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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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January 4, 2005

Open Source Journalism Comes a Step Closer in Greensboro: A Plan is Shown

Open and free archive. Bloggers at editorial meetings. Long tail ad network. New "always link" policy. Obits as a blog. Those are some of Lex Alexander's ideas for the Greensboro News & Record as it moves a step further into blogging, citizen journalism and the site as public square. The highlights...

A much awaited document was released today. It’s Lex Alexander’s report to News & Record editor John Robinson on citizen journalism directions for the Greensboro newspaper and its revamped site. (Greensboro background is here and here.)

The report is a change document. It has a short argument attached to a series of suggestions, some more developed than others. A good number of Alexander’s recommendations are modest and easy to do; others require practical invention. A few are far-reaching or call for such changes in policy as to be revolutionary for the world. Lex writes:

Our audience is moving from print to online, and some of the wealthier and better-educated people among our audience are leading the charge and taking ad revenue with them. If we are to survive as a business dedicated to producing quality local news, information and dialogue, we need to move, too— with people and resources.

But that means more than just re-creating the print product online. It means understanding the culture of the Internet, and of blogging in particular, and understanding how we can work on and with the Internet (i.e., with users of that medium) to expand the quantity and quality of the local news, information and dialogue we provide.

Alexander’s ideas for the News & Record come in three areas.

1.) More blog-style journalism done by the News & Record staff. This is not exactly a surprise, since it was the blogging boss who asked the blogger Lex to compile the report.

2.) More participatory or open source journalism where readers or “affiliated” bloggers from the community are the knowledge engine or the agenda setter.

3.) A new and strikingly different Web philosophy for, stressing open standards, transparency, interaction, dialogue, linking widely— in a word, a different kind of site. Including a permanent, free archive, in itself a mini-revolution if enacted.

Robinson said at his blog: “No big announcements to make about it yet; we’re still ingesting.” (Update here.)

Some of the highlights of the recommendations:

  • Assign local bloggers to cover in depth things the News & Record does not, like individual high school schools’ sports teams.
  • Recruit one N & R blogger per neighborhood from that neighborhood.
  • Enable comments on all local news content. “Require writers to read them and, where appropriate, respond.”
  • Re-launch Letters to the Editor as a blog, with each letter having its own permalink and comments.
  • Do obituaries as a searchable blog, ordered by page, with comments (“guest book”) capability for each.
  • Digitize archives and make them available online, free.
  • Link to everyone— other local blog aggregators, other local media, even competitors.
  • In news content, reverse policy from “don’t link out” to “must link out” to resources anywhere on the Web that help users or make sense.
  • Post a permanent bio page for each full-time reporter and editor, with photo, contact info, background, political & religious affiliation.
  • Open up plannng and editorial meetings to local bloggers who may blog about them.
  • Post, and invite comment upon, the News & Record mission, vision and coverage priorities for the year. Seek advance input into coming year’s newsroom goals.
  • Start “moblogs”— weblogs to which people can submit text and/or images via e-mail or wireless (“mobile”) phone. (Like so.)
  • Alexander: “To the extent that a blogger/reader knows more about a subject than a reporter does, make the relationship more of a partnership and find a way to represent that partnership visually.”
  • Create a “long tail” ad network to begin compensating bloggers at the far end of the tail who participate with the News and Record online.

Many of these recommendations the News & Record received online and in public after soliciting comment at its own blogs and in the blog world generally. I am one of those who pushed for the open and free archive, the “always link” policy, the staff bios. And I am pleased to see them included. Many other people will find their suggestions in there. That’s part of what makes it open source.

What I did not find in this plan (but maybe it will come later) is the kind of online community-building my nephew Zack Rosen, founder of Civic Space Labs, recommended in this post. Lex says in comments that he simply didn’t have time to think that part of it through. (See this site, built with Civic Space Labs tools.)

In fact, a “community” and a “public square” are not the same thing— and may be in tension. The public square is the place where people from many communities can mix, gather— and potentially debate things. Maybe a newspaper site can be both. But let’s not elide this distinction; it could be useful.

