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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

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 27, 2006

Exploding By-Lines: Update on NewAssignment.Net

There's now a placeholder site. Design Observer joins in. The Economist weighs in. "Creating capacity does not create activity." I have an assignment for someone who wants to help out. And I need ideas for a test run.

1. There’s now a NewAssignment.Net site, a simple Wordpress blog. This is a temporary space while we get our act together. Jake Jarvis, son of Buzzmachine’s Jeff Jarvis, donated the set-up work. (Thanks, Jake.) Jeff is a key adviser to NewAssignment.Net.

2. The Exposing Earmarks project (see my Aug. 15 post about it) continues to operate as a case study in networked journalism. This was the assignment, as explained in the Examiner:

Check out the earmarks for your state and then call your congressman and ask if he or she sponsored any of your state’s earmarks. If the answer is yes, ask why the congressman’s name isn’t on the earmark. If you recognize the institution designated to receive the earmarked tax dollars, call them and ask them what they intend to do with your money.

Then email us at with the subject line “Earmarks” and tell us what you found out.

Pretty simple system. A user at Josh Marshall’s TPM Cafe, mrs panstreppon, took up the challenge and found that $1,175,000 requested for the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation would go to a non-profit created by a Washington healthcare lobbyist, S. J. “Bud” Grant, in 1999.

Grant earns close to $400,000 annually overseeing an operation with less than $5 million in revenue, mrs panstreppon found. That’s not the great tradition of American philanthropy for which tax exemptions are given. She also explained at the Sunlight Foundation’s site how she discovered this.

Those are two different donations: verifiable facts about the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation, and her tips for others: Taking Earmark Research To The Next Level.

How do we put a value on those donations and represent them? And what if your member profile at NewAssignment.Net listed all the donations you’ve made to getting stories done— the money you gave, the knowledge you provided (and to what stories) the tutorials you wrote for others…

3. Design Observer is probably the leading design blog out there. It was co-founded by William Drentell, who designed the look and logo of PressThink in 2003. He recently wrote…

Design Observer, inspired by Jay Rosen’s NewAssignment.Net, is looking for a design story of national or international importance where our network of readers can provide sources, data, information, journalism. Send ideas to william @

I’ll let you know if they come up with something. In the meantime, here’s a design challenge for Drentell and his gang. One of the keys to whether networked jouralism works is going to be ease of use: making it easy to participate, to donate knowledge, and to see how your piece fits into a larger picture. When mrs panstreppon came forward with her facts about the Glaucoma Caucus Foundation it would have been better for the project if she could easily see how many earmarks in her area remained unidentified, and how many recipients of Federal money have yet to be checked out.

4. The Economist wrote about NewAssignment.Net in its cover package on the future of newspapers. (“Newspapers are making progress with the internet, but most are still too timid, defensive or high-minded.”) It’s only a matter of time before some papers start shutting down, the magazine argued.

“The usefulness of the press goes much wider than investigating abuses or even spreading general news; it lies in holding governments to account— trying them in the court of public opinion,” said a companion essay. “The internet has expanded this court.”

For hard-news reporting—as opposed to comment—the results of net journalism have admittedly been limited. Most bloggers operate from their armchairs, not the frontline, and citizen journalists tend to stick to local matters. But it is still early days. New online models will spring up as papers retreat. One non-profit group, NewAssignment.Net, plans to combine the work of amateurs and professionals to produce investigative stories on the internet. Aptly, $10,000 of cash for the project has come from Craig Newmark, of Craigslist, a group of free classified-advertisement websites that has probably done more than anything to destroy newspapers’ income.

In future, argues Carnegie, some high-quality journalism will also be backed by non-profit organisations. Already, a few respected news organisations sustain themselves that way—including the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio. An elite group of serious newspapers available everywhere online, independent journalism backed by charities, thousands of fired-up bloggers and well-informed citizen journalists: there is every sign that Arthur Miller’s national conversation will be louder than ever.

The Carnegie report on non-profit approaches is here: “When newsgathering isn’t tied into company profits, does journalism—and the public—benefit?” Non-profit makes sense for NewAssignment for a multitude of reasons, the most important of which was stated by Dan Gillmor: “It bears repeating that a business model can’t say, “You do all the work and we’ll take all the money, thank you very much.’”

5. The Washington Post reported on Robert Greenwald’s success in raising money over the Net for his documentary on war profiteering in Iraq. He’s a political filmmaker and the director of “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism” and “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.” Greenwald “tapped a new funding source: the audience,” the Post wrote. The article tells the story of Jim Gilliam, 28, who persuaded Greenwald to give it a try.

The usual bankers of political documentaries — left-leaning organizations and high-roller liberal donors — weren’t rushing to write Greenwald any checks. Greenwald doesn’t know why. “Maybe I’m a lousy fundraiser,” he says.

Then Gilliam had his idea. Robert, why not go on the Internet and just ask for the money? “I thought he was crazy,” Greenwald says. “I thought this would never work.”

