April 5, 2005
What's in PressThink's Pocket? Citizen Journalism!
Al Gore's network; CanWest's new hunt for the young; Merrill Brown's truthtelling; Roch Smith, Jr.'s 101 sites; BluffingtonToday's debut; and the Greensboro clan thrashes things out.
The title of Rebecca Blood’s weblog I have always loved: What’s in Rebecca’s Pocket?
“Jay, you are back,” her blog says to me. “Look, these are some things I have carried around or found just today. Let’s spread them out and examine each. They tell us some story, I suppose. Take this one for example…” It’s an effective and charming invite.
So here are some things in PressThink’s pocket, all related to “citzen journalism.” They tell a story, I suppose.
1. Al Gore’s new network will air the work of citizen journalists, youth division. The Wall Street Journal reported on it Monday: “A cable channel recently acquired by an investment group led by Al Gore is to relaunch Aug. 1 under the name Current TV, hoping to generate much of its content from viewers.” (See the Current Studio page.) There are the outlines of a plan to pay contributors:
Its Web site will be a key part of its service, listing topics on which it wants material, such as reviews of movies, CDs or videogames; items on social trends; and advocacy journalism. Current will pay $250 for videos it airs.
Now $250 is not a lot—it’s a little—but something to start with. At a minimum it says: citizen journalism has costs, and needs staff support. (See the FAQ page for producers. And here’s something they call the Assignment Desk.) Bringing the people formerly known as the audience into a new role as video content providers is a big deal, and not like running a traditional network at all.
Do the Current people understand this? It seems so, but we will have to see. Here’s co-founder Joel Hyatt in a letter to supporters. I think it’s fair to say the right talk is there. The walk begins August 1, 2005:
All around us there has been a shift in power from companies to the consumer. This “bottoms-up” trend has been transforming the way we live our lives. Innovative companies from amazon to ebay, are leading the way in personalization and consumer-created content. In the TV industry, technology is helping to keep up with viewers’ desire for on-demand scheduling in the forms of VOD and PVRs. But on the creation and programming front, no one yet is allowing their viewers to participate in a meaningful way in the creation of Television.
Current will be the first TV network to do this. We are building an
on-line production studio that empowers our audience to be a part of
our staff. We will be turning to you to create real-life video
stories. We will count on you to watch what’s being submitted and, by
ranking what you watch, help us program the line-up that you want to
see. And we will rely on you to get the word out about what we’re up
I wonder if Current be flooded with good-but-not-great material, with junk, with well-intentioned but unworkable pieces, with too much that’s worth airing, or what… I will also be watching the kind of relationships that evolve among the network staff, the huge community of potential contributors, and the users. (“Let’s redefine what’s considered ‘news’ and how it’s told. Shoot a story that traditional news media won’t touch because it’s too big, too small, or too something. We’re looking for honesty, humor, and, of course, the facts.”)
There’s another feature to Current: a partnership with Google to harvest the “information” in popular search terms to provide up-to-the-minute relevance in journalism. Interesting idea. Easy to overdo too. Read about it.
2. Merrill Brown tells his business the truth. Brown, the founding editor of MSNBC.com and now a consultant, has published a truthtelling report, based on a study (hard data) commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation, Abandoning the News. I strongly recommend it.
What I mean by truthtelling is passages like this: “the future of the U.S. news industry is seriously threatened by the seemingly irrevocable move by young people away from traditional sources of news.” And: “Newspapers have no clear strengths and are the least preferred choice for local, national and international news.”
The report says that change in journalism is way too incremental because the world has changed a lot. “Active consumers are unlikely any longer to rely on single sources for coverage of issues that matter to them. And they’ll never be consuming news without clear chunks of opinion as part of the mix.” That’s two assumptions that held in mainstream journalism for a long time— now overturned.
Brown echoes my post from last week, Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die in calling for “a substantial commitment to new product development,” the kind of investment “that news companies—even in their triumphant days of dominance and vast profitability—were reluctant to make.” It says, bluntly: “American journalism institutions face risks of extraordinary magnitude.”
The threats are not only economic; they’re political. “Even the accepted, historic premise of how a free press and the skills of journalism bind together democratic institutions similarly merits a certain reassessment and reality check,” writes Brown. (Similar to the the “de-certification” theme developed here.) “There is little evidence that today’s politicians accept the notion that it’s mandatory to connect to the population via a ‘national press corps,’ often choosing to go around the press and communicate through their own Internet sites, through friendly talk shows and blog forums.”
In a world where national leaders are turning away from the news media, citizens have an increasing lack of confidence in the press and young people are moving perhaps permanently away from traditional newsgathering organizations, a radical rethinking of how news is delivered seems necessary—- even overdue.
