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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

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April 25, 2005

Mood of the Newsroom: Letters from Three Journalists

Daniel Conover, a newsroom veteran, and Scott Heiser, a collegiate journalist, ask Tim Porter if he knows what he's saying. Bill Grueskin of the Wall Street Journal responds to Ethan Zuckerman's "Bloggiest Newspaper."

Three has become four with the addition of Steve Lovelady’s letter, plus a reply from Ethan Zuckerman in the “After…” section.

Letter One: “In any revolution, one hopes for an outcome like the one Vaclav Havel wrought in the Czech Republic, but one is at least as likely to wind up with Robespierre.” —Daniel Conover

Daniel Conover introduces himself, “I was the city editor of a metro daily at 35, begged off the job at 40. These days I’m a mild-mannered features writer for a southern metro daily. I spend much of my time writing about science. I created my first website in 1994, started blogging in 2003.”

Conover, a PressThink reader and able commenter, spent the weekend wrestling with Tim Porter’s The Mood of the Newsroom, which Jeff Jarvis said was Porter’s greatest post. (And I agree; see Tim Porter Lets Out a Roar.)

But unlike me, or Porter, or Jarvis, Conover is working today in a mainstream USA newsroom (The Post-Courier in Charleston, SC, but he doesn’t speak for them.) The sound of revolutionaries outside the institution they would revolutionize causes him to wonder:

  • Do they know what they’re doing? What if the world actually listened to their schemes?
  • Are they able to create something as good in place of what their critiques would demolish?
  • “I’ve been doing this for 15 years now, I’ve been beaten down time and again, and I’m still alive and working on new ideas and concepts,” he wrote at his blog, Conover on Media. “I still believe there are things worth defending about my profession. Does that make me a part of the defensive culture?”

How did defenders of journalism in the newsroom become the defensive newsroom—a construct of critics—is a very good question. About the old newsroom, a hulking beast, he advises: don’t wound it unless you intend to kill it and start over. Wounded, it will be worse.

Here is the rest of Conover’s simmering reply at First Draft. Used by permission, and edited very slightly:

  • Daniel Conover, 42, of Conover on Media, the Post and Courier replies to Tim Porter.
Tim: I spent most of the weekend trying to sort out my response to this post, and I still don’t know that I’ve reached clarity on it. It is clearly rife with uncomfortable truths for me.

I can’t stand the status quo in newspapers, and I’m not real happy with most of our society’s other institutions right now, either. In my perfect world, every institution would have a 10-year timebomb built into its management structure. Blow everything up. Start from scratch. It’s a provocative and valuable message.

I think some individual papers are capable of doing what you prescribe, but I fear that as an industry we lack the talent and vision to pull off such changes in a violent way. These days I’m hopeful that the grassroots movement will be able to sneak in through some back doors and change things in a subtle, insurgent way. Maybe our readers can help us find our way again.

But I guess at the bottom of it all I’m scared of what lessons we’ll take from your message — not that the ones you intend aren’t good ones, but that the leaders who are listening with half an ear to this discussion will learn the wrong ones. I fear change that is shallow, selfish and short-sighted. Anybody who has worked in newspapers for more than a decade has seen quite a bit of it.

In any revolution, one hopes for an outcome like the one Vaclav Havel wrought in the Czech Republic, but one is at least as likely to wind up with Robespierre… not to mention the inevitable Pinochet-esque backlash. Such thoughts temper my bomb-throwing tendencies.

I know most people tend to think there’s no value left in what we do — so why worry about what gets lost in the destruction? I fully acknowledge that I’m likely a fool for believing there’s much left to salvage.

And some days I despair of it entirely. The press in general is in retreat, consumed by infotainment media, by our own confusion, by decertification, by profit, by brain-drain. And perhaps blowing us up will clear the ground for something better. What frightens me today is that a press corps that once covered wars and battles has now become the battleground on which a different kind of war is being fought. I don’t know that enough people appreciate the implications of that statement.

So, as someone who has been fighting this fight from the inside, I have just two requests: 1. Before you light the fuse, please do your best to acquire enough explosive to finish the job; and 2. When the counter-revolution starts, please stand with us. I don’t want to be defensive, but I’m in no mood to be martyred, either.

Tim Porter has a reply to Daniel Conover and others up. (“I’ve written more than 400 posts to First Draft and few have elicited more response than Mood of the Newsroom.”) There are responses worth sampling, so check out First Draft.

Letter Two: “What am I, the one sucked in by mythology of Tarbell and Hersh just the same, to do?” —Scott Heiser

Scott Heiser is a young journalist trying to figure out his options at the University of Colorado. Like Conover, he was disquieted by Tim Porter’s Mood of the Newsroom post. For Heiser, a 20 year-old sophomore, the message from First Draft and PressThink is confusing and unfair. (Here’s his latest column, by the way.)

