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Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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August 5, 2006

The Pros Gonna Blog You Under the Table

Journalists about to replace bloggers? Nonsense, says our roving critic.

San Francsico, August 5. It has become fashionable of late to warn that bloggers are soon to be replaced by those savvy and determined latecomers to the Web, the journalists!

Slate’s trusty trend-spotter, Jack Shafer, announced it with great fanfare in 2005: “With the exception of the ‘metro’ section reporter covering a 12-car pile-up on the freeway, I think most practicing journalists today are as Webby as any blogger you care to name.”

Since Shafer’s grand declaration the “we are the Web” chorus has only grown louder in mainstream journalism, and today it seems to you can’t turn around with hearing about the collapse of independent blogging, and its transformation into ordinary media space.

But what the sweaty champions of “journalism as a form of blogging” overlook is how hard it is for your average reporter to thrive in the link-filled, argument-rich, emotionally-present, here’s-where-I-stand style that traditional bloggers have cultivated over the years. It takes time. Perhaps the hardest part is you actually have to be interested in what other people are saying.

Earlier this year, the Financial Times jumped aboard the “we’re so Webby” express. It claimed that “the ‘dinosaur’ businesses of the old economy have a canny ability to absorb, adapt and evolve.” Indeed, “We are already starting to see blogs taking root in well established newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Newsroom triumphalism aside, this hardly anounts to the death of blogging. Last time I looked, the Technorati Top 100 was still dominated by—you guessed it—traditional bloggers working in the daily, grind-it-out, link-and-comment style.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times does have a business blog. Well, whoop-de-damn-doo. According to Blog Pulse the thing has zero links. May we stop the trans-Atlantic breast beating now?

Rather breathlessly but in perfect lockstop with Shafer, Nick Lemann of the New Yorker recently boasted about how Web-friendly and two-way our professional journalists have gotten: “In their Internet versions, most traditional news organizations make their reporters available to answer readers’ questions and, often, permit readers to post their own material.”

Sorry—and I know I’ll get flamed for this in “Talk of the Town”—but it’s going to take a bit more than online Q and A’s and open comment threads to sweep bloggers into the dustbin.

We hear every day how “the pros are gonna blog you under the table.” Count me unimpressed. I say a majority of the blogging is going to continue to be done by the traditional underwear types who have the passion and irreverance the pros seem to lack.

And speaking of passion, has anyone noticed how some of the most prominent press bloggers, faced with the rigors of posting every day, have quietly abandoned the form? David Carr, who pompously describes himself as “the first blogger at The New York Times,” gave up his Carpetbagger blog on March 9. Apparently the counter-revolution will have to wait. It was too hard to keep blogging with everything else he had to do!

So before you start stocking your RSS-reader with converted columnists and spiffed-up beat reporters, take a deep breath, calm down, and call up your Talking Points Memo, your Volokh Conspiracy, your Scobelizer, your Dooce, your Global Voices. Do these pages look worried?

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

The quotes are real, the links are real. But this post is satire, people. I just want to make that clear, okay? Satire… Yes, I know that’s difficult on the Web. No, this note you’re reading right now is not satire, as one reader suggested in the comments.

Our roving critic in the comments: “Maybe satire is the wrong word. How’s ‘bout: attention, press people, this is what you sound like when you write those articles arguing that bloggers won’t replace journalists.

Rebecca MacKinnon responds: “Real” Journalism on the Read-Write Web. Amen.

Dave Winer: Interview request. “It would do us all good if the pros would stop predicting the demise of blogging, and get busy learning to use blogging in their reporting.”

Michael Schrage of MIT’s Media Lab e-mails:

Sorry to come to Nick’s ‘analysis’ so late. Read your comment and Jeff Jarvis’s. May I just add a couple of cents?

In the course of being the Washington Post’s first “tech” correspondent back in the early and mid-80s, I had to cover Detroit and Ross Perot’s acquisition by GM. I learned a lot about the autombile industry (and, frankly, I really hadn’t planned on that or wanted to…)

Forgive the preamble but it leads to my key point: Detroit just sucked at competition. It thought of itself and behaved like a domestic oligopoly and even Chrysler’s near-death experience didn’t change that dynamic.

Competition from Japan? Establish voluntary export restraints and insist on domestic content and greenfield plants.

It took well over a decade—and literally hundreds of thousands of layoffs—before Detroit even began to be a global competitor. To this day we can see that competition more often drew out the worst of Detroit’s executives and employees rather than their best.

