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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

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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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December 17, 2005

Two Washington Posts May Be Better Than One

"They're not equals, but Washington and Arlington have their own spheres. Over the newspaper and reporting beats Len Downie is king. Over the website Jim Brady is sovereign. Over the user’s experience no one has total control. There's tension because there's supposed to be tension."

New post alert: Froomkin writes in. See Dan Froomkin on Attitude in White House Briefing (Dec. 19).

For me the most interesting moment in the Dan Froomkin dust up came during an exchange between bosses in Editor and Publisher. Leonard Downie, big boss at the Washington Post, stated his concerns about Froomkin’s White House Briefing, a Web column. “We want to make sure people in the Administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin’s column because it contains opinion,” Downie told E&P. “And that readers of the Web site understand that, too.” A change in title would help, he believed.

Now you would think that if Len Downie wanted it done, people would do it. He is the executive editor of the Washington Post. Except there’s another executive editor: Jim Brady, who oversees, a separate but related domain. This situation gave rise to the ombudsman column that started the whole Froomkin tussle this week. Deborah Howell’s original was called The Two Washington Posts. As she explained: “The Post Web site is owned by the Washington Post Co., but it is not run by the newspaper. It is a separate company called Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive, or WPNI, with offices in Arlington.”

Brady Says No

Across the Potomac, the other boss, Jim Brady, said he had no plans to change the name of Froomkin’s column. He didn’t buy the charge that confused readers thought Froomkin was a White House beat reporter. “The column has been on the site for two years and that is not something we have heard,” Brady told E & P. White House Briefing is extremely popular with users, he said, “and it is not going anywhere.”

Len Downie understood. “They decide what the column ought to be called,” he said. (They being Brady’s crew.) “We have discussed it and they will decide what to do.” Or as Editor and Publisher put it: “‘Wash Post’ Editor and Others Want Froomkin Column Renamed — But Online Chief Says No.” Political editor John Harris agreed that changing the name is Brady’s call, but: “I think it would be an error not to.” (See my last post, where I interviewed Brady and Harris and tracked the discussion of the episode. Also see Brad DeLong’s follow-up phone call with Harris.)

Brady told me that he would continue to talk to the Post newsroom about it. But with Dan Froomkin, Columnist, at the top of the page next to his picture, and “Special to” under his name (instead of “Washington Post Staff Writer,” which is what it says for reporters) plus a subdomain called> Columns it’s pretty clear that he’s a columnist.

The problem comes—if there is any problem—from the words White House and “briefing.” Do they mislead us by suggesting that Froomkin is actually stationed at the White House? Post White House reporter Peter Baker says so: “I have heard concerns that people might think he is a reporter in the White House briefing room.”

Leading with the chin

Yeah, but what people? In the E & P article, Downie seemed most worried about Bush supporters and their perceptions of the Post. Listen again: “We want to make sure people in the Administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin’s column because it contains opinion.” John Harris told me: “I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair.” Also: “To the extent that some people believe Dan represents the voice and values of the Washington Post newsroom, that seems to me to be leading with our chin.”

From reading Froomkin’s column “people” might get the impression that the Washington Post newsroom is biased against Bush. That is what Harris and company are saying. They want to put as much distance as possible between the Post’s White House reporting, and Froomkin’s White House Briefing. A title change (recommended also by the ombudsman) is supposed to accomplish that.

But… “Online Chief Says No.” Under the surface this was the Web side of the Post saying “NO” to political pressure from the Republicans, which took the form of griping about an effective Bush critic, Dan Froomkin—“his work is tendentious and unfair”—by sources in, and friends of, the White House. The beat reporters felt they couldn’t ignore it. Brady, I believe, felt they should ignore it. (Though he didn’t say that directly.) And if they wouldn’t, he would.

Dual centers of power

Some sharp words were exchanged this week, but there’s no sign of any big or chronic conflicts between the two Posts; and that is ultimately the more telling thing. is succeeding journalistically, and the Post newsroom is succeeding on the Web. And responsible for this success are two different centers of power.

They’re not equals (780 in one newsroom vs. 65 in the other; fewer than one million subscribers vs. eight million users), but Washington and Arlington have their own spheres. Over the newspaper and reporting beats Len Downie is king. Over the website Jim Brady is sovereign. Over the user’s experience no one has total control. There’s tension because there’s supposed to be tension. It makes for a more dynamic site.

What the brief struggle over White House Briefing showed me is the hidden advantages of a divided house. For if you have two newsrooms, with two bosses, and two staffs, then you can double your pressthink, and expand signficantly the range of ideas considered acceptable at the Washington Post. This is exactly what newspaper journalism needs in the age of the Web. More range. More than one ruling doctine in charge. More than one sensibility in place.

For example, among John Harris, Peter Baker, Len Downie and others who think as they do, the strict separation between “news” and “opinion” is clear, compelling, necessary, and wise. Only good can flow from it. Credibility itself rides on it. Common sense coheres in it. There is validity to their system, and over the long run it has served the newspaper well, but it is not universally valid. Nor does it have an answer for everything— especially in times of platform change and politicized attacks on the press.

The big tent

Why do people become loyal readers of Dan Froomkin’s White House Briefing? Is it for the news they find in it, or the opinion? After reading the column three of four times you learn it’s both, plus Froomkin’s voice and passion, his facts, his best-of links, his criticism of the White House press. As Jeff Jarvis says: “it all fits in the big tent of journalism, if those who think they own that tent will allow it.”

A lot of times they won’t allow it. This was one. They tried to put their foot down, but to do that they had to make arguments and engage the ideas of others online. The newspaper’s mental sectioning (news vs. opinion) might help the beat reporters explain to Republican sources that “Hey, Froomkin isn’t us,” but it’s not helpful for understanding how his column works (pattern recognition), what it’s really about (matching words to deeds), and why even the suggestion of clipping his wings brought out such passions in users. (Witness 900+ comments at this post.)

Observe: During the Froomkin flap this week USA Today announced that it would go the opposite route and merge its two newsrooms—newspaper and Web—into one.

The New York Times did the same thing earlier this year. The Times said that in the years ahead it would have to “invent a digital journalism” and devise new services for readers that can earn revenues. “We have concluded that our best chance of meeting that challenge is to integrate the two newsrooms into one,” wrote Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, in August.

Different puzzles to solve

It is clear that Donald Graham, CEO of the Washington Post Company, has a different idea. And so this is another case—the most famous is Times Select—where the New York Times and Washington Post are choosing different routes as they try to make it across the digital divide. In Graham’s view, Arlington and Washington have different puzzles to solve. “Putting out the newspaper is a demanding, more-than-full-time job,” he told Howell. “The Web site has an equally demanding challenge, having to make its way against brilliant competitors who are constantly unrolling new products. The Post and WPNI must cooperate but must also find a way to do quite different jobs.”

One of Brad DeLong’s readers, Robert Waldman, made a shrewd observation:

The problem here which created the need for a public confrontation is that Downie can not rename a column in He needs to publicly argue with Brady…

Which is true. Another reader said:

I think Waldmann’s theory is correct. It is the separation of editorial power between the print section of WaPo and the on-line section that made the problem of remaining in the good graces of the WH propaganda machine difficult to manage.

A shorter to way to say it: Bill Keller could have simply ordered the name change, and White House reporters at the New York Times would not have had to engage in any public wrangling about it (or explain their thinking.) The separation of powers allows Graham’s company to develop a pluralism in its own pressthink and political sense-making. This is way easier than making Webbies of newsroom curmudgeons. There can be a looser and more open environment, and a more traditional “strict separations” newsroom; talented people will vote with their feet.

Donald Graham does not have to decide whose ideas shall be the ruling wisdom in the news and commentary world to come. This is good because no one’s that smart. I think John Harris learned as much this week. My advice: Keep the separation of powers, Washington Post. It’s helping you get your act together.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links.

New PressThink, Dec. 19: Dan Froomkin on Attitude in White House Briefing: “There’s been much speculation over whether my column would take the same approach with a Democrat…”

All the details, background and reactions you could want are at my first post, John Harris and Jim Brady Get Into It About “White House Briefing.” Dan Froomkin Replies.

Anecdote about innovation at WPNI: I participated in the comment threads at Joel Achenbach’s blog on the Post site because he wrote about Froomkin (here and here.) I suggested in a “heads up” way to Brady, Achenbach and WPNI’s Hal Straus that the Froomkin squall showed how vital it was to have permalinks to each comment at Post blogs. (Like this post.) I would have linked to some of the things readers said, and added value to the Post’s site, said I. But I couldn’t because the Post doesn’t have that feature turned on. This was in an e-mail Dec. 14. The next day they added permalinks to comments in Post blogs.

For those less Webbie, “add permalinks” means each comment gets its own address (url) and thus becomes a page on the WWW. Matters because a blogger can now send you to that comment with a link— like this.

