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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 28, 2005

Will the Greensboro Newspaper Open Its Archive?

Bill Mitchell of Poynter: "I don't know what your chances are of winning this one, but it sure is worth exploring." Editor in Greensboro: "As the decision makers see the traffic and better understand the potential, the argument over free archives will be easier to win."

First Simon Waldman, head of the Guardian’s online division, wrote The Importance of Being Permanent, laying out the case for a neglected value in journalism: the permanent record, with urls that don’t die or change (Jan. 7):

“It is about becoming an authority and a point of reference for debate.”

It’s important for a number of reasons, but they all move in the same direction: permanence is about ensuring you have a real presence on the Net. It is a critical part of having a distinctive identity in an increasingly homogenous landscape. It is about becoming an authority and a point of reference for debate. It is about everything we want and need to be.

Without permanence you slip off the search engines. Without permanence, bold ideas like “news as conversation” fall away, because you’re shutting down the conversation before it has barely started. Without permanence, you might be on the web, but you’re certainly not part of it.

I recently (Jan. 23) followed that up with:

“Open archive, permanent url’s, free public access.”

The key issue to watch—the signal for a big switch in philosophy—is the archive policy. My suggestion: Open archive, permanent url’s, free public access, make your money off smart advertising keyed to search, plus added-value services that make sophisticated use of the data in the archive, which you know better than anyone else because you own it and you created it.

News organizations, once they grasp Waldman’s argument about content accumulating in value on the Web, will figure out how to do journalism so as to continually improve the (future) value of the open archive. A simple example would be: if you make an effort to always do the bios of the key actors when you have any sort of newsmaking public controversy, then you are always building your public actor bio file, and new products may emerge from that.

Dan Gillmor of Grassroots Media, who departed Jan. 1 from the San Jose Mercury News, sharpened the argument (a lot) and called for change (Jan. 24): Newspapers Open Your Archive:

“The newspaper will have boosted its long-term place in the community.”

I predict that the result will pleasantly surprise the bean-counters. There’ll be a huge increase in traffic at first, once people realize they can read their local history without paying a fee. Eventually, though not instantly, the revenues will greatly exceed what the paper had been earning under the old system. Meanwhile, the expenses to run it will drop.

And, perhaps most important, the newspaper will have boosted its long-term place in the community. It will be seen, more than ever, as the authoritative place to go for some kinds of news and information — because it will have become an information bedrock in this too-transient culture.

As I reported earlier this week, during the recent Harvard gathering of Big Wigs in blogging and journalism (which is savaged here) others began to see the logic of it. Alex S. Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, was one. He said (Jan. 26):

“Result: win-win-win.”

Open archives is a great idea! It makes moral and professional sense. But it also has great potential for building audience, especially at newspapers. All it would take is a successful experiment at a couple of respected newspapers that show the income from selling reprints could be matched or exceeded from advertising at a newspaper’s “old news” web site and from special services (for instance, tapping the desire for a momento by selling framed photocopies of actual clips). Result: win-win-win.

“It makes moral sense.” I like that. Bill Mitchell, director of publishing and editor of Poynter Online, formerly director of electronic publishing at the San Jose Mercury News (Jan. 26) said the case against opening the archive wasn’t as strong as he initially thought:

“Sure is worth exploring.”

Given the importance of keeping well-reported journalism freely available — and given the possibility of some new ways of generating revenue from archives—maybe a new approach would work. I don’t know what your chances are of winning this one, Jay, but it sure is worth exploring. My going-in thinking: Unlikely that news organizations would ever give up this revenue stream.

Early re-thinking, based on just a bit of reporting while snowed in Sunday: The range of news organizations generating significant revenue from archives with current business models may be more limited than I had assumed.

Revenue may be less than I assumed. Hmmm. I wonder where that data actually resides. And why can’t we have it? If you have a suggestion, blog about it.

Want an example of a piece of content on the Web ruined by link death? I have my own right here. Read the first sentence and spot the dead link. That’s unbuilding the Web, sponsored by the Tribune Company. Here I am arguing with Tim Rutten, who works for the Los Angeles Times, who can no longer be “reached” by my readers. I’m trying to have a conversation with that entity, the LA Times (and push traffic its way.) The gated archive frequently makes that impossible: by design.

But if news as conversation catches on—not as a new religion, but as an idea worth a try somewhere—the gated archive can be questioned. “What do you lose by not opening it up?” will come on the table.

Certainly there are some good arguments for permanence and for the free, open, deep-linkable local newspaper archive. Whoever would develop them by blogging further about it, send me the link.

