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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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July 20, 2007

Assignment Zero Lands. OffTheBus Launches. Lessons Fly.

"A highly satisfying failure," Jeff Howe called it in Wired. No, "a spectacularly successful failure," says Beth Lawton at The Digital Edge. Meanwhile, OffTheBus.Net launched this week, carrying the lessons of "Zero" into political space. My Q and A with Len Witt explains more.

Big week for NewAssignment.Net, born one year ago in a post at PressThink.

Assignment Zero concluded its run with publication of a final package at, followed by Jeff Howe’s excellent (and sober) report. Did Assignment Zero Fail? A Look Back, and Lessons Learned. I highly recommend it.

Also important is his follow-up post on the contributions of associate editor David Cohn, (miraculously, half geek, half journalist) and our online organizers, Amanda Michel and Tish Grier. It includes this story:

There was a crucial turning point when a rift opened up between the journalist types (myself included) on one side and Amanda and Tish on the other. They felt our volunteer editors had to play community manager, going out and soliciting contributors, keeping people engaged, holding a few hands. Us hard-bitten journos essentially snorted in disdain. Editors do not play cheerleader, and God knows they do not do outreach. We won the battle and, in doing so, contributed to losing the war. The plain fact is that in the future, journalists will have to develop these skills if they want to succeed in a future in which their readers are also their writers.

Well, some will. Grier’s post-mortem is also vital if you’re interested in how it went.

And while the reactions to Howe’s essay were coming in a second project launched. Over at the Politics section of the expanded Huffington Post, OffTheBus ( began revving up for the campaign season. Some early signs of life:

  • The front page. Actually pretty barren now. It will get better, and gain more of its own identity, as we move along.
  • My rules for posting, a kind of advisory to blogging contributors. (“We don’t want your latest rant at Bush or dig at the Clintons. Sounding off at some stray headline won’t cut it.”)
  • Our first investigation. It’s a simple comb-through on the July 15 filing with the FEC by all the declared candidates. We’re mostly focused on spending. Nothing to report quite yet :-)
  • Our sign-up form if you’re interested in 1.) being on our alert list for crowdsourced projects, 2.) writing and reporting posts, 3.) developing your own beat, 4.) joining our brain trust of experts on call.
  • We’ll be sending a team to CNN/YouTube debate in Charleston, South Carolina on July 23. A small group of contributors will work with Zack Exley, OffTheBus consultant and national correspondent. See Zack’s recruitment post.
  • The candidates spoke to the trial lawyers this week. OffTheBus was there.

My own “what I learned” post about Assignment Zero will have to come later. In the meantime, Leonard Witt of PJNet, a contributor and chronicler of Assignment Zero, did an interview with me about it, which we are co-publishing today. (Scroll down to see the exchange.)

As I told Witt, the most important lessons from Assignment Zero, an open platform trend story, I am putting directly into OffTheBus, an open platform campaign news bureau. A big part of it is the email list we have already, which we plan to build up and work with. It’s a pool of self-identified potential contributors, our crowd of semi-interested people. From it we’ll recruit smaller groups of truly interested people to work on reporting projects— in teams. Some contributors will work alone, writing blog posts that have either new information or an original observation in them. The more advanced among them will (we hope) have beats. For others it’s providing expertise when called on.

In Assignment Zero we found that you don’t “have” contributors just because you signed them up. You still have to convince them that participating is a good option, that it won’t waste their time, that they will know what to do, or be able to figure it out.

“Start with clear, simple tasks,” writes Assignment Zero contributor Derek Powazek in his own review. “This isn’t because the crowd can’t handle complicated ones - they can - it’s because they haven’t decided if it’s worth doing them for you yet.” And: “People won’t do what you say because you just told them to. You have to inspire them to want to participate.” Both points are exactly right. And that’s why OffTheBus combines features of a campaign organization (The List) and a news organization (the Front Page).

Special to PressThink

Did Your Experiment Work?

Q and A with Leonard Witt and Jay Rosen (also published here.)

Leonard Witt: Hi Jay, I have read some of the early critiques from people involved in the project, but let’s hear from you. What was the most important lesson learned from Assignment Zero?

Jay Rosen: That large groups of people can work on a story together only if you make it extremely clear what you expect them to do, and only if you get the organization of people right.

