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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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June 16, 2008

Filter the Best Stuff to the Front Page: A Demo

OffTheBus and NewsTrust.Net ran a little test two weeks ago. It's a crowdsourced week in review feature for high quality John McCain coverage, June 2 to 9. Here's the background and results.

The mission of NewsTrust—it’s nonprofit and non-partisan—is to be a “guide to good journalism.” The site offers a “range of tools to help you find and share” the best work. It has a system for surfacing quality news that anyone can participate in by rating news stories and works of commentary, or by submitting them to be rated.

NewsTrust is one kind of answer to a question I am often asked. If supply keeps expanding (because so many have media power now) won’t there come a crisis in demand? And don’t we lose something if we no longer have that common narrative once provided by Big Media? (A favorite of Big Media interviewers.)

Sites like NewsTrust take it for granted that expansion in media space is a good thing. But filtering and forwarding systems must keep pace. The better we are at that—finding the good work, forwarding it to eager users—the easier it is to relax and accept that anyone can be a producer, or that good contributions can come from anywhere.

In this connection, I point you to NewsJunk.Com, a new site. Dave Winer, with some co-conspirators, created a river of news intended for serious users of political coverage. It’s designed to be radically inclusive and selective. (And fast.)

At last week’s gathering of Knight News Challenge winners at MIT, Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices Online—a “find new voices” project that’s working—said he was concerned that tools to organize the flow and make it practical for people to use were not keeping pace with expanded opportunities to publish.

For a more intelligent and flexible filter we can trust in pro editors to adapt to the Web. We can turn to bloggers (they edit the Web for us and always have.) Or we can try the participation route, also called social media.

OffTheBus teamed up with NewsTrust to see how a combined hunt for the best McCain coverage of the week would turn out. We asked the people we reach to sign up at News Trust so they could rate and submit stories: help filter McCain coverage for a week… intelligently! Arianna put out the call to HuffPost readers and Amanda Michel explained the project at OffTheBus. More details are at the NewsTrust blog.

The project ran Monday, June 2 to Monday, June 9. Members were invited by email and on both partner sites to find superior works of journalism about McCain, and to review some of the recommended stories on NewsTrust’s McCain topic page. We wound up rating 233 recent stories on McCain. In total 1,713 reviews were done. About 780 people took us up on our invite and registered with NewsTrust to participate; 300 took the next step and became reviewers.

To make the list below OffTheBus intern Gabriel Beltrone and I took all stories with ten or more reviews and ranked them. There were about 50 of those. I excerpted a few comments from members, and added them to headlines and summaries. (Click on “reviews” to find all the reviews.)

So here’s a simple demonstration of what Ethan called—it was the first time I had heard this term—a “social hack.” As against the programmer’s kind. People aligned themselves to create an intelligent filter for a week’s worth of McCain news. Gabe and I then made a simple editorial product out of it: a list with highlights.

I don’t know if OfftheBus members are up for doing this as a weekly thing, but I bet it could be done. Something else I would like to see: a News Hunt for all the McCain coverage by the Arizona press going back to the start of his political career. Surfacing the consensus best of that would be very useful.

It took me about three hours to pull this together and check it. The results aren’t spectacular or surprising, and I make no large claims for them. They do show that people really like accountability journalism and that Charlie Savage, now of the New York Times, wrote the most important McCain piece that week. Key contributors Jeff Clark, Randy Morrow and Richard Riehl did individual top ten lists, which we posted at OffTheBus. They can be compared to the totals below.

After the list, I have some further discussion.

NewsTrust.Net and OffTheBus present…

The McCain News Hunt, June 2-9, 2008

Results by Jay Rosen and Gabriel Beltrone

Top Ten Rated:

1. McCain, spying and executive power: A complete reversal in 6 months. By Glenn Greenwald,, June 6. (33 reviews/avg. 4.6 of 5.0)

“In order to satisfy the right-wing extremists he now needs, McCain — who only six months ago was giving answers on spying and executive power that were exactly the same as though expressed by the ACLU, Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd — is now spouting theories of the Omnipotent President virtually equivalent to those used by John Yoo, David Addington and Dick Cheney over the last seven years to impose radical changes in how our Government functions.”

