similar venue. But I could be wrong. Whether that happens or not, I have plenty to tell the core audience about. This post will be added to, in bits and pieces, so check back if you’re interested.

Recap. On Friday, Dec. 17, the News & Record, daily newspaper in Greensboro, NC, owned by Landmark Communications, announced that it was looking to overhaul its website ( and enter a period of invention, including rapid evolution away from the standard newspaper site— into more of an online community, a public square, or something equally “transformative” in nature.

Exactly how it would do this, and where the N & R would wind up when done are not, at present, known items. But that is the point: it’s a period of invention, announced publicly. “We have no preconceived notions of what it should look like, and no idea is too weird,” wrote Lex Alexander, an editor and blogger at the paper who must write the report recommending new directions. It is primarily this attitude that leads me to call the Greensboro initiative “open source journalism.” (Since the term has no established definition, we are free to establish parts of it as we go.)

Making use of weblogs it already runs, the News & Record began seeking public comment about what to do, a discussion that is live and still underway (three more days before an internal report is due.) Alexander has said that “everyone in the real-life and online community who wants to participate can [help] make the N&R’s Web presence a true online public square for Greensboro and Guilford County.” The local blogging culture is of course in the midst of discussing all this. But so is the editor, John Robinson, who blogs— and therefore explains himself a lot more than editors in other towns we could name.

For what’s new and interesting on the story, I’d start with Robinson’s statement about Landmark: “we’ve been encouraged by our corporate bosses to break free.” Encouraged to break free? Maybe Landmark knows something other companies do not. Might be a story there, business press.

Robinson’s search for a new model in online journalism is not a sudden thought; turns out it’s timed to the re-design and re-launch of the newspaper’s major portal. Charles Stafford, Operations Manager for News & Record Interactive at The Lex Files, Dec. 20:

We have been planning major upgrades to our online capability for some time but haven’t been able to make them due to software limitations. We have addressed those limitations and are preparing a major relaunch of and several other of our websites. With the new online publishing system, readers should be able to comment on any story, view photos that made it into the paper and those that haven’t, participate in forums and blogs, etc. The new system is light-years ahead of where we stand currently and we look forward to debuting it to the public. I won’t fall into the trap of promising a launch date, but please stay tuned. It’s coming.

A new site is coming, great. But how far along is the platform? How undecided are things?

We have addressed those limitations and are preparing a major relaunch sounds like a site that’s basically done. But how can it be basically done if we have no preconceived notions of what it should look like, and no idea is too weird? (UPDATE: see the exchange on this among Alexander, Robinson and Stafford in comments.)

I’m wondering, as well, why we haven’t heard more advice and suggestion from the press and new media blogosphere and the people of Greensboro themselves in the open comment period that runs for a week, Dec. 17-24. (This is the major comment thread, If all of us build it…)

Why aren’t more people who think citizen’s media important willing to advise a newspaper company that is willing to gamble its site on a citizens media strategy? You tell me. Maybe the prospects for this industry (daily newspapers) are considered so bleak by most that “re-invention” is almost a dead letter.

I give you San Jose Mercury News tech columnist Dan Gillmor on the Greensboro action: “Bravo. This is a big deal.” Maybe we haven’t made it clear enough why that is. Or maybe it’s just Christmas shopping season and everyone is busy.

Hey: are you an aspiring press blogger? Next waver in journalism? Slashdot contributor? Just someone concerned about the future of the press? Are you Steven Ben Deste? Blog up some wisdom for the News & Record, will you? Now’s the time because they might put one of your ideas into their plan for a new kind of daily newspaper site that is more like a public square.

You don’t need a blog. You can can leave a comment with the guy who’s writing the recommendations. At Ed Cone’s barbershop, they’re arguing here and here about bloggers in Greensboro expecting (or not really expecting) to get paid. (See also this thread.) To give the News & Record your suggestions for the interactive, Web-literate, open source journalism site the company proposes to build, go to this place (The Lex Files) and this one (The Editor’s Log.)

I asked Ed Cone, very much in the middle of all this, what the Greensboro blogging and newspaper “crowd” needed from around the online world:

“What we need in Greensboro is information — updates from around the country, and the globe, on what’s being done elsewhere, what’s working and not working. Ideas and reader preferences would be useful, too. Business models a bonus, and also tech suggestions — see the discussion about titles and aggregators at my blog this weekend.”

