Updating Bill Keller

In a speech in London for the Guardian, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller says this about bloggers and this blogger in particular:

My friend Jeff Jarvis, a blogger of long-standing and professor of journalism at the City University of New York, refers to news bloggers as “citizen journalists”, which has a sweet, idealistic ring to it. Jeff, like many of the most ardent true believers in the blog revolution, suggests that the mainstream media can be largely replaced by a self-regulating democracy of voices, the wisdom of the crowd.

First, I have never said that the crowd of bloggers would replace mainstream media and professional journalism. That’s a red herring that is too often attributed presumptively to bloggers and their advocates. It’s never properly cited because it can’t be. Where’s the link to the quote with me saying that? It’s fiction. I don’t say that. I don’t believe that. Jay Rosen shot that fish in the barrel a year and a half ago when he responded to hearing it again from Keller’s deputy Jon Landman:

Jay Rosen says that no one is saying that news will be decided by poll. Nobody is saying that we don’t need reporters. Nobody is saying that you should stop reporting and just listen. But these things are being said: The audience knows a lot of stuff and if you don’t tap that knowledge you’re not keeping up with your craft. And journalism has become interactive and if you’re not interacting, you’re not keeping up with your craft. And, he says, trust isn’t made the way it was; the trust transaction is different.

So can we please can that talk and stop accusing bloggers of wishing to eliminate journalists? The problem is, it serves the narrative Keller wants — and he’s not alone in this: to make us make them the enemy. The image they’re trying to present is that we, the people, are at their door trying to bash it down when, in truth, we’re only knocking and offering to help. Which leads to my second objection:

I have long since recanted the use of the phrase “citizen journalist.” I did, indeed, use it in an email/blog conversation with Keller back in 2005 (read from the bottom up), in which he suggested:

(btw, why “citizens”? Isn’t that a little insensitive to stateless bloggers, or bloggers bearing only green cards? “People’s media” strikes me as more inclusive, and it has a pedigree. Just a thought.)

A year later, I wrote:

I carry some of the blame for pushing “citizens’ media” and “citizen journalism” as terms to describe the phenomenon we are witnessing in this new era of news. Many of us were never satisfied with the terms, and for good reason. They imply that the actor defines the act and that’s not true in a time when anyone can make journalism. This also divides journalism into distinct camps, which only prolongs a problem of professional journalism — its separation from its public (as Jay Rosen points out). In addition, many professional journalists have objected that these terms imply that they are not acting as citizens themselves — and, indeed, I believe that the more that journalists behave like citizens, the stronger their journalism will be.

A that moment, I turned to using the phrase “networked journalism” and explained why:

“Networked journalism” takes into account the collaborative nature of journalism now: professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, linking to each other across brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, answers, ideas, perspectives. It recognizes the complex relationships that will make news. And it focuses on the process more than the product. . . .

In networked journalism, the public can get involved in a story before it is reported, contributing facts, questions, and suggestions. The journalists can rely on the public to help report the story; we’ll see more and more of that, I trust. The journalists can and should link to other work on the same story, to source material, and perhaps blog posts from the sources (see: Mark Cuban). After the story is published — online, in print, wherever — the public can continue to contribute corrections, questions, facts, and perspective … not to mention promotion via links. I hope this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as journalists realize that they are less the manufacturers of news than the moderators of conversations that get to the news.

Indeed, this led in a straight line to my application for a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and the hosting of the Networked Journalism Summit, which the aforementioned Jon Landman attended.

But Keller needs to set up his competitive straw man because he wants to calculate his value on what he controls more than what he enables:

It is certainly true that technology has lowered the barriers to entry in the news business. The old joke that freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one is now largely inoperative. Freedom of the press now belongs to anyone with an Internet Service Provider. This is all unsettling to the traditional news business, but it is also an opportunity. In an easy-entry business, success goes to those who – and here you must supply those ironic quote marks – move up the value chain. That is, you succeed by offering something of real value that the newcomers cannot match.

As it happens, newspapers have at least two important assets that none of the digital newcomers even pretend to match. One is that we deploy worldwide a corps of trained, skilled reporters to witness events and help our readers understand them. This work is expensive, laborious, sometimes unpopular, and occasionally perilous. . . .

The civic labour performed by journalists on the ground cannot be replicated by legions of bloggers sitting hunched over their computer screens. It cannot be replaced by a search engine. It cannot be supplanted by shouting heads or satirical television shows.

What is absent from the vast array of new media outlets is, first and foremost, the great engine of newsgathering – the people who witness events, ferret out information, supply context and explanation. . . .

And the other is that we have a rigorous set of standards. We have a code of accuracy and fairness we pledge to uphold, a high standard of independence we defend at all costs, and a structure of editorial supervision to enforce our standards.

Again, I hear no one saying he wants that work replicated. But can’t it be complemented? Witnesses to events can now help report what they see and context and explanation can come from both journalists and the experts they quoted who can now also publish. That means more journalism. I see that not as a competitive threat but as a grand opportunity. Knock, knock. Someone’s at the door, Bill. Invite them in. I’ve been suggesting that since 2005. Perhaps you can even teach them about your standards. I’ll offer your my classroom next door at CUNY and I’ll bring the bagels. Perhaps you can leave not just with a mutual understanding and respect but even with some journalism you can do together.

Keller tries to issue a caveat. Some of his best friends are bloggers.

I am a convert to blogs, those live, ad-libbed, interactive monologues that have proliferated by the millions, with an average audience consisting of the blogger and his immediate family. The Times actually produces more than 30 of them, in which our reporters muse on subjects ranging from soccer to health to politics. Blogs can swarm around a subject and turn up fascinating tidbits. They allow you to follow a story as it unfolds. And, yes, there are bloggers who file first-hand reports of their experiences from distant places, including Iraq – and sometimes their work is enlightening or intriguing. But most of the blog world does not even attempt to report. It recycles. It riffs on the news. That’s not bad. It’s just not enough. Not nearly enough.

No one says it’s enough. Point me to the person who does. Cite a quote.