NewsTrust host Chris Finnie:

…This story left me feeling sad. Despite the fact that I disagree with many of his positions, McCain has served his country in his own way for most of his life. It is sad that, near the end of it, he should have to betray the very ideals that made him attractive enough to independents to win the nomination for political gain…

2. Adviser Says McCain Backs Bush Wiretap. By Charlie Savage, New York Times, June 6. (48 reviews/avg. 4.5 of 5.0)

“A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.”

Reviewer Cathleen Bemis:

An outstanding piece of journalism on McCain’s position on warrantless wiretapping, one of the most controversial issues facing the candidates in the presidential campaign. Using McCain’s own public record, Savage then brings together an impressive spectrum of viewpoints on the issue from the campaigns, from legal scholars, traditional and independent media, This is how journalism should be done.

3. Katrina Kerfuffle. By Lori Robertson,, June 5. (23 reviews/avg. 4.5 of 5.0)

“McCain claims he ‘supported every investigation’ into the government’s role regarding the hurricane, when in fact he twice voted against an independent commission.”

4. John McCain’s Gramm Gamble. By Patricia Kilday Hart, Texas Observer, May 30, 2008. (23 reviews/avg. 4.3 of 5.0)

The GOP presidential nominee is relying on the ex-senator who helped bring you the mortgage crisis, Enron loopholes and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

5. The John McCain file By (St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly), ongoing. (17 reviews, 4.3 avg of 5.0)

A political “fact sheet” about McCain that includes a truth-o-meter on some of his more controversial statements, rating them as True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False, Pants on Fire. (Obama sheet here.)

6. The wife U.S. Republican John McCain callously left behind. By Sharon Churcher, Daily Mail, UK, June 8, 2008. (16 reviews/4.2 avg. of 5.0)

“My accident is well recorded. I had 23 operations, I am five inches shorter than I used to be and I was in hospital for six months. It was just awful, but it wasn’t the reason for my divorce. My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens…it just does.”

7. Soft on Iran. By Joe Miller,, June 5. (15 reviews, 4.2 avg. of 5.0)

“John McCain is attacking Barack Obama’s opposition to the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which (among other things) called for labeling Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. McCain claims that Obama’s opposition means that he also opposed calling the IRGC terrorists. We find otherwise.”

8. Will the real John McCain stand up?. By Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, June 5. (31 reviews, 4.1 avg of 5.0)

John McCain has been portrayed as a maverick, unafraid to stand up to those he opposed. But now, as the presidential race hearts up, the Republican candidate is busy befriending those he once despised and ridiculed - the religious right, the gun lobby and the Iraq war hawks.

9. McCain: I’d Spy on Americans Secretly, Too By Ryan Singel,, June 3. (41 reviews/4.1 avg. of 5.0)

“If elected president, Senator John McCain would reserve the right to run his own warrantless wiretapping program against Americans, based on the theory that the president’s wartime powers trump federal criminal statutes and court oversight, according to a statement released by his campaign Monday.”

Reviewer Maurice Lee:

A very interesting insight into how McCain’s postion has changed dramatically from his position a few years ago. A must read for those passionate about Constitutional limitations on presidential powers and McCain’s changing positions on that subject.

10. McCain Emerges as Master Economic Flip-Flopper By Gene Sperling, Bloomberg, June 6. (16 reviews, 4.1 avg. of 5.0)

“McCain, who would like us to see him as holding a consistent and principled stance on tax cuts and fiscal discipline, is engaging in the mother of all economic policy flip-flops,” says a former Clinton adviser.

A Few of the Lowest Rated:

1. Iraq helped Barack topple Hill, but could hurt him vs. Mac. Bill O’Reilly, Boston Herald, June 8 (12 reviews, 1.7 avg. of 5.0)

“Obama has achieved the nomination, but his winning primary strategy on Iraq could come back to haunt him in the general election, when the far left becomes rather insignificant. Already John McCain is painting Obama as a terror appeaser who would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq.”

