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

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

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

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

Read: Q & As

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

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

Audio: Have a Listen

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

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

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

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

Video: Have A Look

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

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

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

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

Recommended by PressThink:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group Blogs

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

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

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

Digests & Round-ups:

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

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

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

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

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

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

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August 5, 2007

Why Do We Suck? and Other Questions Political Journalists Asked Themselves at YearlyKos

I've been reviewing the press coverage, blogging and video from the Yearly Kos conference in Chicago and trying to make some sense of what happened between the press and the liberal blogosphere at this event. The main conclusion I have is....

…There is more respect expressed for the blogosphere, and a little less wariness between the two groups. (But let’s not overstate it.)

The AP’s political editor, Ron Fournier, talked to TPM Media’s Andrew Golis about some of the reasons. “I’m a proud member of the mainstream media,” he said. “But I also love coming to events like this and finding that I am treated very respectfully and I learn a lot from these folks.”

These are people who for the first 20 years of my career read my stuff, and complained about it, and wanted to add things to it, and wanted to be a part of it, and never could because there was this big wall between me and them. Now, you know, I hear about it as soon as I push the button on a story. I’m getting emails and being blasted on blogs and sometimes—quite often—I will read something on a blog that will be a good point, something I’ll add to the story or try to learn from.

Fournier has discovered that Dan Gillmor was right back in 2000: “My readers know more than I do.” Gillmor, who reported on Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News, was the first mainstream newspaper journalist to have a blog. Compare what Fournier said in ‘07 to what Gillmor told J.D. Lasica in 2001. “I frequently hear from readers after a column, saying, ‘That was interesting, but have you thought about this or that angle?,’ and often the answer is no, I hadn’t, so the next time I return to the subject the missing piece makes its way into the article.”

It’s essentially the same quote. So it took five or six years, but the rest of the press is catching up to Gillmor’s insight, which arose from his experience with the two-way nature of blogging. “I doubt there is a beat at any newspaper or publication or program where it is not the case that the readers collectively know more than the reporter,” he told Lasica.

“My readers know more than I do” had always been true, but it took the Internet to make it practical. Now it’s manifest in the professional lives of political reporters, and this accounts for some of the change.

Michael Scherer of Salon was in Chicago. He wrote about an expected “confrontation between the crusty old mainstream media and the tough and truth-telling blogosphere” that didn’t really happen. (It was a panel with Glenn Greenwald of Salon, Mike Allen of The Politico, Jay Carney of Time and Jill Filipovic of Feministe, overseen by Ari Melber of The Nation.) “At a few points, the crowd tried to get a fight started, by [asking] questions that amounted to “Why do you reporters suck so bad?”

A few years ago he and his peers would have made fun of this. Now? “I can say with authority that a lot of political reporters these days are thinking about it pretty closely.” Imagine that: introspection among journalists along the lines of…Why do we suck so badly?

Like other reporters, I don’t always agree with the criticisms, but I take them seriously. I try to avoid repeating my mistakes and I try to get better with each story. But the attacks on me and other writers signal something much bigger than just my work… Simply put, news is no longer a one-way process. It is now much more of a conversation between journalist and reader. Reporters at major news organizations no longer have the omnipotent authority they once had. The news process, in a word, has been democratized.

Jeff Jarvis was saying that in 2004: let’s “turn news from a one-way lecture into a two-way conversation.” It took three years for political reporters to get the drift, but some of them have. “Reporters across the board are being forced to look inward and question how we do our job,” said Scherer.

Jay Carney is Time magazine’s Washington bureau chief. Andrew Golis interviewed him too, on the sidewalk outside the party that Time threw on Friday night to promote its political blog, Swampland. (I read Swampland and I was there: good party.) “The blogosphere’s critique of the mainstream media has been overwhelmingly healthy and it’s made the mainstream media pay a lot of attention to details it should have been paying attention to,” he said, echoing Scherer and Fournier.

He then added something unintentionally revealing of how political journalists got themselves into the very trouble that’s forcing at least some of them to look inward. “Karen Tumulty and I— we’re not advocates, we’re not columnists.” (Tumulty, a contributor to Swampland, is Time’s national political correspondent.) “It’s our responsibility not to be labeled left or right.”

Is it now?

“That is just so wrong,” said a commenter (Lee) at Swampland, who had watched the interview. “Your job is to tell the truth.” (Regardless of how it gets you categorized.)