I also asked Cone, who writes a column for the newspaper, but is not on staff, what pushed Robinson to start over with the site. His sense of it:

“John seems to have been moving this way for some time. He’s written that my blog was an influence — as noted, they’ve allowed me to run my URL at the bottom of my column for years — an offsite link that was ahead of its time. John knows the current website — the leftover of an ambitious early web effort that didnt’ generate revenue and thus scared the money guys off for a while — needs fixing.”

Here’s what Robinson himself had to say of interest (in a post thanking PressThink for the ink):

Rosen suggests that we may have been radicalized and are ready to rebel here. I don’t call it rebellion. More like common sense. My still-evolving observation is that bloggers and newspapers want basically the same thing: to tell people the news. Some blogs are seasoned with more opinion than ours. Some are more personal than ours. But they all want to share information with others. It’s not threatening; it’s invigorating. And it feeds one of our fundamental purposes, which is to help build a strong community through the free exchange of information and ideas.

“Keep the suggestions coming,” said Robinson, the editor-turned-blogger. “Many of you who have advised us in your blogs and in your comments are teaching us.” Here is his other key statement:

I believe the newspaper’s web presence should be open and inclusive, should include lots of voices and commentary and news, should feature so many blogs on so many topics that everyone wants to be a part of the community and, better yet, everyone wants to visit here, should generate revenue that we can plow into the site to make it better, should be dynamic so that it takes its lead from the market, and should engender the civic-oriented discussion of ideas that makes Greensboro such an interesting place.

I just haven’t figured out how to do it. Yet.

Special to PressThink

Brief interview with Roch Smith, Jr.
founder of the aggregator and forum site Greensboro101.

Roch Smith told me by e-mail: “I once ran for mayor of Greensboro. In 2001. Although I defeated four other primary contenders, I lost the general election by the largest margin of any candidate in recent memory, a record that was mercifully broken in the following election in 2003.” (Link.)

Hey, tech press? Got a story: candidate cannot bring the town together around his mayoralty but gets another shot three years later with the aggregator. It practically writes itself! “I no longer have an interest in running for office,” Smith added. Here’s our exchange:

Why was Greensboro101 started, and what are you trying to accomplish?

It was started because I like a challenge. I read many of the local bloggers on a daily basis. I know many of the bloggers and some are good friends. Ed Cone and I had talked about aggregating blog content a year ago, but when the local bloggers started to talk about it recently, I thought it might be something I could do. It turned out to be the greatest technical challenge of my career, but once I started it, I didn’t want to quit.

As for what I hope to accomplish, my immediate goal has been realized. My friends now have the tool they were wanting. As for what’s next, I’m playing it by ear. I’ve been contacted by media people wanting to replicate the Greensboro101 concept in other cities. Pursuing some financially beneficial opportunities is certainly of interest, but I’ll also keep Greensboro101 going as a proving ground and as a service to my community.

Everyone has competition. Who is your competition?

I guess that depends on what I’m competing for. If it’s for local eye-balls, then the competition is the News & Record, although I think other local media will soon be interested as well. If it’s for income, then I suppose the competition is with other programmers and designers who have the ability to build these kinds of sites for paying customers.

Do you think sites like Greensboro101 can change the political climate in town, or is that not the point?

Yep. I think that’s certainly a possibility, perhaps in two ways. One would be that Greensboro101 becomes a touchstone for local public opinion and in that, it may serve as a resource for politicians. If it reaches a critical mass, it may also become a medium for campaigning.

What should I have asked you?

What a great question. You might have asked if there were models or other inspirations, to which I would have said yes.

I think does a superb job of facilitating online discussions. While it doesn’t aggregate blogs, its ability to nurture and facilitate the exchange of ideas was an inspiration. If we can get that kind of discussion going in Greensboro, through any means, our community will be better for it.

Thanks, Roch.

Notice, then, that News & Record is not the only institution in town seeking to become “the public square” or the place Greensboro goes when it needs to be in forum mode. Who is to say the newspaper should have that franchise at all? One the other hand, why does it have to be anyone’s prize?

Act One: Andy Wismar, tech blogger in Raleigh-Durham, posts about his astonishment that a hick town like Greensboro is getting attention for its blogging culture when his more educated, more affluent, more wired area—with its famed research triangle— is up to nothing special. (Update: Chapel Hill is mobilizing for a bloggers conference.)

Act Two: PressThink quotes from his post, alerting the Greensboro Boys. (And a N & R columnist, see this.)

Act Three: Greensboro bloggers descend on the resentful techie and overwhelm him with loving kindness, and some taunting— at his own blog! But he seems to get the message. This is him in the comments on Dec. 18, “taking the opportunity to display my techno-elitism,” as he put it.

