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Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

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

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

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

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

Read: Q & As

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

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

Audio: Have a Listen

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

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

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

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

Video: Have A Look

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

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

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

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

Recommended by PressThink:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group Blogs

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

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

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

Digests & Round-ups:

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

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

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

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

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

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

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June 15, 2007

Who's Ahead? No, Seriously...

It's nice to know that Mitt Romney has pulled ahead in New Hampshire, seven months before the primary voting. Thanks, Bill Schneider! Let me ask you something: Who's ahead in addressing a broken health care system?

It’s fascinating to realize that Hillary Clinton, a woman, is ahead among women. Thanks, Washington Post. In the race to protect the people against terrorism and maintain a free and open society, would the Post know who’s ahead? Could it possibly find out and tell us, then check back in a month or so and tell us again?

Absorbing as it is to read Times’s Jay Carney on how he reads pollster-strategist-guru Mark Penn’s latest memo re-reading the latest poll readings, I’d love to know who’s ahead of the pack in “how we develop and support the Internet and the use of information technology?” a pertinent question raised last month by Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry. Does Time know? Where can I find its rankings?

I don’t know if you were as keen as I was to learn that Tommy Thompson will indeed “press ahead with plans to participate in Iowa’s presidential straw poll despite the decision by two top contenders to skip the August event, raising questions about its value as a political test.” By any measure that is solid horse race news. But I would be even keener to know which of the candidates is out front on problems in the schools, including the ones in Iowa.

Last week, Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a column about a post of mine dating from four years ago: The Master Narrative in Journalism. Meaning: “The story that produces all the other stories.” The example I used to illustrate it was the horse race narrative in campaign reporting…

In standard coverage of political campaigns, where one goal is always to appear non-partisan and above the fray, the master narrative has for a long time been winning— who’s going to win, who seems to be winning, what the candidates are doing to win, how much money it takes to win, how the primary in South Carolina is critical to winning and so on. Reporters call this the horse race, one of the rare occasions on which they have aptly named their own master narrative and recognized it as a story machine— almost an appliance for cooking news.

Most people who pay attention to politics know that candidates who cannot win are safely ignored by the press until they threaten to affect the outcome. Then they become part of the story because they fit its terms. Winning, then, is the story that produces all (or almost all) the other stories; and when you figure in it you are likely to become news. This is a relatively non-partisan, apparently neutral, sometimes technical and of course reusable device, easily operated, and it maintains an agreed-upon narrative, which then maintains the press tribe as one tribe. In this way, master narratives resembles myths as anthropologists understand them.

Because they’re handy, known to all, and they make almost any story more immediately writable, existing master narratives are hard to change. Even when they stop making a lot of sense culturally they may still make for consensus within an occupational culture, and thus prevail past their date of expiration.

Carroll knows this: “It’s not that the media are unaware of the inadequacies of horse-race coverage. That’s a pretty common conversation in newsrooms.” (True for more than 20 years.) “The question that has so far not been answered: If not that, then what?”

If we dropped or drastically downgraded the horse race narrative, what we would use instead?

Good question! Good time to be asking. Reacting to Carroll, Brad DeLong (Berkeley economist and news blogger, a faithful critic of the press) had a few ideas:

The alternative—the better—master narratives are “which of these policy proposals would be best for the country?” and “what did we learn today about whether so-and-so would make a good or a bad president?”

Good start, if we’re thinking replacement for a burned out set of story instructions. But maybe what we need to replace is the idea of one set.

Political journalism today is conducted under different premises about who can conduct it. Their instruction sets don’t necessarily match up. This is all to the good. Different players contribute to the build-up of knowledge about the candidates. Different ideas can be alive at once.

Mitch Ratcliffe had it right a couple years ago: “The point of innovation in media is to expand, not simply to displace, the voices that existed before.” Electoral politics is where we replace one group of voices with another.

Shortly after my master narrative post I tried to suggest a practical alternative to that remarkably durable story-organizer who’s gonna win. The occasion was an election: the California recall vote that made Arnold Schwarzenegger the governor in 2003. (Replacement.)

