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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 22, 2005

Keystone Crisis Management at Ketchum: Check the Home Page

There it sits,, witlessly pumping out to the Web, 24 hours a day, the cocky evasions of a CEO, for which the firm apologized this week, on orders of that same CEO. So this is world class public relations?

Issues & Crisis Management: When the going gets tough, a growing number of companies turn to Ketchum for help navigating the often treacherous paths of issues and crisis management. They know that Ketchum offers clients a global network of seasoned professionals with the expertise to respond to the most demanding and sensitive business situations— Ketchum site

Well, the going got tough recently for Ketchum, the big PR agency at the center of the Armstrong Williams corrupt-a-columnist case. It was a big news week too. The company had to issue a statement reversing itself and admitting fault, after first saying others had all the responsibility for corrupting Williams as columnist and show host.

Stuart Elliot’s coverage in the New York Times Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 tell the story, along with two prior PressThink posts. (Here and here.)

“The Ketchum public relations agency has reversed course…” said Elliot’s account. And indeed, I received by e-mail Wednesday an official statement reversing course— and apologizing. I re-print it (below) because it’s interesting, but also because I enjoy operating for them, at my own blog, Ketcham’s Online Press Office. Here’s what I mean:

If you go to Ketchum’s Media Center (promising, for us information hounds) and then to Latest News (promising, you would think) you find the Ketchum site is currently distributing to the world something like: “Ketchum to Host Panel on ‘What Women Want: Connecting With the New Technology Consumer’ - New York, Dec. 15, 2004…” What you cannot find is its newsmaking announcement from Jan. 19.

A little odd for a world class PR firm, no?

There’s more. The site shows no awareness at all that it is the “live” public face of a company in the news and under pressure from peers. This would be mildly comical in the case of a chemical company. It is more amusing, and ironic in the instance of a public relations agency fighting for its reputation and blissfully unaware of what its Web site is doing to that reputation.

For example: The front page boasts of an op ed piece, “Williams scandal is a ‘transformational event’ in PR, written by Ray Kotcher, CEO of Ketchum,” in PRWeek, Jan. 13. This particular text is on its way to becoming notorious for its attempt to sow confusion in readers, who are treated as utter dupes. (See this.)

It was for the attitudes and statements on view in this op-ed, a brazen work of peer-to-peer deception, that Ketchum apologized on Jan 20. Read it. It’s hilarious, that piece. And it’s live, now.

It may be, then, that “a growing number of companies turn to Ketchum for help navigating the often treacherous paths of issues and crisis management,” but a live, mismanaged website suggests this might have been a hasty decision on their part (the dupes.) And let’s remember that this week Ketchum had to tap those very crisis-handling skills, which it lists as a practice area, in reversing course and issuing a damage-control statement. Stuart Elliot:

Previously, in articles in the trade publication PR Week, Ketchum, owned by the Omnicom Group, had defended itself, saying Mr. Williams was responsible for disclosing the payments. But in the statement, which Ketchum attributed to its chief executive, Ray Kotcher, the agency said it regretted the lack of disclosure.

So Ray Kotcher, the boss, regrets writing the piece now showing on his firm’s front page. And this is from the 2002 Agency of the Year. A broken, clueless, counter-productive website, on day three of a public relations crisis at the (public relations) firm. There it sits,, witlessly pumping out to the Web, 24 hours a day, the cocky evasions of a CEO for which the firm apologized this week, on orders of that same CEO.

Live cluelessness in a “communications” company. Fascinating for some.

Incidentally, after the Williams story broke, and started heating up in the blog sphere, I found an interview about PR and bloggers with two young hotshots at Ketchum.

“And we as practitioners need to embrace blogs wholeheartedly,” Nicholas Scibetta says in the interview. “We need to really dig deep to understand what the mindset of bloggers is and what we can do to foster mutually beneficial relationships with them.” That sounded good to me. So I e-mailed Scibetta and his colleague Adam Brown on Jan. 8th, told them I had questions:

1.) Has Ketchum made an official statement about the Armstrong Williams contract?

2.) I realize that the transaction, at bottom, is between DoE and Williams, and that Kethcum is a middleman, but this is precisely my question. Kethcum is an established firm and its people know the rules. So why did Kethchum find it proper to funnel $240,000 to a journalist to promote a government agenda? Or does Ketchum find it improper?