Greensboro’s John Robinson—what Newspaper Editor 2.0 might be like—reports (at his blog) on a year of tentative progress at the News-Record in crossing the digital divide. “So we blogged. We solicited citizen journalism. We started podcasts. We added audio. We dipped a toe in video. We did slide shows and multi-media.” The surprise?

Unlike the presumption that ink-stained wretches rebel at the idea that they “have” to do anything other than write for the print publication, most of our staff understands where the business is headed, and they want to play. During a staff meeting last week, reporters asked for more training with online tools and equipment. We have a waiting list for those who want to blog.

A waiting list: exactly. Robinson says they’re not stopping. One year ago at PressThink: Action in Greensboro on Open Source Journalism. (Dec. 18, 2004)

New at Buzzmachine (Dec. 19). Jeff Jarvis begins a series of “how-to” posts on ways to re-make the newsroom for the Web era. This one argues: “The first job is to instill fear in the newsroom.”

The endlessly provocative Brad DeLong asks: Is the Washington Post Newsroom Insane?

Tim Schmoyer at Sisyphean Musings is curious about what Froomkin means by “accountability journalism” and how it differs from the “watchdog” variety. He also fact-checks some White House Briefing columns.

DC Media Girl: “Editors and reporters at the paper have always had a sniffy, ‘not in our class, dear’ attitude towards their Web counterparts, whom they see as a bunch of ruffians.”

Jeff Jarvis replies to this post and says he disagrees about the divided house: One newsrooms, two newsrooms, or none?

If newspapers themselves do not change radically to embrace the future, they will become things of the past. So I have argued that newspapers have a choice: Either totally upend newsroom culture and get people to face the strategic imperative of gathering and sharing news in new ways across all platforms … or move most of the staff to online — where the audience is now and revenue growth, if not equivalent revenue, will be — and leave the dinosaurs behind.

Keeping the Post separate from the online operation allows the “newsroom princes” to remain blind, says Jeff.

That is why Post political editor John Harris thought he could be so haughty as to publicly scold his online colleagues for not following his rules and for embarrassing him with his White House, even snaring the — what shall I say, unsuspecting? — ombudsman in his crusade.

No, Harris and company do not need to confront the online people. They need to confront the future. They need to confront the fact that more readers read the online product. They need to confront the fact that the economics of news are changing, whether they approve or not.

I say the Post is making more progress this way. I also believe that talented young people with Net sensibilities and contributions to make to journalism’s future won’t join the old newsrooms, and they won’t floursh in the “merged” environments, either. But they might be drawn to an outfit like WPNI. The six-column kings and deadline princes Jeff refers to cannot be forced to learn. No one can drag them into the future— or even make them dwell in the present. Curmudgeons are proud of their ignorance, and they will retire that way.

Jarvis replies in the comments and I answer him back. Also see the comments at Buzzmachine, including this one on why the Wall Street Journal’s newsroom has adapted so well to the 24-hour Web.

The One True b!X, a talented blogger who followed local politics in Portland, Oregon—also a PressThink reader—explains in a piece published in the Oregonian why he quit the beat: “My work as a full-time blogger exposed me to more demagoguery (… from officials, candidates, columnists, readers, and bloggers alike) than I could handle.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at December 17, 2005 1:23 AM   Print


If you want to get technical, we're actually three newsrooms. :P

And yes, Express is a real paper, with its own staff and its own original content. I'm proud to support them.

Posted by: erik at December 17, 2005 3:03 AM | Permalink

John Harris told me: “I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair.” Also: “To the extent that some people believe Dan represents the voice and values of the Washington Post newsroom, that seems to me to be leading with our chin.”

this is true if the Post's chin is its best feature.

The question I'd like to hear Downie and Harris address is "what is the difference between the articles that appear in the news section under "analysis", and "opinion"? When Baker decrees that "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" is a "clear" rather than "vague" statement of Bush's policy on Iraq, why is that "analysis" and not "opinion"?

My guess is that "analysis" is always "reverent", and because there are times that Froomkin is "irreverent" (i.e. doesn't suck up to Bush) he's "opinionating". But the very act of being "reverent" is an expression of an opinion, isn't it?

Posted by: ami at December 17, 2005 5:37 AM | Permalink

I agree that the separation of editorial power at WaPo is a good thing.

Bloggers have tried to distinguish themselves from the traditional personal online journal/homepage, forums, bulletin boards, .... Why? Arguably it all falls under the broader umbrella called journalism, does it not?

How much of this concern between reporters and what Froomkin does can be compared to Bloggers v. Journalists?

Posted by: Sisyphus at December 17, 2005 9:30 AM | Permalink

CJR online joins the debate

....and Jane over at Firedoglake (with a hat tip to Anonymous Liberal) explains how CJR is exhibiting an uncharacteristic level of cluelessness (Sorry Steve) on this particular topic....

Posted by: ami at December 17, 2005 11:16 AM | Permalink

"Under the surface this was the web side of the Post saying “NO” to political pressure from the Republicans— the griping about an effective Bush critic, Dan Froomkin, by sources in (and friends of) the White House." - Jay, above.

It seems too cute by half to dismiss Downie and Harris' concerns, about the effect of Froomkin's column on the Post's credibility, as simply Republican-inspired.

Froomkin clearly wants to burnish his reputation as a special, apolitical kind of op-ed columnist: "I'm not taking a political stand"; he refuses to concede the liberal ideology that suffuses his column; he drapes his opinions in the title "White House Briefing", despite the fact that he does not address readers from the White House briefing room. Message: I, Froomkin, am more credible and insightful than the mere ideologically-motivated hack columnist who opines from lesser places.

I say credible because a presumed impartial referee (i.e. apolitical, which Froomkin clearly wishes to portray himself as) has more credibility to most readers* than an ideologue, and such credibility is often a prerequisite for influence with readers.*

By doing so, Froomkin is in effect utilizing the reputation for (ostensible) objectivity earned by the Post's White House reporters to portray his column as something more than it is.

The flip side, however, is that Froomkin's obvious ideologically-driven hackery becomes associated with the Post's real White House briefing reporters. As the credibility they have earned with readers*, by their reputation for impartiality, rubs off onto Froomkin, so in turn does Froomkin's evident ideology rub off onto the Post's reporters.

So, if Brady's decsion is allowed to stand, the title of Froomkin's column won't be changed due to a standoff between two children of The Washington Post Company. Very well: The Post's White House reporters will become increasingly identified with the ideology promulgated in the "White House Briefing". So which is more important to The Washington Post Company: Froomkin's glomming onto the Post's credibility with readers*, or the credibility and reputation for impartiality of the Post's White House reporters? (Donald Graham, Len Downie is holding for you on line one...)

* By readers I don't mean the devout conservatives, who are already suspicious of the Post. Nor do I mean fervent liberals who already believe Froomkin more credible because they feel the Post's White House reporters have been co-opted by their access and proximity to the White House. I mean all the other readers who's minds are not already made up.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at December 17, 2005 12:22 PM | Permalink

I say credible because a presumed impartial referee (i.e. apolitical, which Froomkin clearly wishes to portray himself as) has more credibility to most readers* than an ideologue, and such credibility is often a prerequisite for influence with readers.*

Froomkin is not asking to be considered apolitical -- I don't think he'd have any difficulty acknowledging that he is passionate
about politics.

He is, however, non-partisan --- and there is a huge difference. His criticism of Bush and the administration are not because Bush is a republican; nor simply because Bush is a "conservative"; those criticisms are based on what Bush does (and does not) do.

....and the bottom line is that Froomkin's criticism of Bush is concentrated on the efforts of the White House to "control the message", not on particular policies as policies, but on the dishonest fashion in which those policies are "sold" to the public. I've no doubt that if a "liberal" was in the White House, and was equally dishonest as its current occupant, Dan would be taking him to the woodshed with equal vigor.

Posted by: ami at December 17, 2005 1:40 PM | Permalink

ami: I'm not going to cry foul, but I was puzzled as to why Jane is in such a snit. I thought Felix's piece was quite friendly toward both her and toward Brad DeLong.

And thanks for supplying that Digby quote at Anonymous Liberal: "Put another way, unscrupulous partisans have learned to game the system. They've realized that the painfully formulaic structure of today's mainstream political reporting allows even the most dishonest and misleading talking points to gain currency."

Digby is singing our song; the only difference is, CJR Daily was singing it since January, 2004, when our name was Campaign Desk. Hell, we practically wrote the song, with a little help from our friends here and elsewhere.

Trained Auditor: What follows is pure speculation, so take it as that. I always figured Froomkin named the column "White House Briefing" as sort of a sly dig at the reporters who are at the White House briefing, in that what Froomkin does -- quote, comment, link, compare, contrast, hold words up to deeds and deeds up to words -- is almost the opposite of what the reporters stuck in that briefing room do, which is basically to serve as a transcription service for Scott McClellan.