From an industry leader like Brown, phrases like “radical rethinking” are rarely heard. He gives this example to suggest that some in the industry are catching on. It comes from Sandra Rowe, editor of the Oregonian:
Though frustrated at the industry’s slow pace, Rowe sees a day ahead when newspaper editors will have more products and ways to leverage their expertise. In this model, she says, her paper would be reaching different sensibilities with, for example, an alternative weekly, community papers, the leading regional portal and a network of sites. By managing multiple products and building a stronger economic base, Rowe thinks that such an organization would have the resources to put “the interest back in public interest reporting. If you can be the primary information source in the community,” she adds, “and do so because it’s your responsibility, the commercial argument would work and would be designed to support that.”
The view that the traditional news organization, whether it’s a daily newspaper or television network news operation, is effectively a “mother ship” feeding material to multiple products on multiple platforms isn’t necessarily a brand-new one. But the scale of what Rowe is proposing is a start at rethinking fading traditions.
A start, yes. Merrill Brown’s conclusions can be summed up in three words: get with it.
News executives need to quickly mobilize around what are today their secondary platforms, at least measured in terms of where, currently, their largest revenue opportunities exist. In other words, even if the daily newspaper industry’s advertising revenue dwarfs its Internet business, the future of the American newspaper will be defined online… the news industry should recognize the importance of what’s going on in places like Bakersfield and work hand-in-hand with bloggers and other independent journalists and citizens to experiment with the formation of new alliances and the development of new products
I said it in January: “The forces of denial are in retreat.” Brown, I think, wanted to make sure of that with this report. It’s called Abandoning the News, but there’s an ambiguity in that title. Young people are abandoning the news. But so is Big Media if it cannot invent a better connection to a live, twenty-first century public.
3. Dose magazine debuts in Canada, more mobile but no better. Another search party for the lost tribe of young readers has been sent out by a Big Media company. In Canada, a new entity called Dose magazine launched Monday in five big cities: Vancouver… Calgary… Edmonton… Toronto… and Ottawa. Dose—billed as a daily newsmagazine and web portal for the young—is a project of CanWest, the Canadian media giant with a strategy in the Vancouver market of owning everything.
Since this one is said to have certain citizen journalism features, I bring it to your attention. Here are the three slogans by which Dose wants to be understood (from an about page.)
- Not everything, just everything that matters. (Responding to newspapers jammed with unwanted information.)
- We’ll help you do more. (“Including an amazing local search.”)
- Don’t worry about finding us, we’ll find you. (That’s the pledge to be mobile. Of course the problem is if you make good on the pledge and move mediocre content fantastically well to your on-the-go young person, you’re worse off when your model works than if you never tried it in the first place.)
The press release says, “To ensure that Dose reflects the attitudes and interests of its target audience, we have entrusted its content, format and approach to a group of fun and clever young Canadians.”
Clever? Not according to Brad Badelt and Richard Warnica in Thunderbird, an online magazine out of the University of British Columbia’s J-School. They addressed an open letter to the publisher CanWest chose: Noah Godfrey, 27, a graduate of Harvard Business School who worked in corporate strategy at AOL Time Warner and as an investment banker at Salomon Smith Barney. (Scroll down to see my Q & A with him, in the “After” section.) Here’s the heart of their letter:
From what we understand, Dose is to be of the youth, for the youth and by the youth. But we wonder, Noah, how much you really have in common, beyond age, with other young Canadians. Readership interests are more complex than age breakdowns allow. For instance, how representative is your background, which includes an Ivy League education, of the experience of the average Canadian?
And do young people even want to hear exclusively from the young? The hippest media figure among the urban, intelligent and fun – your target market – is Jon Stewart, a middle-aged white guy in a suit.
But as much as we mock, we know Dose is no joke. What worries us, beyond the title and hyper-charged marketing, is the implicit admission that mainstream daily newspapers are giving up on youth.
Canada is a country of far more than two solitudes. Newspapers should bridge those divides, not pander to them. If every demographic gets its own news, from its own source, with its own spin, what kind of consensus or democracy can we hope to create? The 18-34 year-old age group lives in the same cities, works at the same jobs and votes in the same elections as every other adult Canadian. Youth should participate in the same debates about how the country is run. And that won’t happen if mainstream news culls them from the herd.
Thunderbird added a reported piece, Why is it suddenly hot for news to be cool? that is also well done. It asks, for example, “how a news outlet can function on the basis of a cool-hunting philosophy?”
In Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die I said we’re not seeing major investment from Big Media in the next model for online journalism. Thunderbird reports: “Leonard Asper, CanWest’s president and chief executive, recently told the National Post that he expected Dose to lose $5 million to $6 million in its first year.” What would you do with that much to spend? Would it look like this?