It’s our responsibility not to be labeled left or right is a case of a political journalist blurting out a deep truth about his profession. Carney and Tumulty really do define their responsibility this way: to avoid what would get them labeled, especially by peers but also other onlookers— and of course potential critics. When you actually feel a responsibility like that it not only makes you timid; but you look for opportunities to demonstrate that you are independent, not “in the tank,” non-aligned, the professional skeptic. You are constantly proving your political innocence, which is a rhetorical—not an informational or truthtelling—task.

But notice that Carney’s image-of-self is exactly the opposite: the columnists at Time are the rhetoricians, he says, Karen and I the “straight” reporters. I believe he is unaware of the contradiction between a felt duty not to be labeled and a commitment simply to inform. But here again his readers know more than he does.

It may take another five or six years, but eventually political journalists are going to realize that “Lee” is right and Carney wrong. It cannot be his responsibility to be avoid being labeled because it not within his power to decide what labels other people—like this guy—will put on his work. But the fact that he feels this responsibility (still) tells us something. It helps explains why Carney is one of the purest horse race journalists around. For the horse race is a great way of discharging your phony—in fact, surreal—responsibiity not to be labeled.

Worse than Carney on this score is The Politico’s Ben Smith, quickly becoming the most annoying reporter on the campaign beat. He probably thinks he’s annoying (to people like me) because he “tells it like it is,” but the real reason is that he lowers his journalistic standards in order to advertise his independence. What is Smith doing granting anonymity to a Democratic operative in a fashion such as this?

“They’re so painfully craving any type of mainstream acceptance that they’re prone to the crassest kind of flattery and pandering, which weakens them,” said a senior aide to a Democratic campaign of the bloggers. Recalling a lavish party then-candidate Mark Warner threw at the 2006 YearlyKos convention in Last Vegas, the aide noted: “Mark Warner bought them off with a fountain and some chocolate strawberries.”

It’s an idiotic quote with zero informational value (because we don’t know who said it) but Smith uses it anyway, I guess because he can. I was in Vegas for YearlyKos One and most people were stunned and confused at the party Warner threw, though they happily ate the shrimp and marveled at the view from the Stratosphere.

So “successful” was Warner in buying off the bloggers that not a single candidate dared to throw a party for the crowd at Yearly Kos this year. They didn’t want to risk the criticism Warner got.

The reason that “bought them off” quote is there is not to connect Smith’s account to any verifiable reality, but to advertise in a particularly gaudy fashion how not in-the-tank for the Netroots Mister Journalist, Ben Smith, is. The snark had to be anonymous (“a senior aide”) because the assertions in it are too embarrasingly dumb for anyone to attach an actual name to. But Smith thinks he’s clever, so he added: “Campaign officials’ respect for the blogosphere does extend to speaking critically of it on the condition of anonymity.” In fact he got played— in a small way but still played.

John Harris, boss at the Politico, needs to establish some guidelines for who can anonymously trash people in his journal. Smith is abusing the practice to puff himself up as ostentatiously non-aligned; he will keep doing it until Harris stops him. Or maybe it will be his readers.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links….

I misidentified the moderator of the panel with Glenn Greenwald and Mike Allen among others. It was Ari Melber, not Ari Berman. Sorry, Ari!

I’m not expecting one thing or another, but I will let you know if there are any reactions from Time, The Politico, Salon….

UPDATE: Jay Carney has replied at Time’s Swampland. “Rosen then pulls out another comment I made on the sidewalk which, I would argue, he substantially overinterprets.”

I think there are certainly downsides to journalism that struggles to be objective and non-partisan. But I do think Rosen is twisting a simple comment into a pretzel in order to make it fit with an all-purpose critique of the MSM.

What I meant about having a responsibility not to be labeled left or right is that our responsibility is to the truth — that we should write what we see, not what we want to see or wish to be true, and that, if we do so, attempts to label us as partisan will fail.

Some of the comments are interesting, as well. My two favorites.

Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News and the NORG braintrust was on my panel at YearlyKos. Here he is at Attytood in a post that aligns with this one. Why bloggers ran a better debate than “pro” journalists.

Chicago showcased what politically obsessed amateurs can accomplish. And what bloggers often do best is working the “micro” elements of political debate, finding the statement that doesn’t jibe with the known facts or with past remarks. So it was that moderator McCarter hit Richardson off the bat with his comment that his ideal High Court was the late Byron “Whizzer” White, who was a judicial foe of abortion rights. Richardson felt he had little choice but to say that he “screwed up” — a kind of admission we haven’t seen in other well-scripted debates.

