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PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
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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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June 15, 2005

One Tribe in Press Nation: PressThink Wins an Award

"I find it interesting that I got this news from Reporters Without Borders after my last post questioning whether 'citizen of the world' is a valid ID for an American journalist in Iraq. Aren't reporters without borders citizens of the world?..." My acceptance notes.

PressThink, I learned today, won its first ever award: the Reporters Without Borders Freedom Blog Award for sites “defending freedom of expression.” It was an international contest, and Web users (anyone who wanted to vote and had a valid address) were the choosers. PressThink won for “the Americas.” I don’t know how many there were, but thanks to all who voted and to Reporters sans frontières for the nomination (we were one of 60.) Here’s the announcement page and a BBC story.

It’s a serious honor to share that page with Shared Pains, which is a blog from Afghanistan in Persian, with Al Jinane, written in French by a Moroccan, with ICTlex, which is like an Italian Lessig, with, or Net Politics in German, and especially with Mojtaba Saminejad of Iran (whose story of imprisonment is told here and here) and Screenshots…by Jeff Ooi (see Dan Gillmor on Ooi’s struggle with the thought police in Malaysia.) For them, international recognition is vital, possibly a matter of life and death. They have hostile regimes to deal with. I have Howard Kurtz. Web voters and Reporters Sans Frontières did a great thing, an important thing by recognizing Mojtaba Saminejad and Jeff Ooi.

I find it interesting that I got this news from Reporters Without Borders after my last post questioning whether “citizen of the world” is a valid ID for an American journalist in Iraq. Aren’t reporters without borders citizens of the world? The questions rise anew: in journalism is there a craft identity not based in the category of nation, and are there universals in a practice like reporting the news?

The press conference, the credential around the neck, the need for quotes, the anonymous source, the official handout that doesn’t have the story but you grab it, the one best camera and mike position, the reporter’s notebook, the deadline, the Q and A with politician, the bland spokesman, the uncooperative official, the dreaded police, the conflict between correspondent in the field and desk at home: these may be universal. More or less.

It is certain that there is solidarity among journalists across countries. That’s what Reporters sans frontières, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and International Freedom of Expression Exchange (but also Editorsweblog) are all about. Threats to a free press are similar everywhere. The knock at the door: the same.

We know that the right to gather and publish the news, and then comment on it, without fear of arrest or harassment, is not universally established. But if it is valid everywhere this creates a universal principle, similar to the better known principles of human rights. Even though there is no world body that can establish the right to operate a free press, the body of people who believe in that right exists worldwide. The state of their union counts for something. In that sense—global solidarity around a principal right of mankind—a trans-national identity is a real and necessary thing in journalism. Not to mention blogging.

I could have mentioned some of this in doubting Bob Franken’s construct, “When I’m reporting, I am a citizen of the world.” Instead, I am saying it now.

But there is another sense in which we need a journalism without borders, also known to the people at Reporters sans frontières, whose awards recognize no firm boundary between the press and the bloggers worldwide. This is a press organization giving awards to bloggers. That’s because bloggers are the press for purposes of extending in political space the freedom to publish news and commentary. In my paper for Harvard’s Berkman Center, Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over, I made note of this:

With blogging, an awkward term, we designate a fairly beautiful thing: the extension to many more people of a First Amendment franchise, the right to publish your thoughts to the world. Wherever blogging spreads the dramas of free expression follow… A blog, you see, is a little First Amendment machine.

I tried to sum it up by adding a coda to A.J. Liebling’s famous remark: “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, and blogging means practically anyone can own one.” And I believe that is still the case— in principle. But freedom to have a weblog that speaks freely goes country-by-country as a matter of political fact.

The wonder of it all can be over stated. And if you’re suspicious of the romance in citizen journalism, I really cannot blame you. But let’s not under-state the part that is real: increasingly journalists have to share title to the press, and deal with a new class of producers online. We might put it this way: Professional journalists are one tribe in Press Nation, and there are others.

