This has been a very interesting week running up to this conference and we feel that we are certainly on to a very important topic. I think that has become evident if not before, certainly through the conversation this past week.
One of the things that has become quite clear is that our conference title, "Blogging Journalism and Credibility: Battleground and Common Ground," is a very ripe and timely subject and the common ground, I think, without question is that both blogging and journalism depend fundamentally on credibility for them to be able to effectively do their work. They very well may have different kinds of standards, they very well may approach these things differently which are some of the thing we are going to be trying to get some clarity on for the next couple of days; at least get a start on it.
One thing I think is quite clear that journalism can traditional journalism that is can teach the blogosphere is that their credibility is something that's relatively fragile. It's something that mainstream journalism has lost an awful lot of in the last decades something that mainstream journalism, traditional journalism is trying to get back and something that the blogosphere is still creating and something that is yet to be attacked or undermined in the same way that mainstream journalism has by, you know, a century of use.
These are very interesting topics. We've got a group of people who we know are not the only people who have valid and important opinions about these things but we feel that we've got a group that is representative at least we hope that that is true. That is our intent. We hope that this will be a very spirited and also a very informative conference.
I would ask that you read the document that was on your chair which says that when you speak, you must please identify yourself. You should indicate that you want to speak by raising your hand or by turning your cone up like this, which will indicate that you want to you have something that you want to say.
We are going to be, you know, trying to do this in a kind of orderly but, you know, open manner and we will sort of do it as we go along. We want everybody to get a chance to speak so we would ask that you please keep your comments as short as possible so that everybody will get a chance. Everybody here has something important to say.
With that, let me turn it over to my other co-hosts, who also, I think, want to say a word of welcome. Carrie?
Carrie Lowe: Good morning. My name is Carrie Lowe. I'm the internet policy specialist for the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy. I wanted to start out by thanking the Berkman-Shonstein Centers for co-hosting this event and also for their hard work in organizing it. I also want to thank the McArthur Foundation who made our participation in this event possible with a grant that is allowing us to conduct a wide-ranging study on the topic of web credibility.
The mission of the Office of Information Technology Policy is to examine technological change and its implications for libraries and library users. When we are thinking about establishing credibility as we are at this meeting, this is not a new idea for librarians. Critical thinking skills like these are part of what we now call information literacy skills, but we have been thinking the we have been teaching these skills to our users for years and years, even before the rise of the internet.
In the context of this conversation, we would encourage you to keep the user in mind. After all, the user is the most important part of this equation. With that, we look forward to a really interesting couple of days and the opportunity to listen and learn. Thanks.
John Palfrey: Thank you so much. I'm John Palfrey. I'm executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. I would like to be the third of three welcomers. I also have the great pleasure of being the first of several moderators of this already-started conversation about credibility on the web.
The first and most important thing I want to do is to thank everybody for being here. I realize that it is four degrees or some unbelievably cold weather outside. I want to thank also, though, the large number of people who are participating in this conference from afar; whether it was commenting on the website we created for this process, whether constructive critical or constructive or something else. I thank also the people who have written extremely thoughtful pieces on other blogs as this conversation has gotten started and to which we have been linking and trying to pull in. I thank prospectively those people who are right now on the audio web caster on the IRC channel or in fact coming tomorrow to our open session which will be here in this room from 1:30 to 4:30 on Saturday.
So to everyone, thank you for being a part of this experiment that we are underway and importantly for your good will and energy and good humor about what has already been contentious in any events.
I want to apologize also for the state of your Blackberries or other narrow-band connection you may have to the web. If you have been getting any form of feed or e-mail list related to this, you probably have been bombarded over the last several days with either organizing-related or discussion-related it has been fun for me to see it all go by and I think it has created a lot of fodder to start this, but apologies if it has been hard on your hardware one way or the other.
So before we actually get into the first session, I wanted to mention three quick things: one to talk very, very briefly about the Berkman Center and why NSD at the Harvard Law School is interested in this topic; and second sort of to describe at least from one person's perspective how we got to this room with this particular group of people and then third to introduce Jay Rosen, Dave Winer, Bob Giles and Rebecca MacKinnon, who will be helping us out with the first of several sessions in a moment.
So, the Berkman Center. We are a curious but I think quite wonderful entity based at the Law School; a think tank much like the Shorenstein Center, others at other parts of Harvard. Our notion is that we are joined by a mission statement; basically a group of people who study and teach and are activists in the space online and dedicated to not much more than some version of a free and open internet.
We express this interest and this activism and this teaching through classes at the Harvard Law School through events like this, through very big open events like the BloggerCon conferences or the Free Internet Society Conference on Internet and Politics just concluded. We have courses open to the world through the extension schools or through other means.
We really think about our work in three clusters as we imagine what the 20 or so fellows do and what the faculty and students and staff who make up the Berkman Center it falls into three areas: One is the law and technology respect to innovation. In many ways obviously this event is about looking at the way in which an innovative new technology which puts a lot of pressure on a number of different existing industries but also creates avenues for future generativity.
Sitting to my right is Professor Jonathon Zittrain, one of the founders of the Berkman Center and one of my bosses and the person who teaches the sort of core classes at that law school. He is in the midst of writing a very large paper on this topic of generative platforms which I think explains this sort of innovation push at the Berkman Center.
The second is democracy law and technology with respect to democracy and I think a lot of what this topic is about for me is about small "d" democratic values and principles that are playing out on the web and a series of opportunities for more voices to be heard from more places in the world by more people at less cost and in very interesting connective ways and in many respects, this is sort of core to that.
We study also the way in which and this happens in a more traditional legal setting how different countries are blocking access to the internet. We think about the way in which large players, through intellectual property laws, are blocking forms of different expression and how we might free that up; more lawyerly-like things, but we are also blessed to have lots of non-lawyers in our midst. Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan Zuckerman, Zephyr Teachout, who is a lawyer, but many others who are doing this type of work.
Lastly, how this connects to education. We are obsessed with trying out new tools in the space of teaching our own students ourselves and obviously the broader community in which we operate. So I think why we are involved in this and interested is really it hits all three of these key things law and technology with respect to innovation with respect to democracy and with respect to teaching and learning.
I think the sort of etymology or variation of this event really was a series of conversations between the Shorenstein Center's Alex Jones, Dave Winer, who is a fellow at the Berkman Center for the last few years, Rebecca and me and others and Ethan, about the two worlds that are coming together one way or the other. We will have more on whether the "bloggers be journalists" thing still holds, but it seems clear that there was a conversation that needed to happen. There are conferences where lots of journalists get together and hem and haw about their profession and how that works out; lots of us who are net-isms one way or the other bloggers, whatever we are seasoned journalists, crossover people.
There hasn't been that much dialogue in a given room between the groups. So battleground, yes, but common ground, essentially and so despite the rancor that has led up to this conversation which is already well in progress we understand, I hope that most important we can prevail on good will and honesty and interest in getting to some common ground here. Whether we emerge with some set of principles or code of ethics or whatever it is that governed the way people do journalism and blogging online I have no idea if we going to get there and maybe that's not the appropriate endpoint of this conversation, but I think we should make headway towards a common ground between what I think are a series of very related converged interests and in the name of a greater public interest in terms of what we can do with this technology that is the online space.
So that's sort of why we are here as the Berkman Center from the Harvard Law School, but also I hope some sense of how at least from our perspective this particular conversation came about.
Okay. So on to the first session. I want to make one tiny note as we get into the substance of this, which is if you are on the IRC chat whether in this room or otherwise, Ethan Zuckerman, a fellow of the Berkman Center, one of the most brilliant and wonderful people I have ever, ever, ever come across, with the long hair over here
Ethan Zuckerman: Transcribe that.
John Palfrey: Transcribe yeah. [laughter] Come on, man. Come on. Transparency. Credibility. You are accountable.
Ethan Zuckerman: I am actually, John, for the most part I am covering with SJ which means that I am transcribing as fast as I possibly can.
John Palfrey: Okay.
Ethan Zuckerman: I will do my best to be brokering conversations between IRC space and this space after SJ shows up and takes notes.
Woman: He's on the way [inaudible].
John Palfrey: Awesome. Okay. So Ethan has violated the first rule, as wonderful as he is, which is when you are speaking, please, please, please, hit the button, announce yourself by name, and then onward from there. Ethan/Rebecca/some of us will be ambassadors from the IRC chat possibly even from the blog space if we can catch it through RSS aggregators or otherwise of comments that are burbling up. We can't obviously promise to bring you into the conversation every comment from afar but we will try to do our best and to do that as moderators to bring in the online into the 48 or so people sitting around this particular table.
Okay, so before we turn to Jay Rosen and the first of the settings, I want to introduce Rebecca MacKinnon. I suspect that everybody here has heard from Rebecca; if not, knows her by background. The bios of everybody - two wonderful people on the web have compiled separate versions of our bios, but if you would like the "official Berkman Center version" if your bio is there or here But Rebecca MacKinnon is a fellow of the Berkman Center. She was, before this, a fellow of the Shorenstein Center, which makes her perfectly positioned to be, you know, sort of the broker or one of the brokers of this conversation.
She was also geared she for CNN in Beijing and also in Tokyo and her in addition to being the evil cyborg who eats kittens, according to a number of sites on the web Rebecca is truly the person who, in addition to Catherine Bracy of our staff at the Berkman Center, has really led the work to make this possible.
I wanted to introduce her to take literally two minutes to bring forward anybody who happened to be not online somehow over the last week up-to-speed with some of the comments on the subsentive side not the flamy side that have been drawn out by this conference; whether it's on blogs or in the Comments field.
So Rebecca, a couple of minutes to kind of bring the conversation forward if you would.
Rebecca MacKinnon: Thank you. Well, as a Monty Python fan, I was just one note on the flaming comments. My favorite was "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." Those of you who are Monty Python fans will appreciate that.
But yes, there was a great deal of reaction from the blogosphere, from cyberspace, that feeling that this was an exclusionary conference; a great deal of concern that we were going to be pronouncing standards for bloggers and the feeling that this was wrong.
Beyond that, there were a number of issues that came up that very much we hope will enter into the conversation today. One has to do with the fact that at the same time that our media is in the midst of such change of course our country is terribly divided and that is really affecting the way in which new media is being formed. That has become very clear in terms of the types of comments that were coming up and in the blog posts throughout the blogosphere that have been in reaction to this.
Increasingly, people with very, very strong political views are looking to see how they can use new media participatory media to advance their various causes as well, so this is yet another part of the story that, I think, is very interesting to look at.
Some other points that were made: one has to do with linking and to what extent does linking to something differ from quoting somebody, how much are you endorsing something when you link to it? There are clearly very different opinions about that. If you are linking to a site or a blog from your blog roll that has libelous things in it, are you responsible for that? If your Comments section is full of insinuations that somebody is, for instance, a CIA operative, are you responsible for that information sort of taking root in the mainstream media if that were to happen? That kind of issue.
A lot of other issues related to bloggers with advertising, bloggers with conflicts of interest, media with con journalists with conflicts of interest and this whole issue of what you are supposed to expose and how and why; a very big issue.