Terry Heaton from 2004: News Is A Conversation.

Worthy of the great Esquire tradition in literature from the campaign trail is Charles P. Pierce, The Beauty Contest. “The half-wits and harridans talk about nothing so much as his hair. But John Edwards has more pressing things on his mind.” A snip:

On May 15, Mike Huckabee, a greasy Rotarian gasbag from Arkansas, made a funny. Speaking at a debate with the other Republican presidential contenders, Huckabee said of the Congress that it had “spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop.” This nasty little bit solicited gales of laughter from the studio audience and almost unalloyed approval from the traveling political press, and nobody enjoyed it more than the lads at The Politico, a brand-new political fanzine that combines the biting wit of a high school slam book with the nuanced policy analysis of Tiger Beat.

The line was an “instant classic,” raved Mike Allen.

Jose Antonio Vargas, whose beat is the Internet and politics, in the Washington Post:

The vibe in this year’s event, bloggers say, was remarkably different from last year. Most panels weren’t necessarily about blogging, as in the past, they added, but more about bringing policy experts, party activists and bloggers together in one room. In a way, the outsiders have become insiders, leaving some members of the press a little confused. Steven Thomma, the veteran political reporter for McClatchy Newspapers, turned to another reporter during Sen. Hillary Clinton’s breakout session with bloggers and asked, “Are politicians trying to reach the bloggers? Or are they trying to reach us” — journalists — “through the bloggers?

But see in reply to Vargas Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake: Yearly Kos and the Myth of the White Male.

Ari Melber at The Nation site: Netroots Come of Age.

A self-organized band of activists and volunteers built one of the most important gatherings in modern politics from scratch in just two years—an achievement most organizations, think tanks and even well-funded corporate PACs could not match. That success is sparking understandable growing pains and fundamental questions about how to maintain the gathering’s egalitarian, open and participatory ethic. The Democratic establishment knows it must now listen to its netrooots base. The trick is ensuring that the full range of netroots activists are empowered to speak up for themselves.

My niece Julia Rosen has a good collection of YearlyKos links at her post for Calitics.

Posted by Jay Rosen at August 5, 2007 9:03 PM   Print


i like your post you keep me well informed.

Posted by: sylvie rosen and julia jarvis at August 6, 2007 7:55 AM | Permalink

Jay Carney is Time magazine’s Washington bureau chief. Andrew Golis interviewed him too, on the sidewalk outside the party that Time threw on Friday night to promote its political blog, Swampland. (I read Swampland and I was there: good party.)

Here's the thing. I read Swampland too. And I'm not sure what it is they are trying to promote....

I mean, Swampland is supposed to be about DC politics --- but the "front pagers" don't really blog that much about the crucial issues that have been front and center in Washington. Klein writes (without insight) on Iraq, but to read Carney, Tumulty, and Cox, you would think that nothing of consequence was happening in DC -- all the important stuff was going on in the Presidential campaign.

(Even when Cox writes about "real" issues, she simply trivializes them. Tumulty tries to write about real issues when she has a chance, but Carney has her following around the various candidates trying to find that anecdote that can be used as a metaphor for the campaign, or the minor occurance that provides insight into a candidate -- and sometimes, there is just no there there. And Carney -- well, "horse race" guy is right ---- DC Bureau Chief for Time, and he writes off the US Attorney Scandal? Never mentions the contempt citations for Miers an Bolten. I mean, his most "substantive" post of late was to point out that the Edelman used to work for Strobe Talbott).

In other words, Swampland is still pretty much of an embarrassment -- unless you are looking for one stop shopping for beltway conventional wisdom filtered through Republican talking points direct from the DC coctail weenie circuit.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 6, 2007 12:39 PM | Permalink

I don't understand what Carney is doing. I can sort of figure out where the others are coming from, but after watching him a while he seems almost proud of being the Beltway insider and horse race handicapper who moves right with conventional wisdom.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 6, 2007 1:53 PM | Permalink

"It’s our responsibility not to be labeled left or right"

The problem is that almost every political blogger has a bias and they blog (or otherwise report) on topics & events that support their own political affiliation.

There is nothing wrong with this... it's just natural. If you were a turtle researcher and believed that humans evolved from turtles, you'd focus your efforts accordingly. So if you're a left-leaning progressive, you'd focus on issues that are important and/or supportive of that constituency.