3.) Why weren’t people at Ketchum concerned when the contract was signed, and Williams received the money, and yet no disclosure had been made, either by DoE or Williams? Can it really be that no one at your firm anticipated what would happen if the arrangement became known? It’s hard to believe because that would be a case of spectacular incompetence in an area where your company is supposed to be expert.

4.) Let’s look at what did happen. Tribune Media Services terminated Williams as a syndicated columnist. The National Association of Black Journalists condemned Williams. The Washington Post in an editorial today roundly condemned your client. Looking at the series of events, was this a case of incompetence at Ketchum, bad internal policy, perhaps a “rogue” employee, professional misjudgment by the team who worked on the contract, bad information fromDoE or Williams, or what?

That was on January 8, day after the news broke. They blew me off, sending no reply, which wasn’t great for our relationship. Until Jan. 19, after I gave them a “last chance” notice. Adam Brown finally sent me a link to the hilarious Kotcher op-ed (peer-to-peer deception) and the statement below contradicting it, which you cannot find at He made no attempt to answer My questions.

KETCHUM STATEMENT on this scandal, released to the press, Jan. 19.

Ketchum is committed to adhering to industry guidelines and to high ethical standards in every aspect of its business practices. Ketchum has its own Code of Business Ethics, which includes a commitment to present our clients’ products, services, or positions truthfully and accurately. Every new Ketchum colleague is asked to sign this code upon joining the firm.

In working with the Department of Education to create advertising for its No Child Left Behind Act, Ketchum contracted with the Graham Williams Group. Long before he entered a contract with us, Mr. Armstrong Williams, principal of this advertising/public relations agency and also a commentator, was an advocate for the No Child Left Behind program, which he strongly supported during a number of television appearances.

We should have recognized the potential issues in working with a communications firm operated by a commentator. Mr. Williams repeatedly has acknowledged that he should have disclosed the nature of his relationship with the Department of Education. We agree. As a result this work did not comply with the guidelines of our agency and our industry. Under those guidelines, it is clear that we should have encouraged greater disclosure. There was a lapse of judgment in this situation. We regret that this has occurred.

We are taking this matter very seriously and have the following steps underway to make sure that we always meet the existing guidelines of both the agency and the industry.

We are putting in place a new policy for the signing and authorization of contracts with spokespeople.

In agency-wide communications, we have underscored our guidelines about how our people should represent our client work to the media.

We have established a central number for our people to call if they have any questions.

We are developing a new process by which we deal with subcontracts. In short, all subcontractors will be expected to abide by the agency’s ethical standards.

After Matter: Notes, Reactions and Links

Kevin Dugan at Strategic Public Relations reacts: “Suggesting consistency between online and offline messages is simply common sense. And we already suggested that Ketchum could have avoided this inconsistency issue by creating a crisis communications blog. So here is one more idea, aimed at the blog-savvy agencies out there… Create a SWAT team that is a blend of your crisis and online practices.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 22, 2005 1:30 PM   Print


Why it's almost as bad as if you were trying to get Scott McClellan to answer questions about Bush administration policy.

Does this mean the virtual stone wall and the repetition of non-responsive and self-contradictory press releases is state of the art in times of political and corporate crisis, or that Ketchum and the White House are behind the curve?

I've noticed that perhaps the two main functions of websites in corporate management are 1) the automation of customer service to question and answer menus so that staff can be fired or outsourced and 2) the websites function as an additional firewall beyond the phone tree that is expressly designed to prevent customers from ever actually being able to speak to a live employee who might be able to process their claim.

For many businesses, such as health insurance companies or HMOs, the refusal to communicate raises profit margins in predictable and measurable ways. It's become part of the business model. I suppose public relations would call for a slightly distinct attitude toward communication in most cases.

If Karl Rove worked for Ketchum, what would Karl do?

Posted by: Mark Anderson at January 23, 2005 1:27 AM | Permalink

I suppose it could be "strategic." I doubt it. I think it's lack of competence, lack of professionalism, and a lack of leadership at the firm.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 23, 2005 1:41 AM | Permalink

The new business strategy is keep your distance from the customer and if they get through its the customer that's always wrong. It's corporate thuggery as with everything these days.

And it's ruining newspapers. Turns them into bland automatons afraid of conflict and unwilling to risk reporting the truth. Mindless meeting-goers really.

Posted by: Jack Tagger at January 23, 2005 10:47 AM | Permalink

From the Intro