Reviewer Marina Sakhno:

Mentions fewer casulties and increase in oil production as measures of “success” as if those alone were the objective and makes no mention at all how it has translated (or not) into governmental reconciliation and financial self-reliance…

2. McCain Sells His Kind of Change By James Carney, (12 reviews, 2.9 avg. of 5.0) rating

“The four-term Senator from Arizona might have chosen to avoid the reform motif entirely, to run instead on ‘experience’ or ‘leadership.’ But he and his campaign have decided they have no choice but to embrace the idea that voters want change above all. They also believe that Obama is the chimera of change, while McCain can actually deliver it.”

3. McCain to try to claim mantle of change. By Liz Sidoti, Associated Press (10 reviews, avg. 2.9 of 5.0)

“With voters sour on the status quo, Republican John McCain plans to spend the next five months arguing that he has a history of fighting to reform government and that Democrat Barack Obama talks of change with nothing to show for it.”

(Off topic but very current: what I just did—quote the AP and link to its story-is bad practice, according to the AP.)

Our McCain News Hunt was a collaboration among professionals (meaning: it’s their job to do it) amateurs (it’s their choice to do it) and computers (they just do it!) Fabrice Florin, founder of NewsTrust, elaborates:

On the professional end, Amanda Michel of OffTheBus, and NewsTrust’s Beth Wellington, Kaizar Campwala and David Fox played an essential role, from planning the hunt, to initial training, editorial coaching, meta-data coding, database cleanup, reviewer validation and technical support.

On the amateur end, a good measure of our success were the unusually high levels of participation from HuffPo, OffTheBus and NewsTrust communities for this project, as shown by our traffic stats for the week. This was one of our best News Hunt of the season, and we saw quite a bit of activity on NewsTrust as a result — with 5,235 visits from Huffington Post during that week, or 21% of our total visits. Our overall site traffic nearly doubled during our News Hunt, reaching 72,650 page views for the week. Total visits increased by half, with 24,891 visits from 16,738 unique visitors. These visitors spent more time and viewed more pages on our site than usual, with nearly 3 page views per visit and 5 minutes spent on site. So for each reviewer that rated our news selections, we had at least ten other visitors reading the results on our site, with many more reading them through the widgets on our partner sites, by email or RSS.

And on the computer end, what made it possible for you and Gabe to pull your list together was a set of sophisticated computer algorithms that rank rated stories on the fly, 24/7. These multilayered calculations take into account a variety of rating criteria, and weigh them based on reviewer experience, reputation and transparency and review depth. Future versions of the software will make it easier for you to customize the listings to only show stories with 10 reviews or more, or group them in different categories.

By the fall, he said, software will allow for any affinity group’s ratings to be broken out separately.

I’m not sure where all this is going. Right, now I’m just reporting what happened when we invited OffTheBus and Huffington Post people to find and filter McCain News for quality, joining the more established members of NewsTrust, who are also more experienced at rating.

Why would people want to spend time doing that? (Always a fair question in social media.) They might if the end product—the week in the review, the over-night rankings—got very good, and very reliable. The potential can be seen when we imagine not “33 reviews/4.7 avg of 5.0” but “1633 reviews/4.75 avg. of 5.00.”

One of interesting things about the NewsTrust initiative is that is has both emergent and conservative ideas built into it. The news judgment of newsroom priests is dethroned. The people formerly known as the audience take over the “gate,” as it were. But the virtues upheld—accuracy, fairness, evidence, proportion, decency, respect for our intelligence—are the old sturdy ones.

* * *

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Jeff Howe, the writer for Wired who helped coin the term, has been posting excerpts of his forthcoming book on crowdsourcing and incorporating the comments in the final draft. The latest one is from Chapter 8: What the Crowd Creates: How the One Percent Is Changing the Way Work Gets Done.

Overview, definitions and linkfest about crowdsourcing and its literature by two academics, Jane Singer and Louse Thomas. Excellent reference work.

And do see A journalist’s guide to crowdsourcing by Robert Niles.