It seems to me that the RSF Freedom Blog Awards are about that. The awards are a recognition ceremony across groups that see in the atavistic state a common enemy. Alas, only in nation states does press freedom—for bloggers and journalists—become real. We “owe” the nation our understanding of that.

The people of the Pulitzers and the Dupont Awards are one tribe in press nation. PressThink says it takes more than one to make for a truly free press these days. Does that make this a “freedom of expression” blog any more than the next fellow blogging? Probably not. Still, I accept. (With acknowledgments to the other finalists in “the Americas” category: Dan Gillmor and Politech, each a free expression.)

I said professional journalists were one tribe, bloggers are kind of another. It seems one purpose of PressThink is to stay between the two with ideas, questions and proposals. Here’s one for my colleagues and friends in the Media Bloggers Association. Maybe next year we should give out our awards to the Big Journalism people with the most generous and expansive understanding of a free press.

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…

Jeff Ooi at Screenshots… “I sincerely thank you for your votes of endorsement, not for me, but to uphold the freedom of speech in the little sphere that we have.”

Blogs to the rescue: Tom Watson and others have taken up the cause of the Pakistani anti-rape activist Mukhtaran Bibi, a remarkable and courageous woman detained by the authorities. Read about her in Nick Kristof’s column.

Jeff Jarvis returns from a confab with journalists and academics: “I sometimes hear a defeatism in journalism today — mixed with anger and defiance.”

Our new world of weblogs and citizens’ media is all about possibilities — many of them unrealized, I grant — while the world of the big, old media is increasingly about worry: fretting over declining revenue, resources, audience, quality, trust. That is one good reason for big media to embrace the small, rather than trying to recapture the old: It’s optimistic, energetic, new, open, growing, and fun; it’s the medium in the better mood and that’s catching. In short: Bloggers make better barmates.

Jarvis also notes that the BBC has posted a comprehensive and free course in shooting video. “By teaching those who care to learn, the BBC is building an army of news-gatherers in the world. One of them could be there when the huge story happens. One of them will be inspired to go out and report a story. And that video will end up on the air — on the BBC or on the internet or elsewhere — and we’re all better informed.”

Maureen Dowd made her name with this method of analysis. Baristanet: The High School Model of Media Heirarchy.

There were over 2,000 credentialed media here in Santa Maria covering the trial, and as with high school, there was a definite pecking order. All the cliques were represented: the hotties, smart people, rebels and burnouts. Like high school, everyone was keenly aware of where they stood on the social ladder, and spent most of their time obsessing over it. Here’s a handy guide (which you can clip and use for future celebrity trials):

Network TV Anchors = Football Quarterback / Head Cheerleader
This is the absolute top of the social pyramid. They have huge entourages who form a protective circle at all times. Everyone laughs at their jokes, and they’re never even seen at Cafe Diem (the trial’s equivalent of the cafeteria). Even the police and court staff are impressed with them and let them go places they’re not supposed to go. (Kinda like a geeky science teacher who can’t bring himself to fail that hot cheerleader, because even he is excited that she knows his name). Stone Phillips from Dateline NBC is one of them. He has the thickest hair of any human living or dead.

The rest is sharp and funny. It goes all the way through the tribe down to the bottom. Read.

Steve Outing of Poynter, The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism: “A resource guide to help you figure out how to put this industry trend to work for you and your newsroom.” Outing starts with the simplest and easiest steps (“Opening up to public comment”) and works through to the most advanced, like “Wiki journalism: Where the readers are editors.”

My suggestion for the name of National Review’s new media blog was Right Justified. Doc Searls said he loved it, and said NR founder William F. Buckley would too. Now I learned that Right Justified has made the finals. I’m rooting for it, but I still think they will go with something blander like “Press Gallery.” (Village Voice uses the equally bland “Press Clips.”)

To me this is all vaguely amusing. The bravely ideological lions become lambs when they have to approach the press with a political idea. So they pick safe meaningless centrist newspapery titles— the opposite of their self-image. Press Clips. Press Gallery. Press Conference is author Stephen Spruiell’s fave… okay: how about Press This?

