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PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
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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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October 18, 2007

Okay, Ready? My Coordinates for a Successful News Site

I'm at the Online News Association's conference in Toronto. Listening to some of the speakers at the J-Lab's workshop, absorbing the talk at last week's Networked Journalism Summit, and adding what I've learned from doing PressThink, the model I see emerging would combine...

√ High quality aggregation within a strong editorial focus. (Like the Huffington Post nationally, or Twin Cities Daily Planet locally.)

√ Blogging platform with the best posts filtered to the front page. (Like Daily Kos, still the best at this. See diary rescue.)

√ Original reporting with hybrid strength, including amateurs with pro support (training, production values, copy editing, editorial oversight), pros with amateur support (like Regina Lynn; and pros doing what pros have always done.

Beatblogging, also known as beat reporting with a social network. The simple practice of keeping a blog on a beat that develops a following and turning the following into a knowledge network that feeds the beat.

√ Features with narrow comprehensiveness: everything about something. (Lisa Williams: “That is, a site with some Denver restaurants is OK; but a site with ALL Denver restaurants is better.”)

√ Forums that allow a previously atomized group—people sharing interests and problems—to connect and converse with each other. (Like this one for Buffalo Bills fans.)

√ Find, prepare and place online data sets that are “available,” but not easy to use, and of strong interest to a live public; then let people interact with the information by framing it properly and providing the bigger narrative that the data is a part of. (See and this post from Rich Gordon.)

√ Community publishing: users sharing their stuff, including their photos and reports on events they attended.

√ Reverse publishing, web-to-print, for the highest quality content generated online. (Read Dan Barkin of the News & Observer: “Every day except Sunday, we take photos, forum comments, user-submitted school news, user-nominated volunteer stories and publish it on Page 2.” See also YourHub.)

Crowdsourcing projects that gather information that’s impossible to get any other way. (Like WNYCs efforts, or the News & Observer’s speeding investigation or this: Help Us Investigate.)

√ Absolute commitment to breaking news in the coverage area by any means necessary: pro, am, aggregation, wires, blogging, crowdsourced. (Get familiar with the “river of news” idea—via Dave Winer—and things like twitter feeds.)

√ Geo-tagged information: organized so people can access it by location, or via a map. (See for example

√ Headlines and summaries optimized for search; open archives and permalinks.

√ Put-it-all-together topic pages that combine… aggregation, original reporting, blog posts, data, forums, video, audio and crowdsourced information… on something big, breaking and of intense interest, like a bridge collapse.

Like my coordinates for distributed journalism, these are the coordinates I see for the emerging model of a successful online news organization. I don’t think of this list as comprehensive, and it isn’t really a formula, just a list.

Reacting to the version that ran at Idea Lab—the new group blog for Knight News Challenge winners—Howard Weaver, Vice President for News at The McClatchy Company said, “It comes as close as anything I’ve seen to a roadmap for the near future.”

So there must be some sense in it. (Thanks, Howard.)

* * *

This post was translated into Portuguese by Marcos Palacios, which is pretty cool.

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 18, 2007 1:05 AM   Print


Very useful idea map, Jay. As far as point 4 goes ("Features with narrow comprehensiveness..."), I'd say go for an even more focused approach: That is, an embeddable, ad-integrated site with ONE Denver restaurant is better. Thinks of every story like an individual, hyper-focused blog mixing all of the good things you mentioned above. (I wrote about this here.)

Posted by: Michael Amedeo Tumolillo at October 18, 2007 8:54 AM | Permalink

I'd add to the list (or perhaps it is already covered in one of your categories), a window into the part of the blogosphere most relevant to the publications target readers.

See here:
Knoxville News-Sentinel
King 5 in Seattle
WKRN Nashville
Newark Star-Ledger

Our work is the Knoxville site (an aggregator with lots of data analysis built in).
King 5 is a basic aggregator with a blogger covering local blog life, modeled on the real pioneer in Nashville.
Newark doesn't have an aggregator, but they do have a blogger covering the local blogosphere.