I feel this dynamic replayed in the so-called MSM; in 2001, I would have bet real money that competition from the blogs and Google was going to make the New York Times, WSJ, CBS, CNN, Time, LA Times, etc. better and sharper publications.

What I see and read today are so-called ‘professional’ journalists operating from a defensive crouch and the breathtaking (to me) arrogance that competition from ‘amateurs’ and responses by reader/viewers are, net-net, not worthy of their time. It’s astonishing to me.

My political biases and perceptions aside, I am just flat out disappointed by how poorly the MSM competes. And it’s clear to me why Rupert Murdoch—for whom competition is both fuel and goad—has done so well over the past twenty years.

Posted by Jay Rosen at August 5, 2006 6:47 PM   Print


The pros can't out-blog the bloggers. Good blogging is controversial. It rocks the boat. Except for the ones that work at advocacy pubs, like The Nation or The Free Republic on the left and right, they have too much to lose.

A few of them create "brands" - Andrew Sullivan and Ana Marie Cox spring to mind - and then leverage them into more mainstream work. But those seem to be the exceptions rather than the rule.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at August 5, 2006 10:15 PM | Permalink

The biggest advantages the mainstream media has over bloggers is their network of relationships. There's good in that--more money for advertising and better sources, sometimes-- and bad--connected to the PR machine, expensive overhead and self-censorship.

There's room for anything that's good on the web. But newspapers have to admit that they're arriving late. So they better have more alcohol and a karaoke machine.

Posted by: Pete Nicely at August 5, 2006 10:19 PM | Permalink

The after-note on this being satire, is that satire too? I'm just curious as to what your actual point is?

Did you start writing this as a serious post only to find you had a Free Pass with nothing to back up the assertion about journalists saying they gonna astroturf bloggers off the block? So you decided to add a few columnist-style strokes and pass it off as satire?

Because, as satire it doesn't work. Taken seriously, it's just a bit of lazy Saturday night blogging - pick strawman, selectively quote a few people, wrap up argument. Unfortunately, it makes more sense as the latter.

Posted by: Chris Edwards at August 6, 2006 3:03 AM | Permalink

Pick strawman, selectively quote a few people, wrap up argument.


Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 6, 2006 3:56 AM | Permalink

"Perhaps the hardest part is you actually have to be interested in what other people are saying."

Ay - there's the rub! Wonderful!

Posted by: tamarika at August 6, 2006 8:43 AM | Permalink

Too funny, Jay.

Anyone who could get past the fourth paragraph without realizing the whole essay is a parody -- and a pretty damned good one at that -- needs to take a deep breath and open the relief valve on their forehead to drain off some of the excess earnestness slopping over the edge of the tank.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at August 6, 2006 10:32 AM | Permalink


I say a majority of the blogging is going to continue to be done by the traditional underwear types...

T.M.I. but are you implying that you don't wear pajamas?

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at August 6, 2006 7:45 PM | Permalink

You actually thought the bombed out ambulance was genuine????


There's one born every minute.

And then they become journos. :)

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at August 7, 2006 12:40 AM | Permalink

Once again, Jay sends my comments down the memory hole. What are you afraid of, Jay?

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at August 7, 2006 1:14 AM | Permalink

Be gone. I don't want you around anymore, "Neuro-conservative," whomever that is. Attempted hijacking of this thread for something completely unrelated is the official reason, if you want one. The larger reason is you have no respect for this forum and you poison it with everything you post. You are now officially unwelcome here. It's my house and I don't want you in it. Clear enough?

Luckily, you have your own blog. So go tell the world what a coward and a censor I am.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 7, 2006 1:38 AM | Permalink


Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at August 7, 2006 9:18 AM | Permalink

Satire or not, I find myself doing more and more of my own blog reading at the sites of journalists. The biggest exceptions are when I'm looking for specialized expertise, such as on a Supreme Court decision, or something of professional interest, such as this site.

As journalists know, writing interesting stuff every day is tough. The partisan sites wear me out. The personal sites bore me. Two obsolete rules of journalistic practice make journalists' sites more tolerable to this (admittedly atypical) reader: 1. Opinions are cheap. 2. It's about the story, not about the writer.

Posted by: David Crisp at August 7, 2006 10:31 AM | Permalink

As Monty Python once said: "We've got all the words we need; Now it's just a matter of getting them in the right order."