Nancy Scola at TechPresident:

The results are in from the first go-round of the McCain News Hunt, a joint project of the Huffington Post’s Off the Bus and NewsTrust. A great big pile of McCain-related stories were rated and reviewed in an attempt to filter out the most useful news takes on the all-but-certain Republican nominee. Jay Rosen reports his findings, but Jay’s commenters raise the obvious question: is the left-leaning audience for the project engaging in an act of confirmation bias, looking for stories that support what they already think?

William Ockham in the comments: “What’s missing from the 10 best? The Horse Race. What’s that worst list made up of? The Horse Race.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at June 16, 2008 4:30 PM   Print


Congratulations. You have just re-invented the Democratic Underground.

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at June 16, 2008 9:29 PM | Permalink

Tells me far more about the nature of the leftie audience than it does about the quality of the journalism that gets filtered to the top.

Jeebus, Jay, you can't look at that list and conclude that "people like accountability journalism." The only thing you can conclude is that Democrats like "accountability journalism" when it's about Republican Presidential nominees in an election year.

Further, the results do not show that Charlie Savage wrote the most important McCain piece last week. They show that Savage wrote the most popular McCain piece among liberals.

I mean, did it NOT occur to you that the Huffpo readers were going to skew your sample?

It's a promising concept (and a lot of Web 2.0 sites are already doing similar things. News sites have just been dumber than most so far at employing the technology), but you've taken a promising concept and reached wholly unfounded conclusions from it.

I guess a basic grasp of statistics isn't a requisite for NYU Journo students and faculty?

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 16, 2008 10:56 PM | Permalink

What a surprise to see you here with those criticisms. Well, life has a way of throwing you a wicked curveball sometimes.

Fabrice Florin of NewsTrust said the ratings of the OffTheBus/Huff Post crowd were not substantially different from the rest of the NewsTrust members picks. Make of that what you will.

I am more interested in this kind of project as an expressive community thing, not an attempt to establish "the" best by objective criteria, the selections of a representative group, or the top anything in the abstract, but rather: Every Tuesday, the OffTheBus crowd picks the best McCain Coverage of the week and recommends it to the community and to all who choose to follow our rankings. It is a matter of indifference to me how you characterize the bias or shared sentiment of that community.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 16, 2008 11:46 PM | Permalink

Well, that shouldn't be surprising, since the readership of NewsTrust skews seriously left as well. Of course, Jay, as part of the problem, it's invisible to you.

But if one were to venture over to Newstrust and look at what the top rated news stories are in the Independent category, you would expect the sources to reflect the general political choices of the readers. Certainly they reflect what these people choose to read.

So what do we find?

In rank order, the sources are:

Truthout (far left)

Consortium News (left)

Politifact (center-left. Story selected most favors the left on the page, though).

The Nation (Left)

3BlueDudes (Left)

The Public Record (Unknown, at least to me. But two of the three reviewers are overtly left partisans, the third is neutral.

Consortium again (left)

The Raw Story (left)

LinkTV (Neutral, but selections trend left)

TomDispatch (left)

Pruning Shears: Pruning Back The Executive Branch (left)

RAND (right)

Salon (left)

AlterNet (left)

Congressional Quarterly (Neutral, as far as I know)

Politifact (Neutral.)

3BlueDudes (left)

Information Clearing House (left)

Peak Oil (Actually a YouTube vid provenance uncertain. Appears neutral).

Politifact (Neutral)

The Hill (Neutral)

MIT Technology Review (Neutral, as far as I know)

Not exactly down the middle. In fact, NewsTrust is infested with lefties, judging by their reading habits, at least from this limited sample.

This surprises you?

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 17, 2008 1:16 AM | Permalink

Who said it was surprising? I told you what Fabrice said. That hiccup, "and you're surprised by that?" is totally fake.

I don't think you heard me: I don't care what words you attach to the skew. You keep jumping up and down, saying "accept my words, accept my words! I have the right words for the skew, I do, I do, I do..."

That there's a skew I have no doubt. It is your inalienable right to characterize it. You will get no argument from me because I don't care. I make no claims of comprehensiveness, balance, representativeness, America-in-microcosm-hood, and no related claims whatsoever for OffTheBus members, NewsTrust sources and methods, the ratings, the rankings. See? We are in blissful agreement. (Of course, I don't speak for NewsTrust at all.)