But it did work. Gilliam sent out a mass of e-mails to thousands of people who had bought DVDs of Greenwald’s films or expressed interest in his work. They raised $267,892 in 10 days. “It is my dream to pull this off,” Gilliam told the Post. “To figure out how to fund movies out of the control of corporations. Our goal is to fund and distribute any movie we want to make completely outside of the system.” That’s what I meant when I said that if NewAssignment.Net worked it would be a case of “journalism without the media.”

From the pitch Gilliam used in his e-mails:

To start shooting, we need money. Overall, the film will cost $750,000. We can expect about $450,000 to be offset by DVD sales, selling foreign rights, and an advance from our retail store distributor, but we still need $300,000. A generous donor just stepped up and will contribute $100,000 if we can match it with $200,000 from someone else. That someone else is you! 4000 people giving $50 each. We’ll put everyone’s name in the credits.”

There’s another design challenge for NewAssignment.Net: putting everyone’s name in the credits. The site will have to explode the whole notion of a by-line.

6. Solana Larsen, an editor for the London-based “Now, I agree Jay Rosen’s (NYU) website is a really good idea. But shouldn’t we wait and see what they come up with before everybody starts raving about it. There is nothing on the site yet!”

I agree completely, Solana. Thanks for saying that. Keeping expectations in line with reality is going to be extremely important for this project. For starters, I need to state clearly—and keep saying it—that NewAssignment.Net is not a citizen journalism site, and it does not propose to put users in charge in some ultimate sense. It’s a pro-am site that puts editors in charge. Editors, in turn, have to be open (well, very open) to users and the vital contributions they make.

7. So will it work? My attitude is not all that different from Mathew Ingram’s (he writes geekwatch for The Globe and Mail): “As an old-media hack who thinks there is a whole lot that could be improved about the way that journalism works — including opening it up to just about any blogger or vlogger who feels like taking a crack at it — Jay’s idea has everything going for it. Except that I’m not sure it’s going to work. Other than that it’s a great idea.”

I’m not sure either. I’ll let you know when that feeling changes.

Ingram asks why I think New Assignment will get any more traction than Dan Gillmor’s Bayosphere. Excellent question, one that many have asked me. One answer is that I have Dan’s lessons learned post, a masterful self-examination. He didn’t have that when he started. (See Ingram’s failure is educational. Also Tim Porter: making new mistakes.)

This part in particular seems crucial. Dan writes: “Citizen journalists need and deserve active collaboration and assistance. They want some direction and a framework, including a clear understanding of what the site’s purpose is and what tasks are required. (I didn’t do nearly a good enough job in this area.)”

Hmmm. Suppose you came to NewAssignment.Net and actually got an assignment? (“Check out the earmarks for your state and then call your congressman…” is a pretty clear assignment. “Taking Earmark Research To The Next Level” is pretty good assistance.) The other answer I have for Mathew Ingram is PressThink’s number one law of citizen journalism: Creating Net capacity (even if it’s amazing and innovative) does not create civic activity. A site that does wonderful things isn’t a reason to do wonderful things with it. NewAssignment.Net “knows” this. It is trying to learn the lessons of that law.

8. Anyone want to help out with the launch of NewAssignment.Net? Go to this site, and carefully examine it— how it works, whether it works, what does and doesn’t work, and why… Be sure to look at what’s been written and said about it, too. Then write a post capturing the key lessons for NewAssignment.Net. Publish it at your blog—like mrs panstreppon did—and I will link to it, mentioning your name and giving thanks. Or put it in the comments here, or send it to me. (If you’re taking this on do let me know.)

9. I need PressThink readers to help me out by thinking about stories that would be right for a New Assignment test run later this fall. By “right” for a NewAssignment.Net test I mean something that:

  • is under-covered, poorly covered or not covered at all by the major news media;
  • lends itself to “distributed reporting,” where a bunch of people—dispersed but connected by the Net—could contribute knowledge in a manner that would be hard for a reporter or even two or three to duplicate;
  • is a story of national, international or regional importance— newsworthy, in other words;
  • is doable in about six weeks time;

It’s the second bullet, the lends itself to “distributed reporting” part that seems to be the trickiest. Many readers of my blog and a good number who wrote to me after the first wave of publicity for New Assignment suggested stories that were under-covered and possibly newsworthy, but had no distributed reporting dimension to them at all.

In my introduction I used the example of prescription drug pricing, which was originally Gillmor’s idea. A network of users tells us what a critically important drug costs all over the U.S. (or the world for that matter.) Another suggestion I got (from Amy Gahran) was “having thousands of eyes on the chemical-transport-by-rail safety issue, a huge hole in the whole homeland security thing.” Not bad.

What are your ideas for a good test story?

10. Post-script: Danny Glover of National Journal’s Beltway Blogroll suggests an assignment in the comments. “It has been a decade since the enactment of the welfare reform law. Very little has been written about the impact of the law, especially not within given communities. It would be a great project for citizen journalists to dig into and cover region by region.”

That’s one we’ll take under advisement. Danny: can you phrase it as a question? The one the networks would be trying to answer.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

The blog swarm works: The ‘Secret Holder’ Is Sen. Ted Stevens. Paul Kiel of TPM Muckraker has more.

In case it matters, I’ll be in San Francisco Sep. 14-15 for meetings about NewAssignment.Net. And I will speaking at the News & Record in Greensboro, NC Oct. 4 at 4:30.