Witt: One thing troubles me. You have 80 interviews. Jeff Howe says, “The final result met the goal of being the most comprehensive exploration of crowdsourcing to date.” But nothing more seems to be happening with the interviews. Just a handful ran at Isn’t there a wealth of information in there? If that’s true, why not do more with them?

Rosen: There is a great synthetic essay to be written from those 80 interviews. Or maybe it’s three or four essays. You’re right that we have not done everything we could with that material, but it suggests a possible model for pro-am journalism. The ams gather the raw material, in a certain abundance. The pros synthesize, package and present.

Witt: Yes, that’s what is missing, especially the packaging and presentation.

Rosen: Agreed. We ran out of bandwidth and time for that.

Witt: Okay so it is there for the taking for anyone who wants to do it. Is that right?

Rosen: Absolutely. That is the whole meaning of having a creative commons site and that is why the “raw material” model for crowdsourcing makes sense under Creative Commons rules.

Witt: What a gift for anyone who wants to put it to use.

Rosen: “Can there be a gift economy for news?” was one of the questions I asked in launching NewAssignment.Net.

Witt: So what’s the answer?

Rosen: There can be, but forget any notion you have of “the invisible hand.”

Witt: What’s that mean?

Rosen: That’s a term from economics that refers to the way a market economy is said to work…no one coordinates it and figures out the price of everything in it. An “invisible hand” is at work matching buyers to sellers and supply to demand. Well, the gift economy for news doesn’t work that way is all I am saying.

Witt: So how does it work?

Rosen: People will contribute only because they want to, because the work stirs a passion they have, or is inherently interesting or they find the community of people, a great group of people and everything starts from there, not from “what needs to be done,” but the motivations and interests of the people joining the project. It’s an old lesson from open source software and one of the first things people from that world told me when I began to check into it.

Witt: So how did all of that play out at Assignment Zero?

Rosen: Well, in the beginning we thought, naively, that people would sort of figure out how to collaborate on parts of the story if we broke the story into parts. Wrong. They didn’t. Then we figured they would figure out how to collaborate if we named an editor for each part and then created a page for that story and allowed people to join the page as you join a group in a social networking site. Wrong.

Witt: So what is right?

Rosen: Only when we took a page from you, and hit upon a task—one interview with a key figure in “raw” Q and A form—did we propose a division of labor that fit with people’s interests and motivations and available bandwidth. That turned out to be “right.” And the work got done, as you can see, so you actually had a very important role in Assignment Zero; at least in my mind you did.

Witt: Thanks. That’s gratifying.

Rosen: The crowd—with Witt in it—turned out to have the answer to: How do we assign the crowd to tasks it can do?

Witt: When I first came to the Asssignment Zero project as a contributor, I was totally confused. I kept thinking how does Wikipedia do it? It’s simple, you hit the edit button and type away. Simple, simple, simple.

Rosen: I am on the Wikipedia advisory board, and in the spring I had coffee with Jimmy Wales when he was in town. I asked him why did Wikipedia work when the odds are that most things don’t work, and he said something very important, although its significance escaped me at the time. People come to Wikipedia not knowing how it works, but they do know how a regular, ‘ol encyclopedia works and so the “leap” to what a free online encyclopedia would be like is not that great. This prior knowledge is critical to a system’s viability because is constrains users and points them in the logical directions. How much did it cost Wikipedia to put that common understanding into each contributor’s head? Zero! They already knew it. Explaining the way it works takes all of six words: “The online encyclopedia anyone can edit.” With 6,000 words we did not get clarity on what a crowdsourced investigation asked of participants because there was no common image to start with, nothing comparable to “encyclopedia, right!…”

Witt: So how are you going to carry these lessons over to Off the Bus, but first give a quick description of Off the Bus, your next project.

Rosen: Off The Bus is open platform campaign journalism, involving many hundreds—actually more than 1,000 people are on our sign up list—in the production of alternative campaign news and commentary. There are three main parts to it: 1) Group reporting projects….crowdsourcing with our Alert List. 2) A blogging platform for people who want to try their hand at reporting; the posts that rock are filtered to the front page, and 3) a network of experts on call, people with special knowledge ripe for the plucking who can be on call to help both bloggers and the projects.

