This is an archive, please visit for current posts.
PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
Recent Entries
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

Syndicate this site:

XML Summaries

XML Full Posts

May 7, 2007

Assignment Zero, Updated. With Initial Results...

We published the first piece from Assignment Zero. The project has morphed a bit. And we're introducing Interview Week. "Right now I'd say about 28 percent of what we did worked. But there's time to push that up."

The first results from Assignment Zero are in. They ran on the front page of in the form of a feature article, Wiki Innovators Rethink Openness. (May 3, 2007) “The creators of expert-led collaborative encyclopedia Citizendium hope to eclipse the cacophonous success of Wikipedia,” said Wired. The by-line read “by” Then it was broken down further under “credits.”

Principal reporter and writer, Michael Ho
Sidebar reporter and writer, Randy Burge
With reporting from Anna Haynes, Robert William King, Steve Petersen, Sean Richardson, Muhammed Saleem, J. Jack Unrau, Paul S. Wilson
Additional research by John Eisched, Carl Collins, Matthew Kress-Weitenhagen
Discussion and editorial guidance from Francine Hardaway, Ken MacNamara, Derek Poore
Art by Mark Selander
Fact-checking by Craig Silverman, Ian Elwood, Christopher Nystrom
Edited by John C. Abell, Jeff Howe, Lauren Sandler

We published this piece as a preview of fuller results due out in June. So that was our first morph, and our first result— journalistically speaking: Assignment Zero editor Lauren Sandler, with volunteer contributor John C. Abell and Wired’s Jeff Howe sharing the load, took Citizendium and twenty of our contributors onto the front page of

Here’s a small sidebar that went with the story. Here’s the topic home page at Assignment Zero where work came together. And here’s my explanation at the AZ site for why we decided to publish a preview piece ahead of a larger body of work.

Evan Hansen, editor-in-chief of, wrote, “The team’s research and reporting are up on the Assignment Zero site for you to see — or even use to write your own article, if you don’t like this one.” That’s because a Creative Commons license applies. “While keeping the reporting and much discussion of the piece transparent, Assignment Zero edited and fact-checked through e-mail. Ho filed his preferred draft to the site as well; you can decide for yourself which one works better.”

We’ve made some other decisions, leading to a new idea, Interview Week, which I will explain in a minute.

Second morph: Instead of trying to do what we were earlier trying to do—investigate 22 separate cases where wisdom-of-the-crowd efforts are going on and ten specific places where it seems to be happening—we’re going to scale back to five topics that have drawn the most interest from our contributors. These we will try to develop into pieces for, as Abell, Howe and Sandler did with Citizendium. They are…

The rest of the project will be folded into interview week. It works like this: Picking from our people-of-interest list, contributors volunteer to do one interview and post it as a clean, readable but otherwise raw Q and A— like this one by Len Witt (done via Instant Messenger.) My idea is to try to interview in a concentrated one-week period (May 8-14) as many of the key figures in our story as we can.

By posting the list, we give the people we need to talk to a public heads-up about our editorial interest in them. (It’s working, as this Google search shows.) Simple links to their sites and projects tell contributors why we have this interest. The “raw” Q & A’s can be material for multiple writers to develop into finished pieces during the following week. (See, for example, this one with Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia.) The best of those we will publish at NewAssignment.Net and submit to

When Assignment Zero launched I wrote: “We’re going to report on the spread of what’s called crowdsourcing and the larger practice it’s part of: peer production on the new information commons, in all of its forms. Collaboration online — and why it works when it does — is an expansive and nuanced story with lots of locations.” Interview Week is a chance to visit those locations, through the eyes of the people trying to make things happen.

The current list of interviewees numbers about 70. But we’re still adding to it, so leave your suggestions here. Contributors have responded well to our call. Fifty of the interviews are already taken. Here’s a few names that give you a feel for what we’re doing during I-week:

  • Matt Flannery, co-founder and CEO of Kiva, “loans that change lives.” Kiva is a micro-finance community that lets you directly fund an entrepreneur in the developing world. It’s crowdsourced funding, or crowdfunding.
  • Jonathan Kuniholm, a founder of the Open Prosthetics Project, a community of people who design prosthetic limbs. Kuniholm lost part of his right arm while serving in Iraq, and wants to use open source principles to lower the cost of prosthetic devices.
  • Peter Cohen, director of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, crowdsourcing’s odd-job marketplace, where tasks that need real people instead of computers — called Human Intelligence Tasks — are outsourced.
  • Andrea Grover, one of the first curators of crowdsourced art. In 2006, Grover curated a group show at Apex Art in Manhattan, designed to explore the question: can networked communication “make the crowd more artistic”?