The Blog Reader did a profile of PressThink. It’s by Alex Dziadosz. Begins: “Nothing about Jay Rosen’s blog PressThink is simple.” I’ll take it!

I also recommend the Blog Reader’s profile on Paul Graham. And Graham’s essay: The Power of the Marginal. Here’s an interview with Graham.

David Weinberger reports on a foo-camp session on the future of news where NewAssignment.Net came up.

“I found today. First glance, First thought - how is this different from wikinews?” The rest.

Wired News asks readers to help edit an article:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do the job of a Wired News editor and whip it into shape. Don’t change the quotes, but feel free to reorganize it, make cuts, smooth the prose or add links — whatever it takes to make it a lively, engaging news piece.

Mathew Ingram says it won’t work.

For a solid preview of the newsroom reactionary’s response to NewAssignment.Net see this post by Patrick Ross at the Progress and Freedom Foundation blog. (Ross says he’s an ex-journalist and a defender of Old Media.) “I’d like to place a bet here - the first story that is pitched and funded at NewAssignment will be an expose on George W. Bush, with the imaginative premise that his ties to the oil industry led us into Iraq. That will trigger the pitching and funding of a second story, one that seeks to document Hillary Clinton as a politician to the left of Vladimir Lenin.”

Andrew Cline: NewAssignment “should tell a different story about politics: the story of citizens’ experience with policy and governance more than the story of politicians’ political wrangling.”

Andy Carvin has a new job, “senior product manager for online communities” for NPR in Washington. “I’ll be spending a lot of time analyzing the Web 2.0 universe, with particular interest towards things like online social networks, citizen journalism and networked journalism. I can’t predict where all of this will lead, but I’m very excited that NPR has asked me to help them blaze new trails with them.” He told me he’s excited about NewAssignment.Net and will be studying it carefully. So maybe down the road there could be collaborations with NPR online, which would be cool.

Len Witt says… Jeff Jarvis: Don’t kill off citizen journalism!

Kitchen Democracy looks interesting: simple and effective. The husband-and-wife founders e-mailed me when they found out about NewAssignment. The idea is to make it possible to participate in the decisions at city hall when you can’t make the meetings. They have an excellent FAQ page. Here’s an article from the Berkeley Daily Planet. The key to it, I think, will be officeholders. If they start listening, then the site has power. Bears watching.

Ellen Foley, an editor at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, comments at Buzzmachine on the Economist’s “Who killed the Newspaper?” cover story:

It’s 6 p.m. Friday after a long week of threatened tornadoes and hail the size of grapefruit. I am surprised that of all of you, I, an editor at a medium-sized paper with visions of cost cuts dancing in my head, is the upbeat one. I do have to say that when you work in a lively newsroom such as ours, the future doesn’t seem as bleak. We are looking at the great fun and opportunity we are going to have. We spent all week talking about how to reorganize so we can truly be open to the changes around us. I know many other editors of newspapers and newspaper websites who embrace my optimism and are having fun blogging and creating the community conversations our readers/users deserve.


Agoravox, the French citizen journalism site that seems to be pretty successful (the name means voice of the public square, roughly) is starting an English-language edition. Commenting at the NewAssignment.Net site, Didier Toussaint says:

Unlike yours, it does not seek funds and contributors are volunteers. Surprisingly, the level of contributions is rather high and it is a great opportunity for debate.

Now, it is also true that most articles are more opinion-oriented than informative because no one will dedicate time or money to investigate. However, some specialists have things to say that the public would not find out by itself.

Here’s an Agoravox entry on NewAssignment.Net

Also from the comments at NewAssignment.Net comes this from Allan Macleese:

The key thing to me, a retired newspaperperson, is that there are, I would guess, hundreds of us our there that would dearly love to be turned loose on a good honest project. We were what could be called pros, and we are sitting here, idle, dinking about with this and that, and want to return to the action. So we used to be in the MSM, but don’t discount us, we will work for nothing, as many of us agreed, in esence,to do when we went to work on newspapers in the first instance.

He’s right. We definitely have to consider how retired journalists like Macleese can be returned to action.

Web 2.0 Newspapers is a new blog about “the changing role of newspapers, their adaptations to Web 2.0 and the ways in which newspapers present content in both print and online media.” It covers a lot of topics I’m interested in, and seems professionally done.

But there’s something odd. All the items are written by “staff.” The blog is a commercial venture by a Canadian firm, Really Big Networks, which says it’s “a Web 2.0 marketing company.” Then there’s logic behind its blog network, explained thusly: “Original, professional niche content produced around the latest SEO best practices and developed according to sophisticated keyword analysis, RBN blogs combine the credibility of the blogosphere with the sophistication of the latest Web CRM and targeting techniques.” Odd because my understanding of credibility in the blogosphere is that it’s built around people and what they make. Search engine optimization, which is mostly a bogus field to begin with, doesn’t make for trusted content. Neither does “staff.”

