This is an archive, please visit for current posts.
PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
Recent Entries
Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

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

Syndicate this site:

XML Summaries

XML Full Posts

April 11, 2005

Are You Ready for a Brand New Beat?

"'s clear that Debbie Galant, Lisa Williams, Jim Zellmer, Karl Martino and Weldon Berger would be quite as good or better than a panel with Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, Jason Calacanis, Ana Marie Cox and Mickey Kaus, to name some names. Galant and company have local knowledge..."

“We are faced with defining ourselves neither by distancing others as counterpoles nor by drawing them close as facsimiles, but by locating ourselves among them.”

— Clifford Geertz in Local Knowledge (1983)

Jesse Oxfeld, online editor for Editor and Publisher, wrote that he couldn’t wait for Tuesday night’s blogging panel at Reuters to end. “Simply because it’s wearying listening to pretty much the same people saying pretty much the same things: Blogs are great. They’re changing media. They’re taking the corporate media to account. They’re self-regulating. There’s no barrier to entry.”

We know all that, Oxfeld says.

“Debating” whether blogs belong in the journalism is debating whether the genie should have left the bottle: Whether you like it or not — and most do like it — it’s done. And it’s time to stop discussing it at panel after panel.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how accurate his account is. But I said something similar in Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over (January 15.) “We have to ask different questions now because events have moved the story forward,” I wrote. Oxfeld: “There can be real debate, and interesting panels, if instead they look at how this new news environment can function as a business.”

The search for the next business model is important. But future panels should inquire into how the new news environment is working, whether it’s working as a business or not. The experts in that are the people doing the work.

One I would certainly invite is Debbie Galant, the Barista of Bloomfield Ave, who can tell us how it’s working in the New Jersey towns—Glen Ridge, Montclair, and Bloomfield—where she’s synthesizing the formula for hyper-local blog-style news coverage and comment.

Galant was Jersey columnist for The New York Times for five years; she’s done Big Journalism and now she’s gone small and independent. Baristanet is doing well on growth. It has a second writer (journalist and NYU grad Liz George) and a business manager. And ads. It has a columnist, some classifieds, and listings. It knows when the Superintendent of Schools is about to be dumped, and when there’s a car fire around the corner. Galant e-mailed me about the economy of the site:

Baristanet still has to prove itself as a valid business model, but we’re encouraged and we feel like we’re picking up momentum. We now have close to 20 display advertisers, and we probably get two inquiries from potential advertisers each week.

There are three of us now working on this (two writers, one business manager), and it really requires all of us to run the site well. But of course a three-way split means that we have to generate more income. We made several thousand dollars over expenses for the first quarter. As a wage, it’s not much— we still need to freelance to supplement our incomes. Our goal is to double our net next quarter.

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail lately from people around the country who are doing similar things, so maybe it’s time to band together and see if we can get a national ad buy.

For the next panel, I’d dump Rosen, add Galant, and for openers ask her what she’s figured out so far:

It’s hard when you’re dealing with the local police departments. They never seem to know who you are. It was always easy to call someone up and identify yourself as being with The New York Times. You never had to explain it. I miss that, but as we become more of a local institution, I have to explain it less.

I’m still enough of a journalist to hate it when I’m scooped. Big institutions have procedures in place. They make regular calls to police departments, and they have lots of clerks and assistants. My worst moment was reading a story in the Star Ledger about a date rape that had taken place in a deserted house on my street. That was awful.

In competing with Big Media, Baristanet has the blogger’s options:

I compete editorially against five local weeklies and one regional paper. There’s no way I won’t get scooped. On the other hand, as a blogger I can be useful as an aggregator. So I can link to the reporters who’ve scooped me. I even have one category, “Scooped by Phil Read, Again.” Phil Read is a very good reporter for the Star Ledger.

On the other hand, when something big happens in town, people automatically turn us on to see what’s going on. They also send us tips at our tip e-mail, which goes to all three of us. That’s gratifying.

I asked Galant what stood out in the switch from Big Journalism to hyper-local operator. “I’m learning that when you set yourself up as a public news utility, it’s pretty exhausting. Everybody wants their little charity or art show mentioned. This is what you want, of course, to be indispensible, but sometimes it feels like a lot of children tugging at your arm.”

