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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 28, 2004

Top Ten Ideas of '04: Open Source Journalism, Or "My Readers Know More Than I Do."

The audience always knew more, but it didn't have a network for pulling its scattered self together. An atomized public needed the journalist to know for it. That's how we got a professionalized press. Now Gillmor says his readers know more than he does. Open Source journalism builds on that insight.

Background is PressThink’s Top Ten Ideas for 2004. (“The year in press think, as it were.”) I’m explicating them. Here I am on Number 4.

4. Open Source Journalism. Or: “My readers know more than I do.” I’ve said it many times already, but in Dan Gillmor’s statement—an admission of fact—there is deep truth.

“But it was always true,” he likes to say.

“But you have to be open to it,” I like to say.

It was always true that the readership of the San Jose Mercury News knew more than the editors and writers employed by the Merc. But so what? There was no way the readers could awaken and mobilize that knowledge or use it to inform themselves. There was no easy way for them to communicate horizontally (also called peer-to-peer) in order to share and sift what they knew.

The audience always knew more than the journalist about a great many things, but it didn’t have a network for pulling its scattered self together. The public needed the press to know for it. These are the foundations of a professionalized press.

That was then. Gillmor saw, long before others in his profession, that once an effective horizontal network (the Web) arrived, professional journalism had a natural competitor. It’s not that blogs will suddenly rise up and “replace” the traditional media in the market to inform the public.

It’s that blogging is only one part of a larger development—citizen’s media—that forces smart people in the press to confront the paradox of the self-informing public, previously thought to exist only at the level of the primordial village. This is what is about. It’s consciously pointing back in time to the image and scale of a self-informing public, where news passed over the back fence.

Everywhere the cost of putting like-minded people in touch with each other is falling. (Idea number 8 on my Top Ten list.) So is the cost of pooling their knowledge. The Net is ideal for horizontal communication— peer to peer, stranger to stranger, voter to voter, reader to reader. When you talk about the Web era in journalism think: audience atomization overcome. Then you will be on the right track.

Think: media tools in public hands. We are in the middle of a producer’s revolution in media, also called Citizens Media by its great promoter and sage, Jeff Jarvis, following in the steps of others, who recognized what a big shift this potentially was.

The term open source journalism, which I have used to describe aspirations in Greensboro, came into public use with a particular event in publishing, a sign of the times that surfaced online five years ago. This is from a 1999 account in Salon by Andrew Leonard, entitled Open Source Journalism:

Oct. 8, 1999 | Censorship of the nerdocracy or a giant leap forward for collaborative online journalism? Or both? On Monday, Jane’s Intelligence Review, the “international journal of threat analysis” (a must-read on your average CIA spook’s list), solicited feedback on an article about “cyberterrorism” from the geeks who hang out at the Slashdot “news for nerds” Web site. On Thursday, after the Slashdot members sliced and diced Jane’s story into tiny little pieces, an editor at the magazine announced that the story would not be published as planned. Instead, the editor, Johan J Ingles-le Nobel, declared that he would write a new article incorporating the Slashdot comments, and would compensate Slashdot participants whose words made it into the final copy.

That’s distributed knowledge being brought to bear by Slashdot to improve and correct journalism. It was always the case that the readers knew more than Jane’s Intelligence Review about cyber-terrorism, but Leonard told of a case where that knowledge had been brought usefully forward. And better reporting resulted. (Get it?) The potential was clearly there. (See this too, a pdf file.)

Open Source journalism is all journalism that derives from the Janes Intelligence Review case, which was, in fact, “a giant leap forward for collaborative online journalism.” (There were other leaps too, the most important of which is Oh My News.) Not satisfied with that definition? Simpler one: Dan Gillmor says his readers know more than he does. Open Source journalism builds on that insight, which is foundational.

After the election we saw another good example— an exercise in distributed political reporting via blog. It was not about tapping what the audience already knew, as the Jane’s example was. This was getting the audience to go out and “know more” than the individual journalist (blogger) ever could. This was mobilizing the distributed troops. It happened at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall’s blog.

When I spotted it (Nov. 19) I wrote Jeff Jarvis an e-mail, hoping he’d do something at Buzzmachine:

Jeff: Josh Marshall is engaged in distributed fact gathering. He’s having readers of his blog call their Republican Congress person to ask if they voted for the Delay rule exempting Rep. Tom Delay from loss of his leadership position if he’s indicted. The vote was a voice vote with a handful of no’s, according to Republican honchos in the House. But the votes were not recorded. So Marshall is trying to get them recorded.