There are a few parts of Dose that will be interesting to follow. The design is admirably minimalist, the opposite of the “busy” look that afflicts About.com and other commercial sites. The creators of Dose have different ideas about how a printed sheet and web site should work together. (Which is definitely part of any future solution.) From a fact sheet put out by CanWest, asking: “How does Dose work together in print, online and mobile?”
- Many news stories will break online and then once in the magazine, will drive back to dose.ca for deeper content, photo galleries, discussion boards, and polls.
- Dose.ca solicits feedback and monitors in real-time what content is most popular on the site, then passes this information to the editorial staff so that the next day’s magazine covers information that is of immediate interest.
- Dose encourages dialogue between users online and will often showcase parts of that communication in the magazine. For example, Sex advice from strangers is a forum for users to discuss sex-related issues and appears daily on the Overdose page.
- Hey is a daily feature where local Dose reporters hit the pavement with a question or comment of the day. For each person interviewed, dose.ca will create a discussion board hosted by the interviewee.
Some content found in the magazine, including the visuals, are available to download as a screensaver, wallpaper, or to a cell phone.
Here’s the Hey they’re talking about. It’s “young person in the street” interviews about inane topics— comically thin stuff. My headline: More Old Think About the Young from Big Media. Dose is mostly focus group wisdom spread over new platforms.
4. The 101 sites spread. Will there soon be a network of local switchboards? First there was Greensboro 101, a local blog directory that became a local portal site, a natural competitor, and possible partner to the local newspaper site. Then there was Charlotte 101, kind of a franchise deal with Charlotte bloggers Dave Beckwith and Darryl Parker to do a similar thing. Now, cleverly timed to BlogNashville, there is Nashville 101, the third operation from Roch Smith, Jr., founder of Greensboro101.com. See my earlier interview with him. (“I’ve been contacted by media people wanting to replicate the Greensboro101 concept in other cities.”) He e-mailed me with his expanded strategy:
Our plan is to provide turn-key 101s for individuals or groups who wish to operate one in their city. We have over 200 [cityname]101 domain names registered and plan to promote them as local citizen media cites through cities101.com (not up yet).
In addition to gearing up to roll out more cities, we are in the process of developing an ad system that will not only coordinate the placement of advertising on the 101s (the revenue from which will be shared with the participating operators ), but that will also allow participation by local bloggers who will also share in the revenue. The idea is to create geographically targeted online advertising opportunities that can sustain localized citizens media to the very end of the long tail.
And so we can squint and see a local infrastructure in place, nationally. Not that Smith is going to corner the market any time soon. There are many similar sites going in other cities, and each one may be considered a potential contender with the local newspaper in the race for a Journalism 2.0 approach that works. See PhillyFuture for one example. SanDiegoBlog for another. Here’s one in Urban Vancouver.
In Journalism 2.0 (the way I explain it to myself) the People Formerly Known as the Audience, safely considered “consumers” during one era, are more involved in production. Interactivity makes daily journalism into a better, faster learning machine, which means it can improve its accuracy many times over. And in the 2.0 era new ways to pay for good work emerge from a variety of directions— the media industry is only one, and not the most likely solution.
Civic entrepreneurs like Roch Smith, Jr.—who are paid in influence, and the satisfaction of seeing your creation thrive—are equally likely to have good answers to the puzzles presented by Journalism 2.0. With most in the industry unwilling to spend, the need for experiment and innovation is being met from outside.
5. BlufftonToday.com inverts the old model. Steve Yelvington read Dan Gillmor’s book, We the Media. Now he explains an experiment in citizen journalism based on some of the ideas in that book: Bluffton Today, a hyper local site in the Bluffton and Beaufort areas of South Carolina. (About page.) “Here’s a short list of what we’re doing,” Yelvington says at his weblog:
- Everyone gets a blog. Not just staffers, but everyone in the community. LeMonde (France) and the Mail and Guardian (South Africa) are doing this, too. I don’t know of others but would appreciate pointers.
- Everyone gets a photo gallery.
- Everyone can contribute events to a shared public community calendar.
- Everyone can contribute recipes to a community cookbook.
- RSS feeds are everywhere — all the blogs collectively, all the blogs individually, classified ad search results and so forth.
- For people with Windows XP, we’re giving away BT Reader, a branded, customized RSS application that fully supports podcasting. It comes preloaded with RSS feeds from BlufftonToday.com and SavannahNow.com.
“User generated material from the get-go, including free classifieds,” says Gillmor. “It comes from an established media company, and the site looks terrific.” (The company would be Morris Digital Works.) He even calls it a “citizen journalism breakthrough.” Steve Outing of Poynter: “This is exactly how the newspaper industry should be experimenting with citizen journalism.” I will be interested to hear other reviews.