Some other and just quickly and we will move on to Jay there were a number of interesting a couple of interesting quotes that I think I will just throw out here that came out of the Comments section: one said this was, I thought, quite interesting "Focusing on bloggers as journalists is like focusing on importing drugs from Canada. The real issue is why journalists aren't doing their job just as the real issue is why Americans are being overcharged for drugs."
There was a very strong feeling coming on to the Comments section that journalism is broken and that something needs to be done to fix it and, of course, that is something that we want to discuss. The other let's see the other kinds of comments had to do with how one establishes credibility and the issue of the difference between establishing credibility through reputation in a group and to what extent that has to do with the accuracy of the information that you are reporting. So again, with that, we will move it over to Jay.
John Palfrey: Sounds great. Thank you, Rebecca. So by extremely brief introduction this is John Palfrey again, who you will get used to and sick of my voice soon enough knowing who it is but by way of brief introduction and also by sort of way of mode here, for the sessions of this conversation, the idea is to have a very flat structure but we do want to lend some actual structure to the conversation. The way we thought of doing that is by commissioning a couple of papers and appointing a few people to lead off with some very specific thoughts in very short form. So Jay Rosen is about to talk for something on the order of five to ten minutes. We will then have two respondents; first Dave Winer of Scripting News and second, Bob Giles of the Neiman Foundation, in the two-to-three minute zone by way of response which they have given a lot of thought to already.
After that, we are going to open it up and the mode here will be, again, as Alex said, please do put up your sign if you would like to talk. I will try to get lots of people in because there are so many wonderful people around this table. The only thing I will really correct for is repetition. If you start saying a point that has been made before, we will move on quite quickly to that to the next thing. Also, if you can try to help us keeping in a thread, that would be great.
So Jay Rosen, a professor at New York University. You can read his official bio, but the sort of bio as I have seen Jay is I hadn't heard of Jay Rosen until about a year and a half ago. I put on a conference Dave Winer, as a fellow, decided we were going to do the first big or one of the first big blogging conferences called "BloggerCon" and I actually couldn't be there. I had a I was in a wedding elsewhere. It was a long story, but in any event, I came back and I said "So what happened at that conference?" I had obviously followed in the blogs and from virtually everyone I talked to, they said "Two words, man. Jay Rosen." This was of the 400 people or however many it was who showed up the voice that stuck out as the resonant one, the person who had something particular to say. It was Jay.
And I have since been following his work on PressThink and otherwise reading some of the stuff he'd written before this very strong sense that he was somebody for years and years and years he was a Shorenstein fellow and I understand that back in the early '90s had been thinking about these thoughts and kind of raging against some machine. He was out there and giving a ton of very critical thought to the future of journalism and citizen journalism and the rest and who woke up some morning in maybe 2004 and realized "Wow, the future I have been envisioning is here," and in some sense, has been a profit of this convergence or whatever it is for some time. I think that his opening piece, which he will talk about in one second, makes that plain. So, Jay.
Jay Rosen: Okay. Let me just [inaudible]
John Palfrey: Press "press."
Jay Rosen: You can put "PressThink" on the I'm Jay Rosen, the voice of PressThink and a curious but, I think, quite wonderful college professor. [laughter]
I am going to summarize what I consider to be the key ideas in the essay that's up on the screen there Bloggers vs. Journalists Is Over. I was asked to write this essay by John and the Berkman Center and I jumped at the chance to do it because it was a subject that I had screwed up before and felt I should help untangle now.
First of all, I tried to offer in my paper a peacemaking document that is also a troublemaking document. The peacemaking part is in the title: Bloggers vs. Journalists Is Over.
What the title means is simply that the war should be over the war between bloggers and journalists sort of the cartoon dialogue that had developed between these two. We don't need it. it's not a great way to proceed in a conference, but it is also it's not very accurate. It's not an accurate description of the relationship between these two things.
Even though it makes for good feature stories and great blog posts, bloggers vs. journalists doesn't help us that much understand where the world of journalism is going, where the internet is taking it, and what this new revolution sometimes called "Citizen's Journalism" is about.
So bloggers vs. journalists is over. It doesn't mean that they're not going to fight anymore or we won't have anymore arguments or it's all peace and love or anything like that. In fact, in my paper I say the tension between the two will go on. It's necessary and it's inevitable, but we ought not to see these things as adversaries or enemies or opposites because if we simply look at what happened over the last month with the tsunami story and the way that independent citizen journalists were able to contribute to that, it's obvious that blogs have some role in journalism so we have to figure out what that is.
The key ideas in this paper are as follows: First of all, there has been and there is right now a power shift going on. A power shift from the producers of media to the people formerly known as the audience. That's what I like to call them because they're not really an audience anymore and terms like "audience" and "consumer" and "viewer" and "reader," which have become threaded into journalism aren't really that accurate for the people on the other end of the process.
So there has been a power shift from producers to users; mostly because of the internet. Secondly, this has led to a loss of sovereignty in the press. A loss of sovereignty. What I mean by that is simply a loss of exclusive control. Areas that once were under the domain of the journalist are now not exclusively under the domain of the journalist and that's what a loss of sovereignty is. You are not the boss anymore. What you say is not the law.
Third key idea was that because of this power shift, because of the loss of sovereignty, a lot of pressure is being put on mainstream journalism's key ideas the ideas and principles that make it what it is. There's pressure on those things and they haven't been subject to the kind of critical examination that they ought to have been for a long time and so we have what I called in my essay "conditions resembling intellectual crisis in mainstream journalism" and that is one of the contexts in which blogging has erupted.
Objectivity as an ethical touchtone, as one of my sources said, is faltering in mainstream journalism. It doesn't provide the kind of guidance and direction that it once did. And this is part of the intellectual crisis. Problems of finding a believable voice keep growing in mainstream journalism and this is related to the shift in power that I talked about.
Part of the reason we are having this conference and part of the reason the table is set the way it is with the people we have here is that blogging is very well-adapted to the world that I described. It is well-adapted to a world where the shift in power is taking place. It is well-adapted to a world where there are many centers of sovereignty as Orville Shallot said. What happened to him? Is he here? Okay.
Blogging is well-adapted to two-way dialogue as opposed to one-to-many dialogue, which is also part of the media shift that we are living through; and of course blogging is not only well-adapted, but organic to the world wide web and is itself one of the artifacts of the internet.
So that's why these two things are buddied up against one another. As Rebecca Blood, who is a student of the web log forum puts it, "Blogging and journalism exist in a shared media space." A shared media space. And one of the reasons blogging vs. journalism is over is that nobody is leading that space. So you can just forget it. And since we have to get used to existing in the same media space by which we mean bloggers and journalists are there competing for the same scarce resource of attention, addressing the same important issues, talking about the news and able to reach users. So that's the same media space.
I also tried to argue this is a little bit more intricate that the press the institution of the press for which the Shorenstein Center is named is separating from this other big institution called The Media and is moving about in social space so that a lot of the press today is not based anymore in The Media especially the commercial media. It's based, as Bill Busenburg's operation is, in the non-profit world.
Increasingly, because of the internet, because of blogging, some of the press is actually shifting and is now in public hands. So where as before, the press and the media were overlapped almost completely, now this institution The Press which is connected, of course, to our political tradition which speaks of the nation as a republic has shifted. The non-profit world owns a piece of it, people involved in politics, activists, own a piece of it, the public owns a piece of it.
One of the things one of the biggest challenges for journalists today; professional journalists is that they have to live in a shared media space, they have to get used to bloggers and others with an independent voice talking about them, fact-checking them, overlooking them; and they no longer have exclusive title to the press. They have to share the press with the public. Rearranging the ideas of journalism to account for that kind of a world is a big challenge. It's very difficult because the ideas that gave birth to professional journalism, the way we teach it and understand it, were in fact an artifact of a one-to-many world. They were built for the media platform that is slowly disintegrating. They are the products of an era of professionalism in American life and modern life that is also slowly passing.
Most of the leading ideas that we teach young journalists, that journalists learn on the job, that they defend in institutions like the Shorenstein Center, the Neiman Foundation and others, weren't necessarily created to explain the kind of world we live in. They were created to limit liability among journalists; to provide a way of defending against the inevitable attacks and criticisms that come to journalists.
Defensive ideas, which have worked very well for the mainstream press for about 40 or 50 years are now working against journalists. It's making it harder for them to find out where they are.
I am going to wrap up with two points. Journalists have been slow to understand why they owe a debt to web logs and web loggers. They owe a debt because the people who are developing the world wide web as a medium for journalism are bloggers and people like them.
Those who are discovering its potential, those who are developing the tools and the protocols, those who are pushing forward the ideas and the practices of web journalism, are not for the most part professional journalists. They are independent authors and bloggers and writers on the web.
So if we look, for example, what Dave Wiener once called "the art of linking," the people who are expert at linking are bloggers. If we look at tapping distributed knowledge around the web, the people who know how to do that are bloggers. If we look at news as conversation, which is such an important metaphor today, the people putting that into practice are bloggers.
Bloggers are developing this platform that journalists will one day occupy and that is the reason people in the mainstream press should pay attention to them.
Finally, to wind up, when I came to my first bloggers conference in October of 2003 as John described, I was very new to this world and I had just started PressThink and Lynn Apgar, who is the director of the digital New York Times, was there and I learned a very startling thing.
He told us that in 2002, a majority of the readership of the New York Times became online readers. 2002. The majority of the Times readership were online readers. Still to this day, two years, three years later, a majority of the people working at the New York Times feel that they are working for a traditional newspaper that has an online edition. And that's the gap that American journalism is living in today. It hasn't really adapted its ideas and practices to the world that it is actually in.
The people at the New York Times who understand they are living in a different world tend to be the foreign correspondents because the foreign correspondents find that their work, the next day, is read by every single person in the capitol where they work whereas before the internet, it took three weeks for it to arrive in a diplomatic pouch.
So they live in a completely different world and they know it, but for the rest of the staff, they believe that they are working for a traditional newspaper with an online edition. Actually, they are working for an online newspaper that has a print edition and there is a big mental shift there that bloggers can actually point the way towards.
So that's what I want to say by way of introduction, John.
John Palfrey: Okay. Thank you so much for the wonderful set. [applause] And thank you for the hard work leading up to a very aggressive deadline to put this out on the web and for that
Jay Rosen: It almost killed me, John.
John Palfrey: I know, I know. [laughter] I hope to mitigate that somehow. Okay. For the first respondent, Dave Winer. Dave Winer needs, I suspect, no or little introduction to most people in this room; perhaps some to those who don't spend a lot of time in blogs. Sorry. Chris?
Man: Tom Rosenstiel [inaudible]
John Palfrey: Yes, I understand. Tom Rosen still has been, I think, brought up to speed. [laughter] But that's actually a good thing because Dave Winer defies introduction as I have found. There are many ways in which this is true. You can't call him a technologist. You can't call him a blogger. He is just much more than all these things. One recent news report at MSNBC called him "the Prometheus of Blogging" that's a possibility. Charlie Nesson, in introducing him to both to his evidence class this morning as I understand it but to the first of the blogger cons called him "Socrates" and has played that out.