The unfair part he explaineed in a follow-up e-mail. “The reporters are defensive because they’re being attacked from all sides, and where they try to change and be more responsive (to make papers ‘more interesting’ or appealing to younger readers), it comes off like one more case of the old guys pandering to the young.” His letter:

  • Scott Heiser of the Colorado Daily, 20, replies to PressThink and First Draft.
Mr. Porter and Mr. Rosen: As I read the prose you’ve both written, I’m left confused. As a young journalist, I’ve fallen in love with the profession more than I thought I could ever love something. The sentiments you are expressing leave me with an eternal feeling of searching, “So what do I do?”

Everyday when I pick up my newspaper, I can’t help but marvel at the product in my hands. It’s not that I can’t see the “amount of anger and hostility, of distrust and suspicion, of inertia and ennui that pollutes the journalistic environment in these newsrooms” coming through the pages, but in the end, it still smacks of an act of devotion, of love.

Nostalgic? Perhaps, but is the ideology sea change in journalism to profit margins over well, journalism in the Murdoch-era not at least as responsible?

Even so, and your diagnosis is apt, that “although it wasn’t TV news and the web and shifting demographics alone that drove the readers away. Boring stories, formulaic content and refusal to change with the times are all also culprits,” - my question stands. What am I - the one sucked in by mythology of Tarbell and Hersh just the same - to do?

I respect the challenge you’ve offered beyond the words I possess. It is noble, and it is edifying.

Yet I still have problems with what is being proposed. If journalism, the religion of it, is not the function of the media business, but instead profits are, is it any wonder that people stop reading because they’ve got clear perceptions about where the ethics stop and start: $$$.

You’ve both been there, been through the muck of budget cuts and this fanciful attachment. You’ve both felt compelled to make clarion calls to the mainstream media about just where things are going. I understand why it’s not just as plausible for journalism as an institution in the democracy, to make a stand, a real one, and say to readers, publishers, advertisers, et al that there are certain principles we will not compromise on - there is always an incentive TO compromise for better ratings or a better circ. But I don’t believe that one must metamorphize the institution itself. That case seems to be overstated. The internals are killing journalism, and it does follow that internals could save it.

Is obstinance the way out of the abyss of irrelevance? Absolutely not. But if blame is to be proportioned for the crimes committed against journalism, the willingness to descend deeper and deeper into the realms of the possible to grab more market share has got to be partially to blame. The spineless nature of a journalistic industry that is mostly worried about getting paid than about getting the news is there too.

The “what if” exercises are useful, but it seems to me that certain tenets will never change, and most importantly, why would we want them to? Why would we ever want to betray the essential mission of truth-telling? Perhaps it is not about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted anymore, but then what is “it” about? I write a column for my paper here in Boulder and I’ve narrowed “it” down to trying to engage people. I don’t know that writing is capable of doing better.

I don’t mean to play into the “defensive culture” and certainly the boilerplate process stories are hurting more than helping, but I’m still left just so utterly confused. It’s not that I don’t want to change, and am not excited for the future of journalism, but that I’m so lost here. I don’t quite understand what is so different from the newspaper’s commitment to “truth-telling and watch-dogging” and that of blogs or other mediums.

At the end of the day, journalism is about the doing, the production of something new and interesting, and I hope this discussion brings about something wholly useful for news producers and consumers alike. What that may look like, I have no clue. But I’m guessing you both believe it doesn’t look much like an upside-down pyramid.


Scott Heiser
University of Colorado-Boulder

A part of my reply:

Truth-telling is of course the first commitment in journalism. No one is saying otherwise, and no one is saying “times change, buddy, get a new commitment.” If we describe the core values of journalism at a sufficiently high level of abstraction—truth, accuracy, fairness—then we can all be traditionalists and go tut-tutting around about how “some things never change,” and “people will always need…”

But don’t mistake that for thinking, okay?

Read the rest, if you are interested.

Letter Three: “When you ask people to pay for your content, you’re going to distribute less of it than when you give it away.” — Bill Grueskin.