If I'm right, no wonder there's tension.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at December 17, 2005 1:46 PM | Permalink

I'm not going to cry foul, but I was puzzled as to why Jane is in such a snit. I thought Felix's piece was quite friendly toward both her and toward Brad DeLong.

Steve, I'd say she took umbrage for the same reason that you would do so if the song you were singing at Campaign Desk was represented as just the complaints of "liberal bloggers" motivated by partisan/ideological concerns.

I do think the criticism of the Post morphed from the "corporate media" complaint that is central to the left's critique of the media to the kind of "ideological bias" stuff you hear from the right-wing, but that was only because of the whole "Ruffini" issue, and Harris's utter ineptitude in handling it.

But Gillette presented the "liberal blogger" response as if it were just a "knee-jerk" ideological reaction to the controversy. It wasn't -- and IMHO Jane's reaction was completely justified.


BTAIM, this topic is tired (CJR on-line should have been on top of this a week ago, Steve...what happened?). Hopefully, Jay will devote his next post to the controversy surround the Times decision to withhold the "domestic spying" story until the 11th hour.

My take -- Keller's hand was forced, and the only reason the Times published was because someone was going to take the whole story elsewhere. Although the left blogosphere are complaining about the potential impact on last year's election that the withholding of the story had, I don't think that's the real problem.

The problem, as I see it, is that the Times withheld a story that was CRITICAL to the debate and discussion of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act thoughout the hearings process, and even the vote in the House.

During the debate on cloture, a "compromise" was proposed by which the current version of the Patriot Act would be extended for three months while the new information was considered. The GOP response was [paraphrase] "absolutely not. No such proposal will be considered, and if you don't vote for cloture the Patriot Act will lapse, and if there is another terrorist act we will make sure those of you who vote against cloture will be blamed for it."

THIS is what Keller's decision to withhold the story has resulted in -- and if Keller hasn't figured out that this is how the GOP behaves, he has no business editing a "Weekly Shopper" giveaway, let alone the New York Times.

Posted by: ami at December 17, 2005 2:31 PM | Permalink

If I get this, it seems to me that Froomkin is practicing a form of this new kind of journalism that appears to be implicitly desired by some who frequent PressThink. That is, a kind of antidote to "transcription" journalism, which some observers believe is engaged in by certain members of the press. The desire is for a kind of journalism where the view is from somewhere, not nowhere.

But if that's the case, why resist describing the ideological "somewhere" from which such journalism (e.g. Froomkin) originates? Is it really such a huge concession admitting Froomkin is liberal and his column shows it? Why the resistance, by some, to acknowledge his ideological bias?

I think it is precisely because journalists' credibility and power to influence readers are derived from presumed objectivity. Journalists are reluctant to drop that pretense, because it would diminish their ability to get readers (including decision makers) to see things the way these journalists believe they ought to be seen.

I'm just saying if your journalism ideal is not the view from nowhere (ostensible objectivity), but is instead a view from somewhere, please honestly and plainly disclose the characteristics of that "somewhere", especially its ideological character. That's useful to readers.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at December 17, 2005 2:49 PM | Permalink

Of course, another way to look at the question of why the NYTimes waited to release the spying information is to acknowledge that NYTimes columnist, James Risen, is releasing a book about this very topic.

Too cynical for you? Think about how Richard Clarke timed his interview with CBS with the release of his book (published by a CBS affiliate) with when he would testify before the 9/11 Commission (where his sworn testimony would not match what was in his book).

Posted by: richard brautigan at December 17, 2005 3:26 PM | Permalink

Your problem, TA, is that you can only think ideologically. There simply is no other reality to you. It appears your imagination does not extend that far. Ideology and BS; that is the totality of what exists. We are ideologues in your eyes, sometimes pretending to something else, which you--the greater seer--will expose for us. (As BS.)

Thus: "he refuses to concede the liberal ideology that suffuses his column" is basically the only point you make, and make, and make and make. Why take so long in doing it? Just hold up a number or something. Pretending you have questions or puzzlements is getting a little thin. I don't believe you have any questions. I believe it is all very clear to you.

We get it: Froomkin is a liberal pretending to something he is not. Number 4,127 for that "insight." Doesn't the joyless repetition of it get to you sometimes? Sorry, that's not a real question. There are no real questions in your eyes. Just politics going by other names. And BS.

ami explained why she "refuses to concede" what is completely obvious to your completely ideological mind. She wrote: "I've no doubt that if a 'liberal' was in the White House, and was equally dishonest as its current occupant, Dan would be taking him to the woodshed with equal vigor." But you can't grasp what she is saying for the reasons mentioned.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 17, 2005 3:36 PM | Permalink

Jay, you err in assuming my view about Froomkin is some special superior recognition of reality. I rely on reports of Froomkin's ideological tilt from his Post colleagues, who know him best: Howell, Harris, and Brady.

As to the importance of ideology: I suppose, Jay, that it's easier to be sanguine about that kind of bias now in our dominant media when it disproportionately benefits the ideology with which one identifies.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at December 17, 2005 4:40 PM | Permalink

4,128... 4,129...

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 17, 2005 4:47 PM | Permalink

Why should anyone have to rely on what ami and Jay say is true, that "I've no doubt that if a 'liberal' was in the White House...Dan would be taking him to the woodshed with equal vigor."

Where's the proof for that statement? How do you know? Or do you just "believe"?

Posted by: richard brautigan at December 17, 2005 4:52 PM | Permalink

ami --

We (CJR Daily) couldn't have been on top of this a week ago. Howell's column that initiated the debate wasn't printed until last Sunday, and Harris's initial, somewhat tepid response came Monday. (It was later that Harris ran the train off the tracks when he grew intemperate in responding to Froomkin's defense of his work.) And the Downey quote that Jay used at the top of this piece wasn't published until yesterday, in E&P.

We chimed in on Thursday, which is fine with me. I'm not interested in being first on matters like this, and my staff knows it. Interest in being first is a big part of the press's current problems. (See Mapes, Mary.) I'd rather wait til all sides have their say and enough information accumulates to formulate a stance. If that goes against the prevailing ethos of the blogosphere, so be it.

Campaign Desk took the same kind of criticism on the Rather story because we declined to leap to premature conclusions -- but when we did weigh in, we presented approximately the same conclusions that the Thornburgh-Boccardi commission would take several months to reach. (And, as I later ribbed Lou Boccardi, we work a lot cheaper than he and Thornburgh !)

As for the Times' timing of the eavesdropping story, this afternoon I got this e-mail from a colleague responding to today's story that the Senate had blocked reauthorization of the Patriot act:

"I'm sure this is what got the Times off its ass and finally publishing the wiretap story - if they didn't do it before the
Patriot re-authorization vote, and it came out later that they were holding it, it would have been clear they had been conned by the White House into holding it to suit Bush's political agenda."

Makes sense to me.

As to why the Times didn't move a year ago, when it, by its own admission, had most elements of the story, only Keller has the answer to that question.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at December 17, 2005 4:53 PM | Permalink

Why should anyone have to rely on what ami and Jay say is true, that "I've no doubt that if a 'liberal' was in the White House...Dan would be taking him to the woodshed with equal vigor."

richard: You don't have to rely on it. We don't "know." There is no proof. All we have to go on is observation, imagination and what's plausible.

Suppose for the sake of discussion that Mark Warner wins the Democratic nomination and wins the election in '08. And after starting a deeply unpopular national health care plan he stops answering all but the most friendly questions. When he comes to your town to speak, his tells his people to screen the crowd and they won't allow in anyone who is not a Warner national health care plan supporter.

What's more plausible to you? That four years from now Dan Froomkin would be rationalizing away (or ignoring) the Warner Bubble because as a liberal he's for nationalized health care, and it would hurt the cause to criticize the President... or that Dan Froomkin will be hitting him hard on it, if Warner tries to do what Bush did?

to ami and I it is far more plausible that Froomkin would denounce the Warner Bubble because it is part of the belief system encoded into his column that the President ought to be questioned, and ought to recognize a duty to take questions, because that is the democratic way; and if the President fails to meet his duty, journalists should scream about it.

Now that is not a "non-political" belief; enforcing it in a column is not a "non-political" thing to do. Froomkin never said he wrote a "non-political" column. He said he doesn't take political stands the way Bob Herbert does.

But slamming Warner for staying within the Warner Bubble is not going to make Froomkin into a conservative in 2009, just as slamming Bush for remaining within the Bush Bubble doesn't make Froomkin a liberal in 2005.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 17, 2005 5:19 PM | Permalink

On the other hand, here's how the non-Froomkins distort information. Check out the David Sanger article today. In paragraph 6 Sanger states that WH spying was only "known to a select number of (white House) aides." But in paragraph 17, Sanger says that "Congressional leaders had been repeatedly briefed on the program..." Well, which is it Sanger? A "select number of( White House) aides or Congressional leaders? Might as well go with the Froomkins----at least Froomkin is so over the top no rational person would call him "fair and balanced".

