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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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May 2, 2005

More on the Migration: Developments and Sightings starts up the engines. Newspaper union tells rank and file the Web migration is here. Lawsuit in Milwaukee pits big advertiser against the local daily. The AP as legacy media?

The context is PressThink, The Migration, and new reports released May 2nd—called “bloody Monday” by Editor & Publisher—on tumbling circulation.

  • starts up the engines

A closely-watched start-up is starting itself up tomorrow: has launched in two upscale suburban towns— McLean and Reston, VA. Backfence’s co-founder Mark Potts, who helped launch back when, e-mailed tonight with his news:

The first Backfence sites, in McLean and Reston, Va., are at Members of these communities have begun posting their local news, information, comments, photos and events to share with their neighbors. These sites represent our initial launch; over the next months and years we will roll out additional sites in the Washington area and around the nation.
Over the past few months, we’ve created a proprietary technology platform that supports our ambitious plan to blend together elements of user-created content, blogs, wikis, calendar functions, photo galleries, classifieds, DIY ad tools, Yellow Pages (soon), a registration system, backend administration tools and other features—all based on a clean, simple user experience.

We’re looking forward to watching these and future communities share information, make comments and generally put their personal touches on the sites. As we open the gates, more and more people will populate Backfence’s online communities and the information that they contain will grow exponentially.

Steve Outing has a brief review and he likes it. For context, see this earlier Howard Kurtz article on Potts and Backfence; this Q and A with Potts that explains what he’s up to. But mostly, check into how the site works. (Welcome message from co-founders Mark Potts and Susan DeFife.)

  • Union to the rank and file: watch the migration

The front page of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild’s site (which I came across because it linked to PressThink) tells members: “While people have predicted the death of newspapers for years, the migration of advertising to the web is reshaping the market that once made newspapers an easy profit center.” It urges union members to educate themselves about the issue.

  • Lawsuit in Milwaukee pits big advertiser against the local newspaper

In Milwaukee, the area’s biggest real estate firm has sued the local newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, alleging circulation fraud. The plaintiff, Shorewest Realtors, is trying to recruit other advertisers to join in what amounts to a revolt against the newspaper— an attempted class action suit that could be joined by the paper’s biggest customers. It follows circulation scandals at other big metro dailies, notably the Chicago Sun-Times, Newsday, and the Dallas Morning News.

According to an AP account (which ran in Newsday:)

The lawsuit claims the Journal Sentinel counted as circulation papers that were distributed free to homes, businesses, on the street and at large gatherings; thrown into trash bins without ever having been distributed; donated to schools; and distributed to apartment tenants as part of a scheme in which the subscription cost was included in the rent, then kicked back to the apartment complex manager.

The suit contended the company, seeking “to cover up its own misconduct … recently terminated two employees and demoted another as a result of their participation in the pervasive scheme to overstate circulation rates.”

The Journal Sentinel, in its own article on the suit, said, “If the case goes forward as a class action, it would open the door for other advertisers to seek damages.” In this panel discussion, hosted by Mark Belling on the CBS affiliate in Milwaukee, it is said the paper may have to pay a fortune. One panelist who owns stock in the company that publishes the J-S said he was hoping “it’s like a trashcan fire and not one that brings down the building.” Mark Belling called it “an enormous crisis” for the newspaper. “The key is going to be what the three people who were fired will say on the stand.”

  • “Good-quality readers tend to pay for the newspaper with the intention of reading it”

The significance of the Milwaukee suit was suggested by these details in an account in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. The theme was newspapers facing tough decisions as the circulation numbers continue to fall.

In the past year, some newspapers fabricated circulation figures. Hollinger International Inc.’s Chicago Sun-Times, Belo’s Dallas Morning News and Tribune’s Newsday have all acknowledged that they overstated circulation figures.

…And many other companies have come under scrutiny for bulking up their circulation with discounted copies that didn’t attract high-quality readers.

… Now, many publishers are taking fewer shortcuts to boost circulation. Chicago-based Tribune, for instance, is cutting back significantly on the number of discounted copies sold to places such as hotels, hospitals and schools. Scott Smith, president of Tribune’s publishing unit, said this number will be down 10% from year-ago levels. Such readers — who often pay nothing for the paper — often aren’t considered good quality and their actual numbers are impossible to validate. Good-quality readers tend to pay for the newspaper with the intention of reading it.

If the industry’s strategy is to not to conceal any longer with gimmicks and giveaways the growing fall off in sales, but to impress upon advertisers the good quality of the paying readers who are left, then success depends on advertisers who are not only willing to migrate from one pricing logic to another, but willing to overlook all the years when they were, in effect, charged for phantom readers.