“When the Web was born as a commercial content enterprise back in the mid-’90s, we thought it was about replicating—that is, ‘repurposing’—our news and information franchises online,” said Tom Curley, CEO of the Associated Press, in the big speech I have been quoting like crazy lately.

Alexander’s report is very clear about what it means to abandon the “re-purposing” legacy. “It means understanding the culture of the Internet.” If you start there, then of course the site needs to “link out” a lot; and it becomes part of journalism ethics to do so. A smart newsroom will quickly absorb the ethic of linking, once the cultural adjustment is made.

It’s taken a long time for daily newspaper people to get there, but it seems to me that Greensboro has arrived at the crossover. It is ready to become an Internet newspaper with a print edition, rather than an old-style newspaper re-purposing its content online.

“It’s 2005 and a lot of what people were saying in 1994 and 1995 is slowly but surely unrolling around us.” That’s what Scott Rosenberg, managing editor of, just said in the comments to a prior, Tom Curley post. Rosenberg thinks back ten years:

At the time most newspapers made the choice to “repurpose” their “existing content” onto the Web—… hauling the “dreary old newspaper commentary section online”—the blogosphere as we know it today really didn’t exist. It was ‘96 or ‘97 and every newspaper boardroom was beginning to think about how to cash in on dotcom mania. After the bubble burst these people for the most part buried their heads in the sand and decided that the Web was over and they didn’t have to worry about it any more. So the rise of citizen journalism and blogs has really caught much of the “legacy media” doubly asleep.

In Greensboro we find a newspaper awakening to the culture of the Web.

UPDATE (Jan. 5): Dan Kennedy, media critic of the Boston Phoenix (the alt weekly there) is a skeptic. He says in comments:

The Greensboro experiment sounds like an interesting idea that a few people will love, but that the overwhelming majority will find makes their paper too much work to bother with. The whole idea of an edited newspaper is that a reader can sit down with it for, say, a half-hour and get some sort of comprehensive overview of what’s going on in her community. This is achieved as much by what’s left out as by what’s put in. It can be done well or it can be done badly, but that’s the mission.

I’m not sure that I’d work for a place that forced me to post my political and religious affiliations. You’re asking journalists to give up a lot of privacy for the privilege of working long hours for little pay.

My reaction is here.

UPDATE II (Jan. 8): N & R Editor John Robinson announces at his blog: “Lex Alexander will begin designing and building our new Web presence fulltime following the open source journalism model.”

His report was comprehensive, and we want to do much of it. We asked him to focus first on bringing down the artificial barriers separating the newspaper from readers. His initial efforts will be to develop interactivity, forums, communities of place and of interest. He’s going to help us develop more staff and reader blogs, and bring on more citizen content, stories and photos. We’re looking at many other sites to learn. I like the OhMyNews model. We’ll see.

We’re also exploring ways the newspaper and the online world can complement each other, feeding content to each other and playing to the strengths of each.

Read the rest. Ed Cone, reacting, says Alexander “earned himself one of the plum jobs in the newspaper business this year — anywhere, at any paper.”

After Matter: Notes, Reactions and Links.

The News & Record is owned by Landmark Communications. So is the Virginian-Pilot (a bigger paper) in Norfolk. Kerry Sipe of the Pilot has a weblog, News Without Paper, where he calls the Lex Alexander plan “nothing less than revolutionary for an old-media newsroom.” Then the part I was waiting for: “I’d love to see this report become the catalyst for a open discussion of new media in The Pilot’s newsroom.” That’s how it happens.

Awakening to the culture of the Web? Nice phrase, but could you, like, give an example? News & Record editor John Robinson joins the local Greensboro Weblogger Meetup Group. I will say it again: What is happening in Greensboro is national news and deserves to be covered as such.

Robinson at his blog: “We’re in the process of determining what our technology will allow, what our staffing will allow, and what we want to do first. We will be ambitious.”

Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee and its California Insider blog has a two word review of the “Greensboro proposal to turn the local newspaper into what sounds like a blogpaper.” He calls it: “Intriguing stuff.”