Posted by: richard brautigan at December 17, 2005 5:24 PM | Permalink

4,130... 4,131...

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 17, 2005 5:28 PM | Permalink

Your Mark Warner analogy makes me think of the '04 Presidential campaign and John Kerry. Of course, Kerry said if he was president he would hold press conferences every month. But then reality set in. When the press called bullshit on him at the Grand Canyon, he refused to speak to any journalists except that journalistic superstar, Jon Stewart. Who proceeded to give him a big, wet butt smooch. Mission accomplished!

Personally, I don't know if Froomkin is liberal, conservative or agnostic, and I don't care. What I do believe is the well-known factor that the press goes easy on those they like, and not so easy on those they don't like. If you and ami don't know Froomkin personally, I really don't know how you can predict his behavior.

Posted by: richard brautigan at December 17, 2005 5:40 PM | Permalink

I do know him personally. So does Brad Delong:

Harris hints he doesn't believe Dan Froomkin when Dan says that he would be writing a similar "irreverent and adversarial" column if John Kerry were president (as it happens, I do believe Dan: I've known him since he was five, and he has always specialized in bluntly speaking uncomfortable truths to the most powerful person in the room).

Such people do exist. It is possible that one of them snuck into journalism. But when all that exists is ideology, human variety itself can disappear.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 17, 2005 5:47 PM | Permalink

OK, I'm convinced.

Posted by: richard brautigan at December 17, 2005 5:53 PM | Permalink

I'm just saying if your journalism ideal is not the view from nowhere (ostensible objectivity), but is instead a view from somewhere, please honestly and plainly disclose the characteristics of that "somewhere", especially its ideological character. That's useful to readers.

A common theme, and it seems so simple, so reasonable. Just reveal your biases.

But what level of resolution do you want in that self-disclosed picture? Would our voting histories be enough? Would only presidential votes count? What if we're split-ticket voters?

Not clear enough? We could list our political positions on all sorts of topics -- from gun control to abortion to healthcare to the deployment of individual weapons systems. No, that would be too confusing. Hey, maybe we could assign a liberal-conservative value to each response, and give each person a left-center-right rating, rounded to the first decimal point...

But then again, those darned reporters are clever bastards -- if we let them state their own perspectives, then what's to keep them from lying, from "gaming the system" so that they look like solid conservatives? Then they could claim all sorts of non-partisan high ground whilst they go about doing the ideological bidding of their Democratic taskmasters.

Here's what I believe: These disclosure requests would be used by ideologues on either side to formally dismiss anyone who describes herself as supportive of the opposition in her personal thinking. Anyone who describes herself as a centrist will be believed to support the other side. And if someone describes herself as a conservative but criticizes the GOP, she will be accused of lying in her disclosure.

Basically, the same place we are today. Sorry, but I don't believe you can improve journalism by slapping labels on journalists.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at December 17, 2005 6:44 PM | Permalink

also, a pet peeve:

what do you call someone who questions the motivations of journalists? a press critic.

what do you call someone who questions the motivations of government? a conspiracy nut.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at December 17, 2005 6:47 PM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady,

Just to set the record straight, that quote was from me, not Digby.


I entirely agree with your take on Froomkin. I don't know him personally like you do, but it really bothered me that his colleagues would accuse him of being "biased" without offering any specifics. I hate it when someone's entire opus of work is dismissed off-hand as ideologically driven. It's such a cop out. When the story first broke, I wrote the following at my site:

If you read through Froomkin's notice that he almost never strays from his core mission of assessing the transparency and public accountability of the White House. He doesn't opine about policy matters; he simply gages, as best he can, the degree to which the White Houses is leveling with the American people and engaging its critics. Given this particular administration's obsession with spin and extreme reluctance to address even its most reasonable critics, it's not surprising that Froomkin's assessment is often critical. That doesn't mean it's "liberal," however. Even most conservatives will concede that this White House has been remarkably stubborn when it comes to addressing critics or admitting error (remember Harriet Miers?).

Posted by: Anonymous Liberal at December 17, 2005 6:48 PM | Permalink

"Sorry, but I don't believe you can improve journalism by slapping labels on journalists." - Conover, above.

Well, if you can't condone labeling, can we then agree that journalism should at least drop the claim of objectivity?

Posted by: Trained Auditor at December 17, 2005 7:05 PM | Permalink

Anonymous Liberal:

My apologies. I took your words to be a quote, not a paraphrase.
My point remains: Your thought is a dead-on description of the way in which the Washington press (or the campaign press in an election year) lets itself get flummoxed by those who know how to take advantage of the old forms and strictures that the John Harris's of this world revere and still defend.
What's depressing is that Harris is not alone. You'll hear the same mantra from Richard Berke, who directed the NY Times 2004 election coverage, or from any number of Washington bureau chiefs.
It's the Brady's and the Froomkins who are opening new doors and letting fresh air into the cathedral, not the Downey's or the Harris's.
Which, I suspect, is why Jay thinks the Post is a couple of generations ahead of the Times in its evolution to whatever the print and the digital press is going to become as the decade unfolds.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at December 17, 2005 7:24 PM | Permalink


Your thoughts on the proposed litmus tests for anyone with a byline are on the money.
Hugh Hewitt, the conservative talk radio maven and blogger, recently dropped by the Columbia J School, CJR, and CJR Daily, to research a piece for the Weekly Standard on who we are and why we are what we are -- whatever that is.
Hugh is no fool, but this time he foolishly tried to pigeon-hole anyone he talked to with a sort of litmus Q&A. Some declined to talk to him, but I think it's hypocritical for a journalist to refuse to answer the questions of another journalist -- hear that, Bob Novak? -- so I did.
At any rate, here's what Hugh learned: I grew up in a red state; I went to a land-grant university; I own a gun; I don't go to church; my grown daughter is in a thriving same-sex marriage and, like me, believes the government should stay the hell out of the bedroom; and in the 2004 presidential election, I was registered as an Independent and cast a write-in vote for John McCain.
To an idealogue, that picture makes no sense at all. (Which may explain why Hugh's piece has never run in the Weekly Standard -- try as he might, he couldn't pound the square pegs into a round hole. If you can't do that, you don't have a very sexy story.)
Do I mind if all that information is appended to my byline on anything I write ? No, I don't mind -- otherwise, I wouldn't reveal it here. But it would sure as hell make for a cumbersome byline -- and most days not a single element of it would tell you why I wrote what I wrote. I'm a press critic; what determines what I write is my views on journalism, not my views on politics or on specific political issues.
The world is a lot more complicated than the red-blue dichotomy that partisans try to impose upon it -- as a five-year chart of the president's approval ratings would tell you at a glance.
And that is what the idealogues will go to their grave not understanding.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at December 17, 2005 7:52 PM | Permalink

Well, if you can't condone labeling, can we then agree that journalism should at least drop the claim of objectivity?

Here's what I said yesterday:

I don't really argue the objectivity case anymore, although I still believe that the process of objectivity, when applied with care (and humility), adds value to our work. These days I'm more interested in figuring out what the honest brokers on both sides of the partisan divide have in common. Not trying to be Pollyanna, just trying to imagine a practical way of doing political/accountability journalism that would allow basic agreement on terms and conditions.

The problem I see -- and I see it in the terms of the Froomkin debate, although I really don't know much about its particulars -- is that there's a vacuum now where the concept of credible objective mainstream media used to be. Y'all have convinced me that it needed to be replaced, but there's no guarantee that what winds up replacing it will be better or worse.

I think the new medium allows us the ability to build a new standard that will be more agreeable to more people than the old standard of "news judgment/objectivity," which made sense in its day with the tools that were available, but isn't up to snuff now. Absent that new system, I'm wary of tossing objectivity. What would you have replace it?

Some people just want everyone to retreat to their respective echo chambers. I think that would be a poor choice.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at December 17, 2005 7:56 PM | Permalink

So, Jay, responding to my response:

Interesting that you believe young journalists will prefer entering the online newsroom vs. the print newsroom and that's one reason to keep them separate. I suppose that should make me happy, going into competition of sorts with you for journalism students and working with the ones who'll be in new media (which we've just rechristened interactive journalism, by the way).

But what do you do with that huge print newsroom budget? The ad revenue is still much larger there but it's shrinking. The ad revenue for online is growing but much smaller. There's the crunch. If they're going to be separate, how are they defined by their bottom lines? That was one of the toughest questions where I used to work and we sure never answered it.

And if the curmudgeons can't change, then what is their life expectancy? What should it be? When does their value no longer exceed their cost?

I'm starting to pose all this in economic terms because, well, Knight Ridder's new owners will....

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at December 17, 2005 8:04 PM | Permalink

Or here's how I really should have put the question before I hit the damned "post" button:

Are you saying that print newsrooms cannot change?

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at December 17, 2005 8:05 PM | Permalink

Lovelady, interesting answers to Hugh's questions. Your politics may be as unique as your humor.