Cut down on who’s ahead in the horse race—at the time there were 133 candidates—and tell us who’s ahead in the ideas-for-California race. Since there are lots of problems facing the people of California lots of ideas will have to be floated before the final test of strength at the polls. The candidates will either participate well, participate weakly or opt out; their choice.

This was my stab at a workable compromise with “who’s ahead?” The Idea Race— but with live rankings. Today ingenuity, leg work and good judgment are required to say who’s doing the best in meeting the test of presidential seriousness around the health care mess. (And who’s in second place.) Persistence is required to maintain and revise the grid as new information comes in.

Such reporting does exist. See most recently The Poverty Platform (June 10). It’s Matt Bai of the New York Times magazine covering the clear frontrunner in the speaking to poverty race, John Edwards. Of course it would be good to know who’s in last place, too, or deaf to the issue. Or saying stuff that’s not true. (As we know: “Sometimes, they’re just plain wrong.”)

The idea race isn’t just candidates. You probably saw that Bono is trying to take the poverty issue global, with the help of ex-senate leaders Bill First and Tom Daschele and $30 million. They mean “to pressure the presidential candidates to focus” on it. Meanwhile, Bill Gates and Eli Broad are “joining forces for a $60 million foray into politics in an effort to vault education high onto the agenda of the 2008 presidential race.” But what are they going to do with all that money? Broadcast messages?

In idea race coverage, you might ask that. Mainly you’d focus on what the candidates are doing, saying and suggesting about, say, poverty (rural and urban, domestic and global) regardless of whether they and their consultants plan to focus on it. Then you rank them 1-12 and explain how you did it in an FAQ. If the campaigns squawk there will be another ranking in a month. Keep improving the way you come up with the rankings and you got yourselves a little election-year franchise.

I still think the idea race could work as a pattern shifter for the mainstream press precisely because it is not a big departure but a marginal improvement in the old master narrative— an incremental fix, which may be all the legacy media can handle at the moment.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

SEO experiment: when you Google the term master narrative…

Stephen Spruiell at National Review’s Media Blog asks “could a conservative candidate ever win an ‘ideas race’ judged by a mostly liberal community of journalists?”

You won’t find me defending the horse-race style of covering politics on those or any grounds. I’ve long argued for a more openly opinionated press, and I think that would go a long way toward changing the nature of political coverage….Of course, with a mostly liberal press corps judging this race of ideas, conservatives would have a hard row to hoe. Then again, if mainstream-media political coverage functioned more like a debate than an ideological fraternity with its code of objectivity hiding a more or less uniformly left-of-center worldview, more conservatives might want to join the fray.

Tim Schmoyer, “Who’s Ahead?” Leaves the Public Behind. Says Tim in another post, there’s plenty of time to get it right for 2008. Which is true.

Tim reminded me of another post I wrote on this theme: Off the Grid Journalism. “When a writer dissents from it, or departs from it, the master narrative is a very real thing. Here are two examples: one from politics, one from music.”

The Los Angeles Times at least spells out what all the candidates have said about their health care plans. (Scroll down.) That’s step one.

Mike Caulfield: Dodd Pulls Ahead in the Idea Race. (June 24)

A reader alerted me to this. Steve Jobs writes a post on the master narrative in tech reporting. He also shows his, um, contempt for the press.

(UPDATE: That should be “Steve Jobs” as the author is apparently—but cleverly—faking it.)

In Retreat from Empiricism, an earlier PressThink post, I wrote about “a way to discredit the press that the press has not fully appreciated.”

Take extreme action and a press that mistrusts “the extremes” will mistrust initial reports of that action— like Suskind’s. This gives you time to re-make the scene and overawe people. There are all kinds of costs to changing a master narrative that has been built up by beat reporters and career pundits. When the press can hang on to an old and proven one it will. The Bush people understood that. They knew they could change the game on the press because the press finds it hard to act in reply. Therefore it tends to behave.