If I were a Times blogger, I’d be insulted by this from my editor. They don’t just muse. They do report. And they dig up more than tidbits; they are writing news that starts online and ends up in the pages of the paper. In just the last week, talking with news executives from other large institutions, I’ve been praising those Times blogs, particularly Saul Hansell’s Bits blog, Virginia Heffernan’s video blog, and the campaign blog, Caucus.

In the rest of his speech, the meat of it, Keller is meant to talk about the state and future of newspapers. I don’t hear a vision for that future from him. He is confident in print, at least for sometime, at least at The Times. He is proud, with reason, of the paper’s migration of content onto the web. He confesses that he doesn’t know they will get to the Promised Land or what that land is. Instead, he offers his defense of the Times and its verities and value.

That’s the part that scares me. I so want to hear a vision for the future because I, too, am not sure how we’ll get there, but I wish that people in a position to execute their visions were eagerly trying many things to find some way over the void. Says Keller:

And then there is the business of our business. As has been widely reported, many daily newspapers are staggering from an exodus of subscribers, a migration of advertisers to the web, and the rising costs of just about everything. Newspapers are closing bureaus and hollowing out their reporting staffs.

At places where editors and publishers gather, the mood these days is funereal. Editors ask one another, “How are you?” in that sober tone one employs with friends who have just emerged from rehab or a messy divorce.

What I wish they were asking themselves instead is, “What’s new?”

* * *

I’ll leave it to others to dissect Keller’s views in his speech on America today, the Times’ verities, and the Bush White House:

The Bush administration has merely fed a current of public antipathy that has been running against us for a long time, a consequence of our own failings and, perhaps, a tendency to blame the messenger when news is bad.

For those collecting them, here is Keller on the Times and the start of the war in Iraq:

Even with audiences like this one, who are presumed to be well read and world-savvy, I’m constantly surprised by the presumption of bad faith when people talk about our business. That is in some measure the fault of our own shortcomings, the well-publicised examples of journalistic malfeasance, the episodes of credulous reporting in the prelude to the war in Iraq, the retreat of some news organisations from serious news into celebrity gossip, and so on. It also reflects the fact that we live in cynical times, in a clamorous new media world of hyperventilating advocacy. And so I always feel obliged to pause and state what, to me and many of you, is obvious. . . .

At the other end of the culpability scale, I’ve had a few occasions to write mea culpas for my paper after we let down our readers in more important ways, including for some reporting before the war in Iraq that should have dug deeper and been more sceptical about Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction. It’s not fun to take yourself to the woodshed, but it is essential to our credibility, and it is not something all institutions do. Come to think of it, we’re still waiting for the White House mea culpa on those elusive weapons of mass destruction.

: LATER: More comments over at Comment is Free.

  • Nom de Blog

    Remember when you called the Republican presidential hopefuls “fraidy cats” (Where do they find intellectuals like yourself to use such big words?) for not wanting to appear on CNN?

    Now that CNN has been caught letting Democratic operatives ask questions, would you care to reconsider? Or are you afraid that you will look rather maudlin in your defense of your liberal MSM peers?

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  • http://www.robbmontgomery.com Robb Montgomery

    Interesting analysis. I do find it troubling and somewhat ironic that top print editors still seem to be confusing blogging technology and story techniques that enable networked journalism with the poor practices and sloppy journalism standards of the early adopters – the political activists and the link bloggers.

    It is a bit like standing up at a news stand in the yellow journalism era and shouting that printing presses don’t tell the truth.

    Of course you can break news in a blog.
    Of course you can report using a blog and, as I teach, on as many dimensions of story telling that you can imagine. Photo, video, graphics, maps, text, polling all can be filed instantly to blogs from the field (where the actual news is) by using just a Web browser and a properly configured mobile. You can still engage all the usual subediting, feedback and assignment layers you like into the process to ensure your quality.

    Look – a blog is just a very different kind of printing press and it enables a different speed to news, an intimacy to immediacy, a threaded nature that allows for updates to be transparent, and a participatory expectation with the audience.

    I am not saying blogs are better, or perfect. But, as story telling tool in experienced hands, they can be extremely effective.

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  • tcr

    Keller is constantly surprised by “the presumption of bad faith” for the very reason the presumption exists: the arrogance of the profession itself. It has nothing to do with journalistic malfeasance or our “cynical times.” It has everything to do with an attitude that says it is better to keep a story hidden until it produces the right “gotcha” moment and journalism prize, than to shine a light at the earliest moment, inviting assistance from the community that knows what is happening, because it is happening to them. Look no further than The Washington Post story on Walter Reed. How much better would it have been for those wounded soldiers and their families, how much FASTER would problems had been addressed, had the Post taken a “networked journalism” approach to that story?

    Your previous post was “Sad Newspapers”. This one should have been titled “Sad, Tired, Old Journalists”.

  • Greg0658

    tcr
    we as a flock do expect some evidence before jumping to conclusions and spreading rumors
    but I read where your coming from too, journalist and doctors alike have to get evidence on top of evidence to CYA

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  • PrahaPartizan

    Keller might be right that only someone in his type of position can deploy legions of trained, talented reporters, but if they only provide and he only chooses to take stenography from whomever might be in power, who cares. Keller has made himself irrelevant and he is bummed because he knows he did it to himself and his enterprise.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    “the episodes of credulous reporting in the prelude to the war in Iraq…”

    ???

    That is dishonest self-deprecation if I ever heard any. What, does Keller think the sentiments of Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan encapsulate all the legitimate criticism of their Iraq coverage?

    Blogs are huge for the same reason a guy like Bill O’Reilly has such a large audience. Both are benefitting from a populist revival – which of course is the logical reaction to decades of Big Media elitism as exemplified by Bill Keller, Dan Rather, et al.

  • http://missingink.org J. Michael Lyons

    What I find most troubling is the zero-sum flavor of Keller’s argument – that either one type of journalism must exist or the another. I can only chalk it up to being uninformed.

    The Wikipedia example he cites:

    “You know where many thousands of younger readers go these days to follow breaking news stories? They go – or at least they are sent by search engines – to Wikipedia, an online, communal encyclopaedia written and edited by ¡ well, essentially written and edited by any passerby who wants to log on and contribute.”