Next liberal bias post of yours will be killed. Have a good evening.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 17, 2008 1:34 AM | Permalink


Don't be such an intellectual puppy.

Indeed, you did make such a claim of representativeness. It is part and parcel of your claim that, based on your early and limited sample, that people like "accountability journalism." Not "liberal people." Not "news junkies." (People Magazine, as you know, is more popular than Time).

When I pointed out that the conclusion you drew is unwarranted because your sample is unrepresentative of "people," you clung to the notion, by citing the high correlation between Huffpo/OTB readers and NewsTrust. Of COURSE you were trying to make such a claim - or rather, accept it as a postulate. There was no other reason to cite Fabrice's observation.

My focus isn't on liberal bias per se. It is on critical reasoning.

You might try it sometime.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 17, 2008 10:02 AM | Permalink


Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 17, 2008 10:43 AM | Permalink

Tyndall Report and experienced a similar problem with a kindred effort in social media when we set up an online, volunteer survey -- as opposed to an opinion poll -- following each of the 2004 Presidental debates. As in this instance, because of the Websites through which we did outreach, the volunteers were ideologically skewed. In our case they turned out to be disproportionately supporters of John Kerry.

Our solution to this problem was to include a question about partisan support along with a series of questions about which candidate performed better in each debate according to a menu of attributes and whether the moderators' questions were neutral or showed favor.

Not surprisingly, a vast majority of the answers registered a mirror image when we compared the two groups: Bush supporters were as enthusiastic for their man as Kerry supporters were for theirs.

So we did not report on the overall results (which would have been skewed pro-Kerry). Instead we focused on those attributes where the symmetry broke down. As a result we were able to report rapidly overnight that Bush performed poorly in the first debate (his supporters were more lukewarm to him than Kerry's were to their man) and that the so-called values attribute was key to mobilizing Bush's base -- "morality, ethics, values" was an asymmetrical attribute, recognized disproportionatley by Bush supporters in their own candidate.

Obviously, social media using volunteers has none of the pretensions to scientific precision that opinion pollsters aspire to. Nevertheless, it is possible to devise sensitive and creative ways to analyze input to control for inevitable biases.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at June 17, 2008 11:18 AM | Permalink

Key word "inevitable." For as long bias is the question, the "scandal," the problem, the thing you naturally ask about--as against an inevitable--that is how long we will be stuck in the culture war some people want to sustain forever.

Here is my news. Most will hate it. Bias is a bullshit concept, increasingly so, and the people in love with it are all bullshitters now. It cannot be improved. It cannot be saved. It is a refuge for comment thread reactionaries and mail list ideologues. Both parties. And the people who describe the press as un-biased are worse. A corrupt discourse is a corrupt discourse.

As I have shown in this thread, my patience with it is zero. I am sorry if that offends you.

As far as I'm concerned--and colleagues are free to think otherwise or disagree with me--OffTheBus's ratings of the McCain coverage are representative of OffTheBus and its particular "crowd." Period. End of story. When I say "people" I mean those people. The people attracted to that particular enterprise, and what they think.

Really, how hard is that to understand?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 17, 2008 1:07 PM | Permalink

Congratulations. You have just re-invented the Democratic Underground.

unfortunately, very very true.

The giveaway was the inclusion of number six, the really nasty smear of McCain that was based on his leaving his first wife Carol. The "heart" of the story is from "some acquaintances" of McCain who say some really nasty things about him -- Carol McCain is at peace with the divorce, but "some acquaintences" aren't. That was pure gutter journalism -- and the idea that it belongs on any top 10 list shows just how biased the ratings were.

As a PUMA (not-voting at all sub-set) its getting very interesting to watch how the fauxgressive blogosphere and the wingnut blogosphere are so attached to their own echo chambers -- the quality of the journalism is irrelevant....ALL that matters is how bad it makes the nominee of the other party.