To me, tech bloggers are vastly more important than locals to the foundation of any ‘blogosphere’. That’s just a matter of personal opinion and not going to change.

Now here is Wismar the next day, Dec. 19, responding to the Greensboro bloggers.

Do you need a PhD or an intricate understanding of computer networking to have a good blog? Absolutely not, as I think you’ve all pointed out. Does a local blogging comunity need tech blogs to be successful? No more than it needs piano-repair blogs or any other niche of human interest. What it needs are passionate people, and those seem to be available in abundance in Greensboro.

What happened in between? Take a look. It may illustrate Jude Nagurney-Camwell’s observation, on her “long-distance connection with the Greensboro bunch.” (Link.) “I recognized them, early on, as a group with the collective heart it takes to become a community.”

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links.

Program Note: I was on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, the local NPR station, Dec. 23, with Wonkette and Scott Johnson of Powerline, discussing the “blogging year.” You can listen here. The most amusing moment was when Scott Johnson said he could not reply because: “Jay’s a little bit on a different wavelength,” prompting Wonkette to speculate (amusingly) that I believe in “predestination.” (Here, by the way, is Brian Lehrer’s blog.) Scott had some comments about the segment here.

Tell us in comments: yes or no? What’s going on in Greensboro is (should be) national news.

Greensboro blogger Dave Hoggard says in comments: “My only suggestion to my N&R: Launch it and keep listening.”

Anna from NC Focus in comments

For a news organization, I think embracing/engulfing bloggers is a leap forward, and in the paper’s best interest, but I don’t know if it’s in the community’s best interest; depends on what would have grown up otherwise, and on how the paper will use the influence that it gains (or fails to lose to the now-outflanked upstart).

John Robinson comes across as a very aware and socially conscious editor, but the paper doesn’t belong to him, and he’s not involved with the editorials, which is where the paper can really throw its weight around. (see the rest)

John Robinson at his weblog (Dec. 22):

I worry about the heightened expectations implied in all the discussion and the subsequent smackdown if we fall short. We will inevitably disappoint some who want us to go further or who think our resources are unlimited. We aren’t looking to change the world. We simply want to get better.

Fair enough. Shouldn’t be more than a few days, though, before we see the first blog posts de-bunking the “hype” about Greensboro. Sometimes, the authors will engage in hype themselves by exaggerating claims made for the News & Record’s initiative. Your professional balloon poppers will do that: inflate what they are about to deflate to get the bigger pop. Paging Andrew Orlowski!

The puzzles of two-way politics: Chewie reports that the Register of Deeds in Greensboro, Jeff Thigpen, is being harangued on his blog by one of his own employees, who refuses to reveal their identity.

Over at LiveJournal, Twisted chick is saying: “Greensboro Newspaper goes open source — imagine a cross between a traditional newspaper and a blog. This should be interesting.”

Tim Porter of First Draft (inspired by Steve Outing’s essay for Poynter What Mainstream Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers) does his own “list of 10 things traditional journalists, particularly those who work for newspapers, could learn from bloggers.”

Porter writes: “Good blogs have distinct personalities and themes. The time is past for newspapers to be all things to all people. That formula is broken. Communities are too diverse and resources too limited to cover everything. The result is deepening mediocrity and increasing reliance on institutional reporting - go to a meeting and write a story. This is stenography, not journalism.”

Check out the Post Standard in Syracuse with their page of citizen webloggers. Here is a similar page from the Spokesman-Review in Spokane. Here is the Guardian’s version, quite advanced.

Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice (recommended), who sees what I see in the story (and then some) writes a long post based on my earlier one, and adds: “The daily newspaper isn’t dying due to sudden heart failure; it’s slowly being eaten away by an unrelenting cancer of lack of creativity, inflexibility, occasional corporate arrogance, and 20th (in some cases even 19th) Century thinking.” He has much more to say on Greensboro, so check into it.

Here’s something I wrote in a note to Glenn Reynolds:

One of the reasons this story interests me is that a mini-breakthrough—local blogging posse gets ally in daily newspaper, which itself goes open source, a nice piece of change as far as innovation goes—takes place in a Southern town many in my part of the great nation know little about, except for ACC basktball— wait, isn’t Michael Jordon from there?

I saw this once before in the civic journalism movement. Innovation from southern towns that the Northeastern press couldn’t imagine as even on the map of journalism. They were places you got out of if you were any good. It took me a while to understand that, being from the world of the Northeastern press. I made a lot of trips to Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee when I was working on civic journalism. So this action in Greensboro doesn’t surprise me.