UPDATE, Aug. 29: Jonathan Rothman “comes out” as the author of Web 2.0 Newspapers. “You’re right: I should have identified myself from the start,” he says in the comments. “Let me assure you I am human, and have some ‘cred’ related to the job I’m doing. To that end, I’ve taken the hint and expanded on who I am and who I work for in a more direct way on the blog. I’m not sure why I chose to keep quiet at first, but no longer.” Here’s his bio, which is up now at the site.

That’s a start. More here.

Posted by Jay Rosen at August 27, 2006 12:15 AM   Print



I'm disappointed (I think you are missing a great opportunity) but, of course, I wish you best of luck!

re: "For starters, I need to state clearly—and keep saying it—that NewAssignment.Net… does not propose to put users in charge in some ultimate sense."

Nor does it offer much to those that would do the work, aside from some sort of an acknowledgement, which is fine but I just don’t see it as enough to build a very strong following. There just isn’t enough there for a whole lot of people to get that excited about…


P.S. Somebody's going to come along and do the bold thing (and make it work) any day now...

P.P.S. Oh well... as I said: best of luck! It can still be a very good project! (it's just missing a soul, as far as I'm concerned...) D.

Posted by: Delia at August 27, 2006 9:52 PM | Permalink

"Nor does it offer much to those that would do the work."

I just don't know how you know that. And to speak with such confidence!

From my point of view the site doesn't exist yet and not a single story has been done. No journalism... yet. There are no forums yet where "those who do the work" can speak about the work worth doing, and form alliances around an idea. No call for reporting volunteers has yet gone out. No appeal from a New Assignment editor has been heard. No votes have been taken on which stories are worth developing. No decisions have been made about how much weight to give those votes, or when they should be taken, or how to blend them in with other forms of popular voice. No New Assignment editor--picture a good blogger with a war chest and an intelligent user base--has struck up a conversation with the readers and listened to what they think. No advisory committees from the community of people interested in the experiment have been formed. No bonds among them have been discovered to exist.

The whole thing lies ahead in this sense, which is good, but the sort of good that spoils after a certain date.

Right now I am asking myself: what am I willing to promise at the start about where editorial sovereignty lies. I am extremely concerned not to over-promise on something like that. It's both an abstract question, and a practical--indeed, political--one. I took at look at the situation and all its variables. I decided to try pro-Am journalism on the open web, and in my universe, which is a mixed republic... In the beginning there is the editor!

They are going to create NewAssignment.Net. The editors. You'll see how if you stick around.

I agree that it's unknown how many will want to participate. I quite agree that someone else will do the bolder thing. Or someone already is, elsewhere and effectively on the Web. I certainly hope so, as we need experiments that go in different ways. New Assignment I already described as a hybrid, not boldly one thing or the other. It is taking a middle path. It will take a while to see how it works. I also described it as a "niche" producer.

I'm getting closer to making some decisions about the test run in fall '06, and then we'll start to have fun. What I mean is: it will be more fun to argue about what we're doing, rather than a sketch.

And we'll see where sovereignty lies and truth begins.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 28, 2006 1:02 AM | Permalink


re: " 'Nor does it offer much to those that would do the work.'

I just don't know how you know that. And to speak with such confidence!"

1 - how I know that: it's NOT bottom-up

2 - where my confidence comes from: the fact that the following is set in stone (at least that's what your language suggests): "For starters, I need to state clearly—and keep saying it—that NewAssignment.Net… does not propose to put users in charge in some ultimate sense."

re: "the site doesn't exist yet and not a single story has been done. No journalism... yet. "

right! but you've set the *philosophy* (and that's what gives it a soul or not): the way you set it up, the possibility of having "advisory committees" and what not serves journalistic ends (not those of the people that might want to spend a lot of their time and resources on this) -- they would have no power whatsoever, they would have some *influence* at best (influence that can be rescinded at any time).

re: "I decided to try pro-Am journalism on the open web, and in my universe, which is a mixed republic... In the beginning there is the editor!"

that is the *choice* you make, Jay -- I think it's the wrong choice to make, but of course this is YOUR project so all I can do is tell you what I think (and I've probably done too much of that already...)

OK, just one last thing since I've already started this:

re: "NewAssignment I already described as a hybrid, not boldly one thing or the other."

the bold part is giving power to those who would do the work, being a hybrid does not preclude that from happening

Posted by: Delia at August 28, 2006 11:53 AM | Permalink


remember my bugging you about the editor's position in NA? Well, I'm glad to see that someone like Allan Macleese spoke up. He's the kind of person I was thinking of--just wasn't sure where, or who, he/she might be!

As for Really Big Networks and their venture: I've come across other blogs talking up the same ideas. Most float around in some gray area between marketing and journalism--and the ones I've seen have more marketers than journalists reading and commenting on them. I'll take a look around my bookmarks and see if I can find those links (if I saved them.)

Oh, and congrats on the site launch.


Posted by: tish grier at August 28, 2006 12:06 PM | Permalink

Okay, Jay since I was one of the people pestering you to lead the movement, let me be the first to post a story idea here:

Who Will We Kill --And Must We?