When constituents call, it’s more effective than the national press, which isn’t even trying to find out how the Rep’s voted. Great example of blogging doing journalism one better. Note also that Marshall gives Republican House members credit when they are being up front about their vote, even when they supported this dubious rule change. Of course many are ashamed of their vote, so they give callers the run-around. But isn’t that information too?

That’s open source reporting coming true. Jarvis had other ideas for it:

You ask your readers to call their congressmen to find out a stance and put together a chart (a wiki would work better for this than blog comments, by the way). You have your fellow bloggers each tell you whether the newspapers and TV and radio stations in their town covered a story you think is important and even have them all call the papers’ editors to ask why not… But it’s not restricted to bloggers alone: A smart reporter could start a blog and ask readers what’s happening in the communities they cover.

First journalist to do it is going to get a lot of recognition. Create a newsy weblog that succesfully “pulls” knowledge in by tapping open source tools and the spirit of earlier examples like the open source software movement. In an earlier post, I advised Greensboro News-Record to do just that. “Create one or two blogs, the main purpose of which is not to project the author’s knowledge… but to draw knowledge from its dispersed location around town and around the Web.” I said these blogs would be “learning machines run by a journalist.”

Learning machines. First journalist to create one that really, really works is going to have a big effect. It will happen soon enough. Or it already is…

On December 9, Dan Gillmor announced he is leaving the Mercury News for a start up company that would be open source. Clearly, open source journalism is a consequential—and more and more intelligible—idea these days. But you have to be open to it.

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links.

“Collectively we’ll cover the world.” Doug Muder at writes: “the Internet empowers the determined amateur.” From his resource page Open Source Political Reporting:

So here’s my plan: When an issue raises my interest and I can’t find the kind of reporting I want to see in the mainstream media, I’m going to go it myself, and post the results here. I hope other people do the same. If enough determined amateurs do their homework and post the results on the Internet, collectively we’ll cover the world.

Will Richardson, blogging evangelist and Supervisor of Instructional Technology and Communications at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, NJ, writes the weblogg-ed blog. It’s about how the same tools transforming media are going to transform the schools— teaching and learning, K-12 and in college. Richardson, a loyal PressThink-er, took my Top Ten Ideas for 2004 post and re-wrote it for educators. His list includes “legacy educators,” “teacher said, students did,” and others. Thanks, Will.

Fortune magazine in its 10 Tech Trends feature: Why There’s No Escaping the Blog: “Freewheeling bloggers can boost your product—or destroy it. Either way, they’ve become a force business can’t afford to ignore.” The article, well-researched, is by David Kirkpatrick and Daniel Roth. The focus is on business and marketing rather than politics or media:

The blog—short for weblog—can indeed be, as Scoble and Gates say, fabulous for relationships. But it can also be much more: a company’s worst PR nightmare, its best chance to talk with new and old customers, an ideal way to send out information, and the hardest way to control it…. Says [Six Apart] CEO Barak Berkowitz: “When everybody has a tool for talking to the rest of the world, you can’t hide from your mistakes. You have to face them. Once you commit to an open dialogue, you can’t stop.”

Curiously, the only links in an article (which explains the importance of links) are to the Fortune 500 companies mentioned. So Microsoft gets a link, Six Apart does not. Weird, huh?

Hugh Hewettt: A Unified Theory of the Old Media Collapse. “Asymmetrical tolerance and the collapse of Big Media credibility: How 2004 brought doom to legacy media.” (Weekly Standard, Dec. 28, 2004)

Foundational: The Media Center report We Media: “How audiences are shaping the future of news and information.” Written by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis. Edited by J.D. Lasica, senior editor Online Journalism Review

Dan Gillmor in OJR, 2001: “I doubt there is a beat at any newspaper or publication or program where it is not the case that the readers collectively know more than the reporter,” he says. “That shouldn’t come as any great revelation. Anyone who’s dealt with networks knows that the network knows more than the individual.”

Greensboro News & Record reader in comments at the Lex Files: “One more thing: if you use my idea don’t EVER use the term open-source journalism again. Ever. It should be banned. Do we really need more jargon that sounds like Dilbert dreamed it up?”

Posted by Jay Rosen at December 28, 2004 12:58 AM   Print


just to thank you for this article (and the last one). A pure pleasure :))

Posted by: ~laurent at December 28, 2004 6:33 AM | Permalink

Briefly and slightly off-track, I love that Doug Muder makes this point:

Judges want people to understand their reasoning. So you don’t need access to a law library to read the major decisions, and you don’t have to be a legal genius to understand them. You just have to have the patience to follow an argument with a lot of steps.

I call the digression only slightly off-track because it reflects at least a little the notion hidden inside "my readers know more than I do" -- the notion that people aren't necessarily stupid.

Posted by: The One True b!X at December 28, 2004 1:06 PM | Permalink

From the Intro