UPDATE: Instapundit is now onto the Greensboro story (Dec. 22)

Jay Ovittore of Greensboro: The Local Blogisphere (Dec.23)

Thomas P.M. Barnett on why a knowledge worker should blog: “almost every book I’ve read in preparation for writing the second book has been recommended to me by a blog reader, like TM Lutas telling me I need to read Wolfe’s Why Globalization Works, an excellent book I finished today. How else would I know what to read without this network? I simply will not hear about these books in my day job, even as reading them is essential to me being who I am in my day job.”

Psst: journalists are knowledge workers.

Mark Glaser—author of “The Media Company I Want to Work For” (Dec. 1 at PressThink) and a columnist for Online Journalism Review— has completed his review and survey of the year in new media. It includes observations from me and about 10 other critics. Here is a sample:

The issue of how online sites affect their print counterparts is bubbling steadily beneath the surface, and is set to erupt in the upcoming year or two. obviously has a big stake in this discussion, so I don’t pretend to be a neutral or disinterested player. But the idea that giving away your content doesn’t affect print circulation and revenue is becoming too ludicrous for all but the most die-hard proponents of this flat-earth theory to keep promulgating. — Bill Grueskin, managing editor of Wall Street Journal Online.

Read the rest from OJR: “2004 — the year bloggers made a difference, while hyperlocal citizen journalism made inroads. Our annual poll of colleagues, with Top 5 lists and predictions for ‘05.”

On the silo mentality and the struggle for an online future, check out this item live at Lost Remote….

DONATA Communications (er, that would be me) is looking for TV news managers who understand that the Internet and multiple distributions channels will be an integral part of the newsroom of tomorrow. I’m a new media consultant and have TV clients who really “get it.” Do you? If I ask about RSS, Podcasting or video blogging, and all I get is a blank stare, your name doesn’t belong on my list. But if you’re a news manager who wants to get in on something different, send me an email and a resume.

Sign ‘o the Times.

Posted by Jay Rosen at December 21, 2004 4:53 PM   Print


Yes, I suppose it is worthy of national coverage. Never thought about it much before now, but what's occured organically in Greensboro is big news because it is changing the news from a lecture to a conversation.

As one of the Greensboro bloggers who unwittingly finds himself part of this evolution, I'm not as surprised as you about the lack of input and suggestions from us locals. We are webloggers, few of us are press thinkers.

I'm a calloused-hand carpenter with a loud local voice who has the good fortune to live in a town with a tireless blog promoter (Cone) and a hometown paper with an open mind and a shrinking print readership (N&R).

Where this should go and how it should go about getting there? I'm not sure. I think most of my suggestions or ideas are better held in reserve while people who have really thought this thing through (like you, Doc, Gandelsman, Lex et al) do the heavy lifting with the N&R.

I like the suggestions I am reading here and elsewhere and I'm sure Lex at the N&R is taking copious notes. Hell, knowing Lex as I do, he probably had his report written a week ago and is just checking off his ideas as others mention them.

My hope is that whatever my paper starts with will be just that, a start. I expect revisions, additions, deletions and mistakes - plenty of mistakes I hope. Because you don't make mistakes unless you are trying new things, and boy-howdy this is new.

My only suggestion to my N&R: Launch it and keep listening.

Posted by: David Hoggard at December 21, 2004 8:16 PM | Permalink

Setting aside my own quibbles regarding the open question of whether or not blogger involvement in this new endeavor will be rewarded with attention or cash, there's an entirely separate dynamic here that intrigues me.

Here in Portland, the local political blogging scene is much watched by both local media and local government, although as far as I know there are no real media representatives blogging themselves, the local politicos have been gradually coming around (one City commissioner posts to a group blog, and a Commissioner-Elect is launching his own, reportedly next month). So they are clued in some respects.

What baffles me is that one of our local newspapers -- the Portland Tribune has been undergoing something of a withering death over the past year, since a round of layoffs, and I'm somewhat surprised, given the knowledge of the local blogosphere, that it hasn't moved to try to capitalize on the talent pool somehow.

I say that, of course, with the full disclosure that if they did make such a move, I'd watch it like a very skeptical hawk. But nonetheless, given how connected the local political blogging culture is when it comes to the media scene here, I'm perplexed as to why a semi-dying paper like the Tribune isn't making any noises of a Greensboro-like nature.