Posted by: Tom at August 7, 2007 3:24 AM | Permalink

"[Carney] then added something unintentionally revealing...'It’s our responsibility not to be labeled left or right.' Is it now? 'That is just so wrong,' said a commenter (Lee) at Swampland, who had watched the interview. 'Your job is to tell the truth.' It may take another five or six years, but eventually political journalists are going to realize that 'Lee' is right and Carney wrong.

Jay, I agree, but I would amend that to "Your job is to tell what you sincerely believe to be the truth." In a world full of unknowns, unknowables, unprovens, unprovenables, and in a country in which individuals have different self-interests and are allowed to express their different, but equally valid preferences, I think that's the most that can ever be asked of a journalist. (Steve Boriss, The Future of News)

Posted by: Steve Boriss at August 7, 2007 1:54 PM | Permalink

Steve, when Dan Rather and Mary Mapes ran a story reviling Bush's service at TANG, based on documents that were clumsy forgeries, they were telling what they sincerely believed to be the truth; they really did believe, to the bottom of their hearts, that there was something shameful in Bush's joining TANG. That's why they didn't check the forgeries properly, and why they offered "fake but accurate" as a defense of their actions.

It isn't enough for reporters to say what they sincerely believe to be true. They have to tell the truth.

Posted by: Michael Brazier at August 8, 2007 6:34 AM | Permalink

Michael, Can't disagree with what you have said, except we've had a problem with journalists claiming to be printing "the truth," but not acknowledging that there are still things they don't or can never know, and that they may be filling the gaps with their own interpretations based on their worldviews. Journalists have limitations and can only be diligent up to a point. They need to acknowledge that there might be more than one version of what they would consider to be "the truth."

Posted by: Steve Boriss at August 8, 2007 5:35 PM | Permalink

I would amend Steve's "Your job is to tell what you sincerely believe to be the truth." to:

"Your job is to tell what you sincerely believe to be the truth and show your work."

This is actually something 60 Minutes Wednesday (now defunct) should have gotten credit for, but didn't because they so mishandled everything else. They posted the documents for public inspection.

What they didn't do (should have and it might have prevented some of their embarrassment) is post transcripts of their interviews with Killian's associates, Burkett and expert forensic document examiners.

Posted by: Tim at August 8, 2007 5:59 PM | Permalink

The excuse for screwing up can be, "I sincerely thought it was the truth."
Beats, "I was trying to screw the pooch and you caught me."

Problem is, the excuse, "We're not crooked, we're stupid." has its problems after a dozen times in a row.

Better to get right. Which, as has been said, means checking with the people who know more, and that means outside the newsroom.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at August 8, 2007 9:42 PM | Permalink

Tim, 60 Minutes Wednesday certainly didn't show their forged memos to any document examiners; a document examiner would have known instantly that TANG didn't typeset its memos in the early '70s, and would have told the reporters the documents weren't what they appeared to be. If Rather and Mapes had interviewed a document examiner before airing their story, they wouldn't have had a story to air.

And Steve, the problem I'm speaking of isn't with journalists claiming more knowledge than they have, or could have; we have journalists saying things they know quite well are false, to serve a political goal labeled "the greater truth". Tim's amendment, that reporters ought to give the evidence for their assertions, goes a long step in the right direction ...

Posted by: Michael Brazier at August 9, 2007 12:19 AM | Permalink


Emily Will
Linda James
James Pierce
Marcel B. Matley

Posted by: Tim at August 9, 2007 2:21 AM | Permalink

I am the one and only "Lee" and it's a pleasant suprise to see my comment sparked some discussion!

Unfortunately, the take away message over at Swampland seems to be 'when you're at a party don't talk to video bloggers.'

If you don't mind, I'd like to repost what I just wrote over there:

I really hope that this little brouhaha doesn't have that kind of chilling effect. I would much rather Jay not see it as some kind of attack but rather as a critique, and one that he (and indeed the entire Washington press corps) would do well to internalize. At present the fourth estate is broken and dysfunctional. We desperately need to get it working again, and to do that journalists will need to stop worrying about how they will be labeled by others and just focus on digging out the facts and determining what is true.