All valid ways to get at the same object -- blogs and increasingly other kinds of social media are a community with impact for beyond the electronic world, you can't cover your community without a good idea of what is going on online.

More of these are coming. I know there's one similar to the Nashville site opening at a TV station in San Francisco and we have some more projects like Knoxville's under development.

Posted by: David Mastio at October 18, 2007 11:26 AM | Permalink


I'd reconsider web-publishing. At a minimum, I'd make absolutely sure contributors would be well aware long in advance of any such plans and people who would get whatever it was that got printed would really *want* to get it.


P.S. Lisa Williams was talking about doing "mass mailings" for the H20town site -- bad! bad idea! as far as I can see... (guarantees that at least some of those people will see it as spam and lose whatever respect they may have had for the whole operation); comment on Dan Gillmor's bog, I think... D.

Posted by: Delia at October 19, 2007 12:31 AM | Permalink

This 13-point list might well be dubbed Rosen’s Kitchen Sink since it seems to include everything except it.

It is called an emerging model for Networked Journalism but many of its components are not concerned with news, which is the stuff of journalism. Instead of Networked Journalism it reads more like Networked Non-Fiction -- surrounding news with elements from sociology, databases, encyclopedias, propaganda, search engines and so on.

Before the Internet, journalistic productions included plenty of stuff that was not news because the media they used happened to be an efficient way to disseminate information. A newspaper, for example, would include the comics and the baseball box scores and the stock market closing prices and the letters to the editor not because they were news or the result of journalism but because a newspaper was a convenient medium for them. Local TV news includes non-journalistic elements like weather forecasts and traffic data. The network TV morning shows offer fashion parades, cooking demonstrations and Bruce Springsteen concerts. Political TV coverage can consist of the mere carriage of an event -- a Presidential press conference, a political convention keynote, a Senate confirmation hearing -- documenting a proceeding rather than reporting on it.

The counterargument against Rosen’s Kitchen Sink is that the networked world allows journalism to free itself of non-news duties. Non-news can co-exist happily in parallel activities. Nowadays Sean Hannity, for example, wears a journalistic hat as a newsmaker interviewer on FOX News Channel and an agit-prop hat as a reciter of partisan talking points on talkradio. Journalism can become disentangled by such confusions online. Rosen’s Kitchen Sink offers Daily Kos not Sean Hannity but the argument applies. The list would be clearer if it did not use blogging as a catch-all category but found a way to distinguish blogs that are in the non-journalistic business of political persuasion and those whose job is news reporting.

A site about restaurants would be useful and comprehensive, but is it news? Forums that allow atomized groups to share interests and problems are not journalism. Making databases available online is not journalism -- it is organizing a resource that journalists and non-journalists can use. Neither is WNYC’s price-of-a-sixpack crowdsourcing journalism: it might come up with an insight that is newsworthy but it does not depend on such a result to make it worthwhile.

The inclusion of geotagging and search optimization as points 11 and 12 on the list are a different example of a kitchen sink mentality. Those two are merely online methods for presenting information that can apply to any forum whether it is journalistic or not.

Rather than make a list of a pot-pourri of non-fiction content online that might conceivably have some remote connection to newsgathering and dissemination, the current phase of fragmentation and atomization of the media offers an opportunity to shuck off the baggage of non-news, safe in the knowledge that those important functions are being taken care of elsewhere. Thus journalists can concentrate on the task at hand -- informing citizens of developments and controversies in their community, in the body politic, and in the world at large, so they need not act like civic illiterates. That would require a different 13-point list, one that would elaborate on the key news-related functions, such as aggregation, hybrid reporting, community publishing, and eliminate the extraneous ones.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at October 19, 2007 7:25 AM | Permalink

Adding to Andrew's comment, Silicon Insider: How The New York Times Fell Apart

Most newspapers adopted the always dangerous strategy of trying to become more like one's competitors rather than establishing the defensible position of being even more true to oneself. Like most newspapers, the Times decided to become more timely, more hip, and more judgmental than the electronic media -- when it should have become better reported, more objective, and better written; professionalism being the one arena where the new competitors would have a hard time competing.