It caused some notice when Ethan Zuckerman, fellow at the Berkman Center and a philosopher-geek-activist-media critic, posted, Is Christian Science Monitor the World’s Bloggiest Newspaper? Zuckerman, who has been studying foreign news and its patterns, wanted to test a hypothesis— “that CSM has the highest number of blog links per paper subscribers of any major US newspaper.” Using Technorati as source, “the bloggiest newspapers I found were…”

Christian Science Monitor - 134.90
New York Times - 63.08
Washington Post - 58.44
San Francisco Chronicle - 38.32
Boston Globe - 29.80
Seattle Post Intelligencer - 18.56
New York Post - 12.48
LA Times - 11.21

Down at the end of the list, between the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record (0.39) and the Fort Myers News Press (0.50) was The Wall Street Journal at 0.40, among the lowest scores. “The Journal is notorious in the blogging community for hiding nearly all of its content behind a paid firewall,” Zuckerman wrote. “Despite the fact that it boasts the second-highest circulation of a US paper (2,106,774), it’s anemic in the blogosphere, with 910 links from 828 sources.”

Anemic in the blogosphere. I wanted to know what Bill Grueskin thought about that, so I asked him. Grueskin is the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Online and the man in charge of how “bloggy” it is, to use Zuckerman’s term. (See my recent Q and A with him.) “Is being anemic in the blogosphere something to worry about?” I asked.

Jay: I don’t know enough about the methodology here to make a direct comment on the numbers. One thing I’d wonder is whether he’s including traffic to links from, Dow Jones’ free website run by the Editorial Page. A quick keyword search for “OpinionJournal” on Technorati generates well over 3,000 links, and you get even more from searching for “Opinion Journal” (with a space). You’d also get more from including our other free sites, such as

All that said, I don’t doubt we have fewer blog links than many free sites. We’ve taken steps to get more links, via our nightly emails to bloggers, our new page that displays all free stories, and we’ll initiate some more programs in the next few months. But look, when you ask people to pay for your content, you’re going to distribute less of it than when you give it away. I was no Macroeconomics 101 star, but even I can intuit that one.

And there are plenty of standards by which you can judge the impact of your journalism. Here’s another one: Around 10 p.m. Saturday, Wall Street Journal print reporter Susanne Craig broke the news on that Kenneth Langone is mounting a bid for the NY Stock Exchange. Atop today’s New York Times business section is the following, with a generous credit in the third paragraph: “The news was first reported … on the Web site of The Wall Street Journal.” That’s a link, too— one that doesn’t show up in a Technorati search, but that is visible to many people in our core audience.

In other words, take the links where you can get ‘em.

Bloggers can relate to that. Grueskin, I think, realizes the Journal could do way more. Maybe he’s fighting the right fight inside Dow Jones and we don’t see the results yet. Or maybe there’s something he’s missing too. We could hear about it comments. Conover and Heiser are fair game, as well.

UPDATE, Letter Four: “The next day they wake up and William Allen White is gone, and they’re working for Joe Schmoe, an eager-to-please creature of corporate.” — Steve Lovelady

Steve Lovelady, now managing editor of CJR Daily, former managing editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and a PressThink regular, wrote in with his reactions to Tim Porter and Scott Heiser.

  • Steve Lovelady, 61, of CJR Daily replies to Heiser and Porter.
Jay: I can add the perspective of one who has been through “the muck of budget cuts,” which is, I think, a key element in the equation, and one that Tim Porter glosses over just a little too glibly.

Newspapers have been eating their seed corn for a while now, which is one of the things that make them easy pickings for whatever turns out to be the next best thing. (This, as you know, is the topic of Phil Meyer’s latest brilliant book.)

Ten years ago, I and a few others spent our last year at the Philadelphia Inquirer fighting with every weapon we could command against the corporate dictate to dismantle much of the operation that we had so painstakingly built over the previous 25 years. We prevailed for the moment, but it was a hollow victory. Soon after we left, the beancounters whom we had temporarily held at bay simply pounded the next round of top editors into the ground.

Multiply that by dozens of times and you have the reason that countless local editors with a vision for their papers that transcends returning 30% of revenues to corporate as profit have finally thrown in the towel and taken a walk. (See Buzz Merritt walking out in Wichita … see Gene Roberts and then Max King and then Bob Rosenthal walking out in Philadelphia… see Doug Clifton and then Marty Barron walking out in Miami.) And almost always, these visonaries are replaced by mediocrities who willingly toe the corporate line.

Is it any surprise then that the talented and diligent staffs of such newspapers give up and leave too — or, in the case of the truy defeated, choose to stay and go on automatic pilot, which just intensifies the death spiral?

Who can blame them? One day they’re working for the William Allen White of their time, the next day they wake up and William Allen White is gone, and they’re working for Joe Schmoe, an eager-to-please creature of corporate, transferred in from a lesser paper where he or she established a proven record of happily submitting to whatever the numbers guys demanded to keep the stock price up.

And what exactly is it that those suits demand of Joe Schmoe? The gutting of the paper. So in the end, what is left ? A newsroom of dead-men-walking. Anything else would be an improvement. Which, of course, is the golden opportunity that lies available to the Internet, the Web and the blog community. It should be as easy as picking apples up off the ground. Let’s see if anyone does it.