So there are lots of ways to do it by analogy. I am not really going to try. I am only going to tell my own very, very short story of Dave Winer, which is on the introduction of somebody I know and trust greatly.
I was told "You have to meet this guy." This was in the fall of 2002; it happened to me over Christmas break. I came back from a caper with my family to meet with this guy on December 28th or some crazy day. The Center was closed; it was locked up. Charlie Nelson was supposed to show up. He was one of the bosses. He wasn't there so it was just me and Dave and the way the conversation roughly went he said "So what are you interested in?" I said "Well, first I am interested in law technology and how it affects democracy." He said "Let me tell you about law technology and democracy," and it has been a wild ride since then. He was right absolutely.
As a fellow, two weeks later or so, one of the things that he encouraged us to do was to build out into cyberspace. One of the key things to the Berkman Center is to experiment in the space to build technologies as Jonathon Zittrain does and others. That affect was to put up a blogging server at Harvard for free for anybody with a Harvard.edu address, which we did. We just put it out there and said "Let a thousand flowers bloom." It turns out six hundred flowers have bloomed. There are six hundred blogs on the Harvard server. It is a wild and crazy conversation, much as the conversation leading up to this has been but it has transformed for us the way we communicate internally at the Berkman Center but also with the outside world. It has not brought us credibility anymore than any other thing we do has, but it has definitely connected us to the space for that wild wide.
Jay Rosen talks about debts. I owe a huge debt to Dave Winer and look forward to his two to three minutes here.
Dave Winer: Okay, thanks a lot.
John Palfrey: Press your thing. Thank you.
Dave Winer: Thank you, John. I am going to try to move this a little closer. You know, having to prepare I am accustomed to conferences where we don't prepare and you just sort of like speak your mind
John Palfrey: Mm-hmm.
Dave Winer: and one of the things I hate about it is I compose these speeches in my head and
John Palfrey: You can read online the one-hour version of this.
Dave Winer: yeah, [inaudible] the two-hour version of this, so Jay Rosen, from my point of view, I mean, I met Jay Rosen I told I wrote today on my blog that as far as I'm concerned, Jeff Jarvis invented Jay Rosen because he brought him to us at Blogger Con in 2003 and what was so fresh and so interesting about Jay was that here was somebody who came to us from the land of ink who was actually enthusiastic about what we were doing and it was he could tell us why we were doing things this way and that way. He really seemed to understand what we were doing and he said about us in a follow I don't know if you had a blog at the time or not, but he did. Okay.
He said this is a group that feels like they are on the ascendant that there's something growing here and they're, you know, they're moving someplace. I thought that captured the spirit very, very well.
It's really hard in actual context to see us as being vs. anything because I don't think most bloggers have viewed it that way. I think that I can speak for most if not all the bloggers in the room that we have never woken up one morning in our lives thinking about how we can get rid of the professional journalists. If anything, we have worked hard to bring them in. Dan Gillmor, Ed Cone, Rebecca is a former professional journalist. These are all people that now we feel are part of what we do and they're bloggers.
If you want to understand the blogger mentality, we are more like evangelists. I mean, we have we are zealots. We want to bring you in. We want you to use our tools. We want you to learn what we have learned and then make the world a better place. We are the we are idealists. We are, you know, and if you, you know, sort of cut to our core, we are like, you know, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. We are that sort of into, you know, truth and justice and so forth.
We have a passion for news and maybe that can act as a reminder to the professionals that somewhere deep inside of your core is that same passion. That's the thing that unites us. That's the bond that we share.
Rather than looking at it as an adversarial relationship, let's look at it as the way that we can sort of help each other because God knows we have much bigger problems to solve than who gets to survive the bloggers or the journalists where obviously whether one survives or the other are sort of independent issues.
Journalists were going they are sort of I think that where this sort of adversarial ness sort of comes from is that in this new context, journalists sort of need to find some boundaries, to find something where "Okay, we're here and the rest of the world is here," but those boundaries are not so easy to find anymore.
I think one of the ways to get back there is to look really, really seriously about how you can adopt practices of blogging in what you do. For example, full transcripts of everything, you know, of every interview that you do, would be something that a lot of your readers maybe not all of them or most of them would appreciate, but enough that the bloggers amongst your readers certainly would appreciate that.
So I guess in summary I did way over my two minutes or three minutes I think it all comes down to point of view and how are you looking at the situation. You will see something completely different.
A journalist looking at this situation will see the bloggers as a threat. There's no question the journalists see that. Most of the articles that have been written about blogging have been about the threat to journalism which is something you guys might want to think about in terms of conflicts of interest. Can you really write about blogging when your point of view is from there?
I think that in the point of view comes sort of the optimistic, positive things that we can sort of combine all of our points of view and do what we call embodiment triangulation and get closer to understanding what the what real events are going on, so Okay.
John Palfrey: Dave, thank you so much and I am sure we will hear much more from you over the next two days and we will bring those comments forward.
For the second of the responders before opening up Bob Giles has the great, good fortune of being the curator of the Neiman Foundation. Truly one of the jewels in the crown of this place and this community it's one of the longest-running entities of any sort associated with the University. As I think everybody here knows, it has brought more than a thousand journalists to mid-career fellowships at the University. It has quite a wonderful web presence. Neiman Reports is an extremely important publication. It does many more things than I could possibly introduce, but I think extremely well-positioned to have commentary on this [inaudible] Bob Giles.
Bob Giles: Thank you
John Palfrey: Please pres
Bob Giles: Thank you, John. My perspective comes from a lifetime in newspaper journalism and - thinking of this issue, thinking about blogging, thinking about the coming of the internet, thinking about conversations with our communities and we have never, from my perspective, thought of it as being adversarial. Rather, I think, the news industry's reluctance or inability to embrace new ideas is embedded in the sort of institutional culture of the newspapers and broadcast organizations for which we work.
Jan Schaffer can tell you stories about the struggle she had in directing the Civic Journalism Program and getting the idea of community-connectedness to take effect across the country in newsrooms.
When the Neiman Foundation published an issue in the fall of 2003 that focused on blogging, our take wasn't that this was a conflict, but rather that this was a new idea that needed to be explained as part of the process of having it adopted and adapted in various news organizations. But the fact of the matter is that mainstream news media are very are a stable industry and they are very slow to be able to effectively graft onto their main business: new ideas.
The discussion a few minutes ago by Dave about the or Jay about the New York Times and it taking from probably the early '90s to the early 2000's to become have their on-site online program identified in a major part of the newspaper suggests how long it takes for corporate news organizations to ingest an idea, think creatively about it and figure out how it fits into their larger commercial mission.
The question is always raised "How soon will we make money on this venture?" Secondarily in the thinking is "How can this serve our audiences? How does this help us connect with our communities? How can we better execute our obligation for public service and public trust by finding a way to use a new technology?"
I am delighted that Ed Cone is here because I think his newspaper in Greensboro is doing some very innovative work in finding how a way to use blogging as an effective, transparent open-sourcing methodology for connecting with their communities and I hope that one of the influences of this meeting will be to inspire more newsrooms to think creatively and to go to their the holders of the purse in their news organizations and make the compelling case for why this helps us and why we need to make the investment for the technology and the newsroom time and resources to make all this work.
John Palfrey: Bob, thank you so much. That's terrific. Alright, so let the games begin.
I would like to start sort of generally in responding to Jay and to his respondents with common ground. So I am certain that battlegrounds, which has already emerged in the zone of journalism, blogging and credibility will continue to emerge, but Jay asked the question which is "What's the deeper pattern of which both blogging and journalism is a part which needs to or can lead us to greater credibility in an online environment and ultimately into whatever the media environment is?"
We welcome thoughts of any sort but in particular, starting toward that common ground as opposed to toward the battleground. And when you do speak, please, you know, let us know who you are and for the very brief introduction, be sure to press the press the red button. So, to the group
Do we have there are a couple passing mics. John Garfunkel here.
John Palfrey: Or we can pass it down. Thanks. There we go.
John Garfunkel: Thank you, John.
John Palfrey: Okay. Continue.
John Garfunkel: My name is John Garfunkel. I have a website Civilities and I guess I should respond because I put the earliest post of the morning in response to Jay's essay.
John Palfrey: That's the mark of a true blogger: someone extremely proud of having the first post of the day.
John Garfunkel: The Boston Herald called me a blogger this morning and I wasn't happy. I could explain some more, but I will agree on some common ground that the people developing as Jay said the people developing the world wide web are software people, technologists. And I am one of them. I am a software engineer by profession.
We are developing ways which people are interacting with ideas. This is the most important book on that subject and a lot of it is not appreciated.
John Palfrey: For those not in the room, the book [inaudible]
John Garfunkel: Oh, sorry. Yes.
John Palfrey: "Code and Other Laws of Cyber [inaudible]."
John Garfunkel: It's a book and but I just wanted to summarize these five objections I have to Jay's essay.
One is I thought I found it very convenient of you to trust the New York Times story when sometimes it serves bloggers to not trust everything they read in the New York Times when the Times says that bloggers covered the tsunami better than the media, that was accepted without skepticism.
Loss of sovereignty one could discuss 60 Minutes or either Powerline or Washington Post had brought down 60 Minutes. I think the Washington Post had still a powerful row on that.
I also brought up two dichotomies that there is the press; the journalism versus critics of the press and other hand, you might have a bloggers versus what I call "wingers" people who are essentially winging it in blogs and are not the good blogs.
Can't find a voice the journalists can't find a voice. You know, I was surprised I didn't hear any journalists object to that that they find that, you know, that they don't have a they can't connect to readers.
John Palfrey: I suspect that journalists have yet to weigh in fully on the story.
John Garfunkel: Of course. And last, just you said professionalism is slowly passing I would like to hear more evidence of that. We have a lot more professions in this society that are going through processes of professionalization, creditation.
So those are my short comments. [laughter]
John Palfrey: Dave, the professor's here. Professor Zinburg over here.
Dorothy Zimberg: Dorothy Zimberg. I think it's interesting that the two first questions are coming from the observers, not the participants.
I wanted to ask Jay Rosen about the psychological gap which I think is such an important point. What is it and how would one make the shift? How would someone who perceives that she is writing for an ink paper think differently if it were a blog and vice versa?
John Palfrey: Please press down, Jay.
Jay Rosen: That's a very good question. I think when you start with the assumption of an internet newspaper, first of all every other newspaper is much closer to your readers than yours or equally close. So the universe that you are dealing with suddenly is not your newspaper and the reader, but your newspaper, the reader and all the others that that person is one click away from. So the world expands.
Secondly, every on the net, every reader is a writer. This is the opposite of what a reader was under the mass-media regime. Not only is every reader a writer meaning that they can talk back but unlike the situation with a mass audience, every reader is connected horizontally to all the other readers, not just to you. Those are also very different conditions.
The third thing is that in web publishing, it isn't really accurate to say there is no editor. It is more accurate to say that the editing occurs after publication and so the people online who are readers and responders they are your editors.