Posted by: The One True b!X at December 21, 2004 9:01 PM | Permalink

"That requires thinking in a distributed way and that's hard for the old centralized marketplaces to do." -- Jarvis

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 21, 2004 10:40 PM | Permalink

"Why aren't more people who think citizen's media important willing to advise a newspaper company that is willing to gamble its site on a citizens media strategy?"

If Roch hadn't launched, would the N&R have made this move?

Would the Greensboro community be better served by having two media outlets, or by having one? (yes, this is an oversimplification - the rhino, the new alt weekly...)

For a news organization, I think embracing/engulfing bloggers is a leap forward, and in the paper's best interest, but I don't know if it's in the community's best interest; depends on what would have grown up otherwise, and on how the paper will use the influence that it gains (or fails to lose to the now-outflanked upstart).

John Robinson comes across as a very aware and socially conscious editor, but the paper doesn't belong to him, and he's not involved with the editorials, which is where the paper can really throw its weight around. And (not speaking of the N&R) it sometimes happens that a paper's editorialists misuse the paper's authority - earned from the news pages, or perhaps from its forward-thinking dances with bloggers - to further their or their advertisers' financial prospects.

And if it pays off for the N&R, even assuming they have the motives of angels, others less pure will take the same path. Why hand them more power to abuse?

apologies for the cranky cynicism, it's based on too-recent history :-(

Posted by: Anna at December 22, 2004 12:16 AM | Permalink

Okay, I don't live in Greensboro (but this all makes me wish I did) and I don't really know what I'm talking about but that doesn't stop me from having an opinion.

One of the biggest service, it seems to me, that a newspaper can offer is to hang together various bits of data. An article about a budget crisis for example can have a depth on the web that is not available in paper.

Not only can there be links to relevant dialogues (meetings, maybe in which the budget had been discussed) but the newspaper has an oportunity to combine it with other types of information so that people can massage and redisplay the information in ways that are meaningful.

Okay, forget the budget example. Let's say there is pollution in a stream. The newspaper writes a base article about the problem linking to sources. Because they allow pictures to be added and not just text, citizens document the story with photos. Maybe people that work or live along the stream add more content. The newspaper does some more digging and publishes an article about incidences of disease along the stream -- they link to their raw data. An environmental organization can use this information to create a graphical representation of the problems -- a map, let's say, that plots the diseases against local businesses.

And it goes on and on.

The keys, in all this, are to allow people access to source information and then give them at least basic tools to manipulate and add to that source information.

Suddenly, the paper can be the story of a community and, unlike many newspapers and many communities, individuals will be able to find themselves in it, to see their contributions.

The data will be both richer and deeper. It will be necessarily diverse.

I don't see how this can be done (and this may be my own professional bias) w/o the assistance and partnering of on the ground organizations to facilitate -- in person -- community media creation.

Okay -- probably enough thinking aloud for a comment, eh?

And I do think this is a national story. I think it also starts to get at the real potential of media/rich multi-author read-write web.

Posted by: marnie webb at December 22, 2004 12:32 AM | Permalink

Thanks a lot to Anna and Marnie.

Anna, I dropped some of yours into the post.

Maybe my perception is off, but I have a feeling there are many people scattered around the United States who would love to tell a newspaper what to do with its website, if convinced that the editors were actually listening and decently up-to-speed, Web wise. Is my perception off?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 22, 2004 12:44 AM | Permalink

Maybe my perception is off, but I have a feeling there are many people scattered around the United States who would love to tell a newspaper what to do with its website, if convinced that the editors were actually listening and decently up-to-speed, Web wise. Is my perception off?

The perception is as far from off as you could get.

An interesting issue crops up in this regard, however, depending on the newspaper/website situation in one's particular market.

For example, as much as Jeff Jarvis is involved in the leading edge of these sorts of discussions, the interaction between Advance's newspapers and Advance's websites is notoriously poor, at least in many of the markets. Certainly that's true here in Oregon.

While the people behind OregonLive -- head honcho Kevin Cosgrove especially -- are not at all clueless about the possibilities, for the most part OregonLive is like the ghettoized bastard child of The Oregonian.

Navigation of content from the newspaper is better than it once was, but still generally poor, and often content doesn't get posted online at all, and there's next to no real interplay between newspaper content and website content.

Part of the barrier in this case -- and, I suspect, with other Advance markets -- is that the editorial and business divisions between the print operation and the online operation makes for a creativity firewall that blocks any real access to innovation.

Just to try to throw some area-specific observations into the mix here.

Posted by: The One True b!X at December 22, 2004 1:02 AM | Permalink

Not to pile on, but it occurs to me that maybe I should drop a few specific examples of the situation here.