Lovelady’s “William Allen White of their time” is a reference to Gene Roberts, executive editor of the Inquirer from 1972 to 1991, and the dominant figure in that newspaper’s recent history. Roberts is famous for inspiring the people who worked with him, for his extremely slow drawl and taciturn nature, and for presiding over a newspaper that won 17 Pulitizer Prizes. He later became managing editor of the New York Times. (A 2001 interview with Roberts; a Poynter tribute to him.)

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

“We know where we’re going.”John Robinson, editor and man in charge of the Greensboro News & Record, is optimistic as he responds to “tipping point” rumors and PressThink’s last two posts.

As an industry, we don’t lack the talent or vision to redirect the ship, as one letter writer suggests. We lack the will. The data is clear; the status quo is not an option. What are we waiting for? The changes in store should be embraced if we can reach new audiences with our journalism. No one is suggesting we abandon our core principles. Truth telling remains the key. And everything I read challenges us to make that principle stronger.

Robinson remains an inspiration, but then a lot of people in Greensboro are that.

Yeah, but Snarkmarket isn’t buying it:

If you haven’t read them, they all make essentially the same point — old-school journalism’s in trouble. Shorter Merrill Brown: Young people don’t read newspapers. Shorter Tim Porter: And it’s the fault of backwards-thinking journalists. Shorter Rupert Murdoch: No, seriously. Young people like never read newspapers.

“But it all just feels so twelve years ago,” says Snark. “When we start talking around in circles like this, I get impatient about the snail’s pace of this alleged revolution.”

Susan Mernit says she agrees. Why don’t they tell it to the snails, say, in this post?

Esoteric Rabbit Films, a weblog about “the acutely inexplicable cinematic addiction,” has an intriguing post about how citizen journalism will become fatally attractive to filmmakers.

“Look into the Newsroom Mirror.” Ryan Pitts of Dead Parrot Society and the Spokesman Review in Spokane says about Porters Mood of… post:

We are posting this in our newsroom, and I sincerely hope some internal dialogue emerges from it.

I have to admit, it’s awfully easy to get sucked into nostalgia for the fat days, when it seemed like we had more of everything to work with. This even happens to me, and I feel like I’m a journalist who’s actually looking forward to all the new things happening. So the struggle is, how do we get people who see these changes as troublesome to see your post as the newsroom mirror that it is?

Ethan Zuckerman e-mails in reply to Bill Grueskin:

I did not include in the numbers I ran last week. I used what appeared to be the official news sites for the publications I considered, favoring a more popular URL over a less popular one when there was an obvious choice to be made - i.e., rather than I’m running a larger set of numbers - all 150 newspapers that the Audit Bureau lists - today and plan on releasing those numbers in the next 48 hours or so. To do the Wall Street Journal - and several other papers - justice, I’ll likely need to tweak my numbers to consider multiple sites for media properties like the Journal that use several different URLs.

Giving the Journal the benefit of multiple URLs -,, - their Technorati cosmos count increases to 8782. Given their large circulation, that’s still as LpkC of 4.17, which puts them between the Houston Chronicle and the Arizona Republic in the set of figures I posted last Thursday.

In other words, the Journal’s decision to put content behind a for-pay firewall has a definite influence on people’s linking practices. (The simple fact that eight times as many people link to their open opinion section as to their closed content section is also a likely indicator of this.) Clearly, the Journal has decided this is a tradeoff that makes business sense, as your interview with Grueskin elucidates.

As Gen Kanai, commenting on my original post puts it: “Ethan, there’s a strong case for saying the exact opposite of your thesis: that the WSJ is the strongest presence online because they’re growing much faster than any other online news source AND they’re charging for their content. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but there was a recent interview with the head of the WSJ Interactive and he was basically very smug about the fact that his publication is a fee-service and that it had the highest growth rates in the industry.”

I’m in no way trying to say that the Journal is making a poor business decision, or that it’s not influential in a community outside the blogosphere, just that the Journal’s solution to the “how do we support a newspaper in the online age” question reduces its influence and impact amongst bloggers.

Zuckerman had a question for readers: “While I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback—and some theorizing—on the Wall Street Journal’s low rank, I’ve gotten very little speculation on why the Christian Science Monitor - as well as the New York Times, Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle rank so high.” Ideas?

Also see Amy Gahran, who breaks the news to the Christian Science Monitor that they’re the most blog intensive, and gets a reaction from the people there. Tom Reagan: “We believe in links. For us, it’s what the Internet is all about.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at April 25, 2005 4:47 PM   Print


In a e-mail, Scott Heiser adds:

So far as my generation is concerned - we aren't newspaper people. We're OC people and Facebook people, but a newspaper? Even if it's free, it seems that the opportunity cost is too much.