Joe Klein in Time: The Courage Primary.

The University of Maryland’s International Center for Media and the Public Agenda asked how well the transparency agenda is doing at 25 major news organizations in the U.S., UK and Middle East. They factors they looked at were corrections, identification of ownership, ethics standards, a willingness to explain decisions and user interactivity.

Tops were The Guardian, the New York Times, the BBC, CBS, the Christian Science Monitor and NPR. Worst were: Sky News, Time Magazine, ITN, Al Jazeera (English) and CNN.

Posted by Jay Rosen at June 15, 2007 1:06 AM   Print


Mr. Spruiell writes on his no-comments-allowed blog: "Left-wing press critics almost never accuse journalists of harboring conservative views or of secretly being ideological conservatives." Indeed, Media Matters does this routinely. Can the "left-wing press" get a fair shake from the right wing? I think the way the press has become so ideologically polarized and extremely timid, there is little room for Mr. Rosen's reasonable idea at the moment. With time, perhaps, our country will find a way to start a truly democratic (small d) dialogue. I hope the press will lead by example and make their political coverage more meaningful. Some blogs do this now, but don't have the reach at the moment to shift the collective consciousness past its blinkered view of social ills and possible cures.

Posted by: Ferdy at June 15, 2007 2:02 PM | Permalink

I don't think the problem is ideological at all. The problem with this proposal is that journalists would have to take the time to learn about important issues. Where is that time going to come from?

Posted by: William Ockham at June 15, 2007 2:18 PM | Permalink

I realize that time is an issue to some extent, but I refuse to accept that journalists en masse don't have time to do their jobs properly. It is absolutely basic to good journalism to self-educate. Anyone who can't find time to do that should find another line of work.

Posted by: Ferdy at June 15, 2007 2:50 PM | Permalink

I think a good approach to the idea race coverage would be FAQs, primers and timelines: Why Beat Reporters Could Be News Sites' Greatest Secret Weapon

Posted by: Tim at June 15, 2007 4:54 PM | Permalink

I'm of two minds on the notion that horse race stats are over-reported at the expense of something more substantive.

Part of the problem is that stats are deadly easy to report and (apart from any gaming by the pollster) hard to spin. Tracking also suggests the follow-up question: why the heck is Mitt Romney ahead in NH? What's up with that?

I probably shouldn't say this too loudly, as a reporter, but as a voter I'm also not sure I want anyone telling me who's ahead in the idea race. Better debate formats would give me the "direct-to-consumer" fix I crave. Lengthier interviews, especially with the "safely ignored" "candidates who cannot win" are done: he may be persona non grata to Sean Hannity but Ron Paul gets lots of camera time with Tucker Carlson, as does Dennis Kucinich. Why these two don't get more traction is an intruiguing question -- more about the public than the press, I think -- but it doesn't surprise me that the pack won't be interested in them until they do. It'd be almost pimping otherwise.

So what we are lacking is not so much the articulation of the candidate's ideas on their behalf but the skewering of their nonsense. Sadly, this charge continues to be led by late night comedians and once a week by Frank Rich. Forget about whether the presence of Katie Couric tarts up the CBS network news. When is Les Moonves going to hire Jon Stewart?

Posted by: johncabell at June 15, 2007 5:58 PM | Permalink

I still think the idea race could work as a pattern shifter for the mainstream press precisely because it is not a big departure but a marginal improvement in the old master narrative— an incremental fix, which may be all the legacy media can handle at the moment.

While I'm not sure how "incremental" it would be for the media focus on ideas in any form, any such change if accomplished would shake campaigns themselves to their very foundations, because those campaigns are now specifically designed to feed the current "master narrative." Would today's class of political consultants and campaign managers even know how to run a campaign where ideas became important?

I personally think your idea has a lot of potential -- TV news and daily papers like the Times could feature an set of revolving "ideas of the day", weeklies could feature groups of ideas, etc.