In his post below Jay made the following basic point three times: "If we're doing our jobs as political reporters, attempts to label us as left or right will fail because our stories will be grounded in solid reporting." First of all, I don't think that this is really true. Fox News et al. have a big enough megaphone to smear those needing smearing. Lord knows facts are called into question all the time. But the other problem with this idea is that if you believe this statement to be true you could easily fall into the trap of assuming that being criticized for bias is itself an indication of poor reporting. And conversely if you succeed at avoiding a partisan label then you can rest assured your reporting is solid and grounded in truth.

Any journalist who has internalized that false lesson has basically set themselves up to be manipulated. In trying to escape the liberal label you have to skew your stories further and further to the right by creating false equivalencies.

To his credit Jay concedes that "balance is not the same as fairness," but what he doesn't acknowledge is that fair journalists are routinely pilloried for bias. (Take Bill Moyers, as a high profile example) The reality is that we don't live in a neat and perfect world in which "quality rises." Journalists who tell the truth will be smeared and the smears will often stick, at least for a time... There are powerful players involved who have a vested interest in shaping public opinion, and they're good at it. They have no qualms about ruining some personal lives to get their way and to hide what they don't want the public to know.

In the long run, yes, historians will look back and see who was really right, and the truth-tellers will be vindicated. But that might be of little consolation for you folks now, while you're trying to put food on your family (as they say).

But I would hope enough journalists might recall why they got into the business in the first place, which I would like to think was a desire to bring truth to light, consequences be damned.

Posted by: Lee at August 9, 2007 4:24 AM | Permalink

Yeah. The possibility of being smeared by righties must be keeping journos awake nights.
See the Oakland issue--ref Chauncey Bailey. You think the absolute knowledge that one would be called "racist" for any kind of reporting on the bakery didn't make any difference?
Or the difference in coverage between James Byrd and Kenneth Tillery?
Or the Knoxville carjacking/rape/double murder?
Or the Wichita massacre?
Who are we kidding?
"homophobia" Matthew Shepard vs. Jesse Dirkhising. The SF bathhouse issue.
"islamophobia" The Goose Creek duo, or the Ft. Dix Six. Or the trial currently hammering CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator. The multiple shootings and murder in the Seattle Jewish community center. "The what? Never heard of it."

Of course, it could be that the fear of labels isn't the issue. It could be that journos really don't care. Or think it would be better if fewer people knew about such things.
But don't make me strain my truss laughing at the assertion journos are afraid of being labled by the RIGHT. For heaven's sake.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at August 9, 2007 8:07 AM | Permalink

I see Richard Aubrey has his spreadsheet of Plen-T-Plaints at the ready.

At this point isn't there a sizable number of elephant-in-the-room stories that only bloggers and really liberal publications are willing to cover? For instance, the story behind the Libby trial--what Scott Horton calls the Yellowcake Road--why isn't the MSM covering that? Why does it take a walkup office full of kids in the flower district (TalkingPointsMemo) to cover this?

As Jay Rosen speculated in his "Retreat from Empiricism", is the reason they don't cover stories like this that they want to avoid appearing partisan?

Posted by: JJWFromME at August 9, 2007 10:30 AM | Permalink

Jww. I don't have anybody's spread sheet.

It's worse. It's what's obvious to anybody who's been paying attention. That's a lot more people than on some activist's distribution list.

But the point is not merely what's covered and what's not. The point is the likelihood that the coverage is skewed by the fear of being labled by righties. "Nuts" as McAulliffe is said to have said.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at August 9, 2007 10:56 AM | Permalink

I was at a conference yesterday and missed this whole thing. Just catching up with Jay's reply now. Here are mt two favorite comments from the Swampland thread.

JD's in particular shows that Carney had another unintentionally revealing moment when he wrote, ...By being faithful to the facts and our judgment about where the truth lies, rather than to a political cause, party or ideology, we have some control over whether those labels ring true to the broader world of readers.

Posted by James, Los Angeles
August 8, 2007

Speaking for myself, I've been appreciative and sympathetic with the Swampland Gang of Four Minus One's appearance and efforts at YearlyKos. I hope, y'all had a good time.

Glenn's point on the panel, as I think he made clear, is not that Time Mag has conservative columnists. It's that the spectrum of opinions they present is lacking a very large part of the spectrum of mainstream political thinking. Joe Klein, representing the center right in the classical sense, through extremeists Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, the extreme rightward slant of your columnists, matter, Jay, in how your pub is perceived. But nobody blames *you* for that.

But as far as your reporting, we are asking for you to do better. I wonder if you know what that is. Take this, for instance, linked from Matthew Yglesias...