That’s exactly what Shorewest Realtors is not willing to do with the Journal Sentinel— overlook the overcharges. Therefore the events in Milwaukee make the “quality” strategy even harder to execute. They suggest a completely different scenario is possible, in which newspaper after newspaper has to reach costly settlements with advertisers who have been burned.

Unlike the Sun Times, Newsday and the Dallas Morning News, the Milwaukee paper had not admitted, officially, any fraudulent numbers, although it fired three people and began to tighten up practices. Therefore the suit comes at a newspaper that was trying change on the fly, and catch up to where the accountability standards were going.

That’s what other newspapers are hoping to do: change on the fly. But their circumstances probably aren’t that much different from Milwaukee’s. More to the point, there are many hundreds of advertisers whose circumstances are similar to Shorewest Realtors. They are going to be very interested. What you have brewing is almost a raparations case against the daily newspaper. It’s not here yet, but the ingredients for it are.

Not far in the background is an even darker fact: In Dallas, there’s a grand jury probe of possible criminal violations in inflated circulations: “Belo vows to cooperate as a grand jury looks into overstatement case,” read one headline.

  • Sometimes he can’t help seeing all the way through: Hugh Hewitt has a question

Hugh Hewitt, who has been mentioning the circulation scandals when he can and predicting more bad news, asked a good question about General Motors in his recent speech to the LA Press Club. GM quit advertising in the Los Angeles Times due to “factual errors and misrepresentations,” the company said. So Hewitt asks: “What conclusion will we draw if GM’s L.A. dealers report higher sales year-to-year in April and May without any advertising in the Times?”

If that happened—and I’m not saying it will—I can imagine it serving as backward-pointing proof that newspaper advertising was always a rip off, even if the conclusion involves faulty reasoning from a single year’s results. The GM events—quitting one newspaper like that over articles and editorials—are unusual, and probably one-of-a-kind. But this is exactly what makes them a wild card in the psychology of the ad market. Someone pulled all ads. Others get to watch and see what happens.

  • Writing across different legacy systems is edu-blogger JennyD

Meanwhile, education blogger Jenny D (ex-journalist, featured in PressThink’s Fourteen New Voices) draws a parallel between failing urban school systems and fading urban newspapers, and between both those things and the problems at GM:

Families are abandoning traditional public schools by the thousands. In Denver, the public schools have lost about 4,000 students, and $24 million in funding along with them. The kids are now in charter schools. Detroit has lost almost 10,000 students in the last year, and is looking to layoff off thousands of teachers and other employees.

Does it sound like journalism? Do news organizations and schools sound like GM? I think so.

It’s not fully there yet. But her Dying Institutions, Thriving Institutions is… developing. Go see.

  • The AP as legacy media? That discussion is now on

The discussion has begun in comments at Online Journalism Review, where Bob Benz and Mike Phillips of E. W. Scripps have published their manifesto for replacing the AP. Time for a change: The Associated Press as Napsterized news proposes to reinvent the AP as a digital co-op, using peer-to-peer technology to replicate the wire service at far lower cost.

I asked AP officials if they wanted to reply in a PressThink post, but I am told a reply is coming out soon in OJR, so watch that space. Read Doug Fisher’s lengthy and sharply put reply, A misguided slap at AP. Also see Alan Mutter’s reaction.

Now on the same theme—a digital-era AP—Pajamas Media, the new and ambitious initiative by bloggers Roger L. Simon, Charles Johnson of LittleGreenFootballs, and Marc “Armed Liberal” Danziger, with advice from Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, gets some splashy treatment in the New York Sun. (But the article has no links in it, which is weird.) See Roderick Boyd, Three Political Web Logs Make a Run for the Mainstream.

“The idea of Pajamas Media is to use an extensive network of globally affiliated blogs to provide first-person, in-depth coverage of most major news events, including both camera and video footage,” Simon said. Syndicating advertisements through affiliated blogs so that advertisers can reach a global network is also a big part of it.

With 162 affiliate blogs in dozens of different countries, according to Mr. Simon, the new venture will have the ability to get “in the middle of stories’ that major news organizations can’t, “because our affiliates will have a physical proximity, language, and cultural knowledge that the Associated Press man will often lack.”

…The LittleGreenFootballs blogger, Charles Johnson, said the challenge is to keep the freewheeling character of a popular blog— where opinions and criticism are given freely—while meeting high standards and aggressively pursuing stories.

That’s one challenge. Avoiding episodes like this will be another.

  • Legacy Newspapers and Legacy Theme parks

Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas draws the parallels: “We are in same boat, those of us in theme parks and newspapers.”

Both of us have a huge capital investment in a product that seems a tad antiquated. We both have gotten hooked on hefty profit margins that are increasingly unrealistic. But our corporate owners demand them and so we cut our costs. With Disney, it’s off-the-shelf rides and maybe a little less maintenance. With newspapers, it’s off-the-shelf wire stories and smaller news holes.