So I feel like what political scientist Robert Entman describes in "Democracy Without Citizens" has proven deeply true:

"To become informed and hold government accountable, the general public needs to obtain news that is comprehensive yet interesting and understandable, that conveys facts and outcomes, not cosmetic images and airy promises," he writes. "But that is not what the public demands."

To compete, the Daily has redesigned itself, hired more staff, and reinvigorated its news apparatus. It's a far better paper than when I first stumbled onto campus two years ago. Yet what remains to be seen is whether they can survive in an era that seems not to value what it does.

And if Porter and company are correct - I don't believe it's all owed to boring journalism. It tries to be interesting. It tries really hard to make itself relevant. But this is not a civic age, it seems, and no amount of repackaging can change that, I'm afraid.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 25, 2005 7:07 PM | Permalink

"... But this is not a civic age, it seems, and no amount of repackaging can change that, I'm afraid."

Ahem. Not a civic age? Boulderdash.

Perhaps a trip back to Tocqueville and the "Link between Associations and Newspapers?

Can there be associations today, or tomorrow, without the commerical, and "socially responsible," newspaper? In fact, has the consolidation of newspapers reflected the consolidation of civic associations, or disconnected the newspaper from civic associations through their religious devotion to "objectivity", "view from nowhere", ...?

Has the relationship between newspapers and associations been weakened or replaced by talk radio, email, web, ...?

Is it possible, even fathomable, that a civic age is active all around journalists who refuse to participate and tut-tut from journalism's cathedrals? (Steve Lovelady, you there?)

"... every institution would have a 10-year timebomb built into its management structure ..."

See 10-year business cycle and ask how the 100 year ideology of "modern" journalism has survived each decade?

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 26, 2005 12:13 AM | Permalink

These are anything but certainties. The best things about the blogosphere is the sense that one can really flesh out thoughts, which was and is my intent.

Perhaps these are the most civic times for more people than ever before, I don't know. But I can speak to the Boulder experience. I wrote my Wednesday column on this whole debate, and I spoke to a few people about "what it would take" to get them to pick up a FREE paper and actually read it. The consensus was that most just felt they were not at a point in their lives where it was an interest, where it was something that mattered enough to them that they should do it. Most said that eventually they'd get to that point, and I countered that the point should be now, not later, because things happening in the world today affect your "later." They all agreed, but unless the "boring" nature of what the newspaper represents actually changes, to something with a cultural cachet like silly reality shows or time wasters like The Facebook, kids won't read newspapers. There are just too many freaking ways to entertain oneself.

The answers I think, are about providing more than just the newsprint. You have to provide more than one mode of communication. It has to be more interactive than just picking up a the paper and turning the pages.

So maybe this discussion can continue on that tangent.

Thanks again for the time,


Posted by: Scott Heiser at April 26, 2005 12:39 AM | Permalink

Think out of the box here. The current journalistic newspaper philosophy is that they need to get the news out first. The deeper stories and be had at Time and Newsweek.

However, they can't beat the web at speed. When the same stories appear in print that appeared on the web, they are irrevelent. For example, How many people did not know the new Pope was elected when the next morning's paper appeared? And how many of those stories look alot like the AP/CNN/Rueters story?

Why was THAT story a front page story?

Posted by: Tim at April 26, 2005 7:55 AM | Permalink

What's pitiful is the idea that Time and Newsweek are running the deeper story.

Few ordinary people will pick up a free paper, on the assumption that you get value for money. You know what the free alt papers are like: depressingly bad writing, misguided social activism, put together and edited by busybodies and malcontents with outsized egos for their very humble stations in life. It's the same reason people are stand-offish about vanity press books. There's a kook presumption.

Posted by: Brian at April 26, 2005 11:23 AM | Permalink

"The consensus was that most just felt they were not at a point in their lives where it was an interest, where it was something that mattered enough to them that they should do it."

As Infotainment, most news is not as entertaining as other time-wasters. The IDEA of a "representative" democracy is that the people choose a representative, and HE spends the time to make good decisions.

Scott, what decisions are you making that depend on knowing what's in the newspapers? Most news junkies seem intent on having the status of "informed superiority", so they can win arguments with more knowledge. Big deal.

Do news "facts" help in school? In a job? In a sport? In a marriage? In raising kids? Prolly not.

In choosing a politician? Even then, pro-choice or pro-life might be all you need, other facts are less important.