Today at PressThink, there is a post-belief that bloggers vs. journalists line about PR bloggers blowing the Ketchum Public Relations story. I argue that they didn't show up. They weren't there. They didn't say anything, unlike the Dan Rather case. This is their Dan Rather and they basically blew it. That's what I argue.
In the two days since I posted that, a whole bunch of PR bloggers said "Hey, wait a minute. I said something about that. I posted something about it. You're wrong. Well, you can't rely on technology. That's not " And so all this new information
John Palfrey: How many times have you heard that, huh? [laughter] Right.
Jay Rosen: All this new information has come and it's not really an error in the process. It's part of the process. Now I know a lot more because they have all said to me "You missed this and you missed that." So we had to incorporate that. I had to incorporate that into what I did.
So those are some of the things that are different, but the main thing that's different, I think, is that on the net, power is different. Power. The people you are informing, speaking to, have a lot more power than you learned in journalism school and dealing with people who are suddenly empowered vis-ΰ-vis or at you is a very difficult thing and people don't want to give up the ideas that they developed. It's very embarrassing for a professional to think that after 20 years in the profession, they have to re-think what they are doing. It's not easy for them to do that. It's not easy for them to even acknowledge that such a thing is going on.
John Palfrey: So Jeff Jarvis is up next, but I want also to mention that one of the people who knows more than anybody on the planet about this shift from consumers to creators and the role of audience and sort of web participation is Lee Rainie who studies this for the few internet and American life and at some point, it will be great to have you weigh in on some of the recent studies that have shown a great deal about changing attitudes towards one's role online. I won't call on you quite like that, but at some point it would be great to hear from you. Jeff?
Jeff Jarvis: I'm Jeff Jarvis. Buzzmachine.com will always take the traffic. I agree with what Jay says. I agree that there is not a war or that a war is disruptive or silly. However, at that first Blogger Con, you also said had the image of the streets of New York of two gangs approaching each other.
Jay Rosen: Gangs of New York.
Jeff Jarvis: Gangs of New York. Thank you. Very good movie. And at some point, we won't be able to tell the difference. Citizens' media and professional media will merge their lines a great deal. They will still be somewhat distinct. As you said this morning, you choose whether to take a bus or subway. You will still have choices to come over.
But now they are distinct very distinct and there is, as you say, a tension. So the question is the other way to look at it is where is that tension beneficial? Where is that competition beneficial to both? Is it too soon in some ways to say the war is over and we all hug, which is fine in a lot of ways and we ought to do that and that's very good too, but there is also benefit in keeping the tension alive to better both and keeping the competition alive to make both better.
John Palfrey: That's great.
Jeff Jarvis: Is that true or not? I mean, am I and how does the tension help?
John Palfrey: That's a wonderful teaming up. I am going to go with Lee, then Chris Lydon, then Ed Cone while and then Jan and while this conversation has been going, Jeff has also blogged that Michael Powell is resigning as Chair, which is quite interesting. Anyway, Lee Rainie. [laughter] Oh, was that clapping? [laughter]
Lee Rainie: I think that the that all the communities are moving forward at potentially a faster pace than might be acknowledged in this room. It's not just foreign correspondents who are aware of this new power. Anyone who covered the campaign in the last season knows that they're fact [inaudible] is going to be fact checked. It's a new reality in newsrooms and I think in many cases, reporters are not as reluctant to embrace it as you think.
The other idea and other context that is a deep reality to both communities now is that trust and credibility now are social it's recognized that they're social processes.
I was talking to a friend recently who just came back from Korea and he said how do Koreans in this you pick with this broadband universe decide what's true or not? You decide by cutting and pasting and shearing and eventually talking with their network of friends or online communities about what they think about it and the process of deciding what to believe and what to act on is a conversational process that people are very comfortable engaging in.
The parallel universe that we have seen in our research is in health support communities where the omnipotent doctor of the industrial age who dealt with a patient who is passive has given way to these activist e-patients who go online to get all kinds of support and information and new detail that they don't get in those 12-minute encounters with their doctor and they are deciding what is true and what to act on only after this process of discovery and social comment and new kind of credibility-enhancing mechanisms are put into play.
I just the notion that these universities are inextricably at war is giving way to a much deeper reality than is taking place in more newsrooms than I think is acknowledged in this room.
John Palfrey: That's neat. The just before going on to Chris Lydon, two things to commend to the group. If you do not read the Puge reports as they come out, you ought to do so. They are remarkable and are the platform on which those of us who do internet studies rely hugely.
The second is if you want to see the future of one possible way that the internet could change society through really just sort of hyper internet culture, go to South Korea. It is astonishing. Check out OhMyNews and a variety of other really amazing stories that are made possible by obviously cultural differences; but also 70% broadband penetration which shames the rest of us. Chris Lydon.
Chris Lydon: John, is it in order to I would like to make an argument against the reconciliation. I don't want to be a troublemaker, much less to start [crosstalk]
John Palfrey: You always are, so [laughter].
Chris Lydon: No, but I want to speak against the kind of [inaudible] hands across the industrial war here.
I want to pick up in Dave Winer's line that bloggers are really evangelists. I think there is a kind of cosmological almost theological dimension to this thing and I just want to spell it out as briefly as I can.
The main reason one of the main reasons I like the internet is that it's such a wonderful metaphor for God and it's not God but it has a lot of godly qualities. It is all-knowing. It is everywhere. It is universal. It is invisible but it is incredibly powerful and it is accessible to each and every one of us. And it's especially much better metaphor for God than the old one which the New York Times.
I really thought the New York Times served as a kind of God's memo on the day, you know, in the old days when I started working for the Times, it was eight columns on page one. Now it's six, but there was this very almost religious process by which the priests of West 43rd Street came together. I mean, I think chastity of the priesthood corresponds to objectivity as a standard of journalism and there was virtually a sacramental meeting of the Page One editors who would go into a Psalm ritual to decide what God actually wanted us to know about this whole cosmos on January 3, 1492 or whatever the day was.
So when you think about it as metaphors of knowledge and information, the internet is vastly different and vastly better. I mean, I think the new model of the New York Times Page One conference is technorati. You know, you look on the technorati page and you can see from scanning of a million bloggers not twelve, you know, section editors of the New York Times, but from a million bloggers which is only just the beginning. I mean, someday technorati will monitor a billion bloggers and eventually ten billion bloggers and you can see, you know, a much larger framework: what people actually think is interesting, what is actually going on, what people are truly worried about, what people are truly excited about, what people truly believe is an incisive declaration about the state of the world today.
You know, the mask has been pulled off the priests or the robes or the whatever. We are approaching a much more satisfying metaphor of what a very, very large stand at big understanding would be and we have also redefined the role of people.
I mean, it is very much to me sort of a protestant reformation in which people's unmediated relationship to the truth or Emerson would say, you know, our individual participation in the mysteries of nature and Divine Spirit have been democratized. They have been opened up and a lot of the sort of the phony claims and the artificial pyramids and authority on this thing have been destroyed.
John Palfrey: So I'm not sure I necessarily hear "anti-blendo" in all of this, but
Chris Lydon: [crosstalk] Well, no. And I am not saying [crosstalk] come in from a religious way either but I say let's realize that these are radically different architectures of understanding and communication and let's not try to compromise I don't think we should say well I mean, first of all, we discovered that every person is a priest. Every person is a child of God. Everybody is in touch with universal information and you don't have there's no real system of accreditation. There's no real system of, you know, the Pope's the closest of all to God and then there are the cardinals and then the bishops and then there are the priests and the monks and then there's us. It's sort of - no, we are all in this thing together and we are all equally connected and, you know, let's let's deal with that. Okay.
John Palfrey: Let's go Ed, Jan or Mack, Dan, John. So see it up.
Ed Cone: Ed Cone edCone.com. It's ironic. I was going to say exactly what he said. [laughter] [crosstalk] Since he got in all the God and reformation stuff, I will
John Palfrey: I wonder what the monsignors are doing. I haven't checked.
Ed Cone: I will bring it back to common ground. I am a professional journalist and I didn't understand blogging until I got a web log. I thought I understood it. I profiled Dave Winer for Wired Magazine and I thought "Oh, this is neat. I get it," and then until I got a web log and started blogging, I didn't really understand what it meant to do it.
So the first thing I would say to journalists who are curious about this is you might want to get a web log. And you can do it anonymously, so
John Palfrey: Perhaps you should do it anonymously.
Ed Cone: Perhaps you should, but
John Palfrey: Or at least look up the word "deuce" before you do.
Ed Cone: I would say also I am not a visionary. I am not a real conceptual thinker. I am a reporter and a writer. So let me report just a little bit about some common ground that has begun to emerge in my hometown in North Carolina.
I am not an employee of the News and Record. I am a contributing columnist to the newspaper and that has given me a nice sort of inside-outside relationship with them. They have been enormously receptive in listening to some of my ideas. There is an editor within the paper, Lex Alexander, who is a long-time blogger himself, so he got it early.
But the sort of "aha" moment came about five months ago when the editor-in-chief of a substantial regional daily started his own web log and what they are doing and what we, the people of Greensboro are doing on our own and in parallel and with them we are developing a new kind of media culture. There's a lot of common ground.
If you go to edCone.com, you will see [crosstalk] a report this morning about two articles about last night's county commissioner meeting in Gilford County, North Carolina. Not it's you've got to scroll down underneath my drinking adventures from last night. [laughter] Sorry about that.
John Palfrey: [laughter] And past the blog ads too.
Ed Cone: The the newspaper covered the meeting and they covered it the way they cover meetings. They covered it well but they focused on a particular issue of interest to the newspaper which is economic development.
Another guy a blogger covered it too and he focused on other issues. The paper has space constraints. They have to cover a limited amount of what happened at that meeting. What they can do now is the reporter Matt Williams can go to his own News and Record web log and he can link to Sam Heed's coverage and say "By the way, let me comment on what I couldn't get in the paper and I don't even have to start from scratch and re-write it. I can just point you to Sam and then take off from there."
So at the same time we have independent bloggers who want nothing to do with the News and Record and they have created what I call an online alternative media of their own; they're congregating at aggregator sites like greensboro101.com. They are having blog meet-ups. They see themselves as competitors, correctors, potential contributors. You can read Bill Mitchell's article he's got an interview with the editor John Robinson of the News and Record up at the pointer site.
Also at my site today, there is a long e-mail from John Robinson explaining why he thinks maybe we are talking about the wrong stuff with all this conflict and credibility stuff that it is there is that common ground and he is working on figuring it out.
So there is no shortage of hype about what's going on in this confluence and I would like to deflate that hype. We are not we do not claim to have figured out what is going on any better than anybody else. We just
John Palfrey: Who do you mean by "we," Ed?
Ed Cone: We the people of Greensboro, North Carolina. [laughter] We the professional journalists. I don't know who the hell I mean by "we." I mean [laughter] me, John Robinson. I think I can speak for him. A lot of folks who are blogging down there are very interested in pushing this forward and working together and working separately, but there is this tendency to say "Well, you haven't done it yet so it's a failure. Nobody's making money, so it's a failure."