“It’s not just the N&R,” says Ed Cone: “The paper is feeding off of, and feeding into, a broader movement that includes personal publishing and politics. Suddenly, blogging is taking off among our elected officials — our mayor pro tem has a blog, another City Council member has made a public promise to start soon, and another is actively testing the medium in private. Our Register of Deeds is blogging.” Hmmm.

Greensboro blogger tries to blog, live, a city council meeting. “I find that attempting to write about events as they happen is an ineffective way to add to blog,” writes Dave Hoggard. “I can’t concentrate on what is being said, nor can I concentrate on what I am trying to say.”

Blogger and PressThink contributor Weldon Berger on the significance of the open, free, and digitized archive proposed for the News & Record: “The lack of an institutional memory—even a short-term one—is among the things I find most frustrating about the press.”

The blog newspaper is here! Or at least a glimpse of one. PressThink reader John Zeratsky points us to the Badger Herald, an independent student publication in Madison, WI, which re-designed its site around Movable Type software, turning each of the main sections—news, sports, arts, commentary—into a blog, and introducing all the content off the blog. Section editors run their sections by running their blogs. John tells about creating a newspaper site with blog-like qualities, and using MT software, here. And dig into the site. It’s… interesting.

Read Dan Gillmor on Distributed Journalism’s Future.

“It’s no surprise that many editors of newspaper Web sites are looking at how to effectively integrate blogs into their content offerings — and how to capitalize on the readership outside blogs often send to articles and features posted on newspaper sites.” Editor & Publisher, Jan. 5.

Wendy Hoke, a Cleveland writer, at Creative Ink: Where are the Newsblogs? Her plea to get with it.

General Motors has started a Blog, FastLane, where Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman at GM will sometimes appear. For some reason PressThink made it into “blogs we like,” and it’s generating quite a bit of traffic. “After years of reading and reacting to the automotive press,” Lutz writes. “I finally get to put the shoe on the other foot.”

Greensboro blogger gatecity:

I also prefer my “news” to come from a true media outlet. While some blogs are newsworthy and have merit (Cone, Hoggard, etc.) others come across as just rumours and opinion. I feel that there has to be some sort of central control or governor in the form of an editor. That’s just me, however.

But it is not just him. In the blogging era of journalism, what’s the reputation system?

Another local aggregator: Pittsburgh Webloggers. “”Serving as a compendium of all writers, narrators, blogs, and commentators in the greater Pittsburgh area.” Less fully developed is, in St. Louis, which has a blog and wants to have a magazine.

Walter Shapiro, fomer national political columnist for USA Today, is quoted:

“We may look back 10 years from now and say this is when print media hit its tipping point. I’m a newspaper junkie, I wrote a newspaper column, but at least twice a week now, because I go online and check news sites, I leave the house without having read the paper. A year ago, the idea that I could leave the house without reading three newspapers would have been unfathomable to me.”

The Tsunami Video Hosting Initiative is a public service offered by Media Bloggers Association, of which I am a member, in partnership with Zubr Communications. The Initiative was launched in response to concerns over bandwidth issues facing bloggers doing a tremendous public service by providing video of the tsunami to the world. The Initiatve is a “distributed content-broker” system that matches web hosts willing to donate server space and bandwidth with bloggers and other Tsunami video sources needing to defray their cost of hosting Tsunami video. Go here to find out more.

If you are a Web host and can donate server space and bandwidth, email PressThink, please.

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 4, 2005 6:07 PM   Print


You might find some hint of how Mr. Robinson plans to involve local bloggers in this link:

Posted by: Billy The Blogging Poet at January 4, 2005 9:24 PM | Permalink

The absence of a particular recommendation from the report does NOT imply rejection of that recommendation. In the particular case of Zack's suggestion, he gave me more to think about than I could digest before deadline.

And the beauty part of deadlines in this context is that they're sort of pointless: If we decide we want to do something and there's no financial or technological obstacle, then we can just do it ... maybe even if I wake up with an idea at 3 a.m., which has happened more than once the past couple of weeks.

Posted by: Lex at January 4, 2005 10:17 PM | Permalink

Even though it's sad it has taken newspapers this long to even *think* about outbound links, I'm very glad to finally see it happening. Also, the other ideas are far ahead of what other newspapers are contemplating in some ways. Not everything will work but better to be trying too much than too little. Kudos.