We’re in the ex-ex-cathedra editorial page era at the Los Angeles Times: Wherein the boss of the opinion pages, Michael Kinsley, brings them down from the mountaintop. Things took a new turn this week, as noted by Kevin Roderick at LA Observed. The editorial page dropped all discussion of issues and events (for one day) and each editorial writer told LA Times readers how that writer commutes to work.

Now that’s coming down to the street from the cathedral, almost literally. Thus the ex-ex-cathedra era in Kinsley’s domain. I like Kevin Roderick’s headline: They drive, they ride, etc. Here a post with all his coverage of changes Kinsley and deputy Andrés Martinez have made.

Heather Green, Business Week blogger, and Jeff Jarvis point to this statement from Floyd Abrams, the attorney defending Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper in their refusal to name confidential sources. From the PBS Newshour:

TERENCE SMITH: Well, what about a blogger, Floyd Abrams?

FLOYD ABRAMS: I was asked that today, and I said as I say here, I think a blogger ought to be protected also. It seems to me that the purpose of this privilege is to protect the people who play a function in American life.

It’s not to protect reporters as such. It’s to protect people who gather information and disseminate it on a widespread basis to the public. So I think eventually if there is a privilege, and that’s one of the things the court’s going to deal with, but if there is a privilege here, whether it’s rooted in the First Amendment or what’s called federal common law, I think it should apply to bloggers as well.

His notion that the people who play a function in American life deserve protection is dead on. His description of what that “job” is (gathering & disseminating public information) is neutral between tribes. It’s the people who do the job that journalism is supposed to do, says the First Amendment attorney-of-record for the New York Times. Not the people who have the job title: journalist.

Thus, instead of protecting journalists as a class we protect the right to play the journalist’s part in public life, which “anyone” might need at one time or another. I find that a more attractive legal doctrine. Closer to reality. Wiser politically. And it creates common ground.

Posted by Jay Rosen at June 15, 2005 9:09 PM   Print


Jay, mazel tov - i think you win for sticking it out, consistency, and purpose.

I've been on this 24-hour jag pushing for release of Mukhtaran Bibi, the heroic Pakistani woman Nick Kristoff has written about. Well, we've managed to get more that 40 blogs involved so far (amazingly, Jarvis hasn't joined in - despite my invite, and I was hoping he'd lead), but it brings up a point relevent to what you're discussing above.

Not only that paid "real" journalists versus bloggers, but bloggers as an extension - as a operating corps - extending good reporting. To me, this is what happened in the Bibi case, and apparently, in 24 hours, the Pakistani government is listening - I am frankly surprised, happily so.

Here are the links:

Posted by: Tom Watson at June 15, 2005 9:32 PM | Permalink

Congratulations, Jay.
I was just coming by to let you know I was going to
tell my readers to come read you while I switch my blog to minimal power as I deal with a bunch of education projects due as part of my career change.

I would like sometime to hear your thoughts on this topic/question I blogged about and specifically, why some important stories get the media's attention and
others don't. Is it dumb luck?Too hard to follow-up on stories that don't fit the planned

Anyway, congrats again.

Drop me an email sometime.

Posted by: Scott Butki at June 15, 2005 10:30 PM | Permalink

Congratulations on the award. You mentioned RSF and CPJ as organisations that defend press freedom.

You can add the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) to that - a network of press freedom
groups that monitors attacks on journalists around the world. The website contains the largest online archive of information about these violations:

Keep up the good work.

Posted by: geoffrey chan at June 16, 2005 12:17 AM | Permalink

Indeed, congratulations are in order Jay.

You have built a huge tent and hungry readers come here from every corner of the world.

To boot, no one had to vote early and often since the tent includes just about any political streak or hue ;-)

Posted by: Jozef Imrich at June 16, 2005 6:43 AM | Permalink

Thanks so much Jozef, Scott, Tom. Geoffery: I added IFEX to the post, so thanks.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 16, 2005 9:42 AM | Permalink

I congratulated you on my blog yesterday. Thick skin has its rewards!