But as suggested above, the entire political infrastructure has already internalized the current master narrative --- and for this to work you not only have to fight the inertia of the journalism establishment, but the inertia of the political establishment as well.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 15, 2007 9:39 PM | Permalink

Excuse me, are you a politician? Get Googly. Pimp your profile online. Search statistics offer glimpses into the candidates’ public image.

What would you do if you were an online campaign strategist? If you drill down to search terms juxtaposed with a name, you may be confronted with an unsettling truth.

No prizes for Barack Obama. But Hillary Clinton. The lady builds her profile to associate with political positions on health care. Guess what her searchers are focused on? Her theme song contest.

Posted by: Khengze Teoh at June 16, 2007 3:55 AM | Permalink

John: I wasn't saying that horse race "stats" are over-reported, even though they are. My point was that the horse race lens is the lens through which everything is seen. "Who's ahead?" is the question that organizes all the other questions. And that is just not a good enough question. This is what I was trying to get at with the notion of a narrative that persists across 1,000's of stories.

I don't have any problem with journalists relaying to us a constant stream of numbers about who's ahead. I am happy to have that information. But it should be a chart (or a feed) not an all embracing narrative for the campaign.

Is the difference--between horse race news and a horse race narrative--clear? Hope so.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 16, 2007 11:56 AM | Permalink

Good column, Jay, and I hope you keep beating this horse (race). I thought this McClatchy piece on Hillary Clinton and the health-care issue was a worthy example of stepping aside from the conventions of campaign coverage. What do you think?

Posted by: John_Hopkins [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2007 3:06 PM | Permalink

This is a great idea Jay. If the ideas were organized into groups and possibly even public poll ratings on each candidate in each candidate we may have a whole new and better understanding how and why certain candidates win key votes.
Nice comments by Ferdi as well.

Posted by: Mark at June 16, 2007 4:35 PM | Permalink

Jay: I do take your point. This is why a phenomenon like Ron Paul (or Howard Dean) is so interesting. For Paul, the narrative (and polling) belies apparent interest in the candidate. For Dean, the polling (and narrative -- your point, I think --) concealed a lack of actual support, which almost certainly didn't evaporate right after the last poll was taken.

I guess my only quibble is that readers tend to get the press they demand, and with so many choices and different avenues to substantial narratives press outlets will adjust or die, as many seem to be destined to anyway (coincidence?). I'd hate to think The New York Post is anyone's ideal, but what is one to think?

I'd also pick up on your most fundamental point, that there is a difference between the press and the media; is it possible that your points are directed more towards the latter (TV, ie) and less towards the former?

Posted by: johncabell at June 16, 2007 5:20 PM | Permalink


"Readers tend to get the press they demand." I am not sure I agree with that. Readers would, if asked, demand way better real estate and automotive coverage than they get, to take two of the more obvious examples.

I agree about Ron Paul. An interesting development, that.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 16, 2007 7:31 PM | Permalink

Steve Jobs writes a post on the master narrative in tech reporting. (A PressThink reader alerted me.)

Apple fans, re-hypnotize yourselves with the photo above and get ready for the wave of anti-Apple stories, because I can feel it coming. I've been in this business long enough to know how it works. They boost you up and hype your stuff and turn you into the reincarnation of Buddha himself; then they tear you down. It's not their fault. It's what they do. The big thing to know about the media is that they're not out there "covering stories." The way to think about the media is that it's basically the same as one of those TV soap operas that's been on the air for twenty or thirty years. The story just rolls on, curving and unfurling, no matter who the actors are and no matter who the writers are. The story itself is bigger than the actors or the writers. The filthy hacks at the Journal are basically no different than the aspiring novelists and screenwriters who take jobs writing for "General Hospital"; they've been hired on to the show for a few years and they're doing their best to keep it entertaining. People like me are the characters in the soap opera and what you realize early on if you're in my position is that you don't have much more control over the plot than do the actors who play roles in a TV soap opera. The trick is to figure out what part the filthy bastards are imposing on you and then to surf that wave and make the best of it.