We were criticized for starting with a geeky and self-referential story. “Man, you could have tackled health care, education, immigration, race relations, religion - or any number of real news topics,” said Tom Watson, whose instincts I respect. “And the thing is, even if this thing rocks, it will only prove the concept to a bunch on insider head-nodders anyway.”

It’s a fair point, and I replied to it here. Jeff Jarvis, a friend of the project, said we started with something too hard. “I think they actually bit off a big bite for their first story,” he wrote, “because it’s more qualitative than quantitative, more about interviews and views than numbers and facts.” He was more right than I thought at the time.

We struggled to lay out a clear path to participation, emphasis on the word clear. “Bring back a Q and A with a key player in our story…” is our answer to that: it’s an extremely clear task because participants already know the Q & A form and can easily see the results in their mind’s eye before they sign up. (Clarity in this sense is more important than the simplicity of the task. Doing a good Q & A isn’t simple, but it is easy to grasp what we’re asking you to do.) The 70 or so names on the list emerged from our earlier reporting for Assignment Zero. They are, in a sense, its result.

So is our improvised platform for pro am reporting, a topic page where a team of contributors can pick up a thread in the story and develop it. Take this example on crowdsourced fiction. On the left side are slots for a lead editor who oversees the page, an editing team that helps oversee it, a team of contributors who have joined the topic and, when active, make it go. On the right are tasks for that team to complete. They can come from the editors, they can come from the team. In the middle is the discussion where the people and the work meet.

On the tabs are a discussion zone where anyone can open a thread, and an archive for completed reporting. The editor has the “keys” to the page. Contributors add work to it and can also edit parts of it. It’s a forum, task management system, user group home page, filing desk, group blog and work flow system, inelegantly combined, all at one url.

We didn’t have that page when we launched. We realized we needed it after a few weeks. By the time we got it in place a good deal of reportorial enthusiasm had dissipated. The page is crudely functional now, but not easy to use and so it is under-used. At least one of the contributors’ teams is finding it easier to operate by email than at the site. So we have a long way to go in building a participant-friendly platform. On the other hand, the second version will be way better than the first. (Can you do better? Great! Build it in Drupal and email me right away.)

Hillary Rosner, senior editor for the final month of Assignment Zero (and formerly tech editor at the Village Voice) will work with Associate Editor David Cohn, Director of Participation Amanda Michel and her deputy Tish Grier to bring the final package in and submit it to Wired on June 5.

At the moment it looks like five feature stories, and the best of the writing we will do from the 50-plus Q & A’s. I’m hoping that many more than 50 will come in. The interviews will also feed into Jeff Howe’s final essay for For how he plans to use them, see Assignment Zero: What’s it All For? at his blog,

By an agreement with the board, members of the Online News Association (ONA) will help us complete the remaining work. They will oversee the pages where we coordinate our interviews during I-week— pros assisting ams. ONA will also do an evaluation of Assignment Zero after its over. Board reps Jonathan Dube of and the CBC, and Ken Sands, online publisher of the Spokesman-Review, are coordinating for ONA, along with Angela Pacienza of the Canadian Press, who is matching contributors to interviewees.

Whether Assignment Zero worked or not is ultimately in the journalism. Right now I’d say about 28 percent of what we did worked. But there’s time to push that up. If you want to help join one of the five topics I listed above, pick up an assignment during I-week and make it sing, or suggest someone we really need to talk to.

Posted by Jay Rosen at May 7, 2007 1:21 AM   Print


Fellow readers stymied by the (currently broken, and seemingly unfixable) Suggest link:
Replace the "?" (or % 20 ) at its end with
% 3f
(removing the space)

Posted by: Anna at May 8, 2007 8:09 PM | Permalink

That's great you are on a roll i am 28% i am sure will turn into to close to 100% but still you have made great progress.

Posted by: social network at May 14, 2007 4:36 PM | Permalink

From the Intro