And I'll go back to what I said originally. I am a writer and a reporter and I feel tremendously empowered as a writer and a reporter and as a professional by this tool. I am conflicted in all kinds of troubling ways, but there is no conflict in my mind between being a professional journalist and a blogger.
John Palfrey: Ed, thank you. And what you guys are doing in Greensboro is an amazing experiment no matter what happens no matter about the money or any of the other stuff. It's really an extraordinary, extraordinary thing and thank you for that.
Okay. We are going to Jan, then Rebecca, then Dan, then John, then back to Chris Lydon it looks like.
Jan Schaffer: Thank you. I too agree that what is going on in Greensboro is great.
I wanted to re-visit the question of tension because I am still troubled by the framing here of an "us" you know a "bloggers vs. journalism" construct. I think it's an unnecessary conflict because I don't I don't I think that there are parallel universes here that occasionally overlap but it doesn't matter. I think there is a huge "so what" factor here about whether one is a journalist or not.
I think the real tension that we are not focusing on is what will news look like and what do people need to know in a democracy? Where will I find what I didn't know before? Who will connect the dots for me on big issues? Where will I have "aha" moments? Who will ask the missing questions for me?
In fact, I think that both big 'J' journalism and small 'j' journalism are hugely failing in this task. By "small 'j,'" I will include the blogger universe not to be demeaning, but, you know, the real tension is how do we design it's a design issue, not a platform issue ways to give people what they need to know.
Is it going to look like a linear feed in a blog? I actually don't think so because it is terribly, terribly inefficient to get information that way. Is it going to look like an inverted pyramid story? I also don't think so because that's also a terribly inefficient way to get stories.
I am troubled that the focus here is still on an "us against them" but the it's a construct where when mainstream news organizations talked about convergence, it was how we're focusing on the platform but not on our audiences and I fear here we are still talking about "us" as in the "I" word "I blog" and not about them; ultimately our users and what they need to have.
I think the meta-question is: What will news be in the future and what will it look like?
John Palfrey: Jan, thank you. And in fact, this is something I hope we will return to lots of scores. But one question posed last night in the conversation with Elspeth Revere was "Is this about the people who are writing it or is this about the people who are receiving it?" If so, you know, how does that way of thinking about it Elspeth put it much better than I just did but how does that affect what each of us are doing, but the point is what the as you suggest, what's the design sort of framework or set of issues associated with it? Rebecca, then Dan and then we've got quite a bit of line going up here.
Rebecca: Well, just to key off of Jan, I really wanted to bring the conversation to a similar direction, which is, you know, again the common point here is our democracy and it is not necessarily about blogging or journalism or whatever forms it currently exists. Blogging, at the moment, is probably still a very primitive thing compared to what the potential of interactive online participatory media might be, you know, the in terms of the tools we are using right now and what kind of systems do we need to build to to really create not only the kind of conversation that we need to have an informed citizenry that are debating the issues and information in the best way possible, but what's missing from either the current way that blogging is just technically done as well as the way that journalism is technically done today.
What else should we be trying to build that's not there right now? And as Jan says, there is this real issue the more participatory our media gets and the more audience or the people who used to be the audience drive what you are reporting. Are you increasingly going to not be reporting a lot of things that they have not expressed interest in but you should know.
Ethan and I follow a lot of international issues and my frustration as a foreign correspondent was always that there are a lot of things that Americans need to know about what is going on in the rest of the world and what what America is doing in the rest of the world or with the rest of the world or whatever that has an impact on Americans but my editors always figured that our audience wasn't interested so, you know, wasn't interested in having me report those things.
And so as we become more participatory, how do we deal with this responsibility that sometimes, you've got to tell people stuff they don't want to hear, but you need to find a way to get this heard and if we are in this participatory feedback, do you create more and more of these communities that are only hearing what they want to hear and aren't getting anything that they need to know but don't know they need to know or, you know, how you balance that tension.
I guess the other thing was I would really like to hear this kind of practically from everybody who is we are already starting to hear that anyway, but just as people are experimenting with different formats that perhaps are not quite blogs and not quite traditional journalism, what seems to be working the best and why? [crosstalk]
John Palfrey: With a view toward credibility, Rebecca?
Rebecca: Well, with a view toward credibility and a view toward just, yeah, building a more believable, trustable system of news but also that's serving the public better, you know, what's working, what's not, what are the problems you face that you haven't been able to solve and why. It would be really great to hear some specific thoughts on that.
John Palfrey: Great. Thank you. So we are going to go Dan, John, Brendan, then I've got a lineup after that. [inaudible] pulling up Dan Gillmor's site for a second.
So those who don't know Dan Gillmor, you ought to. One of the most respected tech journalists for the San Jose Mercury News now doing a citizen's journalism grassroots project; truly heroic in this move, I think.
Dan also had one of the more thoughtful pre-conference contributions. He wrote a piece called "The End of Objectivity." I hope he'll get into it at some point. He replaced "objectivity" with "TACT," which is thoroughness, accuracy, fairness, and transparency if I recall that's the four possible new ways forward.
So if you are looking for possible new models for thinking about credibility not to box you into that type of a comment but just I commend that post to people who haven't seen it. Dan.
Dan Gillmor: Thanks. I two quick points, actually. I wanted to say something about Chris's bit with religion.
I am thinking of it in a more sort of every day sense. I think the New York Times is the the trade journal of the rich and powerful and the blogosphere and what's coming along is the trade journal of us of our daily lives.
That's important stuff. We are we need to understand how to live our lives in a democratic society and where information is crucial that we make good decisions based on good information and our neighbors can tell us a lot that the Times or our local newspaper can't. That's what my media focus is on.
And I mean "neighbors" not just in a geographic sense, but in a community of interests as well; we have a new way to gather information that no longer goes through funnels or at least not the same funnels as before but where people who were not in the rolodex are now part of the source process.
To Rebecca's point, one of the things we desperately need - and I hope the tech community is going to solve this quickly is a way to track the conversations better.
We have these incredible conversations going on but to make them to thread them in any sense is very difficult. You I really would love a tool that lets me do that and that lets me in addition create my own feeds based on reputation systems where I can say on this subject I want I would like to see everything from these three people and any three people each of them names as someone to trust on that topic.
These are the beginnings of it, but these are the kinds of tools that I think will help a lot.
John Palfrey: Thank you Dan. Just for a pause Ethan or Rebecca, are you seeing anything IRC chat that we want to bring out.
Ethan: Actually, that's what my sign is up for.
John Palfrey: Ah. Okay. You are way down, so let's bring you up to here for a second. Apologies to John and Brendan there it's coming your way.
Ethan: So, this is not me speaking. Pretend that I am Hossein Derakhshan
John Palfrey: Alright. Hoder. [crosstalk] There he is.
Ethan: The blogger from Iran who blogs primarily out of Toronto, usually under the username of Hoder. Maybe you want to pull up his site.
Hoder wanted [inaudible] with a little bit of an international perspective on this; particularly on the subject of credibility and his comment is:
"Internet and blogs are credible in closed societies like Iran. Internet is the most trusted medium in Iran, even much more than "reformist newspapers" in the state TV now."
He points to a recent poll that he has run at his own website looking for what people see as the most credible medium.
So just an interesting perspective to sort of introduce him to all of us as we look at this issue of credibility, we are doing this in a very US-centric room and from a particular perspective as we start thinking about some other societies; particularly closed societies the role of web logs as far as specifically their credibility may have a very different set of meanings.
John Palfrey: Thank you. Thank you to Hoder from afar. For those who don't know that story, also well worth looking into a guy who was a journalist in Iran there's much more to say about this but he started blogging with a varsity tool and is sort of the pied piper of about 100,000 people blogging in Iran in using these varsity language tools.
He has really spawned in some ways, I think, a movement toward local language, blogging, and other writing tools for the web in a truly extraordinary fashion and in an environment where web access and publishing is heavily censored by the government.
Okay, so John is next.
John Hinderaker: Yeah, John Hinderaker, Powerline. I want to put in a good word for objectivity. As Jay says in his paper and this morning, objectivity is faltering as an ideal in the mainstream media. Many others have made similar comments.
It seems to me that objectivity, which I would define in terms of neutrality and fairness, in terms of just trying to get facts right as opposed to trying to promote an agenda, should remain an important goal for those who are doing primary news reporting.
That's not what we mostly do on Powerline. Occasionally, we do, but mostly what we do is commentary, which seems to me to be entirely different.
But when we do our commentary, we rely on primary news sources for accurate reporting of the news. That's the raw material that we and other bloggers and other not just bloggers but journalists who do commentary have to rely on.
Now we all know that objectivity is never perfect and editorial judgment enters into every sentence that a reporter writes. But that is not new information. I think the old timers of journalism were well aware of the fact that objectivity is never perfect. That does not mean in my view that it isn't a worthy goal and I would hate to see the mainstream news organizations, whether we are talking about their print version or their internet version, and I think that very soon, we will see the internet version of most print publications viewed as the principle and the definitive version.
But I would hate to see those who are doing primary news reporting abandon the ideal of objectivity which again, I would I would define in terms of neutrality and fairness.
John Palfrey: Thank you so much, John, and just a quick follow-on question here from Jeff.
Jeff Jarvis: John, hi. It's Jeff Jarvis
John Palfrey: [crosstalk] in the short zone because we have got a whole lot of people.
Jeff Jarvis: Who do you think today is doing a good job of that number one. Number two; what would the New York Times have to do to make you believe that they are doing a good job of that?
John Hinderaker: Well, the answer to the first question is hard. I mean, there are many, many reporters and many of them do an excellent job and I hate to start trying to name names.
I'll tell you what I think is wrong with institutions like the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS News and many others is that they lack diversity.
I think that almost all the people who are doing reporting and editing for those organizations are liberals almost all of them are democrats and I think that the world view of the world that they inhabit seeps into their coverage and prevents it from being objective and I think that the best thing they could do to demonstrate a real commitment to objectivity would be to show a real commitment to diversity.
Daniel Okrent, of course, is the public editor of the New York Times and he wrote a column a few months ago in which he asked the question "Is the New York Times a liberal newspaper?"
Of course it is. Obviously we are. And it's true and there may not be anything wrong with that, but if the New York Times wants to regain a reputation for objectivity, the first step, it seems to me, would be to seek some diversity.
John Palfrey: We do have a couple of other people waiting. We've got two quick further thoughts Dave and then Alex on this.
Dave Winer: Dave Winer. Excuse me. I just want to be really quick just point out that when you give when you insist on objectivity, you are giving up on something.
I mean, there is a reason why we are asking people to look away from objectivity is because that leads you to not disclosing who you are, what your biases are and what your point of view is.
So, in other words, the New York Times, which you just acknowledged is liberal, would do us all a great service if each reporter for example, if they would assemble a dossier of every story that a reporter wrote so that we could go see how well they called it in the past. Now that would interfere with their claim of objectivity.