Witt: Who filters the best stuff to the front page?

Rosen: Originally, editors we employ; contributors who distinguish themselves will eventually share those duties. That is how it has worked at sites like Daily Kos, at Redstate and TPM Cafe. It’s an existing model adapted a bit.

Witt: So, if it is already happening at other sites, what’s the experiment?

Rosen: Because that is only one of three parts to the model, and we are focused exclusively on election coverage. Everything we learned from Assignment Zero we are putting into the “networked reporting” projects that will draw participants from the Alert List we have. To do this kind of work, you have to borrow things that already proved viable and combine them with a minimal number of untried ideas, then be ready to toss and improvise. It is harrowing in some ways.

Witt: The sites you mention, have a political agenda. Your partner, Huffington Post, has a political agenda. So will Off the Bus have a political agenda?

Rosen: What is Huffington Post’s political agenda? I am not aware of one. If you mean the site seems to have a politics, and not be “neutral,” yes, I agree. Let me quote from our About page, which I wrote:

“The site covers the campaigns of all the candidates for president in both parties. It is independent and unaffiliated with either the Democratic or Republican Party. Its perspective is determined by the publishers, Arianna Huffington and Jay Rosen; by the editorial staff they hire, and by individual authors and producers who use our platform. There is no party line.”

But we also do not deny: I have a political identity, so does Arianna, as will our contributors. We are not going into the “objective journalism” biz.

Witt: Yeah, but is it journalism?

Rosen: I don’t understand your question. Is what journalism?

Witt: Off The Bus.

Rosen: You lost me; only if the producers claim to have no politics can the product be political journalism? I do not agree with that.

Witt: Is it journalism or commentary?

Rosen: I still don’t understand your question.

Witt: Okay, how would you classify your project?

Rosen: There is no journalism unless the maker of it stands outside the political community? Again, I don’t agree. I am not worried about what bin you toss the resulting work into. I am worried about whether it is good, relevant to the campaign, and whether it reveals the world well and attracts a following on the Web. The first sentence of the “About” says:

“Off The Bus is a news and opinion site about the 2008 election and the race for the White House.”

I don’t like the politics of your classification system, as you can tell!

Witt: That’s what I thought. So let’s move on. I want to come back to those 80 interviews. Howe said 60 of them were top notch. Even a tight, cheapskate editor would pay $300 for each of those interviews. That’s $18,000 worth of value hanging out there. If you did it again, how much would it cost to get that $18,000 worth of value?

Rosen: If we did it again? Not sure what you mean.

Witt: You did an experiment. So if you were an editor and wanted to copy the interview crowdsourcing part of the project, how much would it cost in real dollars to duplicate that part of the project?

Rosen: I really don’t have a good way of answering that, but if you knew what you were doing and had “banked” the results of Assignment Zero it might be quite viable to do multiple interviews simultaneously that way. However, some people think these efforts are all about getting people to do for nothing what journalists do for pay. That is not my interest, focus or project, and I don’t think anyone with that motivation is going to succeed, but I am willing to ask how a journalist working for pay can have her powers and reach extended by collaborating with users who have their own reasons for doing some of the work. It goes back to Dan Gillmor’s maxim: “My readers know more than I do.” Let me quote Good Morning Silicon Valley:

‘Somehow, there’s got to be a way to harness the power of interested citizens in the wired world and pool their time and talent to produce well-researched, timely and consistent journalism on subjects large and small. It’s just that nobody’s found it yet.’

Witt: Last question. You went from a journalism critic to being the in the middle of the fray. And you used the word harrowing above. So what range of feelings, emotions have you had personally felt in this transition and has it been worth it?

Rosen: Oh well worth it, yes, but let me correct you. I wrote about the need for civic journalism and the philosophy of it, but as you know I was also in the fray. In this phase of my work it is even more true. Range of feelings? Total exasperation and “why oh why did I ever try to…” and “wow, it’s really happening” to “well, that didn’t work” to….”why does that site over there work?” At the end I felt I had the challenge more squarely in my sights and I am not nearly so clueless now.

Witt: Since you mention civic journalism, I have to ask one more question: Is citizen journalism a new evolutionary stage of that work?