And we both are trying to fit in with the new marketplace.

He’s more optimistic about Disney. I wrote about Disney and newspapers way back in the Introduction to PressThink, commenting on the brief period when Disney owned the Kansas City Star and other newspapers as a result of buying Captial Cities/ABC: “Newspapers were about the prosaic, the real and the local. Disney was about the fantastic, the imaginary, the global. It wasn’t a hard decision. A year later, Dinsey sold the Star, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and two smaller newspapers.”

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…

Norweigan critic and blogger Olav Anders Øvrebø at Undercurrent:

Another good marketing gimmick for a 1996 start-up news website without a paper parent was to claim that the printed newspaper would be gone by circa 2010. Our good print colleagues would protest furiously and give us more publicity, but I don’t think even the internet evangelists among us grasped what was about to happen. Do we now?

The history of the media and the web is a tale of permanent undervaluation, permanent lack of imagination. Wishful thinking on the part of newspaper executives (“there’s no way to earn money from the web”, “people will always want their printed paper on the morning breakfast table”) mixed with flawed analysis (“don’t link to other websites, it sends “eyeballs” away from our ads.”)

Ars technica: “Old media vs. New media, and the future of American journalism.” Doesn’t have anything new in it but summarizes well the current moment and analyzes well the import of Paul Graham’s essay on the PR industry, “lurking like a huge, quiet submarine beneath the news.” Graham’s The Submarine is a model for Web-based media critique. If you haven’t read it, you should.

Posted by Jay Rosen at May 2, 2005 7:55 PM   Print


If you think comparing newspapers to education and GM seems like a stretch, check out this columnist at the Orlando Sentinel--he says that newspapers and Disney have the same problems.

Thanks to Romenesko

Posted by: JennyD at May 3, 2005 5:02 PM | Permalink

I just added that to the post, Jenny. Thanks.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 3, 2005 5:04 PM | Permalink

First -
Anything by Paul Graham is worth reading.
(disclosure: I have no vested interest, just good judgment)

Second -
Who's the go-to blogger on newspaper circulation issues and details? It would seem that ABC and CAC would have a vested interest in maintaining calm (and obscuring anything that threatens it) - so when you have questions about how circulation is measured, who do you ask?

Posted by: Anna at May 3, 2005 9:25 PM | Permalink

To The Right Honourable Jenny D:
Great comparison! I work as an educator and see the exodus to charters, home schooling, and private schools, while other educators stare in wonderment never contemplating that THEY THEMSELVES and the institutions they work for as part of the problem or the cause.
I have for years lumped newspapers as technologically unworthy in the same manner we view typewriters today.

Posted by: gobears at May 3, 2005 10:47 PM | Permalink

At the risk of being redundant, there are several causes not even mentioned in the study or the AP story about the fall in newspaper circulation.

There have been a number of scandals involving newspapers in recent years that has further eroded the public's trust in newspapers, including the Jayson Blair fiasco at the New York Times.

Then, for the past 20 years, conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh have helped erode public confidence in the press by constantly haranguing newspapers as "liberal."

During the same time period, corporate newspaper chains have bought up more independent newspapers and responded to the conservative critique by moving to the right politically, dumbing down content to try and shore up their so-called "objective" image.

To try and offset the losses in circulation on the bottom line, newspaper chains are spending less on newsgathering and running shorter stories based more on public relations efforts, which do not hold the attention of the reading public.

And unlike the New York Times and Washington Post, chain papers have all but abandoned the notion that news and commentary should be probing and provocative - not bland and safe.

While newspapers could be in a strong position to make use their newsgathering capability to grab the attention of readers moving to the Net, instead they have mostly turned their Web site development over to tech-heads who have no training in readership habits or graphic design.

So innovative Web publishers have jumped into the void and created headline news sites and Weblogs and began gobbling up the young, progressive and Net savvy audiences on the East and West coasts especially.

Then, even at the large papers there is a bias for the print product and against the Web. Unless newspapers began to realize that their print product is going to gradually give way to the online product, and began hiring people who understand and embrace the new technology and can use it to full advantage in their reporting and presentation, they are going to continue to lose out.

Some bloggers embrace and revel in this trend since it opens up an opportunity for them. I am still troubled by the trend because of the potential effect on democracy itself. We need a strong, bipartisan press - not a further erosion into fragmented partisan camps.

For democracy to survive, we need to find a way to have a bona fide conversation on issues. Blogs provide a technological fix. Now we need an economic and intellectual fix in news management.

More at The Locust Fork, where you can also add your comments.

Posted by: Glynn Wilson at May 4, 2005 12:07 AM | Permalink

From the Intro