If you would, I wonder how you would respond to the test, about labeling and loaded language, that I proposed in this earlier comment.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at December 17, 2005 8:06 PM | Permalink

Conover, I still think objectivity is ideal, when it is truly achieved in practice. My prescription for how objective journalism might be achieved is in this previous PressThink comment. Commenters thought it unworkable; I disagree, but I don't pretend it's easy.

If objectivity cannot be achieved in reporters' work product (as distinct from themselves), I think the claim of objectivity should be abandoned, at minimum. And labelling would be best, though I acknowledge the complications you raise.

Remember, the bulk of press critics could be completely disarmed by removing the artificial credibility, and consequent influence, enjoyed by journalists who claim they're objective but who are not.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at December 17, 2005 8:39 PM | Permalink

From TA's proposal in July:

In contrast to much of the dominant news media today (largely a liberal monoculture), I believe that can best be achieved where journalists with opposing ideologies (disclosed to readers) collaborate on a story, each empowered to veto the contributions and writing of the other if he deems they will materially bias the result.

First, I appreciate anyone who attempts to think their way around the problem. Second, I find a fundamental flaw here in the assumptions (common on the right) that ideology drives coverage, that biases are primarily ideological, that the ideology of journalists is the most significant thing we could disclose to readers (or viewers).

I wrote about some possible approaches to building 21st century media feedback tools on Wednesday, but at the moment the Typepad crash seems to be keeping everything "beyond the jump" invisible.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at December 17, 2005 11:49 PM | Permalink

Are you saying that print newsrooms cannot change?

Jeff: I've been at this--trying to persuade people in print newsrooms to change their thinking--for 16 years. It can be very discouraging. And yes, I think many of the people in those newsrooms will not open themselves to any ideas about journalism but the ones they started with. I wouldn't say print newsrooms can't change, like intransigence is in their DNA or something. It's more that they probably won't.

Part of the reason I disagree with you about merging the print-era newsroom with the online operation is that we know who will have hegemony over the combined unit; it will be the craft conservatives and newsroom reactionaries. In charge will be attitudes like Deborah Howell's, with her astoundingly out-of-date statement about what the Web offers the newsroom:

My bottom line: The Web site adds to The Post's prestige, and the world is moving toward the Web. The Web is a wonderful place for The Post to put newsprint-eating texts and documents, such as presidential speeches, and other information, such as congressional votes, that readers want.

She was a Washington Bureau chief for 15 years. No, if she can write that in 2005--wonderful place to put documents--I don't think she's going to change by 2010. And you know what else? The higher they rise, the more closed the mind. There are very few exceptions to that-- John Robinson of Greensboro being one. Howard Kurtz is another. Howell's column about the two Washington Posts didn't even have a link to Froomkin!

The curmudgeons (whose answer to the Web is "does anyone remember the paperless office? ha, ha, ha") will just have to die off. Educating them is an impossibility. But they're going to take their time, and that is another reason why I think merging is a bad idea.

Your traditional newspaper newsroom feels battered and under-appreciated. That's the fault of higher-ups. It is also anti-learning, anti-invention, hostile to outside influence, and it wants to keep the people formerly known as the audience out of the damn way. Those things are the fault of journalists themselves-- and J-schools, I might add.

Finally, the typical newsroom overestimates what it knows about itself, and about news. The language it has for discussing what it does is not designed for insight; it is designed for protection. And yet it is seen as holy, as truth itself.

Here's Bill Keller, about to make exactly the same mistakes he made during the Judith Miller crises with this new issue: why did the Times hold the story of Bush authorizing the NSA to spy on us domestically? Transparency, openness, acountability, interactivity are not natural to the newsroom. "We know best" is.

Here's my bottom line, Jeff. I would be in favor of merging the web operation into the print newsroom if leadership and majority opinion in the newsroom said, "but we all have to go to school on the Web first." But it hasn't said that, and it won't, and my guess is you know that.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 18, 2005 12:10 AM | Permalink

I'm not a journalist or would-be journalist, but I have a personal and professional interest in how organizations promote and react to innovation, and from that point of view the "two newsrooms" concept makes perfect sense. See for example Clayton Christensen's theories of disruptive innovation, particularly as discussed in his book "Innovator's Solution", in which he recommends that companies establish separate organizations in order to create businesses around disruptive innovations (e.g., the web). The problem is that existing organizations (rationally) put a higher priority on leveraging existing business models (in this case selling subscriptions to readers of the print newspaper and ads to business wanting to reach those readers), and a much lower priority on exploring new business models of uncertain promise. Splitting off a separate organization allows that organization to focus solely on making a viable business out of the disruptive innovation, adapting its business model, cost stucture, customer focus, etc., in ways not possible for the original organization.

In Christensen's terms the web is both a low-cost and new market disruptive innovation. For the Washington Post it provides the opportunity to reach a new set of readers that it could not previously attract, and to do so at relatively low cost. (As a long-time Washington Post reader I recall that Post management many years ago made a deliberate decision not to pursue national distribution of its print edition in competition with the New York Times. That appears to be a very wise decision in retrospect; now with the web the Post can credibly position itself to supplant the New York Times as the national newspaper of record, without taking on the NYT's distribution cost structure.)

As a separate organization WPNI can succeed or fail on its own terms. In particular from a business model point of view it can and should take advantage of the wave of online advertising being leveraged by Google, Yahoo!, etc., and in terms of customer focus it can and should go after a customer base that is interested in different things than the Post's traditional readers. The latter imperative in particular I think accounts for the differing positions of Len Downie and Jim Brady--Brady appears to know that his customers like the kind of journalism practiced by Froomkin and others, and also knows that the credibility of with those customers depends on resisting any "old media" pressures from the Post proper. (Otherwise why resist changing the name of Froomkin's column? It's just a name after all.)

As for what happens to the old newsroom, I agree with Jay Rosen's comment that "The curmudgeons ... will just have to die off". More specifically, if I were Post management I would wait to merge the two newsroom operations until it was clear that WPNI was solidly profitable with online revenues a major fraction of print revenues. I don't have time for an in-depth analysis, but from the Washington Post Company's 2004 annual report it appears that WPNI revenue was $47M out of total newspaper revenue of $873M, and is growing at least 30% per year. If this growth rate continues or accelerates slightly (which is quite plausible, especially with the acquisition of Slate and possible future acquisitions) WPNI revenue might roughly double every two years, and so might exceed $100M by the end of 2006 and $200M by the end of 2008. By the end of 2010 WPNI revenue might be half or more than half of print revenues, and by 2012 or 2013 might well exceed print revenues. WPNI online ad revenue is increasing even faster (59% for 2004), and may well match print ad revenue before 2010.

The exact dates and numbers are not that important. The important point is that within 5-10 years the Washington Post's business and journalistic decisions will be driven primarily by the needs of WPNI, and the newsrooms will reflect that. If certain "curmudgeons" can't adapt to that reorientation in readership and business model then over time they will be replaced with people who can.

Posted by: Frank Hecker at December 18, 2005 3:36 AM | Permalink

Jeff and Jay: Of course the people at the top of the print news food chain don't really see reason to change their organizations. They sit in the catbird seat. It's well-paid, with bonuses and parking spots. Yeah, maybe it's a bad year and there's some icky personnel matters....

But for the most part, their lives are pretty cushy.

It reminds me of GM, or Xerox, or any of those big, old, fat companies. How much money is and was spent on consultants at GM, outsiders with big, radical, NEW! ideas who were trying to turn the Titanic away from the iceberg? Sort of reminds me of some media companies today.

My view: People have fallen in love with technology and think is a holy grail. It's not. It's just a new container. The real question is: what do journalists do, how do we know they do it better than non-journalists? And how in this webby age can we tell the difference between journalists and non-journalists? If we can't tell the different, then there is a big flaw in the work of journalists at media companies. If someone argues about how journalists at big media are vetted and edited and more accurate, well that's just a dumb argument and there's mounting evidence that it doesn't matter.

Jeff, if you really plan to unearth all this, you need think clearly and fundamentally about the work of journalism. (Ps, give Fred F. a hi from me)

Posted by: JennyD at December 18, 2005 5:57 AM | Permalink

Jay: We disagree and agree. We agree that it may well be impossible for newsrooms to change. But if they are not challenged to -- now -- they will bring newspapers down. So I have come to believe they have to be dragged like 12-year-old boys to the dance; it's up to them to decide whether puberty is fun. I also agree that online is the better fount of change but -- thanks to advertisers being even farther behind than newsrooms -- the money and thus the resources and clout remain in print. The online people don't have the means of change. What I said in my post responding to yours is that newspaper owners have two choices: shove dynamite down the alimentary canal of the newsroom and force them to change or give up on that and move half the staff to oneline (where the audience is and the revenue growth is ... but the revenue isn't) and leave the newsroom to shrink and die and grab the last dollars of ever-less-dumb print-addicted advertisers. That may be the right path, but it's even more wrenching and less likely, I think, than the dynamite-down-the-newsroom's-gullet method.