Posted by: Ryan Tate at January 5, 2005 1:23 AM | Permalink

It's fun to see this develop, as the process resembles one we did at the Badger Herald (16,000-circulation independent student paper in Madison, Wis) in Spring 2004.

The result was a new site that does almost everything you commend here, effectively training future journalists (at least the few we can get our hands on) to think about news on the web in a different way.

There is some background to this story available on my weblog, if anyone is interested.

Posted by: John Zeratsky at January 5, 2005 1:28 AM | Permalink

Oops, forgot to link to the Badger Herald's site :-)

Posted by: John Zeratsky at January 5, 2005 1:29 AM | Permalink

John that is a way coool site. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I added a refer to the post. One blog per section is, I think, a brilliantly simply idea. It seems to work.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 5, 2005 1:54 AM | Permalink

Jay, thanks a lot. I really appreciate your kind words.

As you can imagine, getting everyone on board is tough -- so we haven't fully utilized our opportunies and abilities. But we're working on it, and the web is one of our organization's major goals in the immediate future.

Developing a newspaper site around MovableType was a great way to go, I think. We used to be a Digital Partners customer, and they told us we'd never be able to do what we wanted with MT. (They were wrong.)

If you want to know more about our site or our paper (we have a pretty rich history), let me know. I'd be happy to talk with you.

Posted by: John Zeratsky at January 5, 2005 2:10 AM | Permalink

"Long tail ad network." Whoa. That's already the lingo? Chris Anderson will be pleased.

Posted by: praktike at January 5, 2005 8:42 AM | Permalink

It's fashionable to talk about how newspapers are "just now" starting to get it, but in defense of some of my colleagues (some still at the N&R and some now elsewhere), a team I worked with in '94 that put together content for the N&R's first Web site struck most of these same themes a decade ago, including transformation of the newspaper and its corporate parent into a platform-neutral news/information/dialogue provider. But we had neither the top-management buy-in nor the technology to make it happen at the time.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: Lex at January 5, 2005 9:16 AM | Permalink

Thought this might be of interest to you and somewhat germane to the discussion. A former colleague of mine helped launch a blog a while back to cover Beacon, an upstate NY community in which he lives. Subsequently, the blog gave birth to a print publication with a circ of about 7,000 (I believe). Isn't it usually the other way around? :-) Now both are available to the community and both are put out by average Joes and Janes who want to spread the word about what's going on in Beacon.

I think it is a great example of citizen journalism. Here's the site and a blog post I wrote about it if you'd like some more background.


Posted by: Howard at January 5, 2005 9:21 AM | Permalink

How does the NR make money doing this?

Posted by: JennyD at January 5, 2005 2:34 PM | Permalink

One more thing, I just found this article on CJR. It seems that journalists are going down the same road that educrats take when things get tough.

"It's not the school's fault; it's that the students are poor, neglected, not ready to learn, etc." So now news people blame the readers and all of society....

Posted by: JennyD at January 5, 2005 3:12 PM | Permalink

What I particularly like is the idea of opening the archives. Institutional amnesia is one of the larger problems afflicting the press, and making the archives freely available to the public would allow the public to remind the press of the past. It's not so great an issue on the local level because people tend to have long memories of their homes, but man, I'd love to have free access to the NY Times storehouse.

Posted by: weldon berger at January 5, 2005 3:31 PM | Permalink

The Greensboro experiment sounds like an interesting idea that a few people will love, but that the overwhelming majority will find makes their paper too much work to bother with. The whole idea of an edited newspaper is that a reader can sit down with it for, say, a half-hour and get some sort of comprehensive overview of what's going on in her community. This is achieved as much by what's left out as by what's put in. It can be done well or it can be done badly, but that's the mission.

And Jay, I'm not sure that I'd work for a place that forced me to post my political and religious affiliations. You're asking journalists to give up a lot of privacy for the privilege of working long hours for little pay.

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at January 5, 2005 7:17 PM | Permalink

I missed the part about religious and political affiliations, but it strikes me as a) illegal to make it a job requirement and b) an opportunity for considerable merriment. The paper could, for instance, boast an unusually high percentage of Zoroastrian Maoists.