Other lessons: “It is fun to be a big fish in a small bowl. You don’t need anyone’s permission (or any capital) to become a publisher. You can create value from nothing.”

Value from nothing. There’s a specific reason why this is so. For a long time there were levels of the news & advertising business that were essentially untapped, unserved, off the map. It was the corner store or small business market on the advertising side, and enriched news of the neighborhood around such stores on the journalism end.

Today the Net is opening up these lost levels. They’re coming on line as miniature publics and viable markets for advertising. The people who know about the new markets are people like Debbie Galant, who is creating one “from nothing.”

So next time dump Jeff Jarvis—who tells us he’s part of “another frigging panel” this week—and add citizen journalist and blogger Lisa Williams, part of the Thursday night group run by the Berkman Center. The other day she left this progress report in the comments:

I run a site,, for Watertown, MA. It’s set up so that anybody can sign up for an account and send in news reports or add things to the events calendar.

The big surprise to me is as I’ve started covering things that our local paper doesn’t cover is that I’m starting to see national and international stories play out on the very small stage of our four square mile, 35,000 resident town. I see the company that shipped metal detectors to Iraq for use in the recent election. I see the units of childcare and eldercare companies who are publically traded hiring like crazy and stock going through the roof as work and family life changes in the US.

We’re a small, dense suburb of Boston. A chain, Community News Corp (CNC) bought in the neighborhood of 80 local weeklies in a 50 mile radius of Boston and consolidated their operations. The end result is a town of 35,000 with one reporter, and lots of neighboring towns in the same situation.

I don’t have any problems with the paper on quality — I think the reporter they have now is actually really good. I have problems with quantity and variety of coverage.

I don’t see H2otown as competition to or a replacement for our local paper. It’s more and different, and it’s an experiment; I don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s the best part.

Wait a minute: International stories start to emerge from intensely local coverage? Lisa Williams meet Doug McGill, who believes in that too. (And he has results.) When Williams, a good writer, wrote about her creed, the result was The Blogger as Citizen Journalist, one of the clearest statements we have for why sites like h2otown and Barista are necessary. (For more of them see this series.)

Right beside Williams and Galant I would place Jim Zellmer, creator of School Information System. It’s a weblog about hot topics in the local schools of Madison, WI, written by citizen contributors and Zellmer. Among other innovations, SIS has the most voter-centered site for school board elections, including video of candidates giving answers to key questions facing the schools. Zellmer e-mails:

The epiphany for me was a 2004 Madison School board Candidate Forum where one of the three local tv stations was present. The result on that evening’s news was a 10 second clip— “There was a school board candidate forum.” No substance. The newspaper folks generally cover these, but they remain encumbered by the traditional 300-500 words with no media, or perhaps a photo.

SIS gives voice to parents, teachers, taxpayers and citizens. Further, SIS uses the latest tools to provide depth (links, video, mp3 audio, surveys) to important issues such as boundary changes, budgets, referendums, curriculum, local elections and events (protests, fine arts rallies, election events).

The site has “given voice to activists,” he says, “many of whom are now discovering the power of the Internet.” The local school board had operated in a vaccum of public information. “This has changed,” Zellmer wrote. There is more oversight of the board because there are interested citizens who can actually follow what it’s doing.

There was always a school system. But not a School Information System for parents and taxpayers and citizens— the public that is supposed to own the public schools. Now there is one, and it’s a factor.

Dump Jason Calacanis from the next panel, add Jim Zellmer. Grill him about what it takes to keep these efforts going; what makes them sustainable. Guaranteed to be interesting and different.

Check out the sky above downtown Philadelphia. Right next to Zellmer I would put Karl Martino, chooser of that sky and proprietor of Philly Future, subtitled The News YOU Write. “A compendium of the best online writers, narrators, blogs, and commentators in the greater Philadelphia area.” As I said in my last post, sites like this are potential platforms for Journalism 2.0. I am interested in what happens to them.