    This troubles me because: first, he doesn’t ask or address the important point of why they are going there for their news; and secondly it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Wikipedia. If anything, Wikipedia amplifies the mainstream media’s importance due to its policy neutral point of view policy and it’s strict requirement of reputable sourcing. For breaking news or current events stories that always means the mainstream media.

  • Alfred J. Lemire

    This writer worked as a newspaper reporter. Little that Bill Keller says about the press or the blogs or the government is true. He and many other journalists, as with many other liberals, consistently do not understand the world about them or t heir responsibilities within it.

    One can think of many examples of atrocious reporting, including Michael Wines’s error-laden and nasty reportage of a Republican Issues Conference on 27 February, 1993, or Douglas Jehl’s false claim in 2001 that “in World War II, troops were sent into battle with assurances from Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish chaplains that God was on their side and that their deaths would make them martyrs.” That is the sort of hate-fueled writing that Volkischer Beobachter and Pravda featured. My brother exploded in rage when he read that. He served in the Army then. He and I both knew that Catholics called people martyrs who were martyrs to the faith. Neither the term nor the concept would be anything that he would hear from any chaplain.

    That is one specific reason why I only glance at the Times when I see it in the living room of Manhattan-resident relatives. I have lots more. What’s true or fair in the Times? Reporting on yesterday’s weather, perhaps. Not much else. (One can’t even trust sports reporting.)

    And I take strong exception to someone’s linkage of Fox News to Pravda. As a test for anyone so inclined, I’d invite a researcher to compare and contrast the questioning that a Fox News team gave to Republican candidates at a debate with those from MSNBC people. And much that CNN did at the Republican debate this week is indefensible,

  • http://www.vtimes.com Rob

    These Old Media dinosaurs and their fear and disdain for bloggers. As a young reporter, I tend to see the blogosphere not as the antithesis of print news. Rather, it’s a polarizing factor that – if we are fast enough – we can learn and profit from before quality reporting is utterly destroyed.

  • Edward Allen

    Typically, Keller misdiagnoses the problems facing “media” today, and the threat is not bloggers. I see why he’s feeling pressure, given the collapse of NYT stock from 40 when he was appointed to 16 today, but that’s not the fault of bloggers per se. What’s changed is that today I can get direct access to experts and professionals involved in my life.
    Take subprimes, for example. A year ago, I had no idea what a subprime loan was, and I’ll bet I’m not alone. But in the past year, I have access to financial gnomes, experts and financial think tanks that follow these issues, and have found out more information than a newspaper can provide in its columns. The information I got is tailored to my (limited) needs, and is in such surplus on the Internet from Treasury sites to the FED and financial institutions that I know far more about uses and misuses of subprime loans, Alt-A’s, etc. than I could possibly ever use. I used to rely on newspapers for this role, but I am no longer so limited. I actually find it liberating. It’s the ability to drill into an area as deeply as one wants that’s new, exciting, and something newspapers cannot approach with their broad-brush approach. Blogs certainly played a role in this education, but only as part of the process.
    Obviously, I’ve run on too long about subprimes, but my point is Keller really is blindly flailing away at Blogs, when what is happening is that newspapers are losing (have lost) their pre-Internet virtual monopoly on information. Rather than being the sole source of information they once was, newspapers are just a part of a new information distribution structure. Face it, Keller, the New York Times is no longer sitting on Mt. Olympus sending thunderbolts of information down through the clouds to the masses below.

  • http://northernkentuckynews.blogspot.com/ Lisa

    People have lost faith in newspapers as they’ve become more and more homogenized and ever more conservative. It doesn’t help that they’re jam-packed with inserts filled with advertorials, ads disguised to look like features (I’ve written a few myself).

    You have to give people some credit for having some sense. Not everyone believes every single thing they read online or see on TV.

    I see this “blogger as journalist” discussion all the time on regional blogs and I think it’s silly. Some of us are writers, some are reporters and some are moms posting pictures of family vacations.

    I’m proud to call myself blogger. I didn’t change my blogspot address because I don’t want to be mistaken for anything else.

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  • http://www.remotesensingtools.com/ Daniel

    I simply refer to blogging and social networking as the ‘democratization’ of information and reporting from personal experience. If any academics have an issue with that, then perhaps they should take a long look into the history of The Press and the reasons for which it exists.

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  • Edward Allen

    Apologize for the typo “was” — should be were.

  • H. Browning

    me thinks instructor jarvis protests too much. i read keller’s speech. he devoted about 3 paragraphs to blogging in a speech that must have last nearly an hour. i agree with nearly all his points. the problem with the blogosphere is its prickly – and defensive – sense of self. folks, get over yourselves. please! the bleating is getting incredibly tiresome at this point. there is some wisdom in the crowd – but not much. that’s why i’m glad there are publications like the nytimes and the guardians around to keep the people in power honest (or is that quasi-honest?) let’s hope this comment ever sees the light of day.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    H:
    Yes, I am prickly about being misquoted and mischaracterized especially about media and especially at an event put on by my employer, the Guardian, where I write about media. Call me prickly if you wish. That would not be a mischaracterization. And as I said in my post I was responding only to Keller’s points about blogging and left analysis of his other points to others since I’d already gone on long enough. But I did note anyway a depressing lack of vision in Keller’s speech, didn’t you? What do you think Keller’s future looks like? I can’t see it.
    But you do unfairly characterize me, H., by assuming that I would try to prevent your pithy, prickly comment from seeing the light of day. There it is. Hello, sunshine. How do you dare say that? I hardly ever kill a comment here; I do it only when it is spam or abusive. Yet you make some presumptive accusation with absolutely no evidence or citation. No wonder you liked Keller’s speech.

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  • Dexter Westbrook

    Mr. Jarvis:

    Keller didn’t misquote you. You misquoted him.

    This is from his speech:
    “Jeff, like many of the most ardent true believers in the blog revolution, suggests that the mainstream media can be largely replaced by a self-regulating democracy of voices, the wisdom of the crowd.”

    This is what you said he said:
    “First, I have never said that the crowd of bloggers would replace mainstream media and professional journalism.”

    You’re a professor of journalism, and you don’t know what a quote is.

    Keller used the term “suggest,” which also means “implied,” which I think is a fair summary of the views you’ve espoused on this site. He also used the term “largely,” instead of “completely.”