In his in absentia testimony before Conyers' committee hearing on the Downing Street Memo today, Greg Palast situates the US media's allergy to the story in the context of the apparently continuing Newspapers vs. Blog wars. Some of you might want to check it out.

The New York Times wagged its finger about how dubious opposition to authority is in principle while Buzzflash posted the facts democracy needs to function in Bushworld. Who is the defender of press freedom? You be the judge.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at June 16, 2005 9:52 AM | Permalink

Congratulations on having a great place without many flame wars.

But I'm not psychotic.
And neither am I.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 16, 2005 10:42 AM | Permalink

Congratulations, Jay. You're a thoughtful, borad-minded liberal (which, of course, is the larval form of a conservative convert, given the right conditions).

Posted by: Trained Auditor at June 16, 2005 11:01 AM | Permalink

For being a champion of blogging as a new form of journalism entitled to protection under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, you deserve the award for sure, Jay.

Let's just hope the right holds up under attack by the political right and its growing number of judicial appointees.

Remember, we have no real copyright protection online yet. My plagiarism lawsuit against Kitty Kelly proved that. And no one seems to be working on it, except me.

But hey, that's life in the blogosphere.

Meanwhile, what's up with the Media Bloggers Association? I sent in the paperwork a couple of months ago and never heard a word back. Oh well, I guess 26 years of experience means nothing to all the Harvard and Yale grads out there, along with all the writers in residence in New York.

Congrats and keep up the good work.

Posted by: fast2write [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2005 2:33 PM | Permalink

Enough of the congratulatory warm fuzzies, let's get back to the flaming. I miss the smell of barbecued Lovelady in Navasky sauce.

Posted by: Gary at June 16, 2005 8:02 PM | Permalink


Posted by: Alice Marshall at June 16, 2005 9:29 PM | Permalink

"Enough of the congratulatory warm fuzzies, let's get back to the flaming. I miss the smell of barbecued Lovelady in Navasky sauce."
Now that's funny.
Good one, Gary. The first PressThink post I've read that made me smile.
One of these days, I'm sure I'll meet, or hear from, the elusive Victor Navasky.
I'm told his new book is a must-read, and it's said he's a lovely guy.
Sooner or later, we have to run in to each other.
I'll let you know when it happens.
Stay tuned.


Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 16, 2005 10:28 PM | Permalink

Congratulations on the award! Impressive work, great blog!


Posted by: francessa at June 17, 2005 6:02 AM | Permalink

Hey Gary, you don't have to flame Lovelady, he flames himself. Check out Lovelady's contribution today at CJR Daily----it's about Tom Cruise and the Reader's Digest----enquiring minds want to know!

Posted by: kilgore trout at June 17, 2005 12:58 PM | Permalink

Too much transparency for you, Kilgore ?

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 17, 2005 3:55 PM | Permalink

There ya go. That's the Press Think I know and love.

Oh yeah - congrats Jay. This site is a very interesting read.

Posted by: Gary at June 17, 2005 6:47 PM | Permalink

From the last comment on the previous post: Thanks to all who participated, even if y'all are 96 percent male.

Not me, dude; I'm 100%.

Congratulations on the award.

Posted by: weldon berger at June 18, 2005 3:46 AM | Permalink

Jay, the RSF award is well deserved. You've earned it. By writing about pressthink, you've humanized a complex organization and made available to readers information they need to be smarter and more understanding of the product.

For that, you've also earned my respect, my thanks, and my vote for this award.

Posted by: Sisyphus at June 18, 2005 11:09 AM | Permalink

I think it would be nice if deleted comments, which insult nobody, include explanations.

I wonder what the developing blog etiquette is for such?

Though of course, banned writers are banned.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 18, 2005 6:47 PM | Permalink

I'm no lawyer. Nor do I play one on TV.

But haven't the courts fairly consistently ruled that the 1st Amendment's focus is on the individual, that is, those acting as journalists - not the job title.