6. The Greensboro Clan Thrashes Out the Ethics of the Economics. Local GSO blogger The Shu e-mails PressThink. “Folks have been so enamored with the Greensboro News-Record’s Public Square concept since it was announced,” he says. “I have been a lonely voice in the wilderness when it comes to seeing this as a case where the MSM regains its dominance over a market it has been losing, virtually steals from the bloggers and offers very little to nothing in return.”
What his post inspired is a sight to behold: Greensboro Bloggers—Shu, Ed Cone, Roch Smith, Billy the Poet, Patrick Eakes, Mr. Sun, with Lex Alexander and John Robinson of the News & Record—wrestling with themselves, estimates of value and their local newspaper’s intentions. I recommend it. But more than that, I commend the spirit of this clan when they barbeque an idea.
Alright, those are six scenes. You tell me: What is the story?
After Matter: Notes, reactions & links
Noah Godfrey, the 27 year-old publisher of CanWest’s Dose, e-mails with answers to my questions:
1. What are the convictions and conclusions you have about young Canadians, behind which you launch Dose?
We believe the following about young Canadians:
- They are not easily stereotyped
- They hate to be pandered to
- They are avid consumers, especially of media
- They seamlessly glide between various forms media and the Internet is essential to their lives
- They feel underserved by traditional media
- News is important to them
- The web has taught them to expect free information and convenient
- They value leisure and social time and easily blend work and play
2. If you’ve followed debates and developments surrounding citizen journalism, blogging and the online press, you must have seen some lessons for Dose. What were they?
We have learned:
- Our audience has a strong desire to have a voice - a mechanism that allows them to interact
- Our audience has a strong desire to have choice
- User-generated content can be quite compelling
3. Wouldn’t you agree that young people in Canada are very likely to be concerned about the power and influence of corporations like CanWest, your firm? How do you plan to handle that?
In today’s democratic world, consumers have more choices and sources of information than ever (e.g., citizen journalism, blogging, online press) and they take advantage of it. The public refuses to accept information from only one source. It’s the beauty of twenty first century media. As a result, it is impossible for any one organization to have any significant power and influence.
According to Macleans, Noah is the son of former Toronto Sun publisher and current CanWest director Paul Godfrey.
Rebecca Blood E-Mails with the origins of her weblog’s name:
Back before there was an Internet, there were BBS’s (Bulletin Board Systems)—individual computers that hosted discussion forums. When I wanted to pass one of my screenplays to a friend, I created a new area on a BBS where I had sysop privileges. On a whim I called it “Rebecca’s Pocket”, since it was just a temporary container. Before I could put the file up, the BBS owner posted a note in the room that said, “What’s in Rebecca’s Pocket?” Years later, when I created my weblog, I adopted the title and tagline, and I think they fit. My site is an ongoing collection of things I find interesting, on a wide variety of subjects. I like to think it’s the kind of place people can come and poke around in for hours.
“Journalism 1.0: we have the best stuff and we’ll give it to you when we are good and ready.” Roland Tanglao replies to this post. (I fixed the name.)
Roland Tanglao created a blog on Vancouver Dose to test them out.
Jude Nagurney Camwel reminds me that Greensboro 101 has a pretty fair editorial board. (That’s another feature of Roch Smith’s stealth model.)
“We are seeing grassroots journalism gaining a foothold.” Roch Smith, Jr. in comments says “what these six stories have in common is that grassroots journalism is coming into its own. In some cases, it is encouraged by traditional media; in some it is a sort of hybrid; and in others, it is completely independent of MSM. But in all cases, the citizen journalist is gaining more control, better tools and more exposure.”
Tim Porter on the American Society of Newspaper Editors, who are meeting this week:
The death of newspapering as a viable economic and social medium is increasingly being foretold even by its practitioners. What do the gatekeepers of the journalism’s largest platform offer at their annual convention in the face of this bleak future? Bromides, blinders and an oddly self-abusing submission to speeches from politicians who disdain, abuse and manipulate the very press these editors are charged with preserving.
Ex CNN-er Rebecca MacKinnon in Nieman Reports (it’s a pdf) on the pitiful state of television news:
Early last year, my CNN boss told me that my expertise on Northeast Asia (China, Japan and Korea) was “getting in the way” of doing the kind of stories that its U.S. network wants to put on air. I was told to cover my region more from the perspective of a tourist, rather than from the perspective of somebody who has spent her entire adult life living and working in that region. I was told my stories would be better if I wrote my scripts before I did my interviews.
From a Reuters account of the Current announcement:
Google did not disclose the terms of the deal. [Google co-founder Sergey] Brin said the company is providing specialized data from its Zeitgeist service, which tracks search patterns and trends.
Gore, who lost the 2000 election in a bitter contest with current President Bush, seemed to have put politics behind him, insisting the channel would not be a liberal pulpit.
“We have no intention of being a Democratic channel, a liberal channel, or a TV version of Air America, that’s not what we’re all about,” he said, referring to the liberal radio network.