I'd like to suggest that Jay do the same experiment over at or some other popular wingnut site....with Barack Obama stories being rated for a week. The results, of course, will be predictable.... but hopefully it would disabuse Jay of his (apparent) belief that the ratings were not driven entirely by ideological considerations.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 17, 2008 2:58 PM | Permalink

"The results aren’t spectacular or surprising, and I make no large claims for them."

Quality plays no role in the rankings? I think you are wrong about that.

"Ideological considerations" do play a role? I am sure you are right.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 17, 2008 3:22 PM | Permalink

As a consumer, I appreciate that they’ve provided links to how they have defined “quality” and also to how they developed their online reviewing tools (e.g., demographics for how “people” rate news stories). This is a positive relative to transparency.

And b/c it also leaves them open to lots of earned criticism on many fronts, not the least of which is some major "research study" blundering, it may ultimately improve their product (to their audience anyway).

Posted by: Kristen at June 17, 2008 4:26 PM | Permalink

I'm interested in the story producers represented here. Greenwald and Singel are bloggers supported by combo print/online magazines. They're covering McCain because he waded into their beat that week. Factcheck and poltifact are web-based truth-squadders with a fairly traditional non-partisan POV. The Texas Observer is an old-style populist muckraking rag taking on an old enemy (Phil Gramm). The Daily Mail and the Guardian are foreign papers taking on aspects of McCain's story that mainstream U.S. papers haven't yet covered. And we have Charlie Savage, one of the very few reporters that can match the best bloggers on depth of knowledge on this beat. Mix that with the NYT's resources and you get an excellent story.

What's missing from the 10 best? The Horse Race. What's that worst list made up of? The Horse Race.

What these folks liked:

1. Fact-checking (non-partisan but not fake even-handedness)

2. Expertise

3. Attitude

What they didn't like:

1. Horse race coverage

2. Inside baseball political coverage

Posted by: William Ockham [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 17, 2008 10:27 PM | Permalink

Jay: When I say "people," I mean those people.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 18, 2008 8:27 AM | Permalink


I would say those controls were an excellent idea! Well done.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at June 18, 2008 8:33 AM | Permalink

What strikes me about the favored stories (in addition to the fact-checking, expertise, and attitude) is that there's actual information in them--that is, "people" (liberally biased ones anyway, I guess) desire to learn something from the news items they read. Quelle surprise. I hazard a guess that the Cindy McCain piece did well because it's an aspect of the Senator's life that many people aren't as familiar with.

Posted by: bab23 at June 18, 2008 11:00 AM | Permalink

Obama has just come out and expressed his "deep disappointment" in McCain's silence on Mrs. Obama's attacks.

So I suppose McCain is justified to express "deep disappointment" in Obama's silence on Mrs. McCain's attacks, even the first Mrs. McCain. Or is there a double standard at work here?

Let's see what the Top 10 stories are about Obama---do they include stories about Mrs. Obama because she's an "aspect of the Senator's life that many people aren't as unfamiliar with"---or is the Top 10 loaded with the frothing puff pieces that the national press seems to churn out at an alarming rate?

Posted by: QC Examiner at June 18, 2008 3:06 PM | Permalink

The Arthur Carter Journalism Institute Amid Disruptions in the Field

Discussion Notes by Jay Rosen


1. The Institute is born at a moment of creative destruction, model collapse, economic transformation and power shift in the media system on which the practice of journalism--the thing we value--runs.

2. We should continue to value what we have always valued as journalists and teachers. Continuity is one of our strengths; firm roots in the past are part of what people pay us for.

3. But we also have to figure out how to navigate this period of transition without surrendering to the technology part of it, or just "going with the flow" of what others are doing.

Since we are pretty happy with our program, believe in our basic product, and aren't failing in the marketplace in any major sense, we might begin by asking ourselves what has actually changed for us? Why can't we basically continue what we are doing and ride this out, as it were? Why are we having this discussion? The reasons I would give...

Here are the Facts We Should Face Head On

4. The industries--news and information, editorial publishing, broadcasting--into which we have sent our job-seeking graduates have changed a lot already and will continue to be disrupted by technology and a collapsing economic model.