Governments always work to demonize would-be enemies. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a great job this weekend of introducing us to the real people in Iran via photos. Do we really want to destroy their lives? Or can we find a way to work with them in people-to-people conversations? Can we seek ways to develop relations rather than building master plans to destroy each other? I would want your professionals to examine that idea and see if it has legs. I want some hard-nosed journalism because I don't want to be duped by Iranian powerbrokers nor do I want to be a duped by our own powerbrokers. I would want it to be distributive in that citizens with connections to Iran would help to deliver real people stories from Iran. Lots of them. Let's first get to know them and then have all these citizens as well as our own speak to each other as civilized human beings. Let's not make it episodic. Let's have continuing stories that search for ways to find people-to-people peaceful solutions rather just sitting back while governments put all of our lives, hopes and dreams at risk.

Posted by: Leonard Witt at August 28, 2006 1:59 PM | Permalink

Thanks for the response to my post, Jay -- and I really do hope can push the boundaries of new media in an interesting way. I'm glad you mentioned the law about capacity not necessarily creating activity. If you can solve that one, you will have it made :-)


Posted by: Mathew Ingram at August 28, 2006 2:14 PM | Permalink


After submitting my story idea, it made me think of a fitting mission state:

NewAssignment.Net is a not-for-profit enterprise where professionals and lay people cooperatively produce high quality journalism aimed at improving life on planet Earth.

Posted by: Leonard Witt at August 28, 2006 2:26 PM | Permalink

Tish: I am very glad Allan Macleese spoke up too. I imagine for some of the same reasons.

That is the *choice* you make, Jay

True, Delia.

The bold part is giving power to those who would do the work, being a hybrid does not preclude that from happening.

I agree totally.

Len: thanks for that mission statement. I like the ring of it.

Matthew: I agree with your "if"...

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 28, 2006 2:40 PM | Permalink

It has been a decade since the enactment of the welfare reform law. Very little has been written about the impact of the law, especially not within given communities. It would be a great project for citizen journalists to dig into and cover region by region.

Posted by: Danny Glover at August 28, 2006 4:12 PM | Permalink

This mission statement: "where professionals and lay people cooperatively produce high quality journalism aimed at improving life on planet Earth" cries for Al Gore to be the editor.

And as for the topic of "Who Will We Kill----And Must We?" cries out for Cindy Sheehan. Is she available? Maybe she could get her pal Chavez to help out.

Are there any stories that don't cry out for the left-wingers to make everything right? (hee!hee!)

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 28, 2006 5:02 PM | Permalink

> Nor does it offer much to those that would do the work, aside from some sort of an acknowledgement

um, no. It offers a whole lot more: we get the end report.

Here's a suggestion (though perhaps it's too close to the earmarks project) -
When you ask your Representative (or spokesman or other agent thereof) a question, how long does it take to get a response, and is it a direct answer to the question you asked?
(not sure how you'd make the question(s) 'equivalent' though; a pleasant question for one rep. might be uncomfortable for another)

another -
How difficult is it to get access to some particular theoretically-public information?
(this would be two projects in one, since the information itself could be collated into a report)

p.s. highly recommended even though it sounds trite, What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage ("...The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't... ")

Posted by: Anna Haynes at August 28, 2006 9:08 PM | Permalink

Users holding Senators accountable? It's happening now.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 28, 2006 10:00 PM | Permalink

Robert Greenwald raised over a quarter mill by asking on the web.

However, he was asking for money to produce a known quantity--Walmart/Murdoch/US government? are bad and we're the guys to tell you when nobody else will, and we'll get after the next bete noir of the quarter with your donation.

People were paying for a product in the full expectation of getting 60-Minutes-like outrage in digestible form.

Is anybody going to raise a lot of money to hang around city hall in case anything happens worth knowing about?

It would also seem to be prudent to avoid using Reuters and AP for sources. A new enterprise needs its credibility.

For example, if you have an ambulance hit by a missile, try to find a picture of one that isn't ready to drive away. The ICRC figured the media would buy that--they were right--and so you need to develop sources which haven't been caught lying yet.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at August 28, 2006 10:24 PM | Permalink

> "How difficult is it to get access to some particular theoretically-public information?"

(by this I meant FOIA-type access)

Posted by: Anna Haynes at August 29, 2006 12:39 AM | Permalink

Hi Jay & Co.,

I'm Jonathan Rothman, the blog writer behind Web 2.0 Newspapers. Let me "speak" to your mention of the blog and of RBN.

First off, if the blog seems "professionally done," great. Thanks for the nod, even if it's a tentative one.

Ah, the anonymity question. You're right: I should have identified myself from the start. Let me assure you I am human, and have some "cred" related to the job I'm doing. To that end, I've taken the hint and expanded on who I am and who I work for in a more direct way on the blog. I'm not sure why I chose to keep quiet at first, but no longer. Link.

Now, RBN is exactly what you've said: a Web marketing company. So, marketing or journalism? Well, yes and yes. The job I'm doing involves two sides: producing the same type of news spin as bloggers like Jeff Jarvis to whom I often link, and then getting it out there, hence the marketing bit. (No, I don't think I am offering what Jarvis offers in terms of media commentary and analysis. I'm saying he's one of the people setting the bar, which is not news.)

So yes, I am paid to do this. But so are reporters -- they just have the advantage of an established, trusted name behind them. And in a way, with the buzz this site (the recent Economist feature, the media-on-media coverage incl. the blogosphere,) has generated, NewAssignment has more than begun to build that trusted name, too.