Facts DO matter, a lot ... to those who invest money (or bet!). So it makes sense for the WSJ (and Financial Times) to be good papers. And sell their valuable info/ facts, while giving their opinions away.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at April 26, 2005 12:53 PM | Permalink

I do think that "news facts" help in school and other places, very much so, particularly for those at large public universities like myself with a liberal arts core curriculum. I concede that it doesn't affect students in any intstrumental way, which is why it isn't surprising that we're not that interested in newspapers or news in general.

At CU, the instrumental news is everywhere though. In how much better of a position would students find themselves if they all were pretty engaged about what the state legislature was doing in Denver about higher education funding? Or more locally, the views of the new elects from student elections (in which most students did not vote)? Or more nationally, how the discussions about Social Security privatization may affect their working future, after they've exited Boulder?

In a lot of ways, it's not about "not caring" but about ways of engagement, I've sensed. It has to go beyond just newsprint.

I don't know that fretting about young readers is really that fruitful, but what is interesting to me is that most of the time newspapers are charged as "boring," the prescription is often how to make them appealing to a younger crowd that apparently decides what is and what is not interesting.

It'll work itself out somehow.


Posted by: Scott Heiser at April 26, 2005 2:51 PM | Permalink

Scott: "It'll work itself out somehow."

Perhaps it will work itself out when you can answer the question, "Boring in what way?"

It is boring in a comparative way? Compared to video games? Is the non-interactive-ness boring? Should news morph into Kuma\War? (OK, maybe not "exactly" like that, but could you foresee an interactive news report or panorama news with voice over and in-frame video, perhaps a highlight reel? As a pull rather than push?

Is it boring because it is intellectually dry and bland data devoid of human qualities that build associations with the news provider (marrow sucked out of bones dry)?

Is it boring in some other way?

Ask a teen/20-something why he/she doesn't read the newspaper and get the response, "Booooooring."

Is that along the lines of asking your high schooler, "How was school today?" - "Fine." - "What did you do?" - "Nothing."

Must just not be a very civic minded kid, huh?

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 26, 2005 6:19 PM | Permalink

Jay --
I forgot to add one thought following the passage on Buzz Merritt, Gene Roberts, Max King, Bob Rosenthal, Doug Clifton and Marty Barron.
These are smart guys and the good news is that most of them have gone on to find work that corresponds to their values.
To wit:
Merritt has written a pensive but provocative book on the Knight Ridder corporation morphing itself into a pale imitation of Scripps Howard; Roberts is spearheading a fundraising effort for CJR and AJR; King heads the Heinz Foundation in Pittsburgh; Rosenthal landed as managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle; Clifton now runs and has much improved the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Barron now runs and has much improved the Boston Globe.
But the point holds: Once people of this caliber strike out for greener pastures, they leave a void, and those left behind -- the newspaper, the talent on the newspaper's staff, the readers, and the community itself -- all suffer.
As for the publishers who ease these folks out -- they sit around two, or five, or ten years later and wonder why circulation is in a free-fall. But, as Phil Meyer points out, they're not overly-worried; they've done their job and collected their bonuses and stock options, and they see a comfortable retirement on the horizon.
It's just like Mother Nature; in the end, it's the vultures, hyenas, rats and cockroaches who survive the rest of us.
But, boy, do they leave behind a mess for our children to clean up.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 26, 2005 8:27 PM | Permalink

Thanks for your response, Scott. I was keenly aware you didn't mention Iraq. Donald Sensing has a fine post on it, noting four main possible outcomes: victory for the US, victory for Al-Qaeda, successful use of a WMD by AQ against US and the retaliation war against Syria & Iran (& Saudi Arabia?) big loss for all, or 4) no decision, a drifting "forever" war.

I can quibble with this but think it's fairly good. Then the good Reverend continues:
So the question for us commentati, whether based on the web or in traditional media, is simply: which of these outcomes is best? Which will be most favorable to human flourishing?

As for me, I choose the first, and have no qualms admitting I am heavily biased in favor thereof. And that bias certainly shapes my blogging!

The basic issue for news media: which outcome do you want? It is not possible to pretend neutrality here, for the power of the media to frame the public’s debate is too great to claim you are merely being “fair and balanced.” There literally is no neutral ground here, no “God’s eye view” of events, and hence no possibility of not taking sides. One way or another, what you print or broadcast, what stories you cover and how you cover them, what attention you pay to what issues and how you describe them - all these things mean that you will support one outcome over another. Which will you choose? How will you support it? These are the most important questions of your vocation today. But you are not facing them at all.

He concludes with the disgusting Pulitzer's, which pretty clearly show a bias in favor of option 2, victory by Al-Qaeda.

The gloom in the newsrooms is because they've been cheering for a loser who is losing, and it's becoming more clear they should never have been supporting those murdering terrorists. Not even to oppose Bush.

I think we are about to get to the heart of news gloom: the Moral Hazard of a Free Press.