For nearly three decades in the News Dodge, I've worked under the understanding I acted as the eyes and ears of the public who couldn't get into the courtroom or City Hall. I was not so much a 'journalist' as I was a stand-in.

To the degree that there is a certain arrogance and class-awareness among some journalists, it's that they've forgotten that distinction.

That said, Congratulations, Jay. This blog can be infuriating at times. And inspiring. But it's always good conversation.

Posted by: David McLemore at June 18, 2005 6:56 PM | Permalink

"For nearly three decades in the News Dodge, I've worked under the understanding I acted as the eyes and ears of the public who couldn't get into the courtroom or City Hall. I was not so much a 'journalist' as I was a stand-in."
-- Dave McLemore

Exactly, Dave. I was taught that from the beginning (and for me the beginning was 41 years ago).
Any reporter or editor worth his salt understands that he is the reader's surrogate. No more, no less.
That's the point of the whole exercise.
If you're there for any other purpose, you're just in the way. And you might as well turn to another useful occupation -- carpentry, say -- and make a lot more money.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 18, 2005 7:53 PM | Permalink

Thank you, all, for your observations as well as the mazel tov's and such.

I know Victor Navasky reasonably well and have for quite some time. I like him and always have. He once told me "public journalism" would take over my life if I didn't watch out. I didn't, and it did. He's an extremely intelligent and sensitive man. Slow to anger. Hard to convince. Learned. Knows a lot about the right, its history since Goldwater and its ideas. Way more than your average mushy-headed centrist newsroom head would. He would, for example, be more open to having a conservative columnist at CJR than most editors because he would think ideology plays a larger role in journalism than journalists sometimes think. (These are my own speculations, not Victor's positions, of course.)

Navasky often says there is an ideology of the right, an ideology of the left, and an ideology of the middle-- which I have found a very useful and reliable observation. Although he is a man highly attuned to ideology and shades of opinion, and definitely, firmly, deeply a man of the left, he is not an ideologue at all. He is used to mediating among factions, not being one.

David M. writes: "I acted as the eyes and ears of the public who couldn't get into the courtroom or City Hall. I was not so much a 'journalist' as I was a stand-in. To the degree that there is a certain arrogance and class-awareness among some journalists, it's that they've forgotten that distinction."

Agreed. I also agree with you that PressThink can be infuriating at times.

But slow things down a little. (That's half of what I think PressThink is about, slowing down the thinking of the press so we can get a clear look at it.) Without disagreeing with your philosophy at all, David, some of the people for whom you were standing in are saying, "thank you for your years of service, and keep at it, by all all means, but I want to do it myself now..." It being journalism.

I think there is a little moment of truth for news professionals at that point. It's easy to breeze past it. Citizens as journalists. Do they really think that's a good idea? Or in the heart of hearts, do they believe theirs is a job professionals have to do for busy clients? That's probably a close call in most newsrooms.

The professional model runs deep. It sinks into self and springs up as "character." People don't change that very easily when they think they have it right. I believe you when you say: I always thought I was a stand-in for them. But the "them" there, the public you were standing in for was at that time theoretical.

Now the questions are cutting closer. The public is closing in. One's beliefs are tested. My radar went way up when I saw how eagerly journalists snapped up the fake-savvy observation that blogs are just opinion, they aren't "news." There was something too eager in this conclusion. The believers in this simple-minded statement wanted to be rid of an anxiety, I felt. What was it?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 18, 2005 11:00 PM | Permalink

So, journalists quickly adopted a 'fake-savvy' observation that blogs aren't news, they're opinion. Eagerly, even.

"The believers in this simple-minded statement wanted to be rid of an anxiety," Jay says. What was it, he asks?


I have no doubt there are reporters/editors/etc. shaking in fear at the citizen journalism revolt. And react with smug arrogance. There is too often the sense of dinosaurs watching the meteor approach Earth in some newsrooms.

There are a some blogs, I suppose, that operate on a news model. But by far the most popular across the spectrum -- kos, atrios, powerline, instapundit -- are op/ed sections. With discussion boards that all too quickly devolve into shouting matches.