    You stripped out the subtlety, replaced it with a straw man, and proceeded trying to knock it down.

    Then, of course, the legion of anti-MSMers begins its bleating on your comments section, saying you’re “refuting” something that Bill Keller never said.

    Then you start complaining that someone calls you prickly! Geez. Bloggers lead the world in thin-skinnedness, and you’re a leaving, breathing example of this.

    And your remark about “no one says it’s enough,” about blogs being “enough” to follow the news — you need to get out more, pal. Read some of the blog comments about how the commenters, and the bloggers themselves, get their “news” from blogs.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    I quoted Keller in full and you are free to draw your own conclusions, as you have. He didn’t quote me, that’s true, because I don’t have such a quote. He mischaracterized my beliefs. I do not suggest what he says. I do not say MSM can largely be replaced. That’s just false. he is making things up. And I am indeed refuting him.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Gee, Dexter, and I don’t know if I’d go calling people “prickly” and “thin-skinned.” From a Google search of your online shadow comes this:

    “Finding the signal in the noise from people like Jane Hamsher isn’t worth the time. It’s like trying to find the “signal in the noise” from someone who’s mentally ill. Sometimes there is no signal.”

    And:

    “Jane Hamsher is good at vitriol, swearing and generally acting like a jerk. It’s hilarious to read these folks talking about what substance her blog has, because it has none, unless you’re looking for some new swear words. She needs anti-psychotic drugs, not a Web chat.”

    Sweet.

    And this:

    Thanks for such a quick demonstration of your ethics. I won’t be wasting my time on this blog anymore. . . . And what’s this about “a regular reader of this blog?” You mean, you have some?”

    I wish you had a blog, Dexter, and an ‘about’ page there so I could see what you think about blogs with more than just comments elsewhere and so I could also see what you do in MSM (the AP, isn’t it?) It appears you have a problem with blogs — witness this — I just wonder why:

    “It’s always amusing when members of the Blogger Club rouse themselves to regurgitate a couple of sentences, and then wallop themselves on the back for their wisdom/glibness/whatever.”

    And more of you on blogs:

    “I do hope you people eventually reach your nirvana where there are no newspapers, no TV, no radio, just those blessed blogs where people can type, link to each other, and chew the same cud, ad infinitum. You can circle jerk each other to the point of exhaustion. Have fun.”

    Prickly? Who’s prickly?

    At least I do you the courtesy of doing my research and actually quoting you.

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  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    According to Keller, Jarvis suggests X. But Jarvis doesn’t suggest X, never suggested X, and despite many tens of thousands of words on the general topic has never written X, so Keller has nothing to refer to when he says: Jarvis suggests X.

    Keller made it up. It fit what he wanted to say. He didn’t think it was important to check. If had tried to check it, (“I know Jarvis said something like that somewhere…”) he would have come up empty-handed. That’s not a huge scandal. Nor does it invalidate his speech. Nor does it justify ignoring the rest of his speech.

    But it is an interesting and strange little fact. There are certain journalists who need “true believers in the blog revolution” to be going around claiming that bloggers will replace the news media. They need these believers in order to refute such views.

    I’m not quite sure how to explain that need; I think it’s rather complicated, actually. But it definitely exists. Keller needed a Jarvis who suggests that “the mainstream media can be largely replaced by a self-regulating democracy of voices, the wisdom of the crowd.” Now he has him. By making stuff up.

    When a writer sees views attributed to him that he does not hold and never expressed, it is hard to stay quiet about it. When it’s the editor of the New York Times making stuff up, and publishing it in the newspaper that employs you as a columnist, it may be a bit harder.

    What is so difficult to understand about that?

    Jeez.

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  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Googling anonymous blog shadows on a sunday afternoon, makes one look a little thin-skinned.

    Can I just say that I aspire to be Jay Rosen one day…what a fount of wisdom.

  • Walter Abbott

    Jay Rosen said, Keller made it up. It fit what he wanted to say.

    This accurate observation by Rosen now introduces into the debate the question of what else has Keller made up in his journalism career? What else has he said that fit what he wanted to say rather than the facts?

    This is a question we conservative media watchers have asked for many years now. It is a pertinent question.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Oh, Captious, give me my amusements. I was avoiding snow-blowing.

    Walter, let’s not go overboard. I’d say it was sloppy and we’ve all done sloppy things. The key is to learn and correct.

  • http://blog.newscred.com Shafqat

    It never ceases to amaze me how the views of some of the mainstream media vanguards seem so defensive. Good journalism has never been more in demand. Its just a question of who will deliver it – the opportunity exists for those who want so seize it, whether its bloggers or ‘mainstream’ journalists. Content will always be king, and readers will go to wherever they can get the highest quality, most credible news. Instead of competing with each other, bloggers and journalists should just focus on reporting to the best of their abilities. And yes, bloggers do report on news.

    Shafqat

  • H. Browning

    nope. i’m not presuming anything about you. don’t know you so i’m not going down that road. besides, i steer clear of this oh-so-brittle world of bruised blogger feelings. let’s move away from the blogosphere attack cycle and stay with the substance. i liked keller’s speech for what it still suggests about the ambition of the 4th estate to check mega-concentrations of power in our society. oh yes, the times’ coverage on iraq fell woefully short. and the jayson blair episode and a few others brought no glory to the paper. but let’s be fair and judge the bulk of the nytimes coverage over the years. imho, it’s the best daily newspaper in the US. is it perfect? of course not. and yes, there is room for blogger contributions to the “conversation.” but the times remains a better defender of our values & freedoms than any collection of bloggers to date. the long track record is there for us to examine.

  • http://www.gansevoortmedia.com Henry Scott

    Wow, you blogger/wisdom of crowds/MSM conspiracy types are mighty thin-skinned! Viz: Jarvis doing the Google search on Dexter Westbrook to attack him for being “prickly” and “thin-skinned” by citing his comments on a whole other subject.