OregonLive regularly conducted what I think was a biweekly webcast audio interview with Portland's mayor. However, I don't recall this fact ever being promoted in The Oregonian. They also host a series of so-called "hyper-local" blogs, which as far as I know have also gotten no mention in The Oregonian.

As posted to OregonLive, print stories from The Oregonian don't always seem to find their way into sections that directly match the sections of the newspaper, making it difficult sometimes to find an article online that you just read in print (presuming, given my earlier comment, that it ever got posted online at all).

OregonLive's general discussion forums section itself is like an unrelated parallel universe, unconnected in any real, direct, or virbant way to either, say, the site's own hyper-local blogs (which, by the way, do not include comment functionality), or to the articles posted from pages of The Oregonian.

And I really do suspect that these issues are not issues of a lack of creativity or understanding, but of the aforementioned editoral and business barriers between the different facets of Advance.

And no one but those way, way up the chain in the family of Advance companies can change that dynamic, I would think.

Posted by: The One True b!X at December 22, 2004 1:13 AM | Permalink

David Hoggard: No, I didn't have the report written a week ago. I don't have it written now. What I have is a boatload of bookmarks, pages upon pages of notes and, at the moment, 14 open Mozilla tabs. But from this chaos will come some order. That's one thing I'm pretty good at.

Posted by: Lex at December 22, 2004 10:35 AM | Permalink

Also, to address the apparent contradictions Jay points out between Charlie Stafford's comment and my blog post:

The News & Record has a number of sites besides Content for is, at the moment, almost completely the responsibility of the print newspaper's news department. Design, of that site and all our others, is the purview of Charlie and other online staffers, who do not work for John Robinson. The fact that they've been working on a site redesign for months does not contradict what I'm doing.

My charge was to suggest things we might do to make the site more like a town square. To the extent that I'm an expert on anything, it's content, not design or technical issues. Accordingly, my report will consist primarily of recommendations on what ought to be on our site. I'm not making any huge effort to recommend what it should look like or how to get it there or pay for it, although I've gotten unsolicited suggestions in those areas and will be including them somewhere in my report.

Does this mean that a lot of the work the online staff has done on the previously planned redesign will be wasted? I don't know, and I certainly hope not. But in any case, JR has made clear what he wants to do with, and I'm confident that our online crew, professionals and nice folks who want basically the same things we do, will help us find ways to try to realize our goals.

I hope that makes it clearer, but if not, hit the e-mail or blog link and let me know.

Posted by: Lex at December 22, 2004 10:49 AM | Permalink

Lex has it right. The Web site redesign has been in the works since the Civil War. Meanwhile, the whole discussion about aggregated content that's been happening on Greensboro-based blogs started me thinking that our online philosophy was much too narrow and limited. It wasn't helping visitors to the site as it should. That conclusion coincided with some philosophical changes in the direction of the newspaper to reconnect with its community-based roots.

As Lex says, our online staff will make happen what we want to happen.

Posted by: John Robinson at December 22, 2004 12:26 PM | Permalink

I realize that there is an apparent contradiction in my statements and in our commitment to reader involvement in what the newspaper should be.

There are several reasons for that contradiction, the first being perhaps a lack of internal communication between departments in News & Record. It's a problem that every business has to deal with at some point. The newsroom has laudably begun to pursue interactive communications with the readers of the News & Record. As a department, News & Record Interactive (NRI) has only recently become aware of the efforts in the newsroom to read out to readers. Conversely, the newsroom has not necessarily been aware of the direction we've been trying to take either.

NRI has been pursuing this same goal for much of the last five years because we realize that the online version of the newspaper should be not only a reflection of the printed product but an extension of it. The beauty of online is that coverage can be much deeper because there are no space constraints. Coverage is more timely because we aren't on a once a day publication schedule and the communication is much more naturally a two-way street between the newspaper and its readers. We've been looking for ways to invite readers to help "create" the news for some while, but couldn't do so because of forementioned software problems. Basically we have an ancient online publication system and, until recently, had an even more ancient print publication system.

As a department, we've taken the role of online evangelists, proselytizing to other departments in an effort to convert them from a printed-product mentality to a platform-neutral way of thinking. A newspaper is no longer, and can no longer be an organization that puts out a printed product. It has to reinvent itself as a information product that does what it has always done best: provide a voice for the community at large and serve to connect readers and advertisers. We've come to realize that the best way to provide a voice for the community is to actually let the community speak through the newspaper.