In the comments Martino relayed some news: “Our part time, all volunteer labor-of-love has, I think, achieved a milestone this week - we have a press pass empowered writer covering the Philadelphia Film Festival.” It’s a small thing (though exciting) to be covering a film festival with your own credentialed writer. But it shows that sites like Philly Future are plausible as aggregators and creators of content— and as local “press.”

I say dump Wonkette. Instead invite Martino, who used to work in software for the Philadelphia newspapers. Let him explain his philosophy. And his software. (See Ed Cone’s interview with Martino.) Ask him about the connections among Philly Future’s mission, the Wireless Philadelphia plan, and that sky.

Next to Martino, I’d put blogger and PressThink contributor Weldon Berger, who runs BTC News, the first independent, “grassoots” weblog with its own White House correspondent, Eric Brewer. Last week Brewer made it into Dan Froomkin’s White Housing Briefing column in the Washington Post, not for any “first,” but because of the question he asked Scott McClellan:

Eric Brewer, a scientist by trade and one of a handful of contributors to a small, liberal blog called BTC News, got his chance toward the end of Friday’s briefing.

The question he asked was a good one, on a topic that’s probably of great interest to an awful lot of people.

It’s also precisely the kind of question your typical full-time White House correspondent doesn’t ask anymore — because there’s simply no point. You’re not going to get an answer.

The genius of having citizen reporters is evident: they don’t know what not to ask about. This can be good. Brewer’s question was: “Back to the report on the botched WMD intelligence, have the massive intelligence failures documented in the report caused the President to rethink his policy of preventive war?”

Froomkin’s analysis is priceless. But so too is BTC’s participation in the White House press corps— priceless. Dump Mickey Kaus. Put Weldon Berger on the next panel, and ask him what he thinks he’s doing. (A: “About a month after Gannon-Guckert became a news item, it occurred to me that he had so damaged the entry bar that it might be possible to get one of my contributors in because we’d look like Edward R. Murrow in contrast.”)

Even from these short takes, it’s clear that Debbie Galant, Lisa Williams, Jim Zellmer, Karl Martino and Weldon Berger would be quite as good or better than a panel with Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, Jason Calacanis, Ana Marie Cox and Mickey Kaus, to name some names. This is because Galant and company have local knowledge of the new environment for news; they’re doing the work.

Jesse Oxfeld said that when he moderates a panel at Editor & Publisher’s Interactive Media Conference in June it will “consider what a bloggy news business model will look like.” This, he thinks, will be the perfect antidote to the “complete blog boosterism” he moped through at the Reuters event. (I wonder if others who were there agree with his portrait.)

Oxfeld ought to ask himself: does “business model” amount to a “reality check?” Sometimes it works that way. One of the realities of citizen’s media, however, is that a lot of activity native to the field has no business logic at all. And even the parts that are supposed to be a businesss may be small scale— craft rather than industrial capitalism, meant to generate a good free lance income and create another stand alone journalist.

“As a wage, it’s not much— we still need to freelance to supplement our incomes. Our goal is to double our net next quarter.” Galant, I’m sure, would love to get rich from Barista. But her immediate goal is to have fun and make a living as a writer: sustainability drives the enterprise.

That’s the stand alone journalist model— and she’s among those who are testing it. We should be interested in any way of supporting their growth and development. A business model with private investment is one. A craft industry approach another. There’s the fundraising route. The nonprofit route. The “find a civic patron” route. Maybe some stand alones affiliate with a university. Or with a think tank. Or with MSNBC. Lots of combinations are possible.

The more stand alone journalists we have, the better for innovation and development. “We are seeing grassroots journalism gaining a foothold,” wrote Roch Smith, Jr. in comments. He’s from the Greensboro Squadron, founder of a local blog portal. In Canada, Mark on Media has a similar take. “Given the huge amount of experimentation going on, we’re starting to see some vague shapes emerging from the fog of the future.”

From the Bay area, the mighty Dan Gillmor is calling Bluffton, South Carolina to tell the crew down there they have a breakthrough site, He looks in the camera and says to us, “This is big news, folks.”