Posted by: Tim at October 19, 2007 9:34 AM | Permalink

Hi Andrew: List have limited usefulness and I am not making large claims for this one. BUT...

I don't think you are reading it properly.

High quality aggregation is about news.

Original reporting with hybrid strength is about news.

Crowdsourcing projects that gather information that’s impossible to get any other way can be news.

Absolute commitment to breaking news in the coverage area is, as it says, about news.

Geo-tagged information includes geo-tagged news.

Put-it-all-together topic pages are about news.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 19, 2007 10:40 AM | Permalink

Jay, right back at you: "I don't think you are reading it properly..."

My conclusion mentioned the very points you cited: "That would require a different 13-point list, one that would elaborate on the key news-related functions, such as aggregation, hybrid reporting, community publishing, and eliminate the extraneous ones."

My argument with you list was that by mentioning elements that may -- or may not -- be related to news, it failed to take advantage of the liberty that the Internet affords for journalists to stick to what they are supposed to be doing: the news and nothing but the news.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at October 19, 2007 10:48 AM | Permalink

Ah, well, if your observation is that news sites should not bother with some of the items on my list--and should in fact stay away from them--them... okay.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 19, 2007 11:40 AM | Permalink

I think what Andrew is missing is that all that non-news stuff supports the journalism by bringing in more eyes.

Cartoons, recipes, letters to the editor, sports scores, wall street data etc. brought more readers to the paper, more eyes to the advertising and a bigger budget to the newsroom.

The challenge for newspapers is how to take these ideas online. Things like sports score and wall street data may be done better by national specialists, but is there a way to do them better for a local audience (maybe working with the national specialist outfits) that will give newspapers an opportunity to keep readers and build audience that supports the journalism.

Ceding this ground to others only makes the financial foundation of online journalism weaker.

Posted by: David Mastio at October 19, 2007 11:50 AM | Permalink


You could take the model of, say, MSN's opening page.
You can link to everything imaginable from there.
Maps, phones, stock market, weather, music, soft news, sports.

There may be some difficulties or expenses--will be, I imagine--in designing your own from scratch, but perhaps some of the sources would appreciate the potential for additional traffic.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 19, 2007 12:09 PM | Permalink

not to be a spoilsport or anything.... but where does the revenue come from to support all of this?

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 19, 2007 1:29 PM | Permalink

I'm not addressing that particular problem in this list. (And I don't know the answer, either.) But since there is no solution to that problem that does not involve creating effective news sites, I'm not ignoring it, really.

I've been watching and listening for years as people in the news industry have stood up and asked, "what's the business model?" and I don't see that it's done them any good. But it does make people feel like they're being practical and hard headed.

Maybe people in news need to figure out how to create value, first, then discern where the revenue stream lies.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 19, 2007 3:48 PM | Permalink

re: "Maybe people in news need to figure out how to create value, first, then discern where the revenue stream lies."

hmmm... I hope you haven't changed your mind, Jay? (..."that will be clearly spelled out from the beginning. I don't think you can ask people to donate their time, knowledge & enthusiasm for something that enriches the "owners" --> I think there should be a specific law to this effect but even without it things like fraud are still in the books...)


Posted by: Delia at October 19, 2007 4:55 PM | Permalink


It seems to me that it would be useful if news sites had some sort of a "top stories" randomization function, for comparison purposes. Without it, there is really no reference point -- how do we know if the filter (be it a community of users, editors or a combination of those) is doing a good job or not?