[Moral Hazard explained:
Simplifying moral hazard for two groups of a hundred thousand houses. One group has no insurance, and 2 houses burn. The other group has insurance and 12 houses burn. Because the insured group is less careful with less loss. (Seatbelt laws seem to increase the number of pedestrians killed, a little.)]

A "Free Press" as it is now means more Americans, and Iraqis, are murdered by the terrorists. Are the Free Press stories, like those with the Pulitzer pictures, really worth hundreds of American lives? Maybe no.

And let's not forget, the "purpose" of the newspaper is to inform readers of the big dogfood sales and to sell other other stuff -- folk read the paper for the infotainment value.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at April 26, 2005 8:34 PM | Permalink

Tom --
So now the Pulitzer judges are cheering for Al-Qaeda ?
Damn, could have fooled me.
I watched the traitors a few weeks ago as they filed into the building of Columbia Univerity's journalism school to cast their insidious votes.
I didn't see a single one who was devoutly wishing that another American skyscraper containg 4,000 people was blown into kingdom come.
To the contrary, they appeared to be what they are: a greying and slightly paunchy group of guys who have done some great journalism themselves, intent only on determing who did the best job of getting to the bottom of things.
God bless 'em; nothing else matters.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 26, 2005 9:06 PM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady reminds me of the cigarette CEOs.

Sure, the motives of the CEOs may not have been devoutly wishing that another American got cancer. But so what?

Tom, imagine if the elite among gun manufacturers got together and gave out a "Pulitzer" for the best manufactured firearm that year. Imagine if the one they chose was used in the most crimes. Do you think Lovelady would describe them as "a greying and slightly paunchy group of guys who have done some great" firearms "intent only on determing who did the best job of" producing a new firearm?

Is the question about the product? The motives behind claiming their product benign? Or, the motives to create a product that harms?

I'm fascinated that Lovelady would defend the AP photojournalism Pulitzer with "best job of getting to the bottom of things."

Exactly what bottom is gotten to in the AP photos individually or as a set?

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 27, 2005 8:44 AM | Permalink

Whoa, Nellie.

We've got a few logical fallacies in full throat this morning. To wit: Appeal to Division, Appeal to Spite, The Strawman and, Reduction to Absurdity, a personal favorite for which I cannot find a link.

(And yes, I had to look up the names, and no, I wouldn't know the Latin.)

An unproven accusation against an AP photographer equals Lovelady is an apologist for traitors? A "patriotic" thesis ("there is literally no neutral ground here") proves that those who think differently are cheerleaders for AQ?

Posted by: Daniel Conover at April 27, 2005 10:33 AM | Permalink

Come to think of it, I think that last one qualifies as Appeal to Authority.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at April 27, 2005 10:35 AM | Permalink

'The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin -- and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.'
-Vaclav Havel

Tim's blog is a brilliant illustration of the testimony to the Power of One. As he noted, he has written 400 posts since Christmas 2002 and one and all have been thought-provoking. If the problems of democracy can only be cured by more democracy ... the solution for the main stream media might be found in the following quote by Havel:

'There are times when we must sink to the bottom of our misery to understand truth, just as we must descend to the bottom of a well to see the stars in broad daylight'

Posted by: Jozef Imrich at April 27, 2005 10:55 AM | Permalink

In the context of Havel's quote and journalism, I want to link to this journalistic masterpiece:

Politics requires scapegoats, whether they bear guilt or not. And the media seem less interested in discovering who is responsible than in providing a megaphone for the accusations. But the questions need to be asked. We cannot begin to fix the policymaking process until we see who broke it--and even then, the damage may be beyond repair ...

In Defense of Striped Pants

Posted by: Jozef Imrich at April 27, 2005 11:14 AM | Permalink

Dan: "An unproven accusation against an AP photographer equals Lovelady is an apologist for traitors?"

Is that what you read in my comment? If so, absolutely not. For example, I think Tom is wrong about this:

The gloom in the newsrooms is because they've been cheering for a loser who is losing, and it's becoming more clear they should never have been supporting those murdering terrorists. Not even to oppose Bush.
Way over the top.

But I do want to know, when Steve Lovelady says, "God bless 'em; nothing else matters." whether that's really an appropriate measure?

In other words, can a Pulitzer become an award for the "best tasting cigarette"? So when Steve Lovelady looks at the AP winning photos, what does he see as the product?

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 27, 2005 12:55 PM | Permalink

Cline has a much more articulate way of expressing it:

If journalists do not critically examine the nefarious effects of the bad news and narrative biases, they risk making politicians look far more crooked than they really are, and they risk making governance appear far less interesting and important than it really is. And, just as bad, journalists risk making themselves appear far more politically biased than they really are.