Out in the Rocky Mountains—Missoula, Montana—Jonathan Weber has up and running, an exercise in regional pro-am journalism. It has spawned local pages in Boulder, Salt Lake, Northern Idaho. He told Editorsweblog about doing the work:

Our full-time editorial staff is tiny (2 people) but we have a number of contributors on contracts of various kinds (currently around 8 people). On top of that we have a growing number of readers and others who are contributing. It’s a mix of professional journalists, aspiring journalists, and people who just like to write.

It’s a mix because “nobody knows yet how to build this new kind of media and these new methods of practicing journalism.” One conclusion: “a lot of what online & blogs have brought to the conversation—participation, linking, immediacy, point of view—will become permanent fixtures of how journalism is done in the future.”

Some of the lines are coming up on a new grid for news and commentary. Journalism 2.0 is this spring a little bit less of an abstraction. One of the most important signs of growth, from my point of view, surfaced April 3rd from Josh Marshall, the most successful stand alone journalist we have at the moment.

Back on Nov. 19, I wrote about what Marshall was doing at his blog, Talking Points Memo:

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

Here’s how Marshall had explained it to readers (Nov. 17):

Not a journalist? Afraid you can’t play? Fuggetaboutit… You can play too.

Just pick a Republican member of Congress, call the number on their website and ask. Don’t be rude or confrontational. Just a simple question: Did Congressperson such-and-such support the DeLay Rule in the GOP caucus meeting on Wednesday. After you get your answer, drop us a line and let us know what you hear. Did they vote for the DeLay Rule or are they members of the Shays Handful?

They refused to answer? We wanna know that too.

Now Josh Marshall has made plans. He’s beginning to extend himself:

Another reason for launching the site is something that only became clear to me in the last six months or so. And that is, the way that blogs can facilitate what amounts to a sort of distributed or open-source journalism. Perhaps, you might even call it open-source muck-raking.

I began to sense the possibilities of this during the whole Sinclair Broadcasting debacle last fall, again with the ‘DeLay Rule’, and then on a larger scale with President Bush’s jihad against Social Security. When people guest-blog on TPM, they never fail to be amazed at just how much quality information comes in from readers. And in this case, I don’t just mean solid thinking and analysis, but concrete factual data. (Link)

“Open source muckraking.” Potentially a big deal. But not a big business deal. Marshall has the traffic, the user interest and the political savvy to make it all work. He’s a talented journalist, and he plots his moves carefully. It’s been fascinating to watch him discover what TPM can do.

In fact the bond Josh Marshall has with users, the way he has located himself among them, potentially makes him many times better than he ever thought “a” journalist could be. His imagination is starting to go open source. He’s like a reporter with a brand new beat, and a lot of local knowledge.

The best cure for blog boosterism is to go calling out around the world for people who are doing something different, inventive. The business model is not the reality check. It’s the people doing the work, whether it’s stand alone, citizen, or open source journalism. Put them together with their best ideas and you have a blazing start.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Jonathan Weber, founder of, Citizen Journalism Takes the Stage. Weber tries to locate NewWest on the new terrain:

We’re trying to create a new kind of journalism that features both a trusted brand (New West) and enables broad participation in the process of reporting and writing about what’s happening in our world. We have professional contributors (whom we don’t pay enough), we have semi-professional contributors, and we have non-professional contributors. We encourage voice and point of view in our writing, because it’s more honest (we all have a point of view, after all). Yet we are also very committed to fairness and accuracy, and to the value of reporting (i.e. finding stuff out) as opposed to simple opinion.

Examine the rest. It’s cautious and progressive at the same time. Like this statement about the term citizen journalism. “We’re honestly not even sure it’s the right term – but we are persuaded that the thing the term refers to is important and interesting, and will have a big impact on both the creation and the consumption of journalism.”

Hypergene Media Blog has an absorbing interview with Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC Global News Division. Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis write, “2005 could be the year that the BBC emerges as the world leader in participatory media and citizen journalism.” I think that is correct. Snippet from Sambrook:

I believe there will always be a place for editorial judgement to be applied — the essence of the brand value of major news operations — but participation from our audience or users is increasingly important in terms of earning trust and respect. Transparency about the newsgathering and selection process is as important as the journalism itself in retaining that trust.

Read more. The BBC is way ahead in thinking about how to sustain a public that participates in the news.