I would restate David Crisp's partisan/personal dilemma this way: We've created really efficient ways to publish content; what we need is a really efficient way to link readers to the content that would interest them. Absent the killer app that connects readers to relevant content within The Long Tail, many readers will choose to stay within the realm of mass media, where quality (however dubious) is generally more predictable.

But don't tell me it's just about the story, not about the writer. First, information without a storyteller is just data, so there is no story without a writer. Second, there are some really awful writers lurking around out there. This morning I was reading a military blog where the blogger had an interesting perspective on the relative safety of highways in Iraq... but I just had to move on.

Was it because I happened to disagree with the conclusions this guy drew? Maybe, on some deeper pscychological level: we all tend to be attracted to the things that are like us. But on the more immediate level, the guy -- despite being a grammatically correct, competent user of English -- is just a horrible writer.

Plenty of bad writers draw press corps paychecks, but as a group they tend to produce better quality prose than the superset that includes everyone with a blog. And pro-jos, on average, tend to have a higher fact-to-attitude ratio than the general blogosphere. But averages are a tricky thing: Taken together, a jumpshot that hits the front rim, followed by a jumpshot that clangs off the back iron might "average" out to a swish and two points, but that doesn't really help my score.

What I want now is a tool that helps me find only the best material, not just the stuff that comes out better on average. Then we'll really have a new medium.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 7, 2006 12:59 PM | Permalink

Conover, could you please provide a link to the milblogger you mentioned who has an "interesting perspective" but is a "horrible writer" so that we may judge for ourselves if it was the writing or the content that you found annoying.

I'm thinking that it's possible that as a writer/journalist yourself, you may have either higher standards than the rest of us for writing or writing may be the ONLY standard you consider valid.

Let's take a look.

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 7, 2006 1:13 PM | Permalink

Technorati 100 says:

# 94.
Guardian Unlimited: Comment is free

* By Guardian Unlimited. Last updated 53 minutes ago.
* 2,966 blogs link here

Posted by: b at August 7, 2006 1:37 PM | Permalink



Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 7, 2006 1:50 PM | Permalink

Conover, why not?

Please don't read any hostile intent into my request. I'm just thinking that you may have rejected the content due to poor writing because you are a writer/journalist.

I just want to test my theory.

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 7, 2006 2:04 PM | Permalink

First thing, I don't want to slag this guy's blog or hold him up as an example of poor writing. That would be rude even for me...

Second thing is, I used my reaction as an example of a subjective process that I think is universal -- even if people make different individual judgments. So all you'd really be learning is something about my tastes -- which might be of interest to somebody, but probably not to a PressThink thread devoted to another subject.

The original point was, if a writer can't keep your mind from wandering, you're going to find other writers. No matter whether my personal standards for writing quality are "higher" or "lower," I think the point remains true for all readers. And while some of us will put up with some level of clunky prose if it contains high-grade information, perspective and opinion-writing are typically less fact-dense forms. That puts writing quality at a premium.

As for writing quality being my "only" standard -- well, that's not very likely. I read these PT threads all the time, generally find them fascinating, and most of what we write here doesn't quite add up to the lofty standards of great literture.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 7, 2006 3:49 PM | Permalink

Well, I said the rule was obsolete. But obsolete or not, that stance does help make most journalists' blogs less self-absorbed than a lot of other blogs. Otherwise, I agree with your post.

Posted by: David Crisp at August 7, 2006 4:00 PM | Permalink

But averages are a tricky thing: Taken together, a jumpshot that hits the front rim, followed by a jumpshot that clangs off the back iron might "average" out to a swish and two points, but that doesn't really help my score.

Daniel, the basketball analogy doesn't really work because writing and reporting quality isn't all or nothing. Or is it?

A brick shot will get you no points in hoops, but a poor quality story might get you 50% of the information, you're not going to get zero for the effort. So for your milblog, you got some percentage of the information, instead of nothing?

Maybe baseball is a better analogy. Putting a bat on the ball, you can sacrifice, move the runner along. Or hit a single or double, instead of a homerun. More than two possible outcomes. More gray than black or white. People expect journalism to be black or white, even when the information is generally gray. (And I don't mean the journalists make it gray with he said, she said.)

Posted by: Hue at August 7, 2006 4:12 PM | Permalink


Baseball might well be a better analogy.

See, if I'd have played baseball instead of basketball, odds are I'd have been a better journalist. Certainly would have made me a better writer.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 7, 2006 4:22 PM | Permalink

Your parody strikes very close to a variation that was the MSM frame for covering Yearly Kos: "Now that we have acknowledged you exist after years of hoping ignoring you would make you go away, you'll surely have to give up your claims to non-MSM, non-insider status, and admit that you are indistinguishable from us and don't offer anything new."