From the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage:
“Those who are using the Internet are often watching TV at the same time, ” said the former vice president, who’s chairman of the board of Current, the new independent cable venture pitched at audiences advertisers covet — people 18 to 34 years old. “Part of our objective is to connect those two experiences.”
See also CNET’s Richard Shim on the Google portion.
Mark on Media, another Canadian blog I recommend, has a fine analysis of CanWest’s strategy. If I understand where he’s going, it’s that CanWest in Vancouver is just interested in occupying all platforms for delivery of “stuff” to the young, trendy and spendy classes because it figures that the current period of confusion will not last, the smoke will clear. And when the new model emerges Can West can simply shift investment to some semi-established brand, ramp it up, rake it in. The point is to occupy news and listing delivery space, move things across platforms to get the hang of it, take whatever advertising dribbles in, and wait….Who else can afford to do that? No one. Ergo: CanWest wins, despite the crack-up of its previous model. Here’s Mark, replying to my write up of Dose magazine’s launch:
I’m more and more convinced that CanWest’s efforts to sew up the market (two paid dailies, all or part of two free dailies, internet, TV and urban and suburban community newspapers) is about securing platform. The immediate benefit is a solid grasp on a huge portion of the advertising opportunities in the region….
Longer-term, the ubiquity of platform makes it much more difficult for a Bluffton Today or Greensboro 101 type of citizen journalism endeavour to launch and threaten. The combination of platform and brand (whether it’s the Sun, the new Dose, or a community newspaper), the development of new media models (Dose’s interactive web site) and deep pockets mean CanWest can move quickly to ensure dominance in the market.
I agree with this part: “Given the huge amount of experimentation going on, we’re starting to see some vague shapes emerging from the fog of the future.”
Posted by Jay Rosen at April 5, 2005 1:03 AM
Something else that belongs in your pocket, if we are discussing "citizen's journalism" and how "old media is responding to it....
The National Press Club "Gannon Panel" controversy.
It started with an announcement of the panel on the NPC website (which has since been extensively revised, but here is the relevant excerpt from the original...)
Both journalists and bloggers will debate whether there's a difference between them, on Fri., Apr. 8, at 9:30 a.m. The panel includes Jeff Gannon, whose question at a presidential press conference focused attention on the issue; Ana Marie Cox, editor of Wonkette.com, and Congress Daily's John Stanton.
Editor and Publisher covered this story, raising questions about the NPC's choice of Gannon to discuss the question of journalism...
and the director of the National Press Club responded by misrepresenting both Gannon, and the stated purpose of the panel...
What we appear to be looking at is a perfect example of the "old boys network" of beltway journalism in action. "Jeff Gannon" was "one of us" --- part of the DC press corp, unlike Jayson Blair, and thus Howard Kurtz and other mainstream mediawhores have consistently misrepresented the nature of the investigation of "Gannon", trying to present it as an effort to "out" Gannon as gay.
Now, the NPC is claiming that "Gannon" will be asked "tough questions", like "how he wound up covering the Bush White House with no prior journalism experience." But there is no one on the panel who is familiar with "Gannon's" record as a serial liar. Instead, Mike Madden, another member of the Beltway press, says "I don't think John Aravosis is the only person in the world who's capable of criticizing Jeff Gannon."
Of course Madden has done no reporting on the story, and is a reporter with Gannett News, which provided no coverage whatsoever of the Guckert/Gannon controversy, so he is the last person who can claim that the people on the panel are capable of knowing when Gannon is lying. In fact, the only person on the panel who wrote about the Gannon story is someone who, like Kurtz, went out of his way to misrepresent the Guckert/Gannon story, and trash Aravosis himself.
The Gannon/Guckert controversy, and the issue of how the media has handled it, provides a case study in how "old media" goes about delegitimizing the grassroots efforts of ordinary people to expose the rot in the heart of mainstream journalism. This is an important story about "citizens' journalism" and its relationship to mainstream media--- and really deserves some attention here.
PressThink: An Introduction
We need to keep the press from being absorbed into The Media. This means keeping the word press, which is antiquated. But included under its modern umbrella should be all who do the serious work in journalism, regardless of the technology used. The people who will invent the next press in America--and who are doing it now online--continue an experiment at least 250 years old. It has a powerful social history and political legend attached...
The People Formerly Known as the Audience:
"You don't own the eyeballs. You don't own the press, which is now divided into pro and amateur zones. You don't control production on the new platform, which isn't one-way. There's a new balance of power between you and us." More...
Migration Point for the Press Tribe: "Like reluctant migrants everywhere, the people in the news tribe have to decide what to take with them. When to leave. Where to land. They have to figure out what is essential to their way of life. They have to ask if what they know is portable." More...
Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over: "Here is one advantage bloggers have in the struggle for reputation-- for the user's trust. They are closer to the transaction where trust gets built up on the Web. There's a big difference between tapping a built-up asset, like the St. Pete Times 'brand,' and creating it from scratch." More...
"Where's the Business Model for News, People?" "It’s remarkable to me how many accomplished producers of those goods the future production of which is in doubt are still at the stage of asking other people, “How are we going to pay our reporters if you guys don’t want to pay for our news?'" More...
National Explainer: A Job for Journalists on the Demand Side of News
This American Life's great mortgage crisis explainer, The Giant Pool of Money, suggests that "information" and "explanation" ought to be reversed in our order of thought. Especially as we contemplate new news systems. More...
The Beast Without a Brain: Why Horse Race Journalism Works for Journalists and Fails Us. "Just so you know, 'the media' has no mind. It cannot make decisions. Which means it does not 'get behind' candidates. It does not decide to oppose your guy… or gal. It is a beast without a brain. Most of the time, it doesn’t know what it’s doing.." More...
They're Not in Your Club but They Are in Your League: Firedoglake at the Libby Trial: "I’m just advising Newsroom Joe and Jill: make room for FDL in your own ideas about what’s coming on, news-wise. Don’t let your own formula (blog=opinion) fake you out. A conspiracy of the like minded to find out what happened when the national news media isn’t inclined to tell us might be way more practical than you think." More...
Twilight of the Curmudgeon Class: "We’re at the twilight of the curmudgeon class in newsrooms and J-schools. (Though they can still do a lot of damage.) You know they’re giving up when they no longer bother to inform themselves about what they themselves say is happening." More...
Getting the Politics of the Press Right: Walter Pincus Rips into Newsroom Neutrality "The important thing is to show integrity-- not to be a neuter, politically. And having good facts that hold up is a bigger advantage than claiming to reflect all sides equally well." More...
A Most Useful Definition of Citizen Journalism "It's mine, but it should be yours. Can we take the quote marks off now? Can we remove the 'so-called' from in front? With video!." More...
The Master Narrative in Journalism: "Were 'winning' to somehow be removed or retired as the operating system for news, campaign reporting would immediately become harder to do, not because there would be no news, but rather no common, repeatable instructions for deciding what is a key development in the story, a turning point, a surprise, a trend. Master narratives are thus harder to alter than they are to apprehend. For how do you keep the story running while a switch is made?" More...
He Said, She Said Journalism: Lame Formula in the Land of the Active User "Any good blogger, competing journalist or alert press critic can spot and publicize false balance and the lame acceptance of fact-free spin. Do users really want to be left helpless in sorting out who's faking it more? The he said, she said form says they do, but I say decline has set in." More...
Users-Know-More-than-We-Do Journalism: "It's a "put up or shut up" moment for open source methods in public interest reporting. Can we take good ideas like... distributed knowledge, social networks, collaborative editing, the wisdom of crowds, citizen journalism, pro-am reporting... and put them to work to break news?" More...
Introducing NewAssignment.Net: "Enterprise reporting goes pro-am. Assignments are open sourced. They begin online. Reporters working with smart users and blogging editors get the story the pack wouldn't, couldn't or didn't." More...
What I Learned from Assignment Zero "Here are my coordinates for the territory we need to be searching. I got them from doing a distributed trend story with Wired.com and thinking through the results." More...
If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn't. So Let's Get a Clue: "Those in journalism who want to bring ethics to blogging ought to start with why people trust (some) bloggers, not with an ethics template made for a prior platform operating as a closed system in a one-to-many world." More...
The View From Nowhere: "Occupy the reasonable middle between two markers for 'vocal critic,' and critics look ridiculous charging you with bias. Their symmetrical existence feels like proof of an underlying hysteria. Their mutually incompatible charges seem to cancel each other out. The minute evidence they marshall even shows a touch of fanaticism." More...
Rollback: "This White House doesn't settle for managing the news--what used to be called 'feeding the beast'--because there is a larger aim: to roll back the press as a player within the executive branch, to make it less important in running the White House and governing the country." More...
Retreat from Empiricism: On Ron Suskind's Scoop: ""Realist, a classic term in foreign policy debates, and reality-based, which is not a classic term but more of an instant classic, are different ideas. We shouldn't fuzz them up. The press is capable of doing that because it never came to terms with what Suskind reported in 2004." More...
Karl Rove and the Religion of the Washington Press: "Savviness--that quality of being shrewd, practical, well-informed, perceptive, ironic, 'with it,' and unsentimental in all things political--is, in a sense, their professional religion. They make a cult of it. And it was this cult that Karl Rove understood and exploited for political gain." More...
Journalism Is Itself a Religion: "We're headed, I think, for schism, tumult and divide as the religion of the American press meets the upheavals in global politics and public media that are well underway. Changing around us are the terms on which authority can be established by journalists. The Net is opening things up, shifting the power to publish around. Consumers are becoming producers, readers can be writers." More...