Wall Street Journal: “For newspapers to acknowledge that readers might make good reporters is an unusual — and risky — move. After all, editors often say their unbiased writing and professionally trained staff set them apart from blogs.” And check out from the Rocky Mountain News.

Geeta Dayal in the Village Voice: PH.Dotcom: “What if professors could lecture 24-7? Blog culture invades academia.” PressThink is featured, along with other academics blogging.

Blogher, world’s first bloggers’ conference for women has a date and locale—July 30, Santa Clara, CA—and a mission. Register here.

Strangely, Jesse Oxfeld’s account listed who was who on the Reuters panel, but he left off Halley Suitt. Unclear whether she’s one of the usual suspects or not.

Oxfeld e-mails: “The quick and honest answer is that, no, she didn’t strike me quite as usual-suspecty as the others (which perhaps says more about me than about her). Re: your point on business model vs. reality check. Remember my audience. I work for E&P, not CJR. Folks at our convention, for which I’ve been dragooned into moderating, want to know about the business of newspapers. With circulation declining, can they somehow make money from these blogs? Ken Sands, for one, says they can.”

See this on Sands, of the Spokesman-Review’s blog project. And see his post at Morph: “… the experiments to date are making significant—albeit incremental—advances.”

Mister Sugar gets it: “At tomorrow’s bloggers meetup, I’ll ask about ways we can create more citizen journalism here in the Triangle.”

Rebecca Blood reminds me in comments that I could have added Christopher Frankonis, founder of Portland Communique, to my replacement panel. Quite true. Frankonis, doing business as One True b!x, is one of the most determined people in citizen’s media. The projects and struggles of his site are always worth following. Williamette Week recently included Portland Communique in its fundraising drive. See Kevin Hayden on it.

“More launches of hyperlocal citizen-journalism/interactive sites.” Steve Yelvington’s round-up.

Amy Gahran, ‘Citizen Journalism War’ in Colorado? I Doubt It.

Mark on Media: “With all this activity we’re getting close to being able to designate 2005 as the year newspapers reinvented themselves.”

Jeff Jarvis reacts to being dumped from all those panels.

Dan Gillmor reacts to going unnamed: “He unaccountably doesn’t include me in the list of usual suspects. I don’t know whether to be flattered or horrified…” Dan: You’re too valuable to take off the circuit. Mystery solved.

Tom Watson likes this post: The (Much) Wider Web.

Chris Lydon begins thinking out loud about his new radio show, Open Source, which is meant to be radio, but more… Netified. Boston Phoenix: Lydon Returns.

The Berkman Center bloggers group will be conducting a live “discussion tour” of citizen journalism Thursday night (April 14), and remote participation is encouraged. Details here.

The once anonymous founder of the Daily Peg and Pegasus News revealed who he is recently: Mike Orren, until recently publisher of Texas Lawyer weekly. He quit to devote himself to the start up.

Envelope, please… PressThink is honored to be nominated by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) for a Freedom of Expression Blog Award. The other finalists are Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism, which is a must-have for PressThink readers, and Declan McCullagh’s Politech, which began as a mailing list on law, culture, technology, and politics. Congratulations to them. Information is here. You can vote for PressThink, Dan or Declan here.

Debbie Galant in comments: “I don’t know if I like the term ‘citizen journalism.’ It sounds a little comrade-ish to me. What we are is a blog-format local paper — combination wire service, snarkiness and a chorus of online yentas. People feel part of it by sending us tips, pictures and joining in threads.”

In my previous post I wrote about Roch Smith, Jr., of the Greensboro squad. He owns, which begat similar sites in Charlotte and Nashville. Smith wants to offer soon a citizen journalism turn key system—blog portal and grand central station, in a box—and find takers in local markets to create a string of 101’s. (See the local newspaper’s profile of him.)

I had breakfast last week with blogger and venture capitalist Fred Wilson. He lives in my neighborhood and has an interest in “the intersection of citizen’s media and the newspaper business,” to use his words. When I told him about Smith’s plan, he said Roch should not try to license the 101 system to one operator per town, but instead let many sites compete to become the local 101, so that the best one wins. He also said start simple: just adapt Google AdSense to local clusters like Greensboro 101.