The problem with sprawl is just organizational, I think. It happens that the only stuff I generally read at the Phoenix is Kennedy's; I bookmarked Media Log and his column. And I have a much easier time navigating my local papers on line than off because I don't have to read the whole damn thing to find what's of interest to me. There's a certain lack of spontaneity in not turning pages without knowing what's coming, but it isn't inefficient or overwhelming and the Greensboro recommendations don't seem to preclude anyone from just skimming the spots pages if that's their choice.

Posted by: weldon berger at January 5, 2005 10:16 PM | Permalink

Dan: You know I respect your judgment. You're one of my favorite people on the media crit beat, but I have to say I think you are wrong. You're misreading the situation, and being unduly dismissive.

You suggest the Greensboro initiative is premised on people spending lots and lots of extra time with the News and Record site. What led you to that? There's nothing about it in the Alexander report. I have never heard the editors say anything that suggests they are banking on it.

You come to the conclusion based not on any knowledge you have, but (I suggest) on a syllogism: Blogs are rants and opinion for the motivated reader. (They do not contain time-saving information.) The Greensboro editors want more blogs. Therefore the editors must think readers have time for more rants, more opinion.

Well, of course they would think that in Greensboro. They're bloggers themselves, and getting just a little carried away, losing perspective, forgetting that not everyone has their tastes... right, Dan?

But tell me: What suggestion has anyone in Greensboro made that would lead you to think they forgot, disdain or seek now to repeal such wisdom as "some sort of comprehensive overview of what's going on in her community." We blog now, we don't need anything like that! Sports scores in a glance? Nah, we have a sports blog now. Local news round up? Who needs it? We have our neighborhood bloggers. Comprehensive overview of local business? Passe! And it's not open source, so let's forget about it.

Honestly, Dan: How dumb do you think these people are?

You need to set aside some study time on this one. (I know, I know, we're all pressed.) The whole idea of an edited newspaper is in peril today not because bloggers disdain editors but rather because the editors disdain learning-- learning about the Web, learning about the divide between themselves and the people formerly known as the audience, learning from readers, learning from bloggers.

Take the Sunday Boston Globe, a product you know well. Certainly is edited. Would you have us believe readers have time for that?

I agree with you, however, that listing religious and political "affiliations" in the cause of transparency is going to be a lot harder than many champions of that policy think. There are rights issues there.

That's why I recommended: "begin experimenting with transparency by asking staffers to explain 'who they are, where they've been and where they're coming from,' but limiting it to those willing to disclose."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 5, 2005 11:02 PM | Permalink

At the worst, blogs provide journalists with story leads. It's much easier than sending an e-mail or letter to a paper about an event.

Normally I wouldn't go offtopic so much, but this may involve ClearChannel.
I don't particular trust links to bluelemur in general, but if it's true, it's too much to pass up.

Posted by: S. at January 6, 2005 1:37 AM | Permalink sinclair an interesting news/blog aggregator

Posted by: S. at January 6, 2005 3:14 PM | Permalink

The whole idea of an edited newspaper is in peril today, because people no longer trust those doing the editing.

Posted by: Terry Heaton at January 6, 2005 4:25 PM | Permalink

Jay, I will concede that my first post was in reaction strictly to your post - I did not actually read Lex Alexander's report. But now that I have, I think I'll stick with what I said.

I'm not thinking of blogs as pointless rants. Nor am I thinking that Greensboro is looking to replace news coverage with blogs. No - what I was reacting to was the sense of more, more, more that was conveyed in your post, as well as in Alexander's report. It sounds like it would be difficult for an average reader to get what he wants and needs in a half-hour by visiting the site you envision.

Terry Heaton remarks that no one trusts those doing the editing anymore. That is absolutely true, right on the mark. As I said, there are some very interesting proposals here. What strikes me as missing is a sense that most people have very little time that they're willing to give to their daily newspaper, whether it's in print, on the Web, supplemented by blogs, more transparent/interactive, whatever.