    Isn’t the real issue that there’s scant evidence that ordinary folks (that is, people who aren’t paid to be ink-stained wretches) are really generating any news? I mean, reporting is hard work (I used to do it). I did a recent survey of content on Newsvine and NowPublic. Almost all of the “news” on these sites (that is, that content which isn’t just opinion posted by people whose bona fides aren’t evident) consists of articles cut and pasted from so-called MSM sources such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. By far the leading contributor of original (not copied) content to Newsvine is QualityStock.net, which has offered up some 1,800 “stories” touting penny stocks.

    I’m as ready to rely on the wisdom of crowds when it comes to news as I am when it comes to medicine!

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Henry,
    It’s a goose-gander thing. This guy has been prickly for sometime. I just took the opportunity to point out the irony and do the research neither he nor Keller did.
    You’re making the same old us-v-them argument Keller makes. That’s so tiring. Can’t you look past that to see what these two tribes could do together? The economics of your big, old media are that newsrooms are going to shrink and they now have opportunities to report in new ways.
    But them, haven’t you helped to hurt the economics of papers like the Times with your freesheets? They’re just crappy papers built on AP content with little or no original reporting. Where’s the high horse there?

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    I’m as ready to rely on the wisdom of crowds when it comes to news as I am when it comes to medicine!

    Good to know. Now are you ready to tell us who said you should rely on the wisdom of crowds for your news, or your medicine?

  • http://www.gansevoortmedia.com Henry Scott

    Jeff:
    The freesheets really haven’t had an impact on the paid dailies — at least in the US. That’s because they largely attract an audience on non-newspaper readers. And most of their ad dollars, best I can tell, seem to have come out of the hides of the alternative press. If a truly robust freesheet business develops in the US as it has in Sweden, say, the story might be different.

    I’d love to see a way reporters can work with ordinary folks to improve their understanding of the communities they cover. I just haven’t seen a model that has worked. Steve Outing recently reported on his effort, and the results were disappointing. What gets in the way of developing such an effort, in part, is the constant carping about the sins of the “MSM.” We need trained, professional, journalists. And we need to input from people who live in the communities they cover. No argument there, from me at least. The question is how best to do it.

    I’ve wondered lately if there’s a way to draft the thousands (tens of thousands?) of reporters who’ve been laid off at newspapers across the US to form the backbone of such an effort. Presumably, while they’re all working at other jobs (or trying to find them) they retain their passion for journalism and might be able to serve as the core of a volunteer reporting effort in which they provide the professional chops while the citizens in their various communities provide ideas, information, and some good, old-fashioned legwork.

    If any of your readers want to explore this idea further, I’d love to hear from them.

    Best,
    H

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  • http://gawker.com/news/merry-christmas%21/times-announces-newsroom-layoffs-327533.php Ydobon

    Jeff Jarvis wrote, “That’s the part that scares me. I so want to hear a vision for the future because I, too, am not sure how we’ll get there, but I wish that people in a position to execute their visions were eagerly trying many things to find some way over the void.

    Gawker has Keller’s vision for the future, Merry Christmas! ‘NY Times’ Announces Newsroom Layoffs.

  • Eric Gauvin

    So you’ve recanted the use of the term “citizen journalist,” and now use “networked journalist” instead. But what you mean by “networked journalist” seems the same as what you used to call “citizen journalist,” no?

    This reminds me of when Clinton parsed his words very carefully in describing his “relations” with “that” woman.

    When I google “jeff jarvis citizen journalism” I get lots of results.

  • http://craigslistcriticism.blogspot.com Delia

    re:”I’d love to see a way reporters can work with ordinary folks to improve their understanding of the communities they cover. I just haven’t seen a model that has worked. Steve Outing recently reported on his effort, and the results were disappointing. What gets in the way of developing such an effort, in part, is the constant carping about the sins of the “MSM.” We need trained, professional, journalists. And we need to input from people who live in the communities they cover. No argument there, from me at least. The question is how best to do it.”

    Henry,

    Well, I suppose we would “need” all sort of things if we could just get them for free:)… Why would “ordinary people” spend their time and volunteer their knowledge etc. to help out the journalists so… the latter can continue to make money at it? This is what the vast majority of these projects are trying to do: either upfront — and those at least have a modicum of honesty – or, much more often, as an undisclosed ultimate goal.

    Delia

    P.S. I doubt anybody’s going to come up with a for-profit model that will work for the long run. And even if it did happen, such models would always be vulnerable to equivalent non-profit models that would use the profits to advance the mission and would thus treat the contributing “ordinary people” that make these kind of projects work with the respect they deserve. D.

  • Arty

    Jarvis, not three weeks ago, writes of newspapers and other traditional news media, “Let the dinosaurs join together and lay their last eggs.”

    Keller characterized your position accurately. Your poisonous hatred of more temperate media minds (duplicated nicely in your comments) fuels a fantasy that they will die.

    The dinosaur metaphor is common for you. ZDNet quoted you as saying, “The tail of the dinosaur is far more powerful than the dumb brain of the dinosaur.”

    It sounds to me like Keller has your position nailed.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Arty,
    I lament that these dinosaurs will kill newspapers if they don’t start innovating. That’s quite the opposite of what you say.

    Eric,
    I know. I said above that I used to use the term citizen journalism a lot and took responsibility for that. I then quoted long paragraphs explaining the difference. And the difference is COLLABORATION: not warring between MSM and citizn but working together. That’s what I want. That’s why I resent Keller trying to use me as a battering ram to keep the war going.

    This is why I held a conference in networked journalism.

    This is why I teach journalism school, ferchrissakes.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Henry,
    And my point is that the carping about bloggers has an impact. That’s why I want to see that end and don’t appreciate being used in an effort to keep it going.

    And why draft just thousands of reporters. You could draft millions more “ordinary people,” as you say.

    Start with Jay Rosen’s NewAssignment.net. And WNYC’s collaborative projects. See the many projects at NewsInnovation.com, which chronicled my conference.

  • Eric Gauvin

    okay… I guess there’s been a major misunderstanding.

  • ahoving

    Print is dying. Stop. New journalists will be digital natives. Stop. Streets are flooded; please advise.

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    So I guess were not going learn who said you should rely on the wisdom of crowds for your news, or your medicine.

    I am not surprised.

    It’s a case of supply and demand. Big ongoing demand for exponents of the view that bloggers, citizen journalists and amateur swarms should, could or will replace the traditional news media. Lots of folks lining up to get their licks in. They wanna refute that view. Thing is, there’s almost no supply! What to do…?