It's also worth remembering that the writers don't have any control either. We tend to blame the reporters but really it's not their fault. They have to do as they're told. The story has certain demands. Heroes achieve things and win; then they fuck up and fall; then they dust themselves off and overcome obstacles and climb back into the ring, blah blah blah. The writers just make up the details to keep it colorful.

Anyway, the backlash is coming. Sooner rather than later some a-hole who thinks he's really smart is going to write the "contrarian" piece saying Apple is crap. Of course this point of view is not really contrarian at all; in fact it's inevitable, and it's a requirement of the overarching narrative that we're all part of...


Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 16, 2007 8:50 PM | Permalink

Jay: real estate and automotive. Ha! You are right of course, as at least far as MSM is concerned. But being in WPost country I have been spoiled by the inestimable Bob Bruss and Warren Brown, so I can't claim to know how the other half lives :) Even so, there might be a divide between consumer and breaking beats. Shouldn't be. Interesting thought, though.

Posted by: johncabell at June 16, 2007 10:18 PM | Permalink

Writing the plot...

No matter the source, a master narrative is generally constructed this way:
1- A pattern of behavior is noticed.
2- The behavior is characterized, i.e. given a name.
3- The character is portrayed as part of a plot, i.e. a set course of actions, consistent with the character, beginning with a central tension and leading to a climax and denouement.
4- The candidates words and actions are analyzed by comparing them to the character and the plot.

Thus the narrative defines the candidate.
Media / Political Bias
Lastly, narrative bias leads many journalists to create, and then hang on to, master narratives--set story lines with set characters who act in set ways. Once a master narrative has been set, it is very difficult to get journalists to see that their narrative is simply one way, and not necessarily the correct or best way, of viewing people and events.
As Jay points out, the master narrative is not limited to politics.

Posted by: Tim at June 17, 2007 3:45 PM | Permalink

Changing the subject...

> "The University of Maryland’s International Center for Media and the Public Agenda asked how well the transparency agenda is doing..."

Here's how they measure transparency (actually, the 5 criteria they consider indicative of transparency).
It's not complete. And the ways that it's incomplete - ways that the media can give the false appearance of transparency - may not be obvious, to a casual visitor to one of these organizations' websites.

I think with input from the crowd ( they could come up with - and perform - a much more complete survey.
of course, given the abysmal performance of most of those evaluated, designing a more complete survey could be premature...

also, re Ferdy's
> "Mr. Spruiell writes on his no-comments-allowed blog...

I move that any online commentary that's "no-comments-allowed" (or comments throttled/truncated to within an inch of their lives) be termed a "onewayblog". And shorten it to "oneway", not to "blog" - we should reserve the terms "blog" and "weblog" for forms that merit it.

Posted by: Anna Haynes at June 17, 2007 3:55 PM | Permalink

What would real estate and automotive coverage look like, if newspapers weren't constrained by advertising considerations?

i.e. how much is the "fluffiness" of coverage due to advertising considerations, vs. due to fear of lawsuits?

(i.e. how much of an improvement could be effected, if one didn't care about advertising, but did still care about getting sued?)

Posted by: Anna Haynes at June 17, 2007 4:19 PM | Permalink

"And shorten it to "oneway", not to "blog" - we should reserve the terms "blog" and "weblog" for forms that merit it."

Why not call then "blovs" -- ahort of bloviators?

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 17, 2007 4:44 PM | Permalink

I think it's mostly advertising, Anna.

What interests me about the automotive and real estate examples is that it shows how serving readers is not a matter of principle in news organizations; and you don't actually go to the mat on it, because everyone concerned will clearly tolerate coverage that serves the interests of advertisers way more than readers.

A home and a car are typically the two biggest assets people own, so it's not like these are trivial areas of coverage to the folks at home.

I like your idea of truly rating the transparency of news organizations. The Maryland study was relatively thin.