Oh, and so far, we've mainly had comments from journalists and bloggers (and few, if any, from marketers), which has been my intention from the get-go. (Though I welcome all readers, of course.) That includes Jay: he corrected me, once, and referred me to John Temple's Rocky Mountain News article on the print/Web media shift.

Posted by: JonathanR of Web2.0Newspapers at August 29, 2006 3:48 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Jonathan. Using your name and telling us who's writing the blog is a good start.

This column is such a perfect example of the newsroom reactionary style it's a shame it didn't come from someone working in a newsroom. It's from Patrick Ross at the Progress and Freedom Foundation blog. Begins with an attack on Craig Newmark.

Newmark has done more than perhaps any other individual to undermine the finances of the newspaper industry through his free online classifieds service, Craigslist. While bad for newspapers, Craigslist has been good for consumers. Now, however, Newmark is banking on an online venture that will have reporters investigate news only after volunteers have assigned the stories and put forward the funding. This won't be good for consumers. The only likely winners will be well-heeled Internet activists with axes to grind, and savvy public relations officials who bankroll flattering stories.

This "open source" model of journalism, called New Assignment, comes to us from New York University's Jay Rosen, whose reporting background is limited to a college internship. Rosen, with Newmark's money, is creating NewAssignment, where anyone can put forward a story suggestion. Any idea that receives sufficient donations is adopted. A freelance reporter is hired to write the piece, working closely with the web surfers who suggested and funded the story.

Rosen writes that NewAssignment will produce "stories the regular news media doesn't do, can't do, wouldn't do, or already screwed up." He says reporters will work hand-in-hand with online "smart mobs," performing "journalism without the media" but instead with "the people formerly known as the audience."

Let's not forget that the smart mobs Rosen refers to are in fact largely a reactive force. A careful reading of political blogs reveals that new lines of discussion frequently are prompted by a newspaper article. If what is on the mind of a smart mob member more often than not is triggered by the mainstream media, why would we count on them to come up with original story ideas?

Still, with the Internet Rosen has found the right place to enlist participants hostile to modern media. "The liberal media is out to destroy our president and our country!" "Our lazy media reprints lies fed it by the Establishment!" That is what members of the "smart mob" routinely post in the comment fields of political blogs.

I'd like to place a bet here - the first story that is pitched and funded at NewAssignment will be an expose on George W. Bush, with the imaginative premise that his ties to the oil industry led us into Iraq. That will trigger the pitching and funding of a second story, one that seeks to document Hillary Clinton as a politician to the left of Vladimir Lenin.

I wouldn't want to be the reporter working either of those assignments. Nor would I enjoy the repercussions if the story I produced didn't match the predetermined conclusions of the smart mob, my financiers.

Rosen says reporters don't listen to the average Joe. But no self-respecting reporter would overlook a source with information, whether that source is a high government official or simply someone who knows someone. The advantage of a newspaper reporter, however, is that she and her editor can sift through the sources and facts, make determinations on credibility, and move forward accordingly.

What is a NewAssignment reporter or editor to do when given questionable, possibly biased information by a source, and that source is also the assignment editor and the principal source of funding?

Perhaps Newmark is disillusioned by recent newspaper plagiarism scandals. Who isn't? Perhaps he feels reporters are too biased or too passive. Some likely are. But handing over control, from funding to assignment editing, to any individual so inclined to visit a web site does not seem to me a positive direction for journalism. It's a large leap from Newmark's current web site, which helps one find an inexpensive futon, to the one he's funding now, claiming to provide reliable, unbiased investigative journalism while handing power to the unaccountable.

No newspaper curmudgeon could have said it better. (Bio: Ross is senior fellow and vice president of communications and external affairs at The Progress & Freedom Foundation... spent the better part of twenty years as a journalist, the last decade covering the growth of the Internet and related regulatory policy. Before joining the Foundation, he managed Washington Internet Daily and wrote for Communications Daily. He also was the first Washington bureau chief for CNet

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 30, 2006 2:28 PM | Permalink

Anna: I am not a FOIA expert, but there are people who follow it closely, especially in journalism. There's been a steady trend of making it harder to get information that way. That could be documented better, the outlines are known now. We could ask Congress people to answer our questions and see what happens. That suffers from sounding procedural to many people.

Added to the post...

Danny Glover of National Journal’s Beltway Blogroll suggests an assignment in the comments. “It has been a decade since the enactment of the welfare reform law. Very little has been written about the impact of the law, especially not within given communities. It would be a great project for citizen journalists to dig into and cover region by region.”

That’s one we’ll take under advisement. Danny: can you phrase it as a question? The one the networks would be trying to answer.

The blog swarm works: The 'Secret Holder' Is Sen. Ted Stevens. Paul Kiel of TPM Muckraker has more.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 30, 2006 6:36 PM | Permalink

Wow. Ross. What a dinosaur.

Still, comments like his are good for those of us writing dissertations, as it gives us some actually-existing extreme rhetoric to set up as a strawman which we can then dismantle.