    It’s in that context that Keller created his fiction and The Guardian said: fine with us!

  • Walter Abbott

    Mistake or on purpose, the question still stands.

    What else has Keller “made up” in the past? Or Cronkite? For example, did the the US really suffer a defeat during the 1968 Tet Offensive? Or was it the last gasp for the NVA as has been argued by some historians?

    For the better part of the 20th Century there existed a near monopoly of “news” and “opinion” jealously guarded by the “journalism” guild. With the advent of democratized information sharing, that monopoly is gone forever.

    What else was “made up?”

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  • http://www.gansevoortmedia.com Henry Scott

    Jay:

    Many of my friends in various forms of New Media say the wisdom of crowds, and bloggers, will replace MSM. Not sure if I should embarrass them by naming them (Dan L, John V, are you reading this?). But it’s a constant topic of debate. They say: The bloggers brought down Dan Rather. Didn’t the MSM stumble in accepting Bush’s claims about weapons of mass destruction? They argue that they can learn what’s going on in the world solely by reading various online sites, and not newspapers. At least one of them has gotten involved with Newsvine, which is now where I go for all my penny stock tips ;) Oddly, because most of them are intelligent people, they don’t seem to notice the source of many of the stories they read online — the so-called MSM.

    I’m not opposed to harnessing the wisdom of crowds, such as it is, and the experiences of ordinary people in reporting the news. I’m just mindful that, as Steve Outing said recently in an item on the demise of his user content-powered Enthusiast Group, “I believe that what user content needs to succeed as a business is professional editors to be the ones to sift through it all to find the stuff that people will care about.” But even that seems not to be enough. I note that most of the content on Assignment Zero seems to be navel-gazing about user-generated/crowd-sourced content. Other than that, there’s very little content.

    My comment about depending on the wisdom of crowds for medical advice was meant to be a joke. Although perhaps there’s something to it. Was just in a health foods store in Manhattan and overheard a conversation among several well-dressed hipsters about the merits of various herbs as cures for the flu and other ailments. I mean, why consult science when you can ask a stranger?
    Best,
    Henry

  • http://www.robbmontgomery.com Robb Montgomery

    Wow the comments sure jumped up over the weekend. Getting back to his views on digital reporting . . .

    If you want to hear Bill speak about the future of journalism and how, among other great sound bites, he compares the print edition of the New York Times to a vinyl LP record . . . then might want to listen to a 37-minute podcast interview I produced with Reuters reporter Adam Pasick five months ago in Cape Town on the eve of the World Editors Forum.

    http://www.visualeditors.com/home/2007/06/bill-keller-podcast-from-cape-town/

  • Bolker

    You can parse Keller’s words all you like, but the fact is that bloggers and sideline academic commentators like yourself and Jay Rosen would still be neck deep in obscure “communication studies” if it weren’t for The NYT, WSJ etc. doing shoe-leather reporting. I’ve been anxiously awaiting a self-sustaining site that actually practices journalism.

    Guess I’ll be waiting a while longer…

    As the whole “citizen journalist” debate, would you go to a “citizen tax preparer” or a “citizen heart surgeon” or a “citizen defense lawyer.” I didn’t think so.

  • Peter Fisk

    There’s a nice example of “citizen journalism” over at the Huffington Post right now:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/troy-stanley

    Apparently “citizen journalism” means keeping your eyes and ears glued to the Faux News network and reflexively parroting all the “facts” that are thus gleaned, then digging up and publishing irrelevant dirt on a totally innocent person, without any genuine regard for journalistic standards or ethics.

    Off the Bus … or Off the Hook?

  • jim

    stumbled onto your blog as a recommended one for “bloggery”. after reading 10 sentences i realized i wouldnt even be able to stand being with you in the same room. maybe it’s your haughty tone- the way you write makes it seem like you would rather shred a flower to bits in order to find definitions of beauty, rather than just smelling it. i’d work on that.

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  • Ydobon

    Arty wrote, “Jarvis, not three weeks ago, writes of newspapers and other traditional news media, “Let the dinosaurs join together and lay their last eggs.” Keller characterized your position accurately.

    That’s Keller’s position also. See the Keller NY Times layoff memo I link above. In the speech itself, Keller gave October 2044 as the month newspapers lose their last customer. “Lay their last eggs” indeed.

    In the speech Keller also puts much of the blame for American newspapers’ current plight on President Bush. All well and good, but Bush will be gone in January, 2009. What then?

    Steve Borriss at “The Future of News” called Keller’s talk “a startling speech.” The comments there, here, on “Comment is Free”, and on Poynter don’t begin to do it justice.

    No offense to Jeff Jarvis. This is his blog. He’s picked the point most appropriate to BuzzMachine and the slightly limited capabilities of a blog discussion. I’m grateful he’s gotten this much discussion going.

    But where else is there?

  • http://brooklynron.com Brooklyn Ron (Ron Howell)

    Not at all kicking and screaming, I am one baptized old media person who’s been sucked into the blogosphere, and has been finding it liberating.

    Keller’s remarks are not surprising, really, but it is a little off-putting the way he snobbishly takes swings at the new pamphleteers. I find nowadays, freed by access to the new publishing tool of the Net, a certain delight in pointing out, in emails to the Gray Lady, the faults and omissions of her minions. Often the missives are ignored, but that’s ok, because I’ve got work to do.

    Like writing for myself and my family!

    Bill, how snotty of you. Even if accurate!

    Brooklyn Ron (Ron Howell at brooklynron.com)

  • http://www.robbmontgomery.com Robb Montgomery

    Folo: some people have asked me to do their reporting for them, er, I mean provide a transcript of the podcast.

    No problem: Here ya go:

    http://www.everyzing.com/viewMedia.jsp?index=9&num=10&filter=0&expand=true&match=query,channel&dedupe=1&start=0&col=en-all-public-ep&s=PZSID_pod0_3_3_0000&e=5645181&res=124397366

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Henry: I certainly know the attitudes you are talking about. Thanks for clarifying that.

    The results from Assignment Zero are here and my reflections here.