But the fact is is that as readers, we are almost capable of producing a dossier for ourselves. Why don't they provide it for us? Why don't they tell us what school the person went to, you know, other [inaudible] facts. Conflicts of interest. They have got to be disclosed somewhere. Everybody has them.
So, in other words, when you okay. I wanted to make it quick, so that's quick.
John Palfrey: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Alex.
Alex Jones: Alex Jones. I think Dave Winer's those of you who followed the conversation over the course of the week know that Dave has a very strong position on this and I think that he is he is really on to something important. I don't agree with him entirely, but I think that he has made a very good point.
I completely agree with John about the importance of objectivity for what I call traditional journalism and by that, I mean that you, like a juror, suspend your own set of vices when you come to do a professional piece of work in judging something.
You simply not perfectly, perhaps but you are measured against your ability to do that and you are accountable for it. I think accountability and transparency may be the greatest contribution that the blogosphere can bring to traditional journalism.
One of the arguments that was taking place during the course of the week was accountability framed as as David was talking about who you are, you know, how you do what you do, why you did what you did.
I don't agree with him that who you are is important. I don't think the issue of who is the important point when it comes to mainstream traditional journalism gaining credibility, but I do think that he has got a very strong point.
When journalists who do mainstream journalism should be accountable for how they did what they did and more importantly why they made the choices that they did and I think that it would be complete I think the future, especially of mainstream journalism that has a blog dimension is going to be a kind of accountability that will especially in, you know, but I think that this can be completely out of hand. You could be spend nothing but explaining yourself.
But I think essentially, it will be legitimate to call journalists on the carpet to say or to explain why did you make the choices that you did in terms of construction of the story. Why did you include that and not that? Why did you lead with this and not that?
Allow the journalists to then explain who they are and why they did what they did.
The issue of who the journalist is I don't think is the important point. I think a republican can write about a democrat. I think a black person can write about a white person. I think a lesbian can write about a straight woman. Whatever. I don't think that's the point. In fact, I think the "who" issue gets in the way because almost entirely it will be used to discredit people.
I think the important thing is for journalists to be able to credibly explain why they made the choices they did when they do what they do and I think that the power of this journalistic model of objectivity framed that way is something that will not be the only way but it will be the core way the thing that John referred to as the sort of the core fact, the core of accountable fact, that bloggers and other people who especially specialize in commentary use to then carry on that conversation in a different kind of way.
But the reporting issue is a separate one. It may be done on the web, it may be done by newspaper reporters and whatnot. That's not the point. It seems to me that the issue is a kind of journalism that focuses on factuality and objectivity that is accountable versus a kind of commentary that is in a different kind of sphere. That's the way I would look at it, though.
John Palfrey: I want to make sure that we keep this thread going because there is a whole lot of conversation between Dave and Alex and John and Dave and others that we should be sure to carry through, but I know there are a lot of other people who want to do some other things about a half-hour in the session, so we are going to keep going but let's just be sure to kind of mark this this trajectory into the extent that Brendan and others as we go ahead can, you know, keep in that zone. That's awesome.
Man: I was actually going to step out. I will come back in later because I had a different thread to start, so [crosstalk]
John Palfrey: Okay. Sounds good. Other people with signs up, are people in this general zone or do you want to take it slightly different? Okay, great. So let's go Faye, Bob and Judith down on the end. Oh, and Jeff. Sorry.
Faye Anderson: Hi. Faye Anderson, Anderson at Large. I want to talk about credibility and transparency and John's point about diversity.
Bloggers have an advantage over ink journalists in terms of credibility and transparency because with the tools, we can have links to the primary news sources. We have our bio on the sites so folks know a lot about us, a lot about our biases.
I should make note that like Ed, I am not a thinker. I am a writer and an activist and for many years, I was actually a republican activist and so I chuckled when John talked about the lack of diversity and because when I lived in DC for republicans, the Washington Times believe it or not, was the very the paper of choice.
There is certainly, you know, diversity in opinion with the Washington Times or the Wall Street Journal, for that matter.
But what is what is fueling the growth of blogs is really the lack of credibility from from I am now independent, so I am sort of in the middle. On the left, the concern about media concentration of corporate media particularly in the run up to the war in Iraq not challenging the administration.
On the right, again, I was a republican for many years that the mainstream media was or as they say, the lamestream media, the perceived bias which has given rise to so many blogs, some of which I read; a lot I don't.
But it really comes down with these political the political divisions that John had mentioned going in coming setting up framing this conversation has the underscore the importance of credibility and I think with this medium that we citizen journalists have an advantage over ink journalists because we are fairly transparent.
John Palfrey: Okay. Thank you. Back to Bob [inaudible]
Bob: Well, clearly the definitions of objectivity are central issues to be discussed here.
I would like to refer to the way objectivity was framed by Tom Rosensteil and Bill Kovach, which is that it is a process of verifying information and hope that in the consideration of how mainstream journalists and bloggers seek objectivity is to explain the process by which they arrived at their information and their conclusions, much as Alex has suggested.
John Palfrey: Thank you, Bob. Down to Judith who will be also the luncheon speaker, so much more to come from this corner.
Judith Donath: [inaudible] this is different than what I am going to talk about at lunch.
I think the question of objectivity is an interesting one; especially related to the earlier comments about why bloggers are considered more reliable in Iran than the mainstream journalism.
I think when any time you talk about accountability, you are talking about who the authorities are who are holding people accountable, whether it's the New York Times or the mainstream media in Iran.
I think it is difficult to say that given how different those perspectives are that there is an achievable objectivity. I think objectivity is a goal but it is almost impossible there is always some kind of point of view.
You know, earlier, when we were dealing with the run-up to the war in Iraq, you could say that a satellite photograph is fairly objective. It's just sitting up there and it photographs things, but we could see how different the interpretations by numerous experts were, which may be somewhat based on their underlying biases to understand what it is that they have seen in this seemingly objective piece.
I think from a technological standpoint, one of the interesting things we can do whether it is in the blogging world or other types of journalism I think one of the ways of approaching objectivity is to see what the range of opinions are on a particular topic so if we could start having good interfaces for aggregating opinions from many, many, many diverse segments, whether it is mainstream journalism or bloggers, at the times when you see a vast divergence, that's when you know that very little of this is going to be objective. It is going to be highly colored by other things.
If, on the other hand, you know, something like many, many newspapers with many different perspectives all say it is very cold in Boston. There probably is some objective truth to that.
So I think the notion of objectivity will come the way we can start approaching it is by having ways of better being able to see what the range of opinions are and seeing in which cases they are diverging and when they are converging.
John Palfrey: Thank you. Ethan's got one from IRC, but I am going to go to Jeff first and then back to the IRC.
Jeff Jarvis: I am having a flashback to the '70s and my least favorite course in journalism school, which was a seminar talking about objectivity.
We are never going to get anywhere with this one, I think, folks. The truth is you want to tell the truth. You want to be honest and you want to inform people and we know that.
I want to respond in a syncopated way back to John one more time. I think that part of this is also we have to recognize the change in media as a whole.
When you had a one-newspaper town and a one-size-fits-all, that outlet was all-important. When you have three networks, those outlets were all important and they are still damned important, but as we see the shift, the diversity and I am going to make a crack about a republican pushing for diversity but the diversity issue that we see is really to me a question now not of a particular product but of the medium.
In the medium, in the whole, anyone in any town now has access to all the world's media. And in that, we find diversity. In that, we find the ability for every single citizen reading that to come to their own objective view of what's true and what's not.
That's where this medium is really going and that's the huge change we have here is that that is the empowerment, as Jay said, of the people is that the yolk of deciding what is objective passes, thank goodness, from journalism schools and journalism professors, to the people and the tools to decide this are in their hands.
John Palfrey: Ethan, from the IRC. Let me get the IRC in really fast because they have been waiting and but I will let you follow up.
Ethan: Once again, I am Hussain Direction, so pretend that I am Iranian and significantly smarter than I normally am.
Hoder wants to [crosstalk] and says "Without free media, public discourse does not happen and that has been the case in Iran; especially for serious topics such as nuclear programs. People have no idea about it due to lack of public debate. Blogs and internet are creating the public space required for this sort of public debate."
He offers two examples one is a New York Times story from a couple of days ago: An Iranian cleric turns blogger for reform. He also points to a site which is, I believe, sixmillion.com spelled out as the numeral; a whole new debate about the future of Iran started from a website calling for a referendum by a credible student group.
Just to contextualize this slightly, Hussain was able to join us for a conference we held in December and he offered a notion that web logs instead of new online spaces in one fashion or another can do a number of things that traditional journalism can't, which is to say that not only can sort they give us sort of objective views of the truth, but they enable a set of conversations that can't take place otherwise to take place.
Hoder spoke specifically about web logs as cafes, web logs as windows, and web logs as bridges. So I think one of the interesting things to think about with this is that in a setting where the ability to speak freely and the ability to debate is not especially under question.
These mediums can have a very, very different meaning than in a space where that ability is sort of first and foremost what you are looking for.
So, again, a view from outside.
John Palfrey: Great. I am pretty confident that Judith's talk at lunch will bear on a lot of those issues. Ed, by the way of response to Jeffrey.
John Palfrey: Very quickly, though, because
Ed: Jeff had just brought up the shift in power where citizens have the ability now to become a media channel that compliments or doesn't compliment the dominant media and we see this already in Greensboro where we have people coming John Robinson's blog and saying "Yeah, you are opening up this town square but it is just going to be the same liberal pabulum you have been feeding us."
And then bloggers immediately or readers immediately come and leave the comment "Then start your own blog." And that's I feel we are falling into the trap in this room a little bit of the habit of talking about an audience again and the key is the audience has a keyboard.
John Palfrey: Ed, thank you. Okay, we've got a lot of people who have not yet spoken, so I want to get some more voices in but some short replies as well. I know David Weinberger's been waiting, then John Bonnι will go with a couple of others who have had their flags up for a while.
Dave Weinberger: I don't want to give up on the objectivity the I have a huge problem with objectivity. I don't want to give up on the on it as a topic, though, because objectivity is it is a process. It is also a method and it is also a form of rhetoric.
One of the things that I think we are seeing in the rise of blogs is that and by the way, it is also in the case of newspapers a way of telling us, making choices for us about what we should find interesting.
I think one of things that is happening in the blogosphere is there's a surge in interest in other forms of rhetoric and in taking back what we find interesting.
And also, really quickly in terms to go all the way back to the tension question maybe it is useful to if your intention with things are contending they are contending along, you know, a certain axis and maybe it is useful to think about what those axis might be and I would just like to suggest that there may be may be an economic tension between blogging and journalism. There may be a tension over who is best at telling the truth and maybe both are, of course, and there may also be some tension over reputation.
John Palfrey: David, thank you. John Bonnι.
John Bonnι: John Bonnι, MSNBC.com. A lot of different things that I am going to hold off on because I would I do want to stay on the objectivity thread and I am sort of with David and Jeff on the notion I hate this argument and I hate this battle over what objectivity is and whether it could be accomplished.