Thoughts on Andrew Cline's New Assignment idea, and how it relates to the idea of the network, at the link below.

Posted by: Chris Anderson at August 30, 2006 10:01 PM | Permalink

Your ideas are very interesting, and I hope it all works. I have one question, though, based upon what happens so often in blogs, what happens when someone posts something which is not true, meaning, a fact. How will you know whether the information is verifiable in some way? How will you verify it?

Posted by: margaret at August 30, 2006 10:10 PM | Permalink

Welfare reform and its impact? Good idea. Which is why the subject has received a lot of coverage in the mainstream press. How can Danny Glover say little has been written about it? One minute on Lexis-Nexis pops up the following stories and op-ed pieces and barely scratches the surface.

There may be better ways to approach the topic. But to say it hasn't been addressed is myopic.

WELFARE REFORM: 10 YEARS; Three strive to succeed - Part 1 of 4
The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), August 20, 2006 Sunday, NEWS - INSIGHT; Pg. 01C, 2353 words, Stories by Catherine Candisky and Encarnacion Pyle, The Columbus Dispatch

A Decade After Welfare Overhaul, a Fundamental Shift in Policy and Perception
The New York Times, August 21, 2006 Monday, Section A; Column 1; National Desk; Pg. 12, 1319 words, By ROBERT PEAR and ERIK ECKHOLM

10 years after, welfare reformers look to build on gains
The Washington Times, August 21, 2006 Monday, PAGE ONE; Pg. A01, 1346 words, By Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Welfare reform succeeded because it trusted the poor
The Detroit News (Michigan), August 29, 2006 Tuesday, OPINIONS; Pg. 9A, 528 words, Anthony B. Bradley

The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York), August 29, 2006 Tuesday, EDITORIAL; Pg. A8, 502 words

The Boston Globe, August 28, 2006 Monday, OP-ED; Pg. A11, 745 words, BY CATHY YOUNG

The Boston Globe, August 22, 2006 Tuesday, OP-ED; Pg. A11, 721 words, BY RACHEL GRAGG AND MARGY WALLER

Posted by: David McLemore at August 31, 2006 12:15 PM | Permalink

Dave: What I wanted to know from Danny is: what questions about welfare reform have not been answered?

Margaret: your question about verification is a key operating challenge for NewAssignment.Net. There is not going to be one answer to it, but the answers we do find will be basic to making the thing work. It would be criminally naive to just assume that what you get from citizen contributors is true. But NewAssignment won't be starting from zero. Other sites that rely on such contributors have had to figure out reliability measures that work for them.

The simplest answer is: everything gets fact-checked before it is published as finished work, which is closer to the way good magazine journalism works. (Fact checking could itself be a volunteer task.) This allows the site to collect "unverified" information, to label it as such for an interim period, and then to change that designation as we grow more confident in it. Another answer: reliability ratings for contributors that over time tell you who can be trusted. Some stories will rely on networks of people we know from having worked with them before, so we won't be re-inventing the verification wheel each time.

Third answer: redundancy systems. More than one person on a given assignment allows you to cross check what contributors give you. Here's Zephyr Teachout at the NewAssignment site with another answer: notarized statements. Who knows? Maybe we'll experiment with our own version of "sworn" statements.

Shouldn't the site treat facts supplied by a user whose real name, working email address and phone number we know (stored confidentially, of course) differently from facts supplied by an anonymous user we have no way of contacting? Of course it should, and it will.

Through a mix of different systems, the problem can, I think, be solved. But the way it's actually going to be solved is case by case, project by project, measure by measure.

What some do is come upon a problem like this, throw up their proverbial hands because they don't see an easy solution, and from there it's a straight shot to: "It can't work. You can't trust information collected by just anyone..."

What they’re skipping over is the problem-solving stage, where we try to go from bug to feature.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 31, 2006 1:19 PM | Permalink

Margaret: How will you know whether the information is verifiable in some way? How will you verify it?

Margaret, thank you for asking this question. I too had the same question, posted in the comments here.

Jay - After reading your response to it, I feel somewhat emboldened. I had thought that there's some tried and tested practice of verifiability in the journalism profession that everybody knows, and felt slapped on my wrist when no one appeared to take that question seriously:-(

Now I understand that this verifiability problem still need to be "solved." From your comments it is clear that your thinking is on top of it, so that's good.

Thinking aloud. With "reliability ratings" line of thought, expect to walk into the vagaries of reputation management like schemes, their ins and outs. By that I mean, in specific, that most of these "ratings" are, for want of a better technology, discrete (as in from 0 to 5 etc.) Perhaps that is ok but I wish a necessity like the NADN would lead to a bit more of a more apt invention.

In specific,
aa) Perhaps one should start thinking about some sort of an "analog" or a "continuous" type of reliability rating system (call to technologists). But we don't want to unleash a technology-for-its-own-sake initiative here, I know. Instead of simply saying "here's a rating of 4 for this person on this project" perhaps we should be allowed to say, "here's a rating of 4 with 80% confidence." Just something to ponder.

bb) A reliability rating that not simply says "here's an overall rating for this particular individual," but also ties it in closely to the type of assignment, to the type of expertise etc. I am thinking that someone with a background of sportswriting would perhaps be better at it than the same person writing about elections/politics. If such is the case, then the reliability measure should reflect that.

cc) In the area of verifying intellectual property, that legal method of notarized statements etc., didn't fly in the technology sharing in the past. Lots of indemnification clauses, issues etc. Perhaps it may help in NADN case, if we assume that all the parties involved are bound by the US laws (but again, the other day I saw a senator or somebody waving his fist on TV saying journalists - talking about that NY Times article on SWIFT - are not bound by the constitution or US laws, only politicians are, or some such nonsense. But that's another story.)