Rosen: Yes, it is, but with a break point; the break point is essentially the arrival of “edit this page.” After that moment (well told in Dan Gillmor’s book) it didn’t matter if journalists thought citizens could be more involved; they could get involved without permission from the press. This altered the environment in which journalism happens.

Posted by Jay Rosen at July 20, 2007 1:42 AM   Print



I think what he really meant to ask was do you expect your project in general (and the individual bits and pieces of it) to be "partisan"? Not in the crudest form (you are saying that "wouldn't make the cut") but...if you are telling people ... hey! don't even bother trying to be objective (that's not something we care about), it's hard to see how you could avoid that outcome...


P.S. Since you don't appear to want to address this issue at all in the context of your project, will readers be expected to just read between the lines and figure out who's pitching for what team and how much weight if any they should give to what they are saying? D.

Posted by: Delia at July 20, 2007 3:51 PM | Permalink

Thanks Jay
Assignment Zero came to a great close -- it was certainly a learning experience throughout.

As more people learn the art of network journalism, as more organizations decide to give it a try and as it becomes a more accepted and normal part of news coverage -- future projects will only get easier. (Assignment One, if I may) will really get things rolling.

Posted by: David Cohn at July 20, 2007 4:29 PM | Permalink

what I found most admirable about AZ's management was that you didn't "stay the course", instead you learned from experience and changed A.Z.'s focus accordingly.

It is so nice to see Deciders that have functioning brains...

Posted by: Anna at July 20, 2007 5:05 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Anna.

You don't appear to want to address this issue at all in the context of your project...

What could you possibly be talking about? I have addressed it in almost every post I have written about OffTheBus.

Here I said we are not going into the objective journalism biz. Is there something fuzzy about that? I said Huff Post, our partner, obviously isn't "neutral" in the political divides that mark an election. Is that an avoidance strategy? Arianna and I are co-publishers, I said. We'll be determining the editorial philosophy by picking editors, setting a tone, and charting direction. We both have political identities, I said; we're not trying to run from them. But there will be no party line. Do you consider that evasive?

You should learn to click a link once in a while before you decide what's unaddressed. As to whether contributors will be discouraged from presenting their account in an "objective" manner, if that's what they wish to do (I can't believe that's a real question, but it's the only sense I can make of what you wrote) the answer is no, they won't be.

The guidelines I linked to say...

OffTheBus welcomes news reports presented in "just the facts" style. It welcomes extremely articulate rants. It values informational blogging and opinion blogging... Don't run away from traditional approaches....We're not seeking to eradicate from our coverage all signs of traditional journalism because that isn't necessary for what we are trying to do.., We don't want your latest rant at Bush or dig at the Clintons. A good, solid OffTheBus item springs from new information, a discovery worth sharing with the broader political public.

Emphasis added. Sheesh.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at July 20, 2007 11:22 PM | Permalink


I don't know what your problem is, again... Why are you so touchy? (I seems like I can't say anything without setting you off...)

I should be able to point out things I see problems with and get a relaxed answer -- whether I'm right or wrong... And I don't think I'm wrong on this one.

Yes, you did say those things but what does that really mean when it comes down to the quality of the product and what people will be reading and be able to get out of it?

The one thing that made sense out of your rant was :"As to whether contributors will be discouraged from presenting their account in an 'objective' manner" --> of course they will be! if you aren't even asking them to at least *attempt* to be objective... (you are telling them it's fine either way...)

And don't forget what your project is about: an election! If you are so naive not to realize that even under the best intentions most people would find it extremely difficult to be objective, keep dreaming... Or maybe you just don't give a hoot... I don't know...

Either way, good luck with your project and with a couple of others! (I've had enough for a good long while)


Posted by: Delia at July 21, 2007 12:21 AM | Permalink


Posted by: Jay Rosen at July 21, 2007 12:33 AM | Permalink

There's an interesting tidbit hidden in the interview above I wanted to comment on:

"Rosen: People come to Wikipedia not knowing how it works, but they do know how a regular, ‘ol encyclopedia works and so the “leap” to what a free online encyclopedia would be like is not that great. This prior knowledge is critical to a system’s viability because is constrains users and points them in the logical directions [...] With 6,000 words we did not get clarity on what a crowdsourced investigation asked of participants because there was no common image to start with, nothing comparable to “encyclopedia, right!…”"

One of the things I always wonder is the degree to which journalistic knowledge is "transparent" or "self-evident." Basically, the question is: what do journalists know? (to rip of the title of another book Jay knows well...) I think the gut instinct is for folks to say: "well, not much." And to some degree, thats true. We're not talking about the kind of abstract knowledge doctors or lawyers have, for instance.