News Turns from a Lecture to a Conversation: "Some of the pressure the blogs are putting on journalists shows up, then, in the demand for "news as conversation," more of a back-and-forth, less of a pronouncement. This is an idea with long roots in academic journalism that suddenly (as in this year) jumped the track to become part of the news industry's internal dialogue." More...
Two Washington Posts May Be Better Than One: "They're not equals, but Washington and Arlington have their own spheres. Over the newspaper and reporting beats Len Downie is king. Over the website Jim Brady is sovereign. Over the userï¿½s experience no one has total control. There's tension because there's supposed to be tension." More...
Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die: "An industry that won't move until it is certain of days as good as its golden past is effectively dead, from a strategic point of view. Besides, there is an alternative if you don't have the faith or will or courage needed to accept reality and deal. The alternative is to drive the property to a profitable demise." More...
Grokking Woodward: "Woodward and Bernstein of 1972-74 didn't have such access, and this probably influenced--for the better--their view of what Nixon and his men were capable of. Watergate wasn't broken by reporters who had entree to the inner corridors of power. It was two guys on the Metro Desk." More...
Maybe Media Bias Has Become a Dumb Debate: "This here is a post for practically everyone in the game of seizing on media bias and denouncing it, which is part of our popular culture, and of course a loud part of our politics. And this is especially for the 'we're fair and balanced, you're not' crowd, wherever I may have located you." More...
Bill O'Reilly and the Paranoid Style in News: "O'Reilly feeds off his own resentments--the establishment sneering at Inside Edition--and like Howard Beale, the 'mad prophet of the airwaves,' his resentments are enlarged by the medium into public grievances among a mass of Americans unfairly denied voice." More...
Thoughts on the Killing of a Young Correspondent: "Among foreign correspondents, there is a phrase: 'parachuting in.' That's when a reporter drops into foreign territory during an emergency, without much preparation, staying only as long as the story remains big. The high profile people who might parachute in are called Bigfoots in the jargon of network news. The problem with being a Bigfoot, of course, is that it's hard to walk in other people's shoes." More...
The News From Iraq is Not Too Negative. But it is Too Narrow: "The bias charges are getting more serious lately as the stakes rise in Iraq and the election. But there is something lacking in press coverage, and it may be time for wise journalists to assess it. The re-building story has gone missing. And without it, how can we judge the job Bush is doing?." More...
The Abyss of Observation Alone. "There are hidden moral hazards in the ethic of neutral observation and the belief in a professional 'role' that transcends other loyalties. I think there is an abyss to observation alone. And I feel it has something to do with why more people don't trust journalists. They don't trust that abyss." More...
"Find Some New Information and Put it Into Your Post." Standards for Pro-Am Journalism at OffTheBus: "Opinion based on information 'everyone' has is less valuable than opinion journalism based on information that you dug up, originated, or pieced together. So it’s not important to us that contributors keep opinion out. What’s important is that they put new information in. More...
Out in the Great Wide Open: Maybe you heard about the implosion of Wide Open, a political blog started by the Cleveland Plain Dealer with four "outside" voices brought in from the ranks of Ohio bloggers: two left, two right. Twelve points you may not have seen elsewhere." More...
Some Bloggers Meet the Bosses From Big Media: "What capacity for product development do news organizations show? Zip. How are they on nurturing innovation? Terrible. Is there an entreprenurial spirit in newsrooms? No. Do smart young people ever come in and overturn everything? Never." More...
Notes and Comment on BlogHer 2005 "I think the happiest conference goers at BlogHer were probably the newbies, people who want to start blogging or just did. They got a lot of good information and advice. Some of the best information was actually dispensed in response to the fears provoked by blogging, which shouldnï¿½t be avoided, the sages said, but examined, turned around, defused, and creatively shrunk.." More...
Top Ten List: What's Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism? "The weblog comes out of the gift economy, whereas most of today's journalism comes out of the market economy." More...
A Second Top Ten List: What's Conservative About the Weblog Form in Journalism? "The quality of any weblog in journalism depends greatly on its fidelity to age old newsroom commandments like check facts, check links, spell things correctly, be accurate, be timely, quote fairly." More...
Blogging is About Making and Changing Minds: "Sure, weblogs are good for making statements, big and small. But they also force re-statement. Yes, they're opinion forming. But they are equally good at unforming opinion, breaking it down, stretching it out." More...
The Weblog: An Extremely Democratic Form in Journalism "It's pirate radio, legalized; it's public access coming closer to life. Inside the borders of Blogistan (a real place with all the problems of a real place) we're closer to a vision of 'producer democracy' than we are to any of the consumerist views that long ago took hold in the mass media, including much of the journalism presented on that platform." More...