In addition to all of these ideas, may I suggest some thinking around the notion of how to serve the reader who will only give the paper 20 minutes a day. Some might find that repulsive, but it's reality. I don't mean that the paper should serve *only* those who'll give it 20 minutes. But there should be some way of pulling together a severely edited but still comprehensive news package for those who want such a thing. (I use "thing" advisedly.)

Posted by: Dan Kennedy at January 6, 2005 7:53 PM | Permalink

Dan, I think what you're talking about is more an engineering and design problem than a philosophical or managerial one. Developing a newspaper website that lets people control the amount of content they see shouldn't be a big deal. Most of the more complex news sites now are either poorly designed or deliberately intricate so that visitors see as many ads as possible.

I'd say the goal would be to design a site that anyone who can flag a waitress down at Denny's and order off the menu would be comfortable using, and that doing so wouldn't be all that difficult.

Restoring trust in the editorial staff is among the main goals of the proposals, and the paper is probably right in thinking that for many people, that means some sense that the gatekeepers are accessible and responsive regardless their perceived biases. Expanding the size and diversity of the editorial staff (not in the Village People sense but the "Hey, I know that guy" one) would help with that.

Posted by: weldon berger at January 6, 2005 10:43 PM | Permalink


I'll admit that I don't know if the 20 minutes a day is low or high compared to 'the good ol' days' or even a real statistic of current trends in reading habits but I'll use it as fact....

Is it possible that people only read newspapers 20 minutes per day because that is all the time folks can stand of the medium in it's current form?

If newpapers got better at engaging readers ... couldn't that rise to 25 or even 30 minutes? Or, are you too set in your ways to even consider the possiblity.

I don't know if my daily paper (N&R) will be successful or not with their new direction, but I'm sure glad they're trying something. I'd really like for them to be around a while longer.

Posted by: David Hoggard at January 6, 2005 11:00 PM | Permalink

What Weldon said.

Also, Hoggard makes a good point. I read my print papers and throw them away, then have no more interaction with the paper (or its advertisers) until the next day. A good website will get visited several times a day by at least some readers, and that number seems likely to increase over time.

That said, thanks to Dan for questioning the experiment. Hype management is healthy.

Posted by: Ed Cone at January 7, 2005 10:35 AM | Permalink

It sounds like it would be difficult for an average reader to get what he wants and needs in a half-hour by visiting the site you envision.

This is an interesting point, but it relies on some outdated assumptions.

1) You can design a site that delivers content the way people who are harried want their content. You can also snapshot paper content so that it looks like a regular paper but incorporates more feedback.

2) There is an 'average reader'. When 'average' readers are exposed to blogs, they change their reading habits and fragment their tastes, or rather, explore the manifold options now available. Why would this not occur if the paper changes what it delivers?

3) It is not so important that people do participate so much as that they can participate. That's why transparency is an efficient enforcement mechanism - the .1% of those who participate are a great proxy for the rest of the reading public.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at January 7, 2005 7:44 PM | Permalink

I agree with Ed that managing expectations, asking tough questions, and keeping the hype under control are an important part of making progress in online or citizen journalism. I just find Dan's concerns odd.

Just because you're adding "citizens media" stuff to, let us say, an expanded N & R site, why would anyone with half a brain not also provide quick summaries, intelligently overviews and easy, effective navigation for the time-starved reader? Why would more of one mean less of the other?

My guess is that this typical user with 20 minutes to spare for local news is time-starved most of the time, more or less as Dan suggested, until she comes upon that one feature that matches her interests so well that she "discovers" time for it.

For example, if there were a New York Daily News blog just about Stephon Marbury, the point guard of the New York Knicks, I would devour it. My sense is that the additions that are so puzzling to Dan ("who has time for all this extra stuff?") are based on logic like that.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 7, 2005 11:12 PM | Permalink

John Robinson at his blog on how much to reveal.

"The traditional model -- don't tell until you launch -- had proponents. But under the idea that we're pursuing revolution, not evolution, we've decided to put it out when we know it, and even when we don't know it. That probably means we'll over-promise and certainly means we'll make mistakes. Stuff happens. And stuff can be fixed and improved.

"We know you have high expectations. So do we."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 8, 2005 11:29 AM | Permalink

From the Intro