I stepped away from this comment for a bit, so I lost the thread, but I think the last point I wanted to make is that the design of any site we present is fluid and evolutionary. We have some ideas of where to begin in making the news site more interactive, but we hope to learn more as we progress. As Lex stated, the content and the design issues are also somewhat different. Design is just a framework.

It also strikes me at how much attention this particular issue has gotten. I guess as an online guy from way back that I'm surprised that this is news to anyone. Of course, we're very gratified by the coverage, but I am sure that there are many other newspaper online departments pushing more interaction and more community involvement. There are plenty of other news organizations that have blogs. The difference at News & Record is that the editor himself "got religion" and started a top-down push to change the way the news is reported. I personally think that the time is past when a news organization could decide which stories got top billing and which were buried on page nine. The news that is important to the community should be decided by the community.

Posted by: Charles Stafford at December 22, 2004 3:54 PM | Permalink

Lex: I take your point about spheres of expertise-- yours is about content and news, so you didn't solicit design ideas, even though some came your way.

The practical approach--figure out what we want to do, first, then see if we have the site to do it with--makes total sense. I look forward to the results.

But... to stretch your minds a bit. You would be wise to assume that the "silo" effect is real, even among people who work together and share the same goals. I don't see how having content people and design people works anymore.

Looking just a little ahead, Willy the weblog writer who does his beat as a blog for the "new" News & Record cannot afford to leave "design issues" to those with coding skills or a graphic arts background, while he, the writer, focuses on something called content. That would be deadly.

Willy's blog is his "house of content." He has to have a design vision as a journalist. He has to be demanding of the software, and be able to think in structural terms about forms and features. If the journalists aren't demanding the features the software designers put in, then in what sense does "editorial" drive the News & Record site?

The newspaper as a bureaucracy and production marvel used to work because it had very good "silo sense." People had their silos, and their silos were their strength. The operation was efficiently divided and tasks were coordinated. Thus, the newsroom vs. "business side" divide was silo-making that worked. Worked for a while, that is.

One of the deadly effects this had in journalism later on was that it allowed newsroom folk to not only rationalize but valorize their ignorance of, say, how the marketing of the product worked, or indeed who the market was. The silo-ed mind works fine until the conditions change, and one has to adapt to an unfamiliar world.

These were the thoughts behind my questions, Lex and John.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 22, 2004 4:26 PM | Permalink

As one of the folks that'll be tasked with implementing our readers' grand schemes for improving our online products, I'd like to inject a word of caution here.

Some of the comments I've been reading on both Mr. Rosen's and Mr. Alexander's blogs and in other venues where this issue is being discussed point to a marked misperception as to the amount of work involved in Web design and development.

Whereas most newspapers have a rather large number of folks responsible for the design and technical implementation of the print product, their online products are built and maintained by relatively small staffs. Our entire department consists of 12 folks, of whom only 3 are designers (who develop and execute the visual design for a site) -- and 1 (yours truly) is a full-time developer (who integrates that design with backend systems and makes the interactive elements of the site *work*, along with custom applications development).

Because our department must generate revenue, we have to divide our time between maintaining our many internal products and doing commercial work for external clients.

I applaud the mission of the new initiative, but keep in mind that, contrary to popular belief, this stuff *is not* magic and requires *real work* to make happen. Until the newspaper industry realizes this, registers the true value of the work their new media staffs do, and devotes the human and material resources to us that we need to "do it right"... Well, enough said.

Posted by: Stephen Paschall at December 22, 2004 5:05 PM | Permalink

See? I TOLD you Charlie Stafford and his crew were nice folks.

And Jay, it's not that I work to maintain a set of silos. Quite the contrary. Since we got into the Internet business 11 years ago next month, I've been arguing for our transition, or conversion, from a traditional newspaper/newspaper company to a platform-neutral news, information and dialogue provider with expertise in all commonly used media and continual research into new media and new ways of using existing media.

I have. Really.

But what I'm reporting on is what I was asked to report on in the space of roughly four working days, along with some related info I came across or received with no additional effort on my part.

If JR had wanted me to design a comprehensive plan, addressing issues of content, design, hardware, software, interactivity and business model, I'd have done my best to give it to him. But I probably would have had to ask him for more than four days in which to pull it together. :-)

Posted by: Lex at December 22, 2004 5:11 PM | Permalink

On the silo mentality and the struggle for an online future, check out this item live at Lost Remote....