That may be facile. I don't pretend to be an expert. What are the examples of those blogs that practice breaking news rather than analyzing and talking about it?

Posted by: David McLemore at June 19, 2005 1:48 AM | Permalink

One thing that I think people don't talk about enough is the context that citizen journalists are doing their work in: a media-rich environment, or a media-poor one?

With H2otown, I work in a media-poor environment. We have one weekly newspaper with only one reporter. In much of what I'm doing I'm not competing with or replacing anybody, because nobody's doing it.

Other newsblogs operate in an intensely media-rich environment, like covering Washington politics. Each story in this arena will have dozens of outlets covering it, and now some of the outlets are blogs, sometimes covering things firsthand (think FishbowlDC getting credentialed to go to White House press briefings, or bloggers at the national political conventions). How do the other people in the pool, who work for newspapers or TV feel about the bloggers. As they scan across the row of heads, do they notice them?

Within a media company, who pays attention to blogs, and who is in a position to make any experiments? My suspicion is (and it's nothing more than that, as I have no hope of inside knowledge) that reporters read blogs because they're fun, but that in large part they don't affect how they do or perhaps think about their jobs (unless, perhaps, you are Jody Wilgoren). I suspect they're not allowed to put anything on the paper's (magazine's, TV net's) website, because there's a huge production chain between them filing a story and it coming out the other end as a newspaper or a tv show; and the Web is the last and poorest stop on this train. At larger media companies there's undoubtedly some vice president with a very large powerpoint deck featuring Craigslist and limited in large part to new commercial initiatives like Backfence and NowPublic, and very little knowledge of noncommercial news stuff like WikiNews et. al, and no knowledge of the relative traffic or (more important) active community size of any of them.

And then there's news *filter* blogs (of which there are a great number more) which help the reader by picking out stories from a rich media environment of TV, newspapers, magazines, and, of course, other blogs, and provide commentary and a town square for discussion.

Posted by: Lisa Williams at June 19, 2005 11:40 AM | Permalink

Oh, and congratulations!

Posted by: Lisa Williams at June 19, 2005 11:47 AM | Permalink

Hey thanks, Lisa. David: Would you call this op ed like? Or this?

In any case, my point was not that blog after blog presents breaking news, thus threatening the daily journalism franchise. Most don't do that. But "op ed" is not a particularly good description, either.

My observation was that journalists were extremely eager--too eager-- to label blogs "op ed" and confine the significance of blogging to that (just opinion, people venting) thus justifying a lack of curiosity or a closed mind. Among the developments missed in this eagerness is the "news filter" function that Lisa pointed to. That isn't "breaking news" or opinion, really. It's just something new.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 19, 2005 6:04 PM | Permalink

To my admittedly limited understanding, Jay, the 'filters'Lisa brought up and such sites as you listed last are the Webs best contribution newswise.

It gets the widest amount of information (as opposed to rumor, bile, innuendo and opinion) to the most people possible. That's a good thing.

My point, to the extent I have one, is that the explosion of blogs has a tendency to redefine opinion as news. That is a worrisome point.

Posted by: Dave In Texas at June 19, 2005 10:40 PM | Permalink

Op-ed is closer to news-in-practice than most reporters are comfy with.

Op-ed explicitly states why the author thinks something is important, some "value".

News often implicitly states this.
Op-ed usually explicitly states the preferred political policy (power, what is to be done?).

The answer to that question of what should be done is not a story of news facts, it's a story of how real world facts interact with values, and perhaps change values -- which may change policy prescriptions.

Many news stories implicitly include a policy -- as part of the "story"; otherwise the facts are really boring.

The censorship of so many Latin America and African news is based, to some extent, on a lack of a preferred policy, to "fix the story" around.

In Rhodesia & S. Africa 20 years ago, it was "end apartheid". Now that Mugabe has been running Zimbabwe into the dirt, where is the coverage? Lots more are dying; his gov't is oppressing the poor blacks to a greater extent -- yet what is the story? What is to be done?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 20, 2005 6:33 AM | Permalink

From the Intro