Assignment Zero package is due to published this week at Exactly when I do not know. It's in their hands.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 17, 2007 5:06 PM | Permalink

Wowser! I never thought I'd live long enough to see someone like pluk admit TPM's Josh Marshall is a "bloviator".

We are truly living in the end times!

Posted by: kilgore trout at June 17, 2007 6:01 PM | Permalink

re: "onewayblog"

Anna, I disagree. I think you're conflating web logging with online community building and the role links, trackbacks and comments play in connecting and interacting online.

However, you might find this interesting ... Leave a Reply: An Analysis of Weblog Comments

Posted by: Tim at June 17, 2007 10:17 PM | Permalink

I think that most blogs are better with comments, and for sure they are different, but I would not agree that to be a real blog a blog needs comments.

Tim is right when he says: it partly depends on whether community building is a goal. Also what your journalistic purpose is. Open platforms have costs associated with them, and in some cases too many problems. They can be over-sold. Not meaning anyone here, but out there many people find it hard to be realistic about comments.

But I would also say that comments affect the trust transaction for a blog-- greatly. And if I cannot comment I do feel the place is more closed, off on a bluff somewhere. And, yes, kinda one way. But then if I can email and get a response that changes the picture.

Talking Points Memo has no comments, but it is two-way, it is a blog, and successful in drawing information from users. TPM Media is becoming a formidable community of sites. TPM Muckraker, the spin-off site for reporting, does have comments. I wonder why that is?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 17, 2007 10:46 PM | Permalink

"Who's Ahead?" Leaves the Public Behind ...

Posted by: Tim at June 17, 2007 11:16 PM | Permalink


About that blog post by "Steve Jobs": it wasn't clear from the way you referenced it, but you did notice that the address was "", didn't you?

Posted by: Mark Cohen at June 17, 2007 11:58 PM | Permalink

Yes, but I think it's him. If I am wrong, I am sure someone will tell me.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 18, 2007 12:02 AM | Permalink

nearly on topic:
Brad DeLong on Three Models for Running One's Weblog's Comment Section

Posted by: Anna Haynes at June 18, 2007 2:00 AM | Permalink

Anna, IMHO I think that the blog must have comment otherwise it's a diary.

Posted by: Prestito at June 18, 2007 12:12 PM | Permalink

Here's a terrific compendium of all things blog:

Posted by: Ferdy at June 18, 2007 5:09 PM | Permalink

I knew someone here would be able to spin the fact that TPM doesn't have comments into saying "but it is two-way". Whatever.

..."comments affect the trust transaction for a blog---greatly". Unless you are Josh Marshall, then it doesn't count. Or whatever.

Pathetic. When bloggers I agree with don't have comments, "it is two-way". When bloggers I don't agree with don't have comments, they are bloviators.


Posted by: kilgore trout at June 18, 2007 5:11 PM | Permalink

re "kilgore"'s
> "I knew someone here would be able to spin the fact that TPM doesn't have comments into saying "but it is two-way". "

To the average reader TPM is two-way, since Marshall gets - and reports - information from his readers.

To Jay TPM is two-way, since when he emails Marshall, Marshall responds.

To "kilgore" (who lacks the courage to use his real name) TPM's not two-way, since he can't make his mark there.

To the typical TPM reader who emails Marshall, it's not two-way, since said reader typically gets no acknowledgment that his/her email was received.
(I'm assuming my experiences were typical - might not be)

> "Open platforms have costs associated with them, and in some cases too many problems."


Posted by: Anna Haynes at June 18, 2007 5:55 PM | Permalink

Kilgore, you are clowning just to make some limp "it's all partisanship" points.

Marshall not having comments does affect the trust transaction for TPM, and makes it marginally harder to trust at the outset, but Marshall makes up for it in other ways, in my view.

If you have a different view about whether Marshall is trustworthy, that's fine. Don't try to impose your idiotic formulas--like no comments = no trust--because I didn't say anything like that.

Anna: he doesn't return my emails either.