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at December 18, 2005 7:31 AM | Permalink

Jenny: Right you are. More posts on that in the works....

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at December 18, 2005 7:32 AM | Permalink

Frank Hecker: Thank you for that enlightening comment. Many, many people have recommended Christensen's stuff for understanding this problem, and I agree his model makes a lot of sense. It "fits," particularly in description of why newspapers tend to stand pat rather than invent. However, there are additional reasons why print-era newsrooms are resistant.

Everything in the old newsroom was sacrificed to production routines ("deadlines") in which a fantastic act of coordination had to take place every day by 6 pm, so that the world could be surveyed, assessed, written about, photographed and land on our doorsteps by 7 am the next day. Newspaper production is one of the true marvels of the industrial era, and it has seduced many a newcomer to the business.

But it extracts a cost on the people who learn to work within it. Anything that disturbs the routine is seen as the enemy of "getting the paper out." But even worse than that, the attitudes necessary to make the compromises necessary to feed the production routine begin to seem not like practical compromises at all but the nature of newswork. They are defended as essential to journalism when they're really contingent on the production routine.

An example would be "go with what you got," which means use what you know at deadline to create your account because... because you gotta. This takes the focus off readers, quality, added value, even common sense. It is not in the nature of news to go with what you got at 6 pm; but it is in the nature of newspaper production. The two get confused. Multiply that confusion by a thousand (for all the instances of it) and you begin to see why newsrooms are peculiarly defensive and resistant.

The Web takes the entire production miracle and condenses it into clicks. What happens, then, to all the knowledge people in the newsroom built up to make the production miracle happen? If you believe (falsely) that professional journalism rides on this knowledge you will defend professional journalism "against" the Web.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 18, 2005 9:56 AM | Permalink

Jeff: You said you are going to write some "practical" how-to posts about how to make this transformation happen. Here's an idea for you: create a Web literacy exam: 50 multiple choice questions, just like in college. Two points for each. Sample questions: "what is HTML?" or "which statement accurately describes the difference between the Internet and the Web?" or "who is Markos Moulitsas Zúniga?" or "what does open source software mean?"

Then you have to create a reading list (or study guide) that would enable the person who reads everything on it to pass the exam. Newsroom inhabitants are encouraged to take the test whenever they want to, but for certain jobs you can create Web literacy requirements-- 90+ on the exam. You could also make everyone in the newsroom take the test once a year and gauge the organization's Web literacy that way. Wanna raise? Take the exam. Etc...

There would be a lot of uses for it. The people who never take the test are telling you something you need to know. The curmudgeons, of course, will all balk: remember the paperless office? ha, ha ha

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 18, 2005 10:23 AM | Permalink

One of the greatest additions to a print news article (and the news manufacturing mindset) would be replacing the traditional "30" with "Developing ..." and passing that on to the reader/listener/viewer.

Posted by: Sisyphus at December 18, 2005 11:39 AM | Permalink

Was there an ombudsman's column in the Post this Sunday? I get the paper copy and there didn't seem to be one. Isn't there traditionally one ombudsman's column every Sunday?

I was waiting to see if Deborah would comment on the deal her column started last week or go with Harris-thinking "we want this to cool down."

Posted by: catrina at December 18, 2005 11:41 AM | Permalink

One more, Jay, can you help me understand why Kent Bye's project has not captured the interest or imagination of "gang" (not all 500 perhaps, how 'bout 5)? Would you put that on your exam?

Or has it and I'm just not aware of it?

Posted by: Sisyphus at December 18, 2005 11:43 AM | Permalink

I would say that 465 of the 500 have never heard of Kent Bye's excellent project. Additional reason: a great many journalists have convinced themselves that nothing but "opinion" appears at weblogs. That's their story and they will stick to it. Then there's always: what would an amatuer and geek like Kent know about journalism?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 18, 2005 3:18 PM | Permalink

re: web literacy tests/orientation curricula

yep. that's one of the things I'm working on. not trying to be too big a prick about it, but, you know, if you can't write a tag to create a hyperlink, I'm really not all that interested in what you have to say about the future of the web. not that "a href=" unlocks some secret garden -- it just shows some commitment to understand the material.

Posted by: conover at December 18, 2005 4:48 PM | Permalink

Re Jeff Jarvis's comment about print newsrooms having all the resources and the implied need to move those resource to online operations: First, from a business point of view it is perfectly rational to keep the resources in print newsrooms for now, given that that is where the vast majority of revenue and profits still come from, and will come from for at least the next few years.

Second, at this point I believe it is actually better for that resource allocation to continue, because it helps increase the probability of online operations becoming profitable. More specifically, being profitable gives online operations like WPNI the corporate freedom to experiment both on the editorial side (to discover what readers want and how best to provide it to them) and on the business side (to discover how best to exploit the online advertising market and other alternatives such as subscription services).

Clayton Christensen has a slogan for this: "Be patient for growth, but impatient for profits". If the Washington Post were throwing money hand-over-fist into online operations in an all-out effort to "transform the business" and were still running heavy losses, then that lack of profitability would be a weapon the print side of the house would use to delay and deter the move to online, as well as to exert undue influence over online editorial decisions. WPNI being profitable is what gives Jim Brady the ability to say "no" to Len Downie and make it stick.

Re Jay Rosen's comments on the "additional reasons why print-era newsrooms are resistant": I know I tend to look at everything through the lens of Clayton Christensen's theories, but in this case the additional reasons you discuss, in particular the orientation of print-era newsrooms to meeting daily deadlines, are in fact accounted for by Christensen, most notably in his book "Seeing What's Next".

In the book Christensen introduces what he calls the "resources, processes, and values" (RPV) framework as a way to evaluate competitive battles between incumbent vendors (e.g., traditional print-era newsrooms) and emerging vendors (e.g., online news operations):

  • resources: “things a company has access to”, including both tangible and intangible assets
  • processes: “ways of doing business (skills)”, and in particular, ways an organization has developed to solve difficult problems it has faced in the past
  • values: “prioritization determinant (motivation)”, or more simply, what business model an organization relies on and how it decides to devote resources to particular initiatives

In this case, as you point out, the processes of print-era newsrooms are oriented around solving the problem of meeting daily deadlines, and those processes impede the process of transforming to an online world. A pure online operation has quite different problems to solve, and will correspondingly develop different processes that are much more suited to solving those problems. In this way pure online news operations will develop what Christensen calls the "sword of asymmetric skills". This complements the "shield of asymmetric motivation" (Christensen's term again), which arises because the old and new news soperations make decisions on resource allocations in very different ways (the "values" part of RPV), with the new entrants motivated to pursue nascent but potentially lucrative opportunities that existing print operations would ignore as too small or outside the traditional lines of business to pursue.

I really can't recommend Christensen's theories highly enough for anyone wishing to understand the transformation of the news business and journalism. For those new to Christensen's ideas I suggest skipping the first two books ("Innovator's Dilemma" and "Innovator's Solution") and reading "Seeing What's Next" first, as it's the most fully-developed version of Christensen's theories and IMO the best guide to looking at competitive battles between the old and new orders.

Posted by: Frank Hecker at December 18, 2005 4:53 PM | Permalink

One more comment on Clayton Christensen and the newspaper business: After writing my comment above I did a quick Google search for "Christensen disruptive innovation journalism" and turned up a reference to the American Press Institute's "Newspaper Next" project, in which they're hiring Christensen and his consulting firm Innosight to help "research and test viable new business models for the newspaper industry". I didn't see any mention of Newspaper Next in PressThink, but it might be worth your tracking to see if anything useful comes out of it (especially if you don't have to wait until the end of 2006).

I also found an interesting 2002 paper "Newspapers and the Internet" written by Clark Gilbert of Harvard based on research he and Christensen did. It discusses and reiterates many of the points I made above.

Posted by: Frank Hecker at December 18, 2005 5:19 PM | Permalink

well, well, well....

guess which Sunday talking-heads festival which focuses on current media controversies didn't mention the week-long Froomkin dust-up?

Here, from the transcript, is the summary of today's subject...

ANNOUNCER: Bush in a bubble? As the president battles back on the war in Iraq with a series of television interviews, are journalists giving him a fair hearing?

Will the Iraqi elections help the White House in the P.R. battle?

"The New York Times" reveals a massive government program to spy on American citizens. Why did the paper hold the story for a year at the Bush administration's urging? And should it have been published now?

Plus, Howard in orbit. Howard Stern's final show sets the stage for his move to satellite radio, with Bob Dylan signing on, as well. Are the Times a-changing for pay radio? And is government regulation to blame?

Also, CNN drops Robert Novak and "Time" reporter Viveca Novak is sidelined over the leak investigation of Karl Rove.

And George W. Bush, news junkie?