But then again, Jay's, and Jimmy's comment above complicates the question. Could it be that our vision of journalism has gotten so confused, or bastardized, due to the fundamental degredation of the media that produces it that we can't think about what crowdsourced journalism would be because we really don't know what journalism is anymore?

Posted by: Chris Anderson at July 21, 2007 7:42 PM | Permalink

Interesting observation, Chris.

Related to that(somewhat). I have always found it fascinating that at the same time that "neutrality" collapsed as a believable description for mainstream journalism, Wikipedia succeeded with its "neutral point of view," in which thousands more people are involved.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at July 21, 2007 9:38 PM | Permalink

Chris Anderson: One of the things I always wonder is the degree to which journalistic knowledge is "transparent" or "self-evident."

This is where Cline's Rhetorica and Jay's PressThink have been very valuable by bringing forward for discussion the culture, traditions/rituals and "back channels" of ProJo's religion about expository, "social responsibility" journalism.

Cline wrote recently (again) about the importance of meta-reporting in journalism: Talking Points from the Institute, Part 3

I'm not sure how well an a priori "encyclopedia, right!..." translates to "journalism, right!..." or more precisely "political election reporting, right!..."

Posted by: Tim at July 21, 2007 9:48 PM | Permalink

ProJo: I like that term, Tim.

I don't think there is an equivalent in election reporting to "encyclopedia, right!" Unless we were doing distributed horse race reporting. Then everyone would catch on real quick.

Finally, you can't imagine how much I enjoy this kind of thing.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at July 22, 2007 10:04 PM | Permalink

I think it is vitally important to provide feedback or a comment on all contributions, too, either in an individual post or edit or in a weekly round-up of the ideas that week and action that will be taken on them. As in real life, it you're asked for your ideas and to speak up and then that's the end of it, there's no incentive for anyone to keep at it. I've found my enthusiasm fade to black on a number of things because nobody every acknowledged my contributions for good or ill.

Posted by: Ferdy at July 23, 2007 3:36 PM | Permalink

Timing is everything, as my father has often said.

Franklin Foer of TNR is discovering that FIRST you do the crowd journalism. THEN you publish.

Not the other way around.

If you reverse the order, the crowd gets annoyed and will explain the error of your ways to you in public.
Private is better.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at July 25, 2007 2:56 PM | Permalink


Well put. :)

I thought I'd come here to find a lively discussion of the biggest story in media right now, but PressThink once again demonstrates it's instinct for the capillary.

TNR is in Washington, IIRC. Northern Virginia and Maryland are crawling with veterans. Ok, so of all the staff at TNR, there's no one with any Army experience who could take a look at Beauchamp's stuff to see if it passed the smell test?

What's more, these clowns live and work in Washington D.C. and surrounding environs, a rock throw from the Pentagon and a gazillion service vets who work in civil service jobs in the D.C. area, and didn't even KNOW ONE???

That's a problem.

Or they knew someone, but figured the stories were too good to check.

That's a different problem.

Megan McArdle wrote on her blog that reporters can't be expected to be subject matter experts. If they were experts on a subject they would be doing that instead of reporting on it.

But I don't think it's too much to ask that journalists ought to be experts at the craft of journalism.

Apparently some journalists do.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at July 29, 2007 2:11 AM | Permalink

Well, from tiny capillaries mighty aortas might grow. You never know.
But apparently the concept of getting it right is not part of the new regime's syllabus.
It would be nice to ask TNR's folks, up to and including Foer, if they thought about checking with vets about this. If they did, what happened?
Did they think about it and not do it?
Did they do it but some vet decided to let them hang themselves?
Did it perhaps not actually occur to them?

I understand that, for the precious and morally superior, the military as a subject is 'way below the salt. Perhaps they don't feel they are soiling their wonderfulness when they fact check stories in other areas. You think?
'cause if they do this poorly in other areas, lots of trees are dying for naught.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at July 29, 2007 10:10 PM | Permalink

From the Intro