I meant that TPM is two-way in that it takes in a lot of tips, comments, suggestions and information from readers, who clearly feel that they contribute to the information available via the blog.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 18, 2007 6:59 PM | Permalink

I don't think comments are necessary to a well-functioning blog. Their inclusion or exclusion is a decision the blogger must make about what sort of experience he or she wishes to create. That said, I do think that blogs that are highly partisan but do not allow comments are creating an experience that says, "my mind's made up and yours should be, too." That's how I saw Spruiell's column, which could be easily refuted. By not allowing an opposing comment, particularly one with links that could present a legitimate opposing view (which I believe he knows exists), he is furthering the neocon narrative that "the media full of liberals who cannot be trusted".

Posted by: Ferdy at June 18, 2007 8:02 PM | Permalink

I sent an e-mail to Talking Points Memo perhaps a year or two ago asking why they never identity tipsters beyond initials, why as a rule they do not provide names or links for leads from any source of any kind, as it struck me as not meeting the operative, if unwritten, blog standards of transparency and community-building through the sharing of credit for communally generated content. I have never sent them a tip so it was not a personal matter.

I received a reply within a few hours seemingly written by Josh Marshall stating that he doesn't directly identify his tipsters because they wish to remain anonymous, he was only doing the will of his tipsters themselves by allowing them to remain anonymous.

I was not particularly impressed with that answer. I don't doubt that any inside tipsters he may have in the government feel this way (and his personal Princeton ties to anonymous people in high places probably were key to some of his early investigative successes), but it strikes me as extremely implausible and highly unlikely that every single tipster who sends TPM info is actively opposed to being directly identified. It would be a pretty simple matter for TPM to simply ask tipsters if they want a link or not. I think it points to a way that TPM really is a special breed between journalism and the blogosphere that does retain some traditional journalistic prerogatives for itself. I suspect this is also directly related to TPM's ability to rise somewhat above the blogpack and get occasional MSM credit for its investigators as journalists who break stories. They employ investigators so tips generate credit for a particular investigator's byline rather than any particular sense of community or expanding circle of authority and legitimacy.

My main point is that they do respond to e-mail on occasion, but this particular occasion related to how they are less transparent and less community-building oriented than more typical blog operations.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at June 19, 2007 11:45 AM | Permalink

Thanks, Bill Schneider! Let me ask you something: Who's ahead in addressing a broken health care system?

Sure, Jay, everything will be better under the AssignmentZero vision: Legions of unpaid "amateur journalists" with no health care coverage of their own will obediently swarm the countryside in search of new angles on what's wrong with the health care system, foraging for nuts and berries as they roam. It's time to shed the old media's foolish, curmudgeonly tradition of paying journalists and funding their health care coverage! (Well, a tiny class of elite editors and academics in the new model will still get that stuff of course. Shhhh.)

Posted by: Peter Fisk at June 22, 2007 9:46 AM | Permalink


About that blog post by "Steve Jobs": it wasn't clear from the way you referenced it, but you did notice that the address was "", didn't you?

Posted by: Mark Cohen at June 17, 2007 11:58 PM | Permalink

Yes, but I think it's him. If I am wrong, I am sure someone will tell me.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 18, 2007 12:02 AM | Permalink

Wow, that's a wonderfully efficient fact-checking system -- just publish anything that seems vaguely plausible and present it as fact, and if it turns out to be untrue, well, someone will probably let you know eventually. Brilliant! Would you believe that in the olden days of journalism we used to actually verify things before publishing them. What a waste of time, huh? But you're right, as they always say in the "Blogosphere," better to be first than accurate.

Posted by: Peter Fisk at June 22, 2007 11:56 AM | Permalink

Turns out not everyone quotes "The Fake Steve Jobs" under the peculiar assumption that he's the real Steve Jobs. The search for the real Fake Steve has been under way for some time. This calls for crowdsourcing. To Silicon Valley, ye huddled masses!

(Ignore any previous version of this post that may have slipped through with typos. The copy desk should have caught it.)

Posted by: Peter Fisk at June 22, 2007 1:09 PM | Permalink

From the Intro