Maureen Dowd, Bloggers Double Down: New Media is trying to become, rather than upend, Old Media

Cox's implication that bloggers are now another schmoozing group of lobbyists getting pandered to like all the others is especially bracing given that Cox had been a "journalist" on the printed page for all of several weeks when she found her snarky print journalism ennui over blog triumphalism. Ana Marie Cox is the rare and pathetic animal that Mareen Dowd lazily imagines the blogosphere to be as a whole. Both of them tell us way more about themselves than Yearly Kos. Certainly more than I wanted to know.

Ana Marie Cox, Why Ambitious Pols Make Their Pilgrimage to Yearly Kos

It's a kind of clueless, pathetic variation on the cell phone commercial, "Can we ignore you now? Can we ignore you now? Can we ignore you now?...."

Posted by: Mark Anderson at August 7, 2006 4:39 PM | Permalink

I'm glad 'bloggers vs. journalists' is a dead issue. Though the body refuses to stay in the ground.

Meanwhile, I'm not going to get into the analogy debate(I think it's more like bowling), I'll say that Daniel and Mr. Crisp help clarify the issue. Good writing and sound, solid reporting will get noticed, regardless of who's doing it.

To paraphrase the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, "Good writing and facts will get you through bleak times better than good writing and snark."

Posted by: David McLemore at August 7, 2006 5:32 PM | Permalink

Thanks to Conover, Crisp, Hue and McLemore for their elucidating comments.

(But a link is better)

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 7, 2006 6:29 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen:

My favorite moment was when he wrote: “Great citizen journalism is like the imagined Northwest Passage—it has to exist in order to prove that citizens can learn about public life without the mediation of professionals.”

That really made me smile.
Andy Cline:
But journalists should never suppose that they are keepers of a deeper understanding civic information, knowledge, or wisdom. The political and social utility of "junk" or "unvetted and unfiltered information" has nothing to do with the professional journalist's opinion of it. Journalists should be learning from the internet that information, knowledge, and wisdom are being freed from editorial control, and many citizens--news consumers--see this as a good thing.
Dan Conover:
First, information without a storyteller is just data, so there is no story without a writer.
Wow, can we scratch the surface a little deeper, Dan?

Whither knowledge?...
Making wise use of the internet...
The Origin of the “Data Information Knowledge Wisdom” Hierarchy

Posted by: Tim Schmoyer at August 7, 2006 7:00 PM | Permalink

Conover is correct. Without storytelling, it's all just random data or unsupported conclusions.

I have a hunch that that is why that books like Suskind's or Woodward's sell so well. They know know that within the story lies the truth.

Readers intuitively understand that most of the time the MSM is just presenting them with random scattershots of data. And that most of the time blogs are also just presenting them with random scattershots of data, selectively chosen to bolster a pre-determined point of view.

No wonder the bookstores are so crowded.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at August 7, 2006 8:37 PM | Permalink

Readers intuitively understand that most of the time the MSM is just presenting them with random scattershots of data. And that most of the time blogs are also just presenting them with random scattershots of data, selectively chosen to bolster a pre-determined point of view.

Wow. Just like the MSM! :)

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at August 8, 2006 12:19 AM | Permalink

Journalists have always put on superior airs towards other "painters of the word" and their statements are really ridiculous.

Posted by: Freelance writing professional at August 8, 2006 6:02 AM | Permalink

If an editor cannot tell the problems with Rueters feeds, How is he supposed to tell any problems with feeds from bloggers?

Posted by: Tim at August 8, 2006 7:50 AM | Permalink

"Freelance Writing Professional:"

Journalists have always put on superior airs towards other "painters of the word" and their statements are really ridiculous.

What a deliciously absurd generalization. Print journalists taking superior airs among other members of the writing class? Puh-leez. That's like saying the surgeons from M*A*S*H put on airs when they'd meet the brain surgeons from the Mayo Clinic. Next.


Every human being is a storyteller, because stories are the mechanism by which we understand the world. Even if we never speak them or write them, we create stories to understand our emotions, our relationships, our careers, our political leanings. Many times we adopt storylines that are generated by others, but if we are reading from a script, it's an adaptation of our own manufacture. I suspect that's what schizophrenia may be: a broken storytelling processor.