5. Not all but many of the jobs in those industries are either disappearing or changing; there's demand for employees who can bring skills that employers have not required in the past.

6. The DIY (do it yourself) and entrepreneurial opportunities that students have today really have no parallel in the publishing world we originally built our program on.

7. Likewise, the opportunities the Institute has to "be the media"--a producer of good work that adds value and has an audience--have no parallel in the publishing world on which we built our program.

8. The cost to try is too low not to try stuff, on and with the Web.

9. The industry, and the professional scene I call "the newsroom," is needs help from us. Journalism realizes that it needs a strong non-profit and academuc base: more than it ever did. Non-commercial homes for journalism are particularly prized by journalists right now. We have become more valuable just be being clearly dedicated to excellence in journalism.

Add key facts and trends...

In facing these facts head on, in negotiating this transition and choosing wisely during a period of "field disruption," we have a number of advantages that we should realize-- in both senses of the term. Realize that we have them, and bring then to fullest potential.

In addition to the known strengths: our location in New York, our attachment to NYU and its Arts and Sciences core, our experienced faculty, full and part-time, with their splendid talents and networks...

Here Are the Advantages I Think We Have

10. We have never had huge capital investment so we don't have one that is growing more obsolete by the day. We aren't dependent on outmoded equipment.

11. We aren't behind technologically and we are not driven by technology. We are more inner directed than that.

12. We aren't dependent on media companies that are staggering or going bankrupt (see Tribune) because media companies have never funded us or invested in our future success.

13. We aren't dependent intellectually on the press establishment and don't have to think as it does. (That means: We are free to respect the press traditions we find honorable and necessary without buying into trade wisdom. In tumultuous times we can take a deeper and steadier view. We are free to apply the conservationist remedy where it is needed. We can experiment with forms the industry is not ready for or open to yet; we can also "hold" to standards the business is being forced to abandon.)

14. To the extent that we have a brand within the J-degree marketplace and a reputation with the journalism community, it is high quality but not necessarily high church, "downtown" and with our new quarters palpably so.

15. We don't do faddish things. We do not follow trends until they are consequential.

16. We do not let our machines think for us. We do not have a curriculum based on artificial divisions among media distribution systems.

17. We have a specialized program model that works and allows us to serve up a flexible, pluralist menu for pluralist times; we can also change parts of the program independently of other parts, which brings the "cost to try" down further.

18. We have this new entity, The Carter Journalism Institute, which in large measure is yet-to-be-defined. We have an institutional reason for striking out in new directions: we're an Institute now! Strange as it seems, in a university this can make a crucial difference.

Add more bullet points to "our advantages..."

How do we we take our strategic advantages and carry them forward into a shifted media universe? This is the heart of our discussion. To feed into that...

Here are the Challenges I See for Us

19. Can we shift from preparing students for the (stable) job to equipping students for practice in an unstable market?

20. Can we pick up enough of the new technology ourselves as faculty to stay in touch with a changing practice, make good decisions as a program and teach effectively with the tools that are “out there” as they continue to improve and evolve?

21. Can we make it possible for students to acquire lots of diverse skills while they are here without having to take courses named after those skills, which we can expect to keep changing, multiplying?

22. Can we move from “putting things on the Web” to publishing quality work, real journalism, under our own brand and yet control the quality such that we achieve a strong editorial profile?

23. Can we find strategic partners in the journalism world and the media business who have something we want and want something we have?

24. Can we become a stronger and better networking point for key portions of the journalism community: locally and trans-locally?

25. Can we get with the web's way, where low cost tools make possible quick starts and revise-as-you go projects that can be easily abandoned if they don't work and developed further if they do? (In the software world it is called "agile development.")

26. Can we remain calm, act with inner-directed confidence, connect back to the great traditions we preserve and forward to the next platform, keep free of fads and herd wisdom, stay grounded, stay cool but also learn to think strategically in a shifted media universe and rapidly evolving job market?

Add challenges others see:


Given the disruptions I see, and taking stock of our advantages, if we can meet the challenges listed, we will be in a strong position.

Posted by: N at June 18, 2008 6:53 PM | Permalink

From the Intro