As Bill Mitchell suggested, maybe the gated archive isn’t such a money maker. Who knows how to investigate that, and will?

The way you test the open archive is you open an archive somewhere, and see what happens. Has this been done? What happened? Someone out there knows.

What seems “logical,” even compelling as an idea (open your archives!) may fall apart on contact with the particulars of a given news organization, its town and circulation area, its IT system, its ownership— the business of it all. But someone has to pull the switch, so we can find out.

“We have not made a decision, and, unfortunately, it’s not a decision I control.” That’s what John Robinson, the blogging editor of the Greensboro News Record, told me today when I asked him about the archive (Jan. 28). The bosses at Landmark Communications, owner of the newspaper, have to make that call. He did elaborate:

“We’re not normally in the business of leaving money on the table.”

The archives produce revenue, and we’re not normally in the business of leaving money on the table, particularly in these tight times. The challenge, of course, is to persuade others to recognize the long-term value of opening the archives. I guarantee I’ll use Gillmor’s recent post. I do think that as we build the rest of the site and create a place of citizen journalism—and as the decision makers see the traffic and better understand the potential—the argument over free archives will be easier to win.

Robinson’s last point seems crucial. The free and permanent archive argument will become easier to win if there is traffic, energy, buzz, and true citizen involvement at the revamped version of, which Robinson and company are working on now. That’s up to them in Greensboro.

But Robinson said it: arguments matter too. And those don’t have to be woven in Greensboro.

I would think that librarians would be intensely interested in this issue: newspapers moving from gated and chaotic archives to standard, stable, open and free. Perhaps librarians—especially, the blogging ones—have a role in imagining and describing the benefits of Gillmor’s call to newspapers.

But beyond that, maybe I’m wrong in my guess and Dan Gillmor is wrong in his prediction, and there isn’t money to be made by going free and open. Maybe it should be a non-profit resource, like a donation. Or perhaps the public libraries are plausible partners in the archive itself.

After all, this is about public memory, not just the newspaper business.

After Matter: Notes, reactions, links…

Mark Glaser pulls it all together at Online Journalism Review. Pay or Free?“Newspaper Archives Not Ready for Open Web…Yet.” The most fact-filled piece we have. He mentions many of those quoted here.

Martin Nisenholtz, the dean of online publishers as CEO of New York Times Digital, says there are two main reasons charges for most of its archives: The marketplace has already valued the content to be worth much more, and there’s no way to recoup that value through paid-search ads (such as Google AdWords) or even display advertising.

PressThink, Oct. 3, 2003: Times Web Editor Goes to Harvard in Search of Something.

There was one almost poignant moment during the question and answer period. Someone stood up and asked will the New York Times open its archive to free linking? (The original url’s expire after seven days for most articles, then you have to pay.) This appeared to catch Apcar off guard….

What the crowd was really saying, however, cut deeper: Don’t you understand? We want to link to you, mighty New York Times, and give everything you publish more and more Web life. For this, the Rule of Links, is the way of our tribe, said conference host Dave Winer, who wrote the rule. But because of your foolish and short-sighted archive policy, our efforts die after a week. Why, why are you causing all this needless link death?

John Robinson (Feb. 1) on needless link death at the News & Record site:

The bad news is that when we get the new publishing system, which now appears to be in early March, all the old links will rot. Once we pass that milestone, though, all subsequent links to pages created within the new system will remain connected forever.

Yes, the archives issue is still out there, I know. We’re taking small steps.

Greensboro blogger Dave Hoggard reacts: “Landmark’s apparent hesitance is puzzling, especially in light of the fact that several year’s worth of N&R content is currently available for free to anyone who has a Greensboro library card.”

Ed Cone: “The N&R’s current archive system is terrible — links rot and then you really have to hunt for a story in order to buy it.” See also Cone’s reflections on hype and reality. “Is Greensboro changing the face of journalism as we know it, and doing it yesterday? No. The real world doesn’t work that way.”

John Robinson at his blog the next day: “Many of you are business people, and you know the way business people think. The archives generate decent money. Why is a business person going to give that up? Yes, I know all the reasons. As the new content, higher page views and buzz hits critical mass, things will move along. Give some of us time to get there.”

He’s right; there’s time.

Free Range Librarian (Karen Schneider) responds with: Let the Walls Come Tumbling Down. “Don’t you love it when some other, flossier, higher-profile profession rediscovers something we’ve been saying among ourselves for ages, and gives it due time in the press?”

Cory Doctorow: “If the NYT can’t make it on advertising alone, it might just be dead in the long run, since these substitutable goods that require no subscription will crowd it out of the market eventually. But if it wants to try a subscription-based system, then for heaven’s sake, why not charge money for the news (which lots of people want to pay for!) and give away the history (which relatively few people want to buy)?”