Yup! Last week's "bubble" story is covered. Howard Stern is covered. The unrelated Novaks are both covered. But the story that has received the most attention all week among the rest of the media critics in the universe -- not covered.

Give up? Here's a hint. The host of the show is also employed as a media critic for a major Washington DC newspaper -- coincidentally, the same DC newspaper in question in the Froomkin dust-up, which appears to have decided to put the lid on all further discussions of the controversy....

Posted by: ami at December 18, 2005 7:07 PM | Permalink

ami --

I have to come to Kurtz's defense here.
For the general audience that "Reliable Sources" generates -- which I suspect is far broader than just press people and press critics -- the lineup he put together makes sense.

-- Bush slips out of "the bubble" to battle back on the war in Iraq with a series of television interviews. Are journalists giving him a fair hearing?

--Will the Iraqi elections help the White House in the P.R. battle?

--"The New York Times" reveals a massive government program possibly in breach of the Constitution to spy on American citizens. Why did the paper hold the story for a year at the Bush administration's urging? And should it have even been published now?

-- Howard Stern's final show sets the stage for his move to satellite radio, with Bob Dylan signing on, as well. Is government regulation to blame?

-- CNN unceremoniously drops Robert Novak and "Time" sidelines reporter Viveca Novak, both over the leak investigation of Karl Rove.

In the larger scheme of things, for the general public, all those stories are more important than the Harris-Froomkin dust-up. Even for us press-centric folks, the questions raised by the Times spy story and why it sat on that story for a year, and the booting of one Novak from CNN while another Novak is reprimanded at Time magazine, are bigger "news" than Harris-Froomkin.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at December 18, 2005 8:55 PM | Permalink

I agree.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 18, 2005 9:06 PM | Permalink

Oops. Steve beat me to it. The whole Harris-Froomkin mess is pretty much inside-baseball for most folks.

To Steve's list of more newsy stories, I'd also add the apparent success of the new election in Iraq and how that will reshape public opinion on the continuing war.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at December 18, 2005 9:08 PM | Permalink

At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I like to think I played a role in the development of WPNI. The questions for this interview of Ann McDaniel were sent to her in April of this year.

Posted by: Alice Marshall at December 18, 2005 9:24 PM | Permalink

Dave: I think you would agree that the Froomkin events were not "inside baseball" to all the outraged readers of his column. It's certainly the greatest wave of outcry that has ever received. There may have been incidents for the Post newspaper that generated more mail, but this one has to be up there.

What's so interesting to me about it is precisely that the events were so "small." In a technical sense, there was no news. Very little happened. No one at the Post took any action that changed Froomkin's column. No one was fired. No one quit. No policy shift either. It ended with the Froomkin status quo still quo.

In the absence of eventfulness, we had people expressing themselves, making statements-- some intended, some not. What was "being said" by the very low intensity action-- that's what everyone got excited about. The political reporters making public their complaint about Froomkin, via Howell's column and the statements Harris put out, is not what the Reliable Sources audience should be hearing about, in my opinion.

One audience that is very interested: the people who work at the Washington Post. Joel Achenbach picks up that side of the story, introducing us to the politics of the home page. Froomkin sometimes appears on Page One (of the web site.) The Harris-led troops figure that each time he does, that's one of their stories that doesn't. So it's a real estate fight, says Joel. (He did a follow-up that I figured in.)

To me it was amusing to watch everyone go on about how "nothing" this event was, the No Big Deal-ness of it all. But I understood it too: because the perception of the blogopshere as a hair trigger is not at all unreasonable.

To me these were the Froomkin Talks, because that finally is what happened. One side of the Post operation talked to the other-- and about the other. On the whole this is good. Under the surface it was big. A message went from the Bush Forces to the Beat Reporters through the Ombudsman (where readers heard about it) and through Downie, then it "jumped" across the Potomac and landed at WPNI where Jim Brady and Dan Froomkin received the message.

Great material for a Kurtz column. But to return to ami's point: we haven't seen that, either.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 18, 2005 10:35 PM | Permalink

I'd certainly expect the L'affaire Froomkin would be a Big Deal within the Post, Jay. Nothing grabs journalists like a turf battle - particularly if it's your turf. City Hall beat is always pissed off at the space the State Capital beat gets.

The issue certainly resonated here as well. As it should. I sometimes think these kinds of discussions are a food substitute in PressThink world. As you noted, what may be most of interest is how much time was spent in saying how unimportant it was.

But I still say that what Harris thinks of Froomkin and vice versa plays minimally to the general news audience of "Reliable Sources." Nothing particularly profound on my part. And it may be the 'technical' sense of the news. But that's pretty much was the news is.

Posted by: Dave In Texas at December 19, 2005 12:18 AM | Permalink

Agreed. Explain: "I sometimes think these kinds of discussions are a food substitute in PressThink world." Not sure what you mean there.

Some here will find of interest the reflections of One True b!X, a talented blogger--and PressThink reader--who followed local politics in Portland, Oregon. He explains in a piece published in the Oregonian why he quit doing it: "My work as a full-time blogger exposed me to more demagoguery (... from officials, candidates, columnists, readers, and bloggers alike) than I could handle."

That's an interesting admission. May be one reason we need professionals; they learn to handle it. But then of course there's the cost.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 19, 2005 12:29 AM | Permalink

"May be one reason we need professionals; they learn to handle [demagoguery]."

Some handle it by turning a blind eye to it.

It's pretty bad when the moment you read a quote from Authority A supporting an assertion by Leader X, you can infer that A is in X's pocket; and worse when two seconds of Googling confirms it.

Posted by: Anna Haynes at December 19, 2005 12:56 AM | Permalink

From a comment thread I have participated in at Tom Maguire's Just One Minute. Some may get a kick out of it...

No, I am trying to figure... if it happened as many of you say: Kerry smiled through the briefings, then leaked to the Times, and ordered--okay suggested--the hit, and the Times (the junior or the senior partner in the conspiracy? I guess we'll work that out later, but it's a detail we should nail down) the Times went along, and prepared the story, and it met their standards for verification, and they... pulled it?

Now, wait. Yes. No, wait: Was this where Kerry, advised the Times against publishing the story that would bring him the election? Is he the one who said: "Not the American election you goofball, I meant the Iraqi election in '05." I guess it probably was. Or no... could be it was the Times telling Kerry: we're in charge and we're calling the hit off. If there's another story we can get you in with we will; we got a lot of shit coming in this week. And I guess Kerry said: well, okay, but it sure would have been nice to be President... right?

The rest.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 19, 2005 1:06 AM | Permalink

(p.s. to my comment above - sorry, wrong term, it's not demagoguery, but similar in that they're both attempting to game the populace.
What is the term for 'astroturf experts'?)

Posted by: Anna Haynes at December 19, 2005 1:18 AM | Permalink

"...'which statement accurately describes the difference between the Internet and the Web?'"

I doubt more than 10% of all bloggers could answer this question (Hewitt wrote an entire book about blogs despite a breathtaking ignorance on technology), so why would you claim it's so important for print journalists to know it? Are they currently on the hook to know about newsprint costs and the mechanics of typesetting? (or whatever they use these days).

No, forcefeeding print journalists full of irrelevant knowledge won't make them good online journalists. All they need is desire and there's no point in making them fake it. They'll move when online is dominant, and not before.

It's also worth remembering that early adopters aren't always the winners. More than a few print snobs will eventually be wildly successful online--and will probably unseat some blogosphere cheerleaders to boot.

From your post:

"In the E & P article, Downie seemed most worried about Bush supporters and their perceptions of the Post"

Indeed. Am I the only one shocked by this? Downie isn't concerned about misleading the readers, or about good journalistic practices. Rather, the WP staffers are acting as a conduit for the White House's Froomkin complaints--and they're taking the White House's side in an attempt to win brownie points and better access.

If this is the sort of cockroach that comes to light with two separate organizations, then by all means, keep them separate until the exterminator gets here.

Posted by: Cal Lanier at December 19, 2005 10:18 AM | Permalink

Jay have you ever had a *student* in your classes talk the way the posters do on justonminute? I'm just kind of curious if this sort of bias discourse only happens in writing and not through speech. I've had the occassional uncle/cousin give me the "well they're all commies at the NYTIMES" speech but they don't really want to engage (and I always lack the tools to argue people on faith).

People don't seem to get the difference between outcome and mechanism. Its a lot like the Intelligent Design debates. The Evolutionists keep asking the IDers "fine, if someone designed that flagellum's tail then how did they/he/she/it do it? What specific acts he/she/it do to generate that tail?" Its a lot like those debates about NYTimes holding off the story. People of faith just believe that the decision was made to help Kerry...but they can't picture how the conversations went inside the Times newsroom.

FYI, interesting pushback by the Bush team on the wiretapping. No hiding in the back about this. They're out and loud about it (now that it's been broken). I have to say I kind of admire their balls (as Stephen Colbert would say).