Tim Porter:

Newspapers invest about one-third of the money in the professional growth (only 0.7 percent of payroll) of their staffs as do all U.S. industries on average. In an industry whose business and readership model is under grave and growing threat on several fronts, it is going to need more than Starbucks-level salaries and unfulfilled promises of professional development to attract and keep the bright young minds its needs to survive - minds that come wrapped in any color.

Also see his New Values for a New Age of Journalism.

Dave Winer: “Now the former audience is part of the news, as it should be, and not as numbers in polls, but as people with ideas.”

This is one of the coolest newspaper blogs going.

A newspaper editor asks: where are all the great local blogs? and Doc Searls answers him with a few links.

Derek Rose of the New York Daily News at his blog: “Why shouldn’t newspapers correct even small and inconsequential mistakes? Bloggers do.”

Rebecca Blood, Blogging 101: “10 tips to set you ahead of the pack, starting with your first post.” (MSN Spaces)

I’ve joined with other bloggers and assorted cyber luminaries in an amici curiae brief filed with the California State Court of Appeals in the Apple v. Does case. (Here’s a FAQ about the case.) The pdf for our brief is here. Ours runs parallel to the media companies brief in the same case. The pdf for that is here.

The signers are Jack M. Balkin, The Center for Individual Freedom, Julian Dibbell, Feedster, Inc., The First Amendment Project, A. Michael Froomkin, Gawker Media, Inc., Gothamist, LLC, Groklaw, Happy Mutants, LLC (Boing Boing), Ben Hammersley, Joi Ito, Joel Johnson, Kimberly A. Kralowec, LawMeme, Rebecca MacKinnon, Josh Marshall, The Media Bloggers Association, Markos Moulitsas (Daily Kos), Reporters Without Borders, Glenn Reynolds, Peter Rojas, Jay Rosen, Scott Rosenberg, Doc Searls, Silicon Valley Watcher, Kevin Sites and Eugene Volokh. We “urge the court to adopt a functional test to determine who qualifies for the newsgatherers’ privilege, recognized by both the federal and California Constitutions,” to quote from the brief.

All praise and steep thanks to Lauren Gelman of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, who wrote the brief and worked with all the bloggers.

See Electronic Frontier Foundation, Bloggers Speak Up in Apple Case.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof: “In our society, public support for the news media has all but evaporated.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at April 11, 2005 12:27 PM   Print


you left out Christopher Frankonis's Portland Communique. Christopher is not a former journalist--this is pure citizen journalism.

Posted by: rebecca blood at April 11, 2005 3:17 PM | Permalink


For the short version of Bloggers As Citizen Journalists, now there's One Night In Watertown: A Story About, a two-and-a-half minute movie about Watertown, the local media situation, and how people can scratch their own and others' news itch by getting involved in h2otown.

Thanks for the pointer to Doug McGill; I'll add him to the reading list for this Thursday's webloggers' meeting at the Berkman Center, where we're featuring a tour of local journalism blogs and emerging community journalism platforms and tools like and

The good news is, unlike previous conferences, nobody has to travel or sit at one of those big tables with a nameplate. We've got live streaming audio and chat, so you can both listen and make comments and questions from the comfort of your own couch, bandwith permitting. It's this Thursday, April 14, 7EST. Details on how to tune in can be found here: Localnewsapalooza! Blogs and Citizen Journalism.

Posted by: Lisa Williams at April 11, 2005 3:58 PM | Permalink

Wow. Great post. Great writers. Great local news. Jay, this is great. Thanks. Those who can, do.

Posted by: JennyD at April 11, 2005 6:45 PM | Permalink

Oh, and one more site that I love and wanted other people to know about: Universal Hub, a 101-like site for Boston. It's great.

Posted by: Lisa Williams at April 11, 2005 7:07 PM | Permalink

Wow! I'm speechless! I sometimes wonder if I should pursue Philly Future as a full time effort, shoot, I sometimes wonder if it is making an impact, and the kind words are really encouraging. Thank you very, very much from all of us.

Lisa, I hope to make your meeting via IRC. Portland Communique rocks too Rebecca. I hope that PF can one day be looked at as a resource here as Communique is in Portland.

