Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Christopher Lydon, "The news about the news: Jay Rosen," Open Source, March 28, 2008.

[This article has text and podcast versions of the discussion between Jay Rosen and Chris Lydon. There are lots of links to articles about the impact of the Internet on journalism, the collapse of the NYT, radical transparency and John McCain's successful courting of the media on the Straight Talk Express. These are all contested positions, framings, namings. Even whether or not they are issues or important issues cannot be taken for granted. -jlt]

This seems to be the moment in which the death of the American newspaper can be foretold with some authority — by Eric Alterman in this week’s New Yorker; by the new local owners of the great old papers (“The news business is something worse than horrible,” says Sam Zell, in what sounds like buyer’s remorse over Chicago’s Tribune Company); by The New York Times itself in what has become a serial, almost daily obituary (here, for example) and by our guru and guide to the transformation of media, Jay Rosen of New York University.

Click to listen to Chris’s classroom conversation with Jay Rosen (71 minutes, 33 mb mp3)

Jay Rosen was the prophet of people-first “civic journalism” twenty years ago, before the Web gave citizen-bloggers the tools to be press lords, or at least publishers, on the cheap. In our first podcast nearly five years ago, Jay was among the first to see the breadth of the upheaval. “The terms of authority are changing,” he put it then.

His website PressThink has become the real Press Club of thinking practitioners in this drawn-out existential crisis. In James Der Derian’s Global Media class at Brown last week, Jay Rosen gave his account of the Web stars becoming institutions: Instapundit, the first distributed newsroom; DailyKos, “by far the most vibrant community I know”; The Huffington Post, rising on the power of aggregation; and “the first Web-born media company,” Joshua Micah Marshall’s Talking Points Memo and its offspring. But Jay was at his most compelling on the bad news: what feels like the inexorable, personal, cosmic, professional, civic tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes at the New York Times:

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Charles said...

I just cannot begin to believe in the trustworthiness of just anyone who can input data to the Net.
To believe that open-source journalism will ever be reliable, when the effort to verify every bit of "news" posted by faceless folks with no concrete identity will exhaust a reader. It tires me.

Whom I trust to tell me truth is a tough judgement. I trust my face to face skill most, and my training in critical thinking is a close second. Why should I give that up?
Professionalism in media may be a joke. It might be a joke in academic history, my other love, as well. But I have to have some reason to believe what I read. The new age, of everyone acting as his/her own media blog-tycoon, is not one I want to enter yet.

There is a well-written piece in the magazine online, "What Is Enlightenment?" titled "Whatever happened to Truth?" Have a look. The European Enlightenment had a certain epistemology for truth. What is going to be ours for the new age, the post-modern, post-scarcity West?
There is a lot more at stake here than the fate of the Times.

Jim Terral said...

For anyone who may be following this discussion, the link and the "What is Enlightenment?" teaser for that article follows:

What Ever Happened to Truth? By Carter Phipps

As humanities professor Stanley Fish points out in a 2005 article in Harpers, Intelligent Design theorists have shifted the focus of the science-religion debate from truth and reason to open and unbiased discussion.

While I'm at it, the Fish article is called "Academic cross-dressing: How Intelligent Design gets its arguments from the left." It's still available at

However, why you trust either of these writers is not clear from what you say. Academic or journalistic credentials? Don't the evidence and the arguments about its meaning have to stand on their own merits?

It is relevant that Rosen says, "The terms of authority are changing," because in this context the questions about trust are, at bottom, questions about authority.

Moreover, Rosen argues that the NYT's principal asset is that people trust it. And that, he says, is the real crisis. The NYT is losing the trust people once had.

I agree, NYT is just one instance of a pattern that has much wider scope.

I have always thought that the Enlightenment was a pretentious term for a hubristic period of history. I mean, that was my first impression as a young university student. Maybe that was just hubris on my own part. But it does seem to me the notion that Western science does something more than light up a small part of the universe with a few new tools is at least an example, and is possibly the source of the arrogance that has given us western imperialism, the arrogance of power, the sequential detonations of one environmental, military, economic and social disaster after another.

Englightenment? This is a term appropriated even then from eastern states of consciousness that are much different in scope.

I think the West is learning humility. Or not.