But I actually want to go back to some comments that Alex Jones made about journalists functioning as jurors might that you put aside biases and you function on a process, on a delineated process.
He followed that by saying that, you know, then after the fact a journalist should be held accountable for how we did our job, why we put into the stories what we did.
Don't get me wrong. I think that's a good thing. I think that, you know, that taking people inside the process and explaining why you made the decisions you did, why editorially you chose what you did, I think that is a good thing but I also want to put a bid in here for the notion of the news organization as protector and I don't think of this in political terms, though you could apply it. I think of this in corporate terms because there are big corporations out in the world with a lot more money than news organizations, with a lot more lawyers than news organizations, who would frankly love to take this process to essentially rip apart a story that castigates them until there is nothing left and I so whenever we come back to this, I always wonder who is supposed to be there to in this kind of, you know, one one, you know, lone individual stands stands forward world to actually protect what you do and allow you to keep doing that without continually just being assailed by people who frankly have more power and more money.
John Palfrey: Extremely interesting. [inaudible], are you in this same zone?
Man: Yes, but I think
John Palfrey: Press, press, press please. Your button. Down at the bottom. It will come red, then you'll know.
Man: But I also slightly different
John Palfrey: Tell us who you are, please.
Xiao Qiang: [inaudible]. I am from the Berkley School of Journalism. I am teaching a blogging class there particularly on doing a blog on China.
I do also have a lot of doubt when you phrase things about bloggers versus journalists. Just think of how many millions and millions or tens of millions of bloggers out there and how many hundred thousands maybe or how many maybe a million journalists but their tasks or their activities are not always overlapped.
Sometimes, they do. They [inaudible] in the same space; sometimes they don't. My mother-in-law writes a blog writing about her grandson every day. Nothing to do with other [inaudible] does.
[inaudible] the readers are the family members. However, sometimes she will link some infor some interesting news linking comments actually so interesting too.
And now [inaudible] for my real question is other than bloggers versus journalists, should we think about blogosphere? When I say "blogosphere," I mean the millions and millions of bloggers the collective effect on a setting agenda; how information is diffused on a blogosphere.
Like my mother-in-law who suddenly links a political news the other blogger who has nothing to do with political journalism will link a political news and the collective effect of that where setting an agenda on the blogosphere and giving this emergence of new media which is different than a traditional journalist and how we look into the credibility process of that is my question.
John Palfrey: Thank you. I am going to go Jim, are you in this rough zone? You have been waiting a long time.
Jim Kennedy: I think that, you know, I am grateful to Jan for moving the conversation to this topic because
John Palfrey: And tell us who you are.
Jim Kennedy: I am Jim Kennedy from the Associated Press and I am the director of strategy for the organization.
It really isn't about us or them. No, it's not about us, it's not about them. It's about the people about the people's right to know and as our space gets crowded, think about how crowded the public space is with all this new information.
I heard Jay Rosen say once that the linear path from fact to analysis to opinion had now been totally disrupted and some people are coming into news and information from the opinions from the opinion end instead of the news the factual end and I think that's extremely insightful because now we are going to have this space full of not only of facts and AP stories, but a lot of opinions.
How do we how does the user, the person who needs to know, the public that needs to know sort out all of that? You know, what are the mechanics of that? Is it technological as Dan suggests, or is it something that we have to do a trust network that we have to establish somehow.
John Palfrey: Great. So refocusing us on the audience and its relationship to some extent and what it needs ultimately to promote democracy or whatever it is that we're after as our normative goal. Bil Buzenberg, you have been waiting for a bit.
Bill Buzenberg: [inaudible]. It's Bill Buzenberg. I am at Minnesota Public Radio. I wanted to get back to Rebecca's point and I think it ties with what we just heard: What are some practical things you are doing?
I want to just describe really quickly something we call public inside journalism because it is somewhere between the blogosphere and traditional journalism. We have created big databases within the newsroom of our audience, who are willing to give us information and we query this audience on all kinds of things and they give us great information that goes to some news analysts who then filter it to the reporters and from that, we are creating a different kind of journalism. I really see the difference in what we are doing.
We had a big story we wanted to do on the education gap. Minorities are not achieving the same as white students in Minnesota. We created an idea generator on our website. Of course we used the Barker Channel on the radio to point people toward it plus the web plus we queried our network. We can send out many tens of thousands of e-mails but we have a really core database of about eight thousand and we can say "Do you know or do you know someone who knows about this who has information to give us?"
And we get back that information, we go through it; that becomes part of the story. It also becomes part of the town hall meeting we formed with 200 people who had the best ideas, came and talked and the whole school boards were there.
So it's that's sort of a civic journalism part of it, but we put that that evening session on the radio, too. So basically, we are using the audience, which knows far more about everything than we do and that is what the journalists in the newsroom who are have been very skeptical about this are saying "This is a revolution in sourcing. We now have a source as wide as the state and as wide as we can go and honestly, we tap into the blogosphere. We find out what is going on."
But people who write blogs are writing, writing, writing. That is what they want to do. There are lots of people out there who are not writing, but they have access, they have information, they are smart and that is what we are trying to tap into as well as the blogosphere.
John Palfrey: In the series of commendations, Bill Buzenberg came to the Berkman Center, sat in our conference room and blew me away in terms of the kinds of feedback interesting ways of combining online and radio so what they are doing there much, much interesting stuff underway.
I'm a quick time check. There are ten minutes until noon. I am going to take sort of a moderator's prerogative to extend us to 12:10. We have lunch at 12:30, so there is sort of a break time. We started a little late.
Unless anybody seriously objects, if you have to go to the bathroom or whatever, feel free, but I am going to go until 12:10 and I want to reserve the last few minutes for wrap-up, but I do want to try to get everybody who hasn't yet talked into the conversation.
Meanwhile, Dan Gillmor has a short one-on point to Jim Kennedy's.
Dan Gillmor: Actually, I have points to both and to Jeff Jarvis. The we need to start expecting a little bit more of what we have been calling the audience. They are going to have to do a little bit more work than they used to. They're to [inaudible] this stuff to we put if they want to be to the extent that people want to be better informed, they are going to have to do a little work and it is no longer going to show up on their doorstep in a nice, easy, and convenient way and in a way that so many folks are skeptical of at this point, so one of the things we have to think about in the tool set category is how do we make that less time-consuming to figure it out and I am all ears on that one.
John Palfrey: The one possible outcome of this conversation in my view is actually almost a research agenda or what are the hard questions that remain to achieve whatever promise we see in this space and I think what are the tools that need to be built clearly has to be on that, but also what are the expectations we have of the various players and what does accountability mean for the reader to the extent that exists as well as the writer?
David Sifry has joined us. Welcome from Technorati.
David Sifry: Hi. Yeah, I just wanted to David Sifry from Technorati so let me just comment on something that Jim said and, you know, David and Dan, to I mean, and maybe just moving slightly away from objectivity I care a lot about objectivity, but I think to me, the relevant thing or the thing that is most important to me about when I read the media is about trust.
Do I trust the person that I am listening to or reading or watching on TV or whathaveyou and knowing that there are fact-checkers, knowing that there is an editorial board, knowing that there is, you know, an attempt to be objective, helps me to trust an organization or, you know, a newspaper or whathaveyou more.
But at the same time, I can also see what the bloggers are saying and if they are being fully disclosed, if they you know, if they and I watch what they do over time, right, and I watch also what are people's what are other people saying about them and that gives me a huge amount of information about whether or not I can also trust those people.
And that's where I think, you know, it really meshes when we talk about common ground. The New York Times isn't going to go away just because anybody in the world can get a printing press, you know, anybody in the world can get three clicks and have their own blog.
They've got a humongous influence because of the implied trust in the whole process of what they do even when there are screw-ups and that is why I still trust it and, you know, and I look at that the same way with the bloggers. There are some bloggers who are out there where I go "Whoo," you know, "This guy's a nut," you know, and take what they have to say. It doesn't mean, by the way, that they are wrong, right? It just means that okay, you know, I am going to take this one with more of a grain of salt than I normally would.
John Palfrey: So in addition to credibility, we've got accountability and trustworthiness on the table as key concepts. Robert Cox has not gotten in.
Robert Cox: Thanks. I'm Robert Cox from the National Debate and I also run part of the Media Blogger's Association.
In this topic of objectivity, as somebody who is not a journalist or part of academia or any institution, I can tell you as just a guy with a blog, my thoughts about objectivity when I am reading the newspaper is is that the people who are writing have to preserve access to the people that they are doing stories about and so my view of objectivity isn't so much left or right bias. It's about they know where their bread is buttered and they cannot afford to write certain things or say certain things and I will say is a blogger had the experience of being subjected to various legal threats by the New York Times and in the course of that process, got to actually talk to some people at the Times off the record and learned a great deal about what was going on something that I would have loved to have blogged about but I didn't because I wanted to continue to know what was going on and so I didn't.
So I understand the dynamic because I experienced it myself, but to me that is sorry give it back to Jay my take on the objectivity issue.
John Palfrey: Fantastic. Thank you. David Weinberger, probably the most disclosed guy I know, has had his thing up. You want in?
David Weinberger: [inaudible]
John Palfrey: You've been called on, David.
David Weinberger: I [inaudible]. I forgot to take it down.
John Palfrey: I see. Alright, well, I will send you to his blog disclosure anyway. In case he does say something, you now know all of his biases all in one Jan has had her sign up for a while. Oh, well, you did too, but let's go to Jane since Jane has yet to speak.
Jane Singer: Oh, I'm sorry.
John Palfrey: And tell us who you are.
Jane Singer: Sorry, I am Jane Singer. I am at the University of Iowa, so getting an academic perspective here.
Actually, I wanted to follow up on Dan's point because I thought that was that was a really good point that the audience is going to have to do more work.
I think that's true and I guess a question I kind of tossed out is what is to prevent or how do we encourage members of the audience to seek out views that they do not agree with because I think one of the issues with the blogosphere is that where you go is you go to look for the people with whom you agree and you can converse and you and you feel real comfortable there.
I think journalism, at its best, urges people or pushes people maybe to see things that they that they don't agree with that that motivates them in different directions. How do we how do we create an environment where I am not just going to channel myself into very narrow perspectives which happen to agree with my own perspective?
John Palfrey: Jane, thank you. Andrew and then Rebecca MacKinnon.
Andrew Nachison: Thanks for not asking if my comment is on topic because I am not really sure what the topic is or where we are going.
I have mostly questions, you know, going off of Jay's paper and his comments, you you opened up the dialogue, well, how does this relate to credibility and I'm not sure what the quest is is the quest to figure out how mainstream media can become more credible because I hear I hear a lot of that kind of kind of bubbling in the conversation or is it to figure out how mainstream media can interface with bloggers in some more credible, meaningful way?
It it it seems to me that it going back to Jay's Jay's paper and where Jay started us off if you if you accept this notion that there has been really a cataclysmic transformation, there has been a changed power relationship, then this this "bloggers versus media" conversation itself needs to evolve to something else in which media comes to look upon bloggers not as the other but as us and I don't see the quest having anything to do with credibility. I don't think the conversation is about objectivity. I think it is about respect and I think it is about focusing on why you do what you do, whether you are a journalist or a blogger, so I would throw that out there.