Our stories are more important to us than the information that shapes them, and when it comes to receiving information, we're a lot like bacteria. Our stories shape our "receptor sites." If a new bit of information fits that slot, it is accepted and starts a chain-reaction that may lead to an action. If a bit of information doesn't fit the slot, it's as if it never even existed.

One could argue that traditional newswriting was an attempt to break that information down into a form that would "fit" into the maximum number of audience receptors.

So, when Jim Shumaker threatened us with humiliation if we "put ourselves in the story" on set-piece class assignments, but then gave us different grades based on the quality of the copy we submitted, he was really teaching us two lessons:

1. The subject is important, not your feelings about the subject; 2. Expect to be judged on your ability to think, organize and communicate clearly.

Basic newswriting, then, is storytelling from an impersonal, detached perspective -- what gets called "the view from nowhere" around here. I don't think anyone is calling for the abandonment of that type of newswriting. In fact, I think one of the best things we could do for high school students is to teach them basic reporting and newswriting -- it's a great mental discipline for sorting out lots of information in a short period of time.

But that kind of storytelling really just information triage. Necessary, but not sufficient for all our needs. Consequently, we've developed other forms and styles to meet our demand for stories that communicate things like... wisdom. Along with them, we've grown various institutional rules and cultural expectations.

Now we're examining all those basic assumptions from the perspective of the 21st century. I'm convinced the new mediascape demands a more systematic and standards-based approach to journalism, the development of new journalistic products, and an entirely different concept of our relationship to the end-user.

But that doesn't mean that the role of the storyteller is diminished. A good storyteller is something a system cannot predict, prescribe or produce. But so long as human beings require such things, there will always be a demand for people who are skilled in the use of these tools and see things that others miss.

What's new is how these people will come to via novel platforms and from surprising backgrounds, skipping right past the old gatekeepers.

What is Paul Graham, for instance, but a guy who tells us stories about people and technology and how everything fits together?

And there: I just told you a story.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 8, 2006 11:37 AM | Permalink

Yeah, I'm not feeling this one. Not much written by Mr. Rosen here as premise jibes with my life and what I've been hearing as a journalist. In fact, this is the first time I've heard that "Journalists are the Web!"

A handful of excitables might say it, but that doesn't mean anything to me.

Most national and quite a few local newspaper and News Networks do have thriving Web sites. Whether they make money or not is a separate - but of course important - matter.

But that's a differnet thing entirely from blogging success.

- Temple

Posted by: Temple Stark at August 8, 2006 2:00 PM | Permalink

Well, I did post before reading "after matter."

Maybe it was just expectation of seriousness at this site, except I still don't get this as satire.

Needs more work. Needs teh funNy.

Posted by: Temple Stark at August 8, 2006 2:15 PM | Permalink

Maybe satire is the wrong word. How's 'bout: attention, press people, this is what you sound like when you write those articles arguing that bloggers won't replace journalists.

As for "Not much written by Mr. Rosen here as premise jibes with my life and what I've been hearing as a journalist."


Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 8, 2006 3:12 PM | Permalink

The voice of one person heard by many, the new age media has enabled this to happen at very low cost.

This freedom that has been granted to us by technology is hard to suppress and as such should be embrassed by anyone that needs to have a voice.


Posted by: Rich Jerk at August 9, 2006 5:26 AM | Permalink


Is "story" synonymous with narrative? I agree with the importance in human communication of a narrative, but does "story" encompass all the other structural biases - or just the narrative bias?

How does the inverted pyramid affect the narrative?

How do infrastructural biases of the medium impact the narrative (print, radio, TV)?

How does expository (read only) vs. conversation (read-write) impact the narrative and other structural and infrastructural biases (Hyperlinked television research at the MIT Media Laboratory, System Manager and Hypertext Control Interface for Interactive Cable Television)?

Can a storyteller, in the read-write noetic field, be a portal - a story of links - rather than an infotainer?

Posted by: Tim Schmoyer at August 9, 2006 7:16 AM | Permalink

Fix link: System Manager and Hypertext Control Interface for Interactive Cable Television

Dan, what is the relationship between journalistic "storytelling" genres and DIKW.

Posted by: Tim Schmoyer at August 9, 2006 8:00 AM | Permalink


Are story and narrative synonymous? There's probably a distinction in the definitions, but to answer your question, yes, in the sloppy way that I use the words, they're synonyms.

Does (personal) story/narrative encompass other structural biases? Sure. I figure the stories we tell ourselves about the world are the reason why our biases don't seem like biases, but other people's biases are obvious.