Posted by: catrina at December 19, 2005 11:31 AM | Permalink

Crossposted from JOM linked by Jay above:

Jay: "I think Mary Mapes is deluded and her sense of factuality is destroyed. She is incapable of recognizing or telling the truth about the events that made her famous."

That's the first time I've seen you criticize Mapes since she resurfaced with her book. I commented on your blog that:

It seems to me that the tribe has an opportunity here to examine Mapes/Miller, use them to educate the public and learn lessons that can be acted upon in journalism's institutions that teach/preach/practice the religion.
I'd like to get your opinion on this part of Alter's review:
The most illuminating parts of the book are those in which Mapes strikes back at the cyber-lynch mob. Her description of a right-wing veteran of the Paula Jones case, masquerading as an expert on the technology of 1970's typewriters, should help dispel the myth that this case was a triumph for the fact-checking prowess of the blogosphere. (The blogger's anonymous assertion, within hours of the broadcast, that the proportional spacing and type font of the Killian memos did not exist in those days was only one of many falsehoods spread by political hit men.) Seeing how documents change shape and appearance after faxing and e-mailing should give pause to even the most ideologically ardent of amateur document analysts.
Faked. Forged. Forgotten?
Old Dogs, New Media

Posted by: Sisyphus at December 19, 2005 11:33 AM | Permalink

I think that part of Alter's review was unfortunate, Tim. (I still think the role of "Buckhead" is curious, though.) I haven't read the book by Mapes; I did read her interviews when it came out. My view of the CBS case is that all normal controls for a professional newsroom broke down on that story, and this is unforgivable. I don't think we'll ever know the actual origin of those documents.

cat: I think the lack of face-to-face communication certainly assists the conspiratorial mindset, yes.

Cal: I don't use what most bloggers know about the Web as my standard for what professional journalists should know once they realize where their future is going. It's not that understanding the difference between the Net and the Web is so essential to succeeding in online journalism; rather, grasping that difference is a sign you have done your homework, which is the whole point of the exam.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 19, 2005 11:53 AM | Permalink

I think that part of Alter's review was unfortunate, Tim. (I still think the role of "Buckhead" is curious, though.) I haven't read the book by Mapes;

then perhaps you should read it, since in her book Mapes does a far better job of explaining hereself than she did on TV (which often hostile interviewers...)

Coming away from the book, one gets the strong impression that it was journalism that broke down, but CBS's defense mechanisms, and that a very large part of the problem was the personnel changes going on at CBS at the time, and the actions of Moonves (on behalf of Sumner Redstone.)

60 Minutes II had lost its executive producer, and this segment was far of the first program executive produced by Josh Howard and his assistant, Betsy West. Howard wanted the story "crashed" over the labor day weekend, but neigher Howard nor West showed up to help during that process (Mapes implies that Howard and West were being lazy and self-indulgent, but my guess is that they were intimidated by the reputations of Mapes and Rather, and didn't want to start out on the wrong foot with them by appearing to tell them how to do their jobs.) This played a key role in CBS's failure to respond -- Howard and West had no "ownership" of the story, and when Heyward started asking questions, they had no personal stake in defending the story.

But equally important is that 60 Minutes II was pretty much left up to its own devices, and the weekly news magazine was not set up to deal with the relentless 24 hour/day assault of false claims being made about the documents themselves -- claims that were taken at face value by mainstream media organizations, as well as by media critics like yourself.

Facts weren't checked --- and statements made by known liars like Staudt and Hodges were taken at face value by the mainstream media. The FACT is that virtually every one of the criticisms aimed at the documents is false, with a small number of them being potentially relevant, but not critical. Perhaps most importantly, everyone overlooked two simple facts

1) the criticism was based on very bad reproductions of the documents that CBS had in its possession. The single most eye-opening thing about the book is the appendix, which presents one of the documents as CBS had it side by side with what appeared on the internet.

2) the simple fact that computer programs are specifically designed to mimic "typed" correspondence -- that "similarities" between what would be produced by Microsoft Word (and it should be noted, no one has produced an exact copy of the Killian memos using Microsoft Word) and the documents that CBS had were a reflection of the advance of new technologies -- not damning evidence of "forgery."

You owe it to yourself to read Mapes' book, rather than just criticizing her from a position of complete ignorance on this issue.

Posted by: ami at December 19, 2005 2:48 PM | Permalink

Jay, have you ever had a "student" in your classes talk the way the posters do at Kos?

Oh nevermind---of course you have!

Posted by: Ed Stanton at December 19, 2005 3:09 PM | Permalink

Your spin is fascinating ami, but do tell why CBS didn't pursue every avenue at it's considerable disposal to find out who gave them the controversial documents? After all,said documents seriously damaged it's credibility.

Until that question is asked and answered, CBS is right up there in credibility with OJ who vowed to find his wife's killers.

Posted by: John Thodos at December 19, 2005 3:51 PM | Permalink

Your spin is fascinating ami, but do tell why CBS didn't pursue every avenue at it's considerable disposal to find out who gave them the controversial documents? After all,said documents seriously damaged it's credibility.

That is a question that you should be asking Les Moonves and Sumner Redstone -- and their do-boys Boccardi and Thornburgh. Neither Moonves nor Redstone give a damn about journalistic integrity, and both of them were quite happy to see the integrity of CBS News brought into question, because that meant they could replace it with more lucrative "happy talk" news.

In other words the CBS corporation and its corporate parent VIACOM doesn't care about the credibility of its news organization any more than Fox and Rupert Murdoch cares about the credibility of what appears on FoxNews. If anything, Redstone was grateful for the opportunity to reign in CBS News, because he wanted FCC approval for his expansion plans, and the political appointees of the Bush administration could block those plans.

Posted by: ami at December 19, 2005 4:15 PM | Permalink

Jay asked me yesterday -- back when it was a little more relevant -- to weigh in on whether or not I am an ideologue. I apologize for not responding with blogger speed.

But as it happens, Jay has already expressed my position on this issue more skillfully than I could. For instance, there was his post on’s Achenblog, in which he wrote:

First, Froomkin has an argument. His (in my paraphrase) is: You actually don't think I'm liberal; what you mean is that I am anti-Bush. But you're wrong. I am not anti-Bush, but I do have a kind of agenda as a writer and observer, and it often places me in conflict with this White House. I am for "discourse accountability" in presidents. I try to insist that the president engage in real dialogue, and refrain from demagoguery. I think speeches should be fact-checked, and statements intensely scrutinized. When presidents refuse to answer their critics they do democracy a disservice. When they refuse even to be questioned they pretend they're kings and this we cannot allow.
Froomkin further says: I have an agenda, but not an ideology in the conventional sense. I stand up for these things but I do not take political stands the way a Richard Cohen or George Will might. You can argue with my agenda, but why are you calling me a liberal when I would apply the same standards to a president named Kerry, Clinton, Biden or Obama? (I believe he would, too.)

Amen, Jay (and the many, many readers who said similar things.) (And re: the whole imperial presidency meme, see today's column.)

So I’ll just add a few thoughts.

I think one reason some people see the column as having a political bias may be a misreading of my enthusiasm. The fact is that, like most good reporters, I am delighted when I get wind of what I consider a great story – and I am outraged when I see the public’s right to know being stymied. Reporters have traditionally been encouraged to suppress that sort of passion or outrage in their work product. But I have long felt that the Internet audience demands voice. Nobody wants to read a bored blogger. So I wear my passion on my sleeve.

But it’s journalistic passion, not partisan passion. And what disturbs me is the suggestion that enthusiastically scrutinizing a Republican president is somehow de facto biased and liberal – and therefore inadvisable for a reporter in a mainstream newsroom. I think that’s toxic for the industry, and for democracy.

Incidentally, I think this also speaks to a larger issue going forward. As more reporters start blogging (and they should) they’ll either write boring blogs that fail – or they’ll write with a bit of attitude and succeed by connecting with readers. What will happen then? Here’s one scenario: Newsroom leaders will become less fixated on detachment and balance – two attributes that I think are hurting us more than helping us these days – and will instead focus on the values at the core of our industry, such as fairness and accuracy.

Finally: There’s been much speculation over whether my column would take the same approach with a Democrat in the White House. My answer is that the same passion for answers and accountability would inform the column no matter who is president. But a better question, really, is would the column take the same approach with another president -- either Democratic or Republican -- who was more forthcoming? And the answer is: I don’t know. It’s possible that in some ways the current incarnation of White House Briefing is a uniquely appropriate response to a unique presidency with a unique lack of transparency.

Posted by: Dan Froomkin at December 19, 2005 4:18 PM | Permalink

Thanks very much, Dan. Really. I'm going to make this into a separate post. It will be up momentarily. Hold comments and put them there, please.

Okay, Go to Dan Froomkin on Attitude in White House Briefing.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 19, 2005 4:28 PM | Permalink

From the Intro