Jay Rosen

I’m participating this semester in a class on citizen journalism being taught by Dan Gillmor and Bill Gannon, editorial director of Yahoo! News. The class grows out of the new Center for Citizen Media, which is based at the J-School. A great list of speakers lined up for the semester; tonight was Jay Rosen, Associate Professor at NYU’s Department of Journalism and who runs the PRESSthink blog.

Took some loose notes tonight as he spoke about the transformation of distribution mechanisms from one-way to two-way, and how the read/write web will (slowly, painfully) change the way journalism is produced.


There was no such concept as “public opinion” in the 17th century… before the press. What’s the relationship between the press and the public? The atmosphere of the public sphere in the internet age is so different from that under which the old press grew up.

One way
One to many
Read only

Two way
Many to many

All of the concepts and ethics learned in journalism were developed on the old platform, and that’s what journalists are still learning, but we’re working on the new platform. The old methods are proving themselves lethargic in adapting to the new one, which is convulsing right now.

In the first 8-10 years, the industry just wanted to use the internet as just another distribution medium. But by now they’ve discovered that just repurposing content was a “strategic error” – they never stopped to ask what the web could really do.

Student: Was it really an error? Or just a slow evolution? Takes time for the world to catch up with any change in potential.

The turning point in the industry was when Murdoch bought MySpace. A big piece of this has been the absorption of blogging into journalism.

With newassignment.net Rosen intends to create an assemblage of journalists that can do reporting with large groups of editors collaborating with large groups of users, spread out. Can’t this be done from within existing organizations? Yes, but it will take journalists years to wear down the management / get them to care / participate.

Gillmor: One reason orgs haven’t gotten into read/write publishing sooner is because it’s been hard to do – technology wasn’t there.

First assumption of most journalists is that public opinion is unreliable, biased, non-verifiable, etc. Why would you want to deputize the people with this mantle of responsibility?

Why did blogging explode into the consciousness the way it did? The bloggers were the ones who started experimenting with what the web could do. Bloggers opened up comments, not journalists. Bloggers linked freely; traditional orgs refused to put links into content for fear of losing traffic. But large organizations are never the first to exploit new technologies – early adopters / individuals are. There are still a lot of newspaper sites that don’t let the public email the writers!

Companies that were born on the web are 10x more innovative than companies trying to adapt to it (this reminds me of the difference between c|net, which was born on the web, and ZDNet, where I worked, which was a print company dealing with the web).

If you master the tools of the web, you will know more than the news organizations that will be hiring you. It’s hard to underestimate how backward these organizations can be.

Google and Yahoo invent hundreds of new products per year. Most traditional news orgs have never invented a new product.

There is so much content behind paywalls out there that it probably amounts to 50% of all content that would be available. Totally locked up, invisible to search engines and therefore invisible to the public.

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