Facts? In the Lede? Shocking!
08 Aug 2007 10:26 am

Via Brian Beutler, the AFP tries a revolutionary experiment in writing their story in such a way as to make readers better informed about the issue at hand rather than more familiar with the president's propaganda. Here's the lede:

US President George W. Bush charged Monday that Iran has openly declared that it seeks nuclear weapons -- an inaccurate accusation at a time of sharp tensions between Washington and Tehran.

If you can't understand why people in the blogging world find that lede unusual and welcome, then I think you aren't really understanding the argument.

Posted by JD
August 9, 2007

This notion of "partisan" you use is pretty insulting to people on the left and the right, and is also a fairly deep misunderstanding of human psychology. You claim to differ from a "partisan" in that you are "faithful to the facts and our judgment about where the truth lies, rather than to a political cause, party or ideology." But who doesn't think they are being faithful to the facts? Left, right, or center, everyone thinks their ideology is correct because it is based on truth and fact. If you say to someone, "I try to base my views on facts, unlike you, who base your views on ideology," that's as insulting as calling them a robot or a moron. You are of course free to insult everyone to the right and left of you if you want, but is that really what you want? And if not, how will you distinguish what you do from what all the rest of us (intend to) do: build up beliefs about what is right and wrong based on the truths we see around us.

We all agree now that "balance" for its own sake is a mistake. But we also all believe, as you do, that our beliefs follow from "judgment about where the truth lies." So how, now, will you distinguish your job as journalist from what the rest of us do?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 9, 2007 12:06 PM | Permalink

>What is Smith doing granting anonymity to a Democratic operative in a fashion such as this?

Mr. Rosen,
Why do you assume Mr. Smith did NOT just make up this quote? Every time I see an anonymous source, unless it is someone whistleblowing on criminal activity, I always assume the quote is as real as the "some people say" strawman lines too many journalists use.

>>[Jay Carney:] "our responsibility is to the truth — that we should write what we see"

Mr. Rosen,
I see this as the biggest criticism bloggers have of the MSM: Those who work in the MSM have very narrow fields of vision, so they do, for the most part, write truthfully on the limited things they choose to see.
Bloggers and commenters point out holes in what journalists have written or said. That is what grates on the journalists' nerves and causes they to say such comments are only churlishness.

I do not think journalists have yet fully asked the question "Why do we suck?"; I think they are still at the stage of "Why do they say we suck?"

Posted by: bartkid at August 9, 2007 2:56 PM | Permalink

bartkid: I do not think journalists have yet fully asked the question "Why do we suck?"; I think they are still at the stage of "Why do they say we suck?"

Agreed. But the movement from, "They say we suck because they're (partisans, civic boosters, "miserable, carping retromingent vigilantes," "salivating morons," ...) is something.

Moving from - it's their problem - to - we accept you think it's our problem - might be a good sign.

Posted by: Tim at August 9, 2007 8:13 PM | Permalink

re:"Jeff Jarvis was saying that in 2004: let’s 'turn news from a one-way lecture into a two-way conversation.' "


It seems to me that you can only have a real "two-way conversation" if it happens on neutral grounds (if nobody has power over the others).

Jeff seems to be a nice guy but I wouldn't call his blog a "conversation": yes he usually has a decent tone and people can post comments and he does answer (sometimes...) but that's not really a conversation, is it?

I mean, his arguments, opinions etc. will always have more weight so in effect he *is* "lecturing" and the readers are primarily listening... even if they are allowed to say what they think, Jeff has power over the posters (he can silence them at any time and that would be the end of the "conversation"...if there ever really was one...)


P.S. I know, I know... I'm back early :)... (I was supposed to be gone for a good long while) -- I just haven't found anything as good as this and I doubt I will... D.

Posted by: Delia at August 9, 2007 9:41 PM | Permalink

Don't know that I agree about the quote the "senior aide to a Democratic campaign" being meaningless.

To me, it shows that the person who spoke did not want to alienate the blogging community. A smart move. But it also shows that candidates are making nice with bloggers because of their power in numbers -- and not necessarily because they like them. Or respect them.

The comments about how much mainstream journalists have come to appreciate the stellar work by bloggers sounds a tad bit like the racist who insists some of his or her bestest friends are people of color. Condescending.

The fact that a senior aide to let's say, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or even Dennis Kucinich made such a disparaging commentary I think speaks volumes; and I can't really blame them for not wanting to go on "record."