How does inverted pyramid affect narrative? Well, for one thing, you could argue that inverted pyramid reinforces Cline's Bad News Bias. On the other hand, inverted pyramid is a news bias critic's dream, because the relative position of facts within a story are a testament to the writer/editors judgment about their significance.

Infrastructural biases of the medium? I think you've got as good a handle on that one as any of us, and I don't think that was so much the subject of what I was trying to work out. Back at you: What are the infrastructural biases of blogging?

Read-only v. read-write: At the risk of being Mr. Obvious (again), Read-only encourages The Grand Statement, because the writer (and I use "writer" generically, too) must not only make points, but justify an answer to the un-asked question "why is THIS subject worthy of attention instead of THAT subject?" Read-write is much more like the rules of what you originally called it: a conversation. People don't like one-sided conversationalists, so it's a natural change in stance.

Can one be a storyteller of links? That's a great question. If so, would Glenn Reynolds qualify as the pioneer? Would a meta-blogger like Ed Cone qualify? How about just raw linkage? And I would say, today, that the idea behind this is worthy of exploration. One thing to consider: There will be many forms that succeed, not one form. Maybe the first question, then, is who would be the users/audience for that form of storytelling?

Genre: Unless the writer is incompetent, selecting the particular genre that best tells an individual story is a judgment about the information. So to that extent, genre is a comment on DIKW. A 12-inch bright on a kid taking debit cards at a lemonade stand would be fine, but a 12-inch bright on someone who believes the police are on the payroll of a drug lord would be utterly inappropriate. But wouldn't DIKW come first? And isn't the final level -- wisdom -- the thing that journalism has struggled longest to convey?

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 9, 2006 10:27 AM | Permalink

Dan: What are the infrastructural biases of blogging?

Great question. There are two easy ones: screen size/resolution and bandwidth. Those two impact web look & feel and content generally.

Then there are other less obvious ones - less obvious in terms of infrastructure or structural. For example, 3 column blogs vs. 2 column blogs. Comments or no. Trackbacks or no. Cosmos or no. Link (density) or no. Blogroll or no. Audio or no. Pics or no. Video or no.

Some of the above choices are analogous, I think, to the choices made by USA Today and the Wall Street Journal which are very different in appearance.

Let's take our host's blog as an example. You'd be hard pressed to find pictures, audio or video here. But Jay does have a stylesheet:

What I have instead of method is a kind of style sheet, which has self-imposed instructions for how to do a PressThink post....

... there are five fields that get filled in: the title, the subtitle, the essay, the “after matter” (with notes, reactions and links) and the comments. Each requires of me a different kind of writing. The title condenses what the post is about, and arrests attention. The subheading explains the argument, previewing the “story” in the essay. The essay is an essay, but with links— a gesture unto themselves. The “after” section edits and tracks the wider discussion in the blog sphere. The comments begin the dialogue.

A successful post is when all five parts talk to each other as they are read against one another. A PressThink entry is not “done” until the after matter, trackbacks and comments come in, which sometimes takes more than a week. That’s one cycle in the turning of a weblog. When it works (always a hit and miss thing) the post at some point turns into a forum on the subject that occasioned the post— and the fourm is what “thinks.” Of course, I didn’t know about this stylesheet and the posting logic it enforces until after I had stumbled on it through trial and error.
Jay explains his storytelling methodology more here and here.
I write the post to say what I have to say that's different from what everyone else is saying. It's drafted as an essay that has its own integrity and logic.... I don't start thinking about the comment thread until after the first dozen comments or so....
Storytelling is constrained by infrastructural and structural biases as well as strategic and definitory rules. The web, as a new medium, has a different set of infrastructural biases. But it also allows for a different set of structural biases and expectations to develop. A different set of rules. A different narrative formula.

The web, and blogging as a form, is biased toward read-write. So when you tell a story to impress your sources or peers (and win prizes), the PFKATA (who know more) can/will respond - publicly - to your audience (readers/listeners/watchers).

Posted by: Tim Schmoyer at August 10, 2006 6:26 AM | Permalink

"Maybe satire is the wrong word. How's 'bout: attention, press people, this is what you sound like when you write those articles arguing that bloggers won't replace journalists."

In which case post-hoc bravo.

It happens on both sides, of course. Witness, one bad photo means all photos are suspect and media outlets are corrupt partisan tools.

Posted by: Temple Stark at August 10, 2006 3:33 PM | Permalink

From the Intro