    Overall, I would say progress has come slowly in pro-am journalism, which Jeff in this post called networked. We have no warrant for making big claims about it yet. We do have reason to think there’s potential there. Tapping it is harder than most people think. I would be very cautious in making statements about what these forms can achieve. Caution includes not making unnecessarily dismissive judgments, either.

    I don’t think the blogs toppled Dan Rather. I don’t see how the failures of the press under Bush justify blog triumphalism. When I talk about what blogs can do journalistically, I try to ground the discusssion by examining cases. Like this post on bloggers and the fall of Trent Lott. Or this one on Firedoglake at the Libby Trial. Maybe the cure for blog triumphalism is blog pointillism.

  • Ydobon

    Henry Scott wrote, “I’d love to see a way reporters can work with ordinary folks to improve their understanding of the communities they cover.”

    The audience is no longer willing to pay for the product that is the end result of the process of modern journalism.

    “What gets in the way of developing such an effort, in part, is the constant carping about the sins of the ‘MSM.'”

    The sins of the ‘MSM’ are the sins of modern journalism.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Or let’s please make this not about blogs vs. msm, msm or blogs. Let’s make it about jouranlism, new opportunities to perform it, new ways to sustain it (because we damned well better find them). The tribe vs. tribe discussion is utterly timewasting; that is the point.

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Kara Swisher, who covers technology for the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital, on Keller’s speech:

    Dubbing the Internet a “media tsunami” and calling much of what is out there “unreliable,” Keller pilloried sites like Wikipedia and Google News for not having things like foreign bureaus in war zones and because they don’t create content and do aggregate it from other media.

    It’s a little odd, though, to insult such Web products for doing exactly what they do–neither Google News nor Wikipedia has ever claimed to perform the function of a news organization like the Times.

    Actually, I think Keller’s real problem is the audience, especially young people, who are increasingly using those sites and others.

    The fact of the matter for an awfully long time now is that consumers of information are sampling all over the Web and don’t just rely solely on the New York Times for info.

    That’s too bad for Keller, I guess, but not bad at all for consumers, who Keller never assumes are discerning at understanding what they are getting. But they are and are simply not a mass of dumb sheep just taking it all in and not questioning anything.

    …But I cannot imagine he lives in the present-day world when he claimed in the speech: “Most of the blog world does not even attempt to report. It recycles. It riffs on the news. That’s not bad. It’s just not enough. Not nearly enough.”

    This is simply not true going forward, and he should have done some reporting on the subject to find out. There is an ever-increasing number of online outlets who are doing most excellent online reporting.

    He should have… but he didn’t.

  • http://craigslistcriticism.blogspot.com Delia

    re: “…But I cannot imagine he lives in the present-day world when he claimed in the speech: “Most of the blog world does not even attempt to report. It recycles. It riffs on the news. That’s not bad. It’s just not enough. Not nearly enough.”

    This is simply not true going forward, and he should have done some reporting on the subject to find out. There is an ever-increasing number of online outlets who are doing most excellent online reporting.” (Kara Swisher)

    Henry,

    I thought you had some valid criticism in this regard: “Oddly, because most of them are intelligent people, they don’t seem to notice the source of many of the stories they read online — the so-called MSM.”

    As far as I see it, Kara just has an optimistic view of the future… which is fine, as long as she acknowledges it… — “an ever increasing number”? –> even if true and she doesn’t back up her claim although she charges Keller with the same “crime”, you need a strong dose of optimism to get from that to her conclusion:” this is *simply not true* going forward” [my emphasis].

    Delia

    P.S. re: “Not enough, of course, never enough, but it is a clear trend in almost every category.” –> this claim by Kara definitely needs shown research to be taken seriously. D.

  • Peter Fisk

    “This is simply not true going forward,” Swisher says of Keller’s observation that: “Most of the blog world does not even attempt to report. It recycles. It riffs on the news.”

    Well, yes, actually Keller’s statement about the present state of blogging is quite obviously true. Surely no reasonable person would dispute Keller on this point — unless all they’ve looked at was a very small, unrepresentative sampling of the overall blog population.

    Perhaps the key to Swisher’s statement, though, is the phrase “going forward,” which means “in the future.” Maybe she’s a time traveler and is merely arguing about how things “are” in the year 2044 or something.

    —-

    Another observation that needs to be made is that the anti-“MSM” mob continues to use the word “blog” to mean just about any online news or commentary site, even though reality has already outgrown the utility of that now-primitive nomenclature. As more and more online news sites continue to do better and better journalism, it’s going to be more and more ridiculous to try to keep them all tarred with the silly “blog” label. … We can indeed expect a proliferation of really good online news sites “going forward,” but won’t the best online news outlets of the future simply be the new “MSM”?

  • http://www.plasticbag.org/ Tom Coates

    At a certain point surely we just have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that a large proportion of these people aren’t interested in engaging with this debate. It’s not like they haven’t had the opportunity. You and I have both written about this in depth in the past – the earliest thing that I can find on my site is from February 2003 and is called The Ostrich of Journalism – http://www.plasticbag.org/archives/2003/02/the_ostrich_of_journalism/

    “In fact while these journalists are busy shoring up their own defences neurotically against the unlikely threat of freelance weirdos like myself putting them out of a job, they’re studiously resisiting every opportunity to actually interact with this huge distributed community.”

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    “At a certain point surely we just have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that a large proportion of these people aren’t interested in engaging with this debate.”

    I agree with that, Tom. And we are going to have to reconcile ourselves to another fact. That as long as it’s “blogs vs. real journalism” in their minds, they are going to continue to consider themselves experts in that “debate” and resolutely will not do the reporting Swisher calls on Keller to do. It’s almost a defiance. “I don’t know what I am talking about and you can’t make me because this is my turf… so there.”

    The whole “replace” discussion is an example of that. The only people who talk about the crowd replacing the news media are journalists debunking that view. It’s their conversation, they’re a-gonna have it, and if they have to invent stuff to make it seem like a debate with someone else, this will be done.

    Huge sections of the journalism trade think that the John Seigenthaler Seigenthaler episode tells them–and you–everything there is to know about Wikipedia, and they too are defiant: I don’t know what I am talking about and you can’t make me! (Which of course is true.)