I think we are seeing the onset of a real tipping point: the technological barriers to trying out an effort along these lines have come down to where hobbyists, those that want to experiment, and those with a passion they need to satisfy, can do so with little expense or expertise.

Urban Vancouver, mentioned in your earlier post, is an example of this I think. It's hosted at ( ), which can make available to anyone with $39.95 a month the very same communication/publishing capabilities. Bryght provides you with a version of Drupal that is similar to what Philly Future runs (CivicSpace). Roland Tanglo, their "Chief Blogging Officer" calls these sites Web 2.0 sites. He has something to say about Web 2.0 here: that is relevant to the discussion.

Boy that sounded like a sales routine. Sorry, I couldn't help it. I've seriously considered migrating to their hosting solution. Still considering it in fact.

Posted by: Karl at April 11, 2005 7:48 PM | Permalink

Lisa, you might to look at Arbor Update, a group blog in Ann Arbor that has recently been the hub of discussion among merchants, planners, and citizens over a proposed development plan for the downtown. As far as I know, none of the bloggers or commentors are journalists (except maybe me when I comment, since I'm a former journalist). But it is a great place to follow the news.

Posted by: JennyD at April 11, 2005 8:23 PM | Permalink

wow. what a tremendous post!!!

Posted by: fred at April 11, 2005 8:51 PM | Permalink

Great work. I would also take a look at The Everett Mirror.

Posted by: Jack (CommonSenseDesk) at April 11, 2005 10:22 PM | Permalink

Thanks, everyone. And thanks for the suggestions of where else to look.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 12, 2005 12:31 AM | Permalink

Why don't you just all start saying no without trying to control who they replace you with? You don't know people not like you.

Maybe they'll turn to frontline journalists working these issues out in newsrooms, hands-on, and then conferences won't be so boring.

They'll report real experiences instead of theorizing and evangelism. And none of these workers will be able to go to anywhere near as many conferences as you guys and still keep their sites up, so there'll be more diversity.

So far the citizen journalism sites cited here look like microlocal papers, with that bake sale and pet-parade feel.

Posted by: slot at April 12, 2005 12:48 AM | Permalink


I'd just like to put in the good word for citizen videoblogging.

In Minneapolis we interviewed a local library board candidate - something we won't see on local news, and turned out far more interesting than anticipated. We plan to interview more candidates soon:

Or heck, why not get politicians videoblogging? Citizen journalist Steve Garfield got his Boston City Councilman videoblogging recently:

Many more examples in the videoblog world, and I anticipate seeing more of this aggregated on sites like

Posted by: Chuck Olsen [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2005 4:30 AM | Permalink

I'm not sure if this is relevant to the discussion, since we're talking about grassroots efforts, but the Philadelphia Daily News's Will Bunch runs a terrific blog that is becoming a must read locally.

Posted by: Karl at April 12, 2005 7:22 AM | Permalink

Good coverage. What you're really describing here is the just-like-High-School phenomenon that plagues MSM. It's proof that the blogosphere is more like the real world than something from outer space.

Top bloggers have gotten that way through some good early work, and are extending their tenure through a combination of peer familiarity, laziness and the who's in the rolodex reflex twitch.

Not only do the people on the panels have to be rotated, but if new voices aren't discovered and read, blogs will just turn out to be another layer of traditional media.

Posted by: Frank Giovinazzi at April 12, 2005 10:14 AM | Permalink

"The business model is not the reality check."

Truth comes from triangulating many different points of view. Truth doesn't come from the "authorized knowers."

Great post Jay. You so eloquently point out that the fringes is where a lot of the innovation is happening.

Amen to listening to the fringes through open source and collaborative content development.

ABC President David Westin in Columbia Journalism Review says, "The question of whether anyone can discern the 'truth' about what happened thirty-five years ago [with Kerry & Vietnam] -- or even what is happening today -- is one that has occupied philosophers for years."

The truth won't be found with facts from authorized knowers. The truth won't be found by ignoring subjective interpretations either.

It's not a question of EITHER partisan opinions OR objective facts. It's a matter of using BOTH facts AND subjective theories to explain facts over time.