Posted by: Mimi Schaeffer at August 12, 2007 7:35 PM | Permalink

In my view it speaks specks, not volumes. We have no idea how to interpret the quote without knowing who it is and what campaign the "insider" allegedly works for.

If information is a measure of uncertainty reduced (the only decent definition I know of) the remark contains not zero but less than zero information about the campaigns and the bloggers because it actually increases our uncertainty about who would have such a dismissive attitude and be afraid to say it aloud. It's a non-fact, attempting to fool us into taking it seriously as an indicator of something about..."let's say, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or even Dennis Kucinich." The point is we can't say.

However, the use of this non-fact, complete with an untruthful--as in historically inaccurate--assertion about who was "bought off," does say something about Ben Smith, as I indicated. Way more than he knows.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 12, 2007 11:37 PM | Permalink

re:"the remark contains not zero but less than zero information about the campaigns and the bloggers (...)who would have such a dismissive attitude and be afraid to say it aloud?"

well, a "senior aid to the Democratic campaign of the bloggers"...; if true (and you don't appear to question the truth of the matter, just the omission of identity) sounds like valuable information on its own (without necessarily knowing WHO in particular).


Posted by: Delia at August 13, 2007 7:16 PM | Permalink

To you maybe it does sound like "valuable information." I say you were played (conned) by Ben Smith.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 14, 2007 12:31 AM | Permalink

why *isn't* that valuable to you? (if true...)

"A senior aide to the Democratic convention of the bloggers" has a "dismissive attitude towards the bloggers"

how do you think I was "conned"? I mean, I didn't conclude it was anybody in particular (we don't have that info)-- I just see no good reason to throw out true info we do have just because it is not as complete as I would have preferred...


Posted by: Delia at August 14, 2007 8:33 AM | Permalink


I think Jay's negative information value is potentially useful.

For example, would you say that Smith's "senior aid," Foer's "Scott Thomas" and Suskind's "aide" all provided the same (positive/negative) information value?

Posted by: Tim at August 14, 2007 5:20 PM | Permalink


I just don't think it's negative in the case *Jay* talks about: knowing "a senior aide to the Democratic convention of the bloggers" has a "dismissive attitude towards the bloggers" is POSITIVE something... (definitely less of an absolute value than knowing exactly WHO it is... but that doesn't make the information negative...)

The fact that *some* people might get confused and draw wrong conclusions (whether Ben intended that or not) doesn't mean the information in itself is "negative" (that it detracts from our knowledge of the issue) just that you have to read it carefully...


P.S. now if Jay's criticism would have been that the information *wasn't true*... I could see the point... (but that wasn't his charge) D.

Posted by: Delia at August 14, 2007 6:32 PM | Permalink

Hi Jay...I'm finally catching up with a huge backlog in my RSS reader and really wanted to respond to something in your After-Matter....

I was curious about Jane Hamsher's reaction to things, and found myself agreeing with an important point in her post: the need for women to get involved in these important conversations to challenge the myths.

And the white male myth is something I see perpetuated at every tech conference, and journalism conference, and business conference, and now in a political blogging conference. But the myth persists, in part, because women are under-represented voices in major conversations (with the exception of business--women's voices are growing in that particular blogosphere...)

This year at BlogHer, I made it to a panel, and let them know that I spent most of my time not rattling around the relationship blogs or the mommyblogs, but in the trenches with the male bloggers in the big conversations, bothering some on the A-list (although Jane's right that there really isn't any linking cabal keeping people out of the top spots.) What I said, however, fell on deaf ears--with the exception of a 14 year old boy and another guy in the audience who kept nodding every time I mentioned the necessity of sometimes going toe-to-toe with someone larger than yourself.

My sense of women bloggers from the ones I encountered this year at BlogHer, is that there's a committed handful who are willing to venture into male-dominated spaces and challege the status-quo (or even just contribute to the conversation), but that there are far more for whom doing so simply doesn't fall into their blogging worldview. They are content in particular circles, making a bit of money from their blogs, talking about how cute their children are and what their boyfriend ate last night. And I'm not sure how this could be changed.

Posted by: Tish Grier at August 14, 2007 6:36 PM | Permalink

The fact that a senior aide to let's say, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or even Dennis Kucinich made such a disparaging commentary I think speaks volumes; and I can't really blame them for not wanting to go on "record."

Posted by: Wire at August 15, 2007 11:57 PM | Permalink

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