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 27, 2005 1:33 PM | Permalink

On the WSJ "bloggy" question, anything approaching a rigorous analysis needs to bear in mind:

* Technorati is flawed. Every day PubSub will find mentions of things I track that Technorati misses. And as far as I can tell, both of those only spider blogs composed with formal blog software.

There are lots of blogs out there--often among the most-heavily trafficked--that don't use standard blog software.

* This "data" is based on URL searches. It's not telling you when WSJ stories are being mentioned but not linked to. Since readers will sometimes complain when they can't click through, I know a lot of bloggers that won't bother with WSJ links, but may still discuss the stories, or extracts from the stories.

* Perhaps most importantly, the WSJ is not directly comparable to other newspapers. It's a terrific paper with a national audience and yes they do keep expanding the range of what they cover--but it's primarily a business newspaper and the other publications are not. You could easily conclude that business news is less "bloggy," not the newspaper itself.

All of which is to advise, don't do jumping to a lot of grand-scale conclusions based on a little bit of Technorati searching.

Posted by: Michael at April 27, 2005 1:38 PM | Permalink

"So when Steve Lovelady looks at the AP winning photos, what does he see as the product?"

That one's pretty easy.
I see powerful, evocative journalism bearing witness to an act so repulsive that it instantly erases any sympathy whatever that the viewer might have ever had for the insurgents.
That's the sense in which the photos "get to the bottom of things" -- in exactly the same way as the most horrific of the Holocaust photographs did 60 years ago. The photojournalist's job is not to comfort us. To the contrary, in this case it's to go into harm's way in order to bear witness to evil.
A wise old editor summed up it best for me decades ago when he boiled down the mandate to:
"Go. See. Return. Tell."
It really isn't any more complicated than that.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2005 2:03 PM | Permalink

Over 140 years ago, Matthew Brady was "improving" photos of Civil War battlefields. Only the naive and True Believers think that photos "get to the bottom of things".

Posted by: kilgore trout at April 27, 2005 2:15 PM | Permalink

Nice going, Kilgore.
You've managed to embody all four of Dan Conover's logical fallacies -- Appeal to Division, Appeal to Spite, The Strawman and Reduction to Absurdity -- in two sentences.
Such economy of language is rare at Press Think -- or anywhere else these days.

Posted by: at April 27, 2005 2:45 PM | Permalink

To s12378: do you deny that Brady doctored Civil War photos?

Posted by: kilgore trout at April 27, 2005 2:50 PM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady,

Thank you for that reply. It was helpful to get a glimpse through your eyes.

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 27, 2005 3:29 PM | Permalink

I have no idea if Brady doctored photographs 140 years ago.
But somehow I suspect that whatever the answer is, it has, shall we say, limited application to what's going on in Iraq right now.
Which may be why I never viewed criticism of the Civil War press as an especially viable career option.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2005 3:45 PM | Permalink

Steve, you've proven yourself to be an unworthy sparring partner.

Posted by: kilgore trout at April 27, 2005 5:22 PM | Permalink

Sorry to hear that, Kilgore.
I was looking forward to Round 73.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at April 27, 2005 5:55 PM | Permalink

Here is something about news photography to shake up and re-angle your dialogue. A nuanced treatment: Capture the Moment: On the uses and misuses of photojournalism. By my colleague in NYU Journalism, Susie Linfield, former arts editor at the Washington Post.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 27, 2005 10:44 PM | Permalink

At the suggestion of Sysiphus, I incorporated my "Questions and Answers About Media Bias" (May, 04) post into the general Questions and Answers About PressThink, which is linked off the main page under my bio. Scroll down for the bias stuff.

It explains my own views, which do not fit with most bias critics or most journalists.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 27, 2005 11:10 PM | Permalink

Jay,thanks for the link to the Linfield article, it did "shake up and re-angle" my thinking about photojournalism in some ways.

Posted by: kilgore trout at April 28, 2005 2:30 PM | Permalink

Excellent. See? Blogging works.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 28, 2005 4:45 PM | Permalink

You're preaching to the choir Jay, I'm a Believer.

Posted by: kilgore trout at April 29, 2005 2:56 PM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady,

That "Go. See. Return. Tell." is what we the people always expected and thought we were getting, until we started to hear and see things that didn't fit the picture being painted by the media.

Maybe another element needs to be added at some point. Not just see, but see for us, and not your associates and editors. We've all been taught to believe in a free press, but it was supposed to be a market of ideas not a Microsoft. I don't know how to restore a spectrum and real debate like there used to be, but the blogosphere has more in common with the free press at the beginning of this country than the modern media do.

Posted by: AST [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2005 7:35 PM | Permalink

From the Intro