Citizen journalists ask questions from an advocacy perspective, and journalists won't because they're too afraid of making political judgments.

The truth can be found by getting the perspectives of as many different worldviews as possible -- and not just the white collar authorized knowers. Go to the blue collar people on the ground like Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel did with working the fringes of intelligence bureacrats leading up to the war in Iraq.

Open source journalism means gathering as many filtered perspectives as possible in order to find the universal truths. Add these subjective truths to the truths found from traditional fact-gathering and verification -- and journalism can regain it's credibility for creating a realistic map of reality.

Posted by: Kent Bye at April 12, 2005 10:35 AM | Permalink

You've got something against pet parades? How about when the county executive shows up? Or maybe you prefer it when rattle the cages -- oops no cages -- at the county jail?

Posted by: Debbie Galant at April 12, 2005 12:14 PM | Permalink

This is a very interesting conversation, and one that is close to my heart.

But I think that this micro-niche sites work for more than just local news. We cover television and the media and the reason that we've found success is our ability to cover things at a level that is impossible to match at a larger, corporate level.

I can see this as another part of the small news site picture. Thriving, journalistic web sites devoted to narrow slices of the news pie.


Posted by: Rick Ellis at April 12, 2005 12:35 PM | Permalink

Jay, you da man!

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky at April 12, 2005 9:26 PM | Permalink

You have a knack of keeping me off the streets Jay ;-D I spent hours exploring the sea of thoughtful ideas...

By the way, in a recent speech an Antipodean-American publisher quoted Mark Twain:

"How often we recall, with regret, that Napoleon once shot at a magazine editor and missed him and killed a publisher. But we remember with charity, that his intentions were good"

In a speech entitled 'The challenges of the online world' Rupert Murdoch refers to "Deep, deep local news." ... Commentary and Debate. Gossip and humor." (my emphasis) Then he observes: Our internet site will have to do still more to be competitive

Elsewhere: Mores Lore - Google vs. News Inc.

Editor & Publisher - Blog-o-mania Hits Newspapers

Posted by: Jozef Imrich [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 13, 2005 11:55 PM | Permalink

Yeah, I heart me a good pet parade. I like city council meetings about whether I can own a backyard chicken even better!

Karl -- I use Bryght (which is like Typepad for Drupal, a community managment system) for H2otown, too; feel free to ask questions.

I'm setting up an email list for people doing local news blogs where we can discuss this kind of nitty-gritty: Localnewsapalooza! Yahoo group.

Posted by: Lisa Williams at April 14, 2005 10:07 AM | Permalink

Jeesh, I had no idea so much is happening. Thanks for triggering the flood, Jay.

We're still perking along in Northfield, Minnesota with our all-volunteer "civic blogosphere" project.

Jan Schaffer's J-lab/New Voices Project at the Univ of Maryland just put up a profile on us:

Posted by: Griff Wigley [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 14, 2005 2:50 PM | Permalink

The quote by Jeff Jarvis says it all about the future of the Local and Global Digital Immigrants:
"Give the people control of media, they will use it. Don't give people control of media, and you will lose them."

Mainstream embraces Rupert Murdoch's Speech ]

Posted by: Jozef Imrich at April 14, 2005 7:17 PM | Permalink

Came across another hyper-local site by a former journalist, reporting in at Buzzmachine.

It is West LA Online.

I think newspapers are in more trouble than even you think.

I run a local news and information blog called West L.A. Online. I do it in my spare time, all by myself. I'm also a former journalism professional.

With a modicum of experience and training, and a little time every day, I am able to do a fair job of pulling local news together. If/when I kick it into gear, I can enlist retirees, students, any, everyone in the community to gather data -- let me know the who, what, when, where. And I can enlist all the organizations, public and private, to send me their story, their message. And I can add my point of view, my experience, and my skills to the mix.

How can any business trying to make a profit, let alone make a payroll, compete with an interested, educated, skilled and motivated citizen doing it for the fun of it?

Posted by Jim Bursch at April 14, 2005 08:13 PM

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 14, 2005 10:57 PM | Permalink


Posted by: Wilson Frederick at April 14, 2005 11:00 PM | Permalink

From the Intro