DONATA Communications (er, that would be me) is looking for TV news managers who understand that the Internet and multiple distributions channels will be an integral part of the newsroom of tomorrow. I'm a new media consultant and have TV clients who really "get it." Do you? If I ask about RSS, Podcasting or video blogging, and all I get is a blank stare, your name doesn't belong on my list. But if you're a news manager who wants to get in on something different, send me an email and a resume.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 22, 2004 5:11 PM | Permalink

Newspapers have been very slow to do anything online that's different from...what they do offline. The brand is so important, and the editor's role is so important, that papers can't imagine changing the "product" (and loosening the editorial reins) but branding it as their own.

Here's an idea: how about (in addition to replicating the paper online, which is a valuable resource) having an entirely different community site that is branded separately but relatedly. That might help management relax. Then aggregate blogs, hold forums, have polls, have very-local-weather reports, review movies, have the best possible community events calendar, create (simple, low-barrier-to-entry) virtual worlds, assign stories collectively, have photo contests, whatever. But in a slightly different voice.

One model I like is the Time Out New York offline setup. It's got the voice of an informal blog, with regular columnists, plus all possible information about all possible events. It's overwhelming, but I can imagine that the online Greensboro version might have a more manageable amount of information. Time Out Greensboro plus The Aggregated Voice of Greensboro -- with revenue coming only from large concerns placing listings. No subscriber fees or "premium" content that's hard to get to -- the friendly craigslist model.

Posted by: Susan Crawford at December 22, 2004 5:59 PM | Permalink

By all means this story should go national.

Look, I know that not everything will be perfect. I know some will be unhappy. I already know several who see a mainstream daily as a threat to the Blogisphere, and yes, there will be some who take advantage of others...

But come on, I've spent my entire life as the world's biggest cynic. I don't believe nobody. Ask Hoggard, ask Cone, ask Lex Alexander, I'm sure they can all come up with instances when my comments on their blogs seemed to come out of nowhere and were way off base. Some have even called me a cynic, but if this life-long and still practicing cynic can see the value in this project then why can't the rest of the world?

Posted by: Billy The Blogging Poet at December 22, 2004 8:15 PM | Permalink

It's interesting to me that you use "open source" in the discussion of blogging/newspapers/rebirth. There really isn't an easy opposite to it and perhaps it's just a tech word that has found its way into mainstream speak. But I think it's more than that.

Open Source connotes rebellion against the "powers that be," whether it's software development that is open on the front a/w/a/ the back end or newspaper back rooms opening up what they do to the light of day (much like the sunshine laws, eh?) Open Source is a metaphor now for "power to the people." If we don't like what the establishment does (OK, I'm a 60s hippie, only grown up and better dressed), then we should and WILL take it into our own hands. The most thoughtful discussion these days is *not* on the editorial page (but the N&R is one of the better and more thoughtful ed pages I read).

Blogging isn't civil disobedience. It's more like civil technoACTION in a venue that those who have the power can't really hold their own--they say they're technophobes and we smile and blog away. We're going to use our 15 minutes of power.


Posted by: Sue at December 22, 2004 8:54 PM | Permalink

Some have even called me a cynic, but if this life-long and still practicing cynic can see the value in this project then why can't the rest of the world?

Cynicism is merely frustrated optimism.

Posted by: The One True b!X at December 22, 2004 11:05 PM | Permalink

It seems to me that there is a small group within the media that does not want to put the info out that we have Pioneers bloggers here in Greensboro, that have those business models that everyone has been asking for to be known. Is it because this group of bloggers have spent the last three years putting together business models that’s going to drive the blogosphere to the next level.
By all means this story should go national yes it should if thats what it is going to take for everyone in the greensboro's blogging community and the media to have a seat at the table a talk about what the future has to offer like mature adults....ThataWhatzUp

Posted by: Jerry McClough at December 22, 2004 11:26 PM | Permalink

As news about what we're planning at the N&R does start to spread, I feel obliged to make one point I probably should have made earlier and did not: We're not quite as pioneering as some folks think. In my research, I've come across a number of newspaper-based sites that already include elements of what I'll be recommending. The Northwest Voice is posting news items written by readers. The BBC has a site to which people can submit text or photos via e-mail or wireless phone. Lawrence, Kansas, already has reader-blogged A&E content at

I'm just saying that we understand we're not inventing the wheel here, lest anyone get the wrong impression.


Posted by: Lex at December 23, 2004 9:31 AM | Permalink

Perhaps true, Lex... but...

I remember when everyone was riding around on bias-ply tires, then the radial tire swooped in during the 1970's. Soon after, bias was a choice few people made. ('Pun' intended.)

Re-invention is a worthwhile endeavor.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Posted by: David Hoggard at December 24, 2004 6:51 AM | Permalink

From the Intro