Bottom line, the problem of verifying whether something is really a fact or not could be as difficult as fighting spam, or internet security, or tracing the true identity of an individual on the internet: no one silver bullet seemed to be working. Need several components working together.


Posted by: Crazyfinger at September 1, 2006 4:50 PM | Permalink

Right. Difficult problem, real problem, not unsolvable, no silver bullet, no single "system" will do it, some answers can be borrowed from other sites, many will have to be invented, probability will play as large a role as reputation, trial and error is inevitable, you can anticipate 50-60 percent of what you'll be faced with, the rest is born of trying to create and operate the site, you have to anticipate there will be bad actors to weed out but also good actors you have to powerfully include.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 1, 2006 9:38 PM | Permalink

Connection with Daylife?


Some people might be wondering whether there is an undisclosed connection between NewAssignment and Daylife.

“[Jeff Jarvis] also said the site would provide technical and distribution help to NewAssignment, which aims to encourage ‘smart mobs’ of regular citizens to submit ideas and report the news through a process they're calling ‘open source journalism.’"
( )

This statement was made *before* either Daylife or NewAssignment were even launched. If I remember right, Jeff Jarvis is involved with both projects (editor for Daylife and advisor for NewAssignment).

Some people might be wondering why? (Why would the for-profit Daylife *necessarily* provide technical and distribution help to the non-profit NewAssignment…)

Does Daylife stand to gain from the work done within NewAssignment?

If that’s the case, I think volunteers/donors for NewAssignment should be made aware of that.


P.S. just wanted to let you know (will be away for the day so I can only read your reply, if any, when I get back probably late in the day).

P.P.S. another thing that might be relevant: Daylife seeks to “create a distributed platform for the world’s news” (
; meanwhile, NewAssignment’s model is distributed reporting…

Posted by: Delia at September 2, 2006 1:27 PM | Permalink

There is nothing undisclosed, no. No formal connection--like a board relationship--and no agreement. As of now, Daylife's participation has been limited to Jeff Jarvis advising NewAssignment for free, which is not a secret. I did have one meeting with the principals in Daylife and we talked about "possible technical and distribution help to NewAssignment." That's the extent of it right now. There is no announced launch date, as far as I know, for Daylife, so right now it can't help distribute anything.

There is no financial tie, either. Daylife has put no money into the project. However, there may well be donations to NewAssignment from other for-profit firms in the future. I mean, I hope so. That would have to be disclosed and it will be.

Does Daylife stand to gain from the work done within NewAssignment? I don't think so, not in any way that I know of. But it may well be that other for-profit entities do, in the sense of learning from what NewAssignment does in the area of networked journalism. Everyone will be able to learn from NewAssignment; that's the advantage of not having a proprietary interest and doing things in an open way.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 2, 2006 4:32 PM | Permalink

ok... I'd keep an eye on it.

I mean, I don't see anything wrong with just learning (and possibly putting it to lucrative use, as long as you don't secure intellectual property rights), but it might end-up being a whole lot more than that (impossible to tell at this point, if you ask me, given how little is known about what Daylife would really do).

You may find-out that Jeff Jarvis is not such a good choice (even for a *free* advisor): he may end-up having serious conflicts of interest.

I'd also watch donations (or collaboration) from other for profits that are more than casually related to NewAssignment for their source of profit (giving money or "help" to NewAssignment might be an attempt to influence for financial gain).


Posted by: Delia at September 3, 2006 11:16 AM | Permalink

When some of us think that Joe Wilson was a victim of the Bush Smear Machine, because they read it in the NYTimes, and others of us believe that Joe Wilson was a liar and the WH was trying to counter his lies, and as proof we cite the Senate Committee Report, plus British reports, we need to acknowledge that there is not just one set of "facts".

Do tell, how we will be able to discern what "facts" are? Do you really think those who think that Wilson was smeared by the Bush WH will acquiesce to some mere "commission"?

Let get real---this will be either left-wing or right-wing. It won't have the intelligence or authority to be no-wing.

Posted by: kilgore trout at September 5, 2006 3:50 PM | Permalink

Thank you for site! It's goodZenegra

Posted by: Sasha at September 6, 2006 11:19 AM | Permalink


You're right, sort of. However, you reference two different sources; the NYT and a Senate report. While not carrying much water for a Senate report, compared to the NYT, there's not much contest.

People who are familiar with the issue would be wise to discount the NYT report heavily. So the NYT report is a "fact" in size 6 font size, and the Senate plus the Brits a "fact" in size 14.

No way is it 50-50. Even if you don't do any of your own research.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at September 6, 2006 1:58 PM | Permalink

From the Intro