At lbr (a blog about virtual reference for librarians by request) Luke Rosenberger: Newspaper archives and the “last mile” for OpenURL: “OpenURL grew out of a problem in scholarly publishing that’s a lot like the problem that Dan and Cory describe for bloggers and online journalists.”

Adrian Holovaty on reasons for the free archive: “Forget monetization, forget maintaining newspapers’ authority, forget being higher than competitors in search rankings. Journalism exists, in its golden ideal, to spread truth and give people information that helps their lives. Journalists should advance that cause as far as possible.”

An Online Rescue for Newpapers? Rick Edmonds runs the numbers on the newspaper econonmy: “On balance, the online rescue scenario doesn’t add up just yet. But neither is the industry snoozing through an era where the commercial and editorial potential of the medium has become both obvious and critical.” Detailed and useful analysis.


Q: Is journalism something Craigslist might pursue?

Craig Newmark: We may do something along the lines of citizen journalism. We don’t know what that will be yet.

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 28, 2005 11:30 PM   Print


I agree that archives are important. And one thing is missing from many saved web entries - a way to know when the data originated. It would be nice when I read or printed a link to know when it was originally created/updated.

Thanks to all who do make sure that we know when information was first made available.

Posted by: Sherry at January 29, 2005 1:13 PM | Permalink

American City Business Journals runs an open archive for its 40+ papers:

ACBJ archive

Posted by: acline at January 29, 2005 1:45 PM | Permalink

This is the kind of thing a privately held for-profit corporation will not want to reveal exactly, but I am curious to know the magnitude of the revenue generated by the pay-per-view News & Record archives. Annually, are we talking thousands? Tens of thousands? A couple hundred thousand? Several hundred thousand? Over a million? It's none of my business, but knowing would help put this discussion in some perspective.

Posted by: Roch Smith, Jr. at January 29, 2005 2:11 PM | Permalink

Tell me, PressThink reader... if you were the author of this, and the foil for the author of this, what would you do?

I'd contact the author of the second piece, and ask him to invite me to participate in one of those public email exchanges that Slate does (or at least used to do....) between people of divergent viewpoints.

That way, I could make even more people think I was important!

Posted by: p.lukasiak at January 29, 2005 4:49 PM | Permalink

Greensboro blogger Dave Hoggard reacts: "Landmark's apparent hesitance is puzzling, especially in light of the fact that several year's worth of N&R content is currently available for free to anyone who has a Greensboro library card."

That same thing came up in a recent discussion about the craptacularness of the OregonLive website.

Perhaps what bloggers need to do is spread the word in those local communities where this sort online access is available, urging people to avoid using the for-fee online newspaper archives altogether. See if the papers and their affiliated websites notice any drop-off in the use of their walled-off archives.

Posted by: The One True b!X at January 29, 2005 4:49 PM | Permalink

"invite me to participate ..."

In fact, seconded.

Jay, you're a member of the club, you're not a marginalized long-tail who would be sneeringly dismissed. You have the, err, credibility, to get a reply in a forum to a near-identical audience.

I'd like to say "welcome to our world", but it's still not even close.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 29, 2005 6:04 PM | Permalink

"...currently available for free to anyone who has a Greensboro library card..." Exactly. I'm amazed that hasn't come up more in this discussion. Perhaps the reason is that much of the discussion has been about the desire of bloggers to create links to their sources that will be reliable and permanent. Scholarly publishing faced down this same problem and several years ago came up with a framework called OpenURL that addresses it. I think that if some additional tools were built to support it, OpenURL could be the basis for the solution of this issue for bloggers as well. See my post at

Posted by: lukethelibrarian at January 29, 2005 8:54 PM | Permalink

Here is another question:

Will Jay Rosen join the Open Books Project?

Why don't you do what Dan Gillmor did with "We The Media" and make "What Are Journalists For" freely available online as part of the Open Books Project. Start with yourself. After all, this is about public memory, not just the newspaper business.

Posted by: mr. sun at January 31, 2005 1:13 PM | Permalink

Another factor for the N&R to consider in making this decision is how much they have or want to hide. If their previous work isn't something they're comfortable with, then keeping the archives' visibility low makes good sense.

Posted by: Anna at January 31, 2005 5:30 PM | Permalink

p.s. I'm not local, so have no idea if anything like this could be the case - I'm just pointing out that it's something that should be factored into their decisionmaking.

Posted by: Anna at January 31, 2005 5:34 PM | Permalink

From the Intro