Posted by: Delia at October 22, 2007 12:39 AM | Permalink

I seems that any non-news stuff supports the site by bringing in visitors via search engines. You need really optimize your site for this purpose. Let people some free and interesting stuff other than news.

Posted by: Symbian at October 23, 2007 8:31 AM | Permalink

Lessons and links for SABEW workshop, April 27, 2008.

Jay Rosen, PressThink and NewAssignment.Net

What we have learned so far:

1. This is slow, difficult work with an uncertain payoff: no breakthroughs so far.

2. Right now we have no formula; the only way to make progress is trial and error and personal ingenuity. (See David Cohn's lessons from reporters series.)

3. Immediate payoffs in terms that hard-pressed bosses would understand--scoops, meeting production quotas, breaking big stories via the network--are unlikely to justify the time required to figure this puzzle out.

4. It's not about the technology; it's about organizing people. The tools are there; all the important questions are about motivating people and engaging them in what you are doing, or locating the already-engaged.

5. If 100 people are signed-up, about ten will be actively involved and one of those ten will contribute a great deal.

6. Right now it is probably easier to organize temporary networks around events that people are already committed to joining in and excited about.

7. How about using Facebook groups to organize a reporting network? It's been done. Not all that successful.

8. Twitter, a much talked about networking tool, is most useful for getting breaking news fast from other "wired" people who are on Twitter, and for pushing out to your network of fans and followers your latest work. Advantages: fast, brief, mobile, growing.

9. For organizing a social network as a reporter, the recommended tool is ("Create Your Own Social Network for Anything") See the pressthink network on Ning.

10. See this succinct list of tips for setting up a successful task-related network.

Okay, well how can we get a glimpse of the potential?

Take a look at this post from Josh Marshall's TPM Muckraker site: TPM Needs YOU to Comb Through Thousands of Pages.

Check out this simple method of drawing on readers' knowledge: Josh Marshall asks: "Anyone know anything more about this?"

Check out the Super-Delegate Transparency Project, which was mostly the work of the OffTheBus network.

Go back to the original "moment" when Open Source Journalism was glimpsed (Salon, 1999.)

To set up your own soxial network, go to Ning sign-up page.


(You'll need to have your email account open.)

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 27, 2008 1:16 PM | Permalink

Training Session: Open Systems and the Challenge to Quality Publishers

Consumers Union, Jan. 24, 2009


Jay Rosen, The People Formerly Known as the Audience

Steve Outing, The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism.

Jay Rosen, If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn't. So Let's Get a Clue.

Special comment: open systems vs. closed systems

Andrew Leonard, Open Source Journalism

Presentation Notes:

Consumerist is bringing Consumers Union into the age of the Web.

First, let's understand the difference between the Internet and the Web

The origins of the web are in making collaboration possible

What's different about the Web as an editorial environment and communication platform?

To answer that question, we have to try to picture the mass audience during the golden age of print and broadcast media.

Compared to prior platforms, the Web is:

* Not one way, but two way

* Not "one to many" but many-to-many

* Not consumerist but producerist too

* Not only about "connecting up," but also "across" to other people.

* Not "high barriers to entry" and "capital intensive" environment but "low barriers" and "cheap to get in."

* Not a spectator's sport, but a participatory thing

Open systems and closed systems

Blogging as open platform publishing

The idea of an "online community" on the digital frontier

How open source software begat distributed reporting

Beatblogging and reporting with a social network

The production of trust from a zero base

Professional authority in an age of knowledge-sharing networks.

Other useful links:

TPM Muckraker wonders how to sort through a 3,000 page document dump.

News-Press of Ft. Myers, Flordia: Help us Investigate

DailyKos, a successful online community, practices diary rescue.

Dallas ISD blog, a good example of beatblogging. Authors post drafts and get comments.

Help Make my Blowback Post to Michael Skube a Little More Sound; to Run With It, which yielded this piece.

Help Me Explain Twitter to Eggheads.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 24, 2009 1:39 AM | Permalink

From the Intro