    They probably do not know about and have never thought for a moment about Wikipedia’s “neutral point of view” and how closely this tracks with their own beliefs and practices because that wrinkle might take 20 minutes of their time to grasp, and with the Seigenthaler short cut sitting right there why take the detour through actual knowledge?

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  • Eric Gauvin

    What I find annoying about blogs is how information is scattered all over. Can you please provide a concise definition of “networked journalism?” This is what I dug up (IMHO, calling it “citizen journalism” would seem fairly accurate to most people).

    In networked journalism, the public can get involved in a story before it is reported, contributing facts, questions, and suggestions. The journalists can rely on the public to help report the story; we’ll see more and more of that, I trust. The journalists can and should link to other work on the same story, to source material, and perhaps blog posts from the sources (see: Mark Cuban). After the story is published — online, in print, wherever — the public can continue to contribute corrections, questions, facts, and perspective … not to mention promotion via links. I hope this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as journalists realize that they are less the manufacturers of news than the moderators of conversations that get to the news.

    journalists can rely on the public to help report the story
    the public can continue to contribute corrections, questions, facts, and perspective
    (journalists are) moderators of conversations that get to the news

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Networked journalism: pros centered on the story and amateurs from the edges of the network work together to provide a fuller picture than either could manage without the other.

  • http://craigslistcriticism.blogspot.com Tom

    re: “At a certain point surely we just have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that a large proportion of these people aren’t interested in engaging with this debate.”

    Tom,

    As I was saying, the opposing side isn’t backing up their claims either (Kara is a good example) so they appear to be guilty of the same sin… and are thus equally responsible for the lack of actual debate.

    Delia

    P.S. It seems to be a silly game of lets see who can yell louder and can get more of “their friends” to yell along with them… D.

  • http://craigslistcriticism.blogspot.com Delia

    oops… I entered Tom’s name instead of mine by mistake, above — sorry! D.

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen
  • Eric Gauvin

    Jay,

    That seems more like your definition of pro-am journalism.

    I still don’t think Jarvis can say that his rather broad and untested ideas about some kind of journalism involving blogs have been grossly mischaracterized. To me, what he vehemently insists must be called “networked journalism” is in spirit pretty much the same as what one could describe as “citizen journalism.”

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Whatever.

  • Eric Gauvin

    Sorry I asked…

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    No, I meant whatever terms you see as the absolutely correctamunroe and flatly descriptive terms, the right and true terms, the question is not any of that, but whether those hybrid practices–you name em, smart guy!–can work, do work, will work, can be made to work…

    Open question.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    And, in any case, I’m certainly not calling for the death of mainstream media and journalism. Call it what you will, I’m asking for collaboration. That means professionals and citizens arm in arm, working together. Doesn’t sound like a war cry to me.

  • Eric Gauvin

    I still think Jarvis should be able to provide a clear and concise definition of exactly what he means by “networked journalism” if it’s so completely wrong to characterize it as “citizen journalism.” By switching the name from “citizen journalism” to “networked journalism,” one would naturally be led to believe they are either the same thing or very similar. From the fragments I’ve picked up from this thread, I personally think “citizen journalism” sounds more accurate and already has a lot more momentum. In the very least, “networked journalism” seems to be a subset of “citizen journalism” (maybe someone should update the wikipedia entry for “citizen journalism”).

  • Eric Gauvin

    …maybe not a war cry, but you seem to enthusiastically predict the imminent death of the MSM, consistently referring to it as dinosaurs nearing extinction.

  • http://www.robbmontgomery.com robb montgomery

    “Participatory journalism,” perhaps. I chaired Jimmy Wales session at the World Editors Forum in Moscow and to say he was facing a hostile crows of editors and publishers would be an understatement. It was a bit testy to convene a dialogue between executive editors who manage million dollar editorial payrolls and a man who ‘employs’ amateur editors for free.
    They really are two polar opposites and, the irony, is of course that that to give any Wiki entry a dose of authenticity these editors must cite ‘reliable sources’ in their markups. Reliable sources being news organizations, off course.

  • Peter Fisk

    Agreed, “citizen journalism” is probably not a threat to real journalism. It’s little more than an annoying distraction from any genuine discussion about how professional journalism will navigate the rapids of technological evolution. (Just look at the pathetic results of the Assignment Zero debacle for a real-world indicator of citizen journalism’s lack of potential. )

    The “citizen journalism” movement constitutes an ill-fated attempt to take a huge step backward for a civilization that already has a well-established free and professional press. It would constitute a step forward in, say, Burma — that’s an instance where the hackneyed Thomas Payne comparison might actually apply.

    As a consumer of news, I absolutely insist that it be accurate, reliable, fair, credible, relevant and useful. “Citizen journalism” does not provide that, and I don’t see even the slimmest prospect that it ever could.

    Sure, I take part in “crowdsourcing.” It works great for some things, like when I buy a new model of Pocket PC and exchange information with peers in an online forum about the ins and outs of the device, which hacks and tweaks to try, etc. It works because the information is readily testable and verifiable. That’s also why the open-source model works for software development. But journalism is clearly not the same. I can’t verify every bit of news that I consume, so in large part I have to be able to rely on the credibility, reputation and professionalism of the news outlet that is conveying that information. If some “citizen” “reports” something, I have no reason to believe it until professional journalists have interviewed that “citizen” and investigated the “report.” If self-styled amateur journalists want to submit photos and eyewitness accounts, fine, but this stuff still needs to be investigated, filtered, verified and edited in accordance with established journalistic standards. The amateur should be viewed as a source, not as a journalist.

    Anyway, bravo to Bill Keller as always. A great many of us appreciate his efforts. The mindset that Bill was alluding to, even if he was mistaken in directly linking Jeff to that mindset, is all too real. Whatever the case, this was a small point in Bill’s speech and should not be allowed to distract from the rest of his message.

  • Peter Fisk

    (If past performance is any guide, this is the point where the “citizen journalism” zealots resort to their regular fall-back strategy of full-blown Scientology-style ad hominem attacks. Ho-hum.)

  • Peter Fisk

    … Eh, Thomas Paine of course, not Payne. But I’m sure the copy desk will catch that.

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