No One Owns Journalism: "And Big Media doesn't entirely own the press, because if it did then the First Amendment, which mentions the press, would belong to Big Media. And it doesn't. These things were always true. The weblog doesn't change them. It just opens up an outlet to the sea. Which in turn extends 'the press' to the desk in the bedroom of the suburban mom, where she blogs at night." More...
Brain Food for BloggerCon: Journalism and Weblogging in Their Corrected Fullness "Blogging is one universe. Its standard unit is the post, its strengths are the link and the low costs of entry, which means lots of voices. Jounalism is another universe. Its standard unit is "the story." Its strengths are in reporting, verification and access-- as in getting your calls returned." More...
Dispatches From the Un-Journalists: "Journalists think good information leads to opinion and argument. It's a logical sequence. Bloggers think that good argument and strong opinion cause people to seek information, an equally logical sequence. What do the bloggers bring to this? My short answer to the press is: everything you have removed."More...
Political Jihad and the American Blog: Chris Satullo Raises the Stakes "Journalists, you can stop worrying about bloggers 'replacing' the traditional news media. We're grist for their mill, says Satullo, a mill that doesn't run without us. Bloggers consume and extend the shelf life of our reporting, and they scrutinize it at a new level of intensity.."More...
Raze Spin Alley, That Strange Creation of the Press: "Spin Alley, an invention of the American press and politicos, shows that the system we have is in certain ways a partnership between the press and insiders in politics. They come together to mount the ritual. An intelligent nation is entitled to ask if the partners are engaged in public service when they bring to life their invention... Alternative thesis: they are in a pact of mutual convenience that serves no intelligible public good." More...
Horse Race Now! Horse Race Tomorrow! Horse Race Forever!: "How is it you know you're the press? Because you have a pass that says PRESS, and people open the gate. The locker room doors admit you. The story must be inside that gate; that's why they give us credentials. We get closer. We tell the fans what's going on. And if this was your logic, Bill James tried to bust it. Fellahs, said he to the baseball press, you have to realize that you are the gate." More...
Psst.... The Press is a Player: "The answer, I think, involves an open secret in political journalism that has been recognized for at least 20 years. But it is never dealt with, probably because the costs of facing it head on seem larger than the light tax on honesty any open secret demands. The secret is this: pssst... the press is a player in the campaign. And even though it knows this, as everyone knows it, the professional code of the journalist contains no instructions in what the press could or should be playing for?" More...
Die, Strategy News: "I think it's a bankrupt form. It serves no clear purpose, has no sensible rationale. The journalists who offer us strategy news do not know what public service they are providing, why they are providing it, for whom it is intended, or how we are supposed to use this strange variety of news."More...
He Said, She Said, We Said: "When journalists avoid drawing open conclusions, they are more vulnerable to charges of covert bias, of having a concealed agenda, of not being up front about their perspective, of unfairly building a case (for, against) while pretending only to report 'what happened.'" More...
If Religion Writers Rode the Campaign Bus: "Maybe irony, backstage peaking and "de-mystify the process" only get you so far, and past that point they explain nothing. Puzzling through the convention story, because I'm heading right into it myself, made me to realize that journalism's contempt for ritual was deeply involved here. Ritual is newsless; therefore it must be meaningless. But is that really true?."More...
Convention Coverage is a Failed Regime and Bloggers Have Their Credentials: "No one knows what a political convention actually is, anymore, or why it takes 15,000 people to report on it. Two successive regimes for making sense of the event have collapsed; a third has not emerged. That's a good starting point for the webloggers credentialed in Boston. No investment in the old regime and its ironizing." More...
Philip Gourevitch: Campaign Reporting as Foreign Beat: "'A presidential election is a like a gigantic moving television show,' he said. It is the extreme opposite of an overlooked event. The show takes place inside a bubble, which is a security perimeter overseen by the Secret Service. If you go outside the bubble for any reason, you become a security risk until you are screened again by hand."More...
What Time is it in Political Journalism? "Adam Gopnik argued ten years ago that the press did not know who it was within politics, or what it stood for. There was a vacuum in journalism where political argument and imagination should be. Now there are signs that this absence of thought is ending." More...
Off the Grid Journalism: “The assignment was straightforward enough,” writes Marjie Lundstrom of the Sacramento Bee, “talk to people.” When a writer dissents from it or departs from it, the master narrative is a very real thing. Here are two examples: one from politics, one from music. More...
Questions and Answers About PressThink "The Web is good for many opposite things. For quick hitting information. For clicking across a field. For talk and interaction. It's also a depth finder, a memory device, a library, an editor. Not to use a weblog for extended analysis (because most users won't pick that option) is Web dumb but media smart. What's strange is that I try to write short, snappy things, but they turn into long ones." More...