John Palfrey: Andrew, thank you. So just to one moment of re-framing for a second we sort of started out with Jay's paper and some responses to it.
Overall, the question is clearly "How can we create an environment that is one in which credibility on the web is fostered," right? So to some extent, it's not about this divide but it's about a relationship, clearly, that's that's out there and I think there is sort of a at least the question is I have thought about it for this session is as Jane [inaudible] just said, what is the common pattern within or the series of threads between what journalists and bloggers do that lead us to a more credible web environment in which people are feeling overwhelmed, in which people as the writers and audiences their series of opportunities but are we actually realizing those opportunities?
Andrew Nachison: Well, then I guess I I question the premise.
John Palfrey: There's always somebody who questions the premise. I understand.
Andrew: I don't I don't think the point of journalism is to create credibility. I think the point of journalism is to create a better world and I think one can do that credibly or not and credibility is a is a result. It is not an end.
John Palfrey: Fair enough. Rebecca MacKinnon.
Rebecca MacKinnon: What I wanted to say really very much keys off of that. There there are times when you're if if I agree with you that if you are pursuing short-term credibility, particularly, that might actually take you farther from the truth or make you afraid of reporting the truth or talking about the truth.
Just speaking from my own personal experience, after 9/11, I spent a lot of time in Pakistan and there were a lot of stories about anti-Americanism and the impact of Afghan casualties coming into Pakistan on the population there things that our editors were frankly really wary of reporting too much because they felt that this was offensive to the viewers back in the United States who were still upset about 9/11 and didn't want to see too much about Afghan casualties because they were still so very upset about American deaths.
So therefore, this resulted in a memo by by the person who was running CNN/USA at the time, saying "You know, you shouldn't over-emphasize Afghan casualties and so on."
Now, the point of this, though, was of course this had to do with the ratings war between Fox and CNN and the fact that amongst a lot of viewers as Fox was gaining ratings versus CNN, there were for those viewers, those viewers saw Fox as being more credible than CNN.
Now and part of that may have to do with the fact that Fox tended to report things that were what those viewers wanted to know and was less likely to report things that were going to make those viewers feel uncomfortable.
So when you are trying to pursue this new relationship with your audience establishment of credibility there are some serious issues of are you also serving truth if you are pushing credibility especially short-term credibility too exclusively?
I think that's a really important question and I think with bloggers as well, I think you develop your audience, you know, the big A-lister bloggers increasingly they have these communities because we don't call them 'audiences' anymore who increasingly tend to want to hear certain things and again, are you developing different communities who are very credible amongst each other, but are not interested in hearing facts that do not reinforce their own desired reality. And that is a problem.
John Palfrey: [inaudible] is helpful. I am sure there is a lot in what Andrew said that a lot of people want to unpack, but the notion of going past credibility for credibility's sake towards some other sort of normative goal that we have I think is important.
We've got time for a couple very short comments, then try to bring it in for a landing, then go Susan, John and Chris Lydon, each of whom in the latter category have already talked so super-short, but [inaudible] and tell us who you are, Susan.
Susan Tifft: Susan Tifft and I come from a traditional journalism background. I worked at Time Magazine and I am now at Duke University at the Institute of Public Policy there.
I want to pick up on some things that Dan said and that Jane said about the audience. I don't know what the median age is here, but I would suspect it's probably somewhere in the 40's and I spent a lot of my time as many of the educators do here with 18-22 year olds and one of the things that has been interesting to me to find out about the news audience of 18-22 year olds is, first of all, at least the ones I encounter don't know a whole lot about blogs.
They know very little about basic concepts like the things we have been talking about today: news, what is the definition of news, who is a journalist, you know, they think John Stewart is a journalist and I suppose you could make an argument for that.
But I think, you know, when we talk about how the journ how the audience needs to we need to the audience needs to when you expect to expect more from the audience to understand what they are what they are getting. I think because this younger generation is growing up in a time with a great deal of confusion about what is credible, what is fair, what is news that I don't know what the answer is but there has to be some kind of education about this.
Last semester, during the election, for the very first time, I must admit, I asked each of my students to adopt a blog and to follow it throughout the election and as one of my students said, this was like adopting a pet rock. [laughter]
But the thing that I bet was interesting to them, I think, was that by actually following a blog and also following mainstream news sources, they began to actually hone their ideas of what was credible, what was objective, and we can debate about that as we have what was fair, what was balanced.
At the end of it, I think they really came to have a very nuance understanding, but they are at a special environment. What are we going to do about the audience out there that is just doing what several people have said Rebecca just said just tuning in to what they agree with.
You know, there is such a thing as too much choice and I think a lot of these people in the audience that we are talking about here are not that discerning because they haven't had any kind of education about that or training.
Sorry, I know I ran over my length, but
John Palfrey: [crosstalk] thank you. No, excellent and the [inaudible] thesis about the daily muse one that we struggle with all the time is sort of an important push-back to all these ideas of diversity. Two seconds from Jeff Jarvis.
Jeff Jarvis: I think that is a red herring. We link to that with which we disagree to show we disagree with it and I think this is and diversity of voice is great and I think it's absolutely wrong and it's a misinterpretation of the medium that in fact, more voices are good and this links us to more voices.
John Palfrey: And [inaudible], in fact, has done an empirical site suggesting that in fact Jeff's view of this is the correct one, but I am going to go John no? [crosstalk] Can't really do it in ten okay.
Lee Rainie: Yeah, it wasn't necessarily right or wrong. The most fervent information seekers, the ones with broadband at home, the ones who link most directly to blogs, are aware of many more political arguments than those who do not. They obviously people tweak the information that they like and that they agree with but their capacity to filter out information with which they disagree was not in evidence. The most information-abundant people were aware of more arguments that disagreed with their point of view.
John Palfrey: Extremely heartening, heartening news.
Man: What percent of the population [inaudible]?
Rainie: What percent are really active? I would say 15 to 20 percent or not active bloggers, but heavy information seekers somewhere between 15 and 25 percent.
John Palfrey: Hmm. Which is a lot.
Rainie: So people who are most self-selecting are the least information-engaged.
John Palfrey: Thank you, thank you. Much better stated than I did in my short form. [crosstalk] of internet for 15 to 20 percent of
Man: Of the population you could call of the general population, not just internet users.
John Palfrey: In the United States.
Man: Of adult Americans, I would say between 15 and 25 percent are deeply information-hungry. They read newspapers a lot, they watch TV newscasts, they are online on the internet getting news. A small portion are bloggers and blog and a growing portion are blog readers, but the most engaged information seekers are aware of the widest level of argument. They are not self-selecting and they are only going to places that reinforce their views.
John Palfrey: We will send a link to the BJC list with that study so you can read more, but it is a totally wonderful piece of work.
Okay. In super-short form, John, then Chris Lydon, then we are coming in for a landing.
Man: Actually, we are short I was going to go out of credibility and make you wait for later
John Palfrey: Alright. Another session. Chris Lydon.
Chris Lydon: I would just say in listening to this it's easy there is a real contest here but it's not between bloggers and journalists. It's between the blogosphere and the world that institutional journalism has created and I just want to remind ourselves that the crisis and it is a real crisis is that we are not well-informed. Seventy percent of the people thought Suddam knocked down the Twin Towers. He didn't.
And the New York Times never told the folks "Wait a sec, there's this urban myth that is really leading the country astray," and we never got the truth out about our situation and it's not just that. It's a very complex the goal of journalism and of all the rules that serve it is popular wisdom and maybe even saving the species and the planet. It's in deep trouble. We've got to find a medium that does it better than the old ones.
I that's why I also love the media the internet because it is a model of everybody talking responsibility and everybody doing more work, as Jay says, everybody knowing more, everybody being expressive, everybody feeling the consequences and doing something about it.
John Palfrey: I love it. Energetic. Okay, we are going down the road here. Dave Winer, short. Short, short [inaudible] short.
Jay Rosen: I just want to say bravo, Chris, right on. And I think we need to do more of that. These are like bug lists. We need to like why did we delete Howard Dean's candidacy? How did that happen exactly?
Man: Good question.
Jay Rosen: And, you know, all these kinds of things these failures of information, you know, here we are a group of people who care about news. We all care about it, right? So what are we going to do to make it better? Talk about theories or actually examine what went wrong and how could we do better.
John Palfrey: Jay Rosen, what do you got on this reaction to your great paper? Thanks, Dave.
Dave Winer: Well, first of all, thanks to everyone who read it and commented. It's very gratifying. Secondly, Bill Buzenberg said something really important for us earlier. He said the journalists at his shop in Minnesota Public Radio are learning how much their audience knows and how they can begin to tap that.
That is a big change for American journalism, which in its post-war period, was and in many journalist's minds still is founded on the idea that the audience is the people who lack knowledge. They lack information. That's why they need us.
Bill's idea is the opposite of that that the audience are the people who have lots of knowledge and we have to figure out how to get it and give it back to them.
That's a really different philosophy. Here's what I want to leave you with as a take-away idea:
The objection to objectivity, from my point of view, doesn't have anything to do with the kinds of problems people raised here. Of course we want people seeking truth and not their own bias. Of course we want people to step outside their personal beliefs. Of course we want them to go where the facts lead and not cook the books. Everybody believes in those things. That's not objectivity. That's intellectual integrity. We believe in that.
But here's what's different about the world today. It used to be the case that we could believe the quality of information comes from professionalism, having a good, strong organization, having good intentions, having a good tradition.
What we are realizing now is that quality of information is deeply related to the quality of your connection to the people you are trying to inform.
Without a quality connection, there isn't going to be good information passing back and forth and journalists have not put all that much into the quality of their connection to people; their inter-connection to people and to the world. They have put all of their efforts into quality information assuming that once you have that, the transaction is assured and now it's the opposite. You are going to be a great informer of people if you have a strong connection to those people and that's what bloggers have. That's why bloggers are effective. They have that kind of connection.
And credibility, I believe, will arise from the quality of that interconnection.
John Palfrey: Dave, thank you so much for kicking us off in this way. I am going to hand the last word of this over to my colleague Jonathan Zittrain and then he stands between you and lunch or at least a break before lunch. The lunch will be served at 12:30, but the reason I am turning to Jonathan in part is because he is the most synthetic thinker I know is I think that what we have done in this first session is allow a lot of strands to sort of come in and I haven't tried to channel it more in part because there are lots of different sort of common grounds we have to find.
I hope that we will coming out of this session, we will have a series of possible roadmaps for the next day and a half to two days and Jonathan has some thoughts on how that might go.
Jonathan Zittrain: Thank you, I think [laughter] both for an introduction that has me standing between everybody and lunch [laughter] and for one that seeks to summarize this session.
[phone rings] I think your phone is ringing, Bob.
Jonathan Zittrain: It's his broker. He says "Sell." [laughter]
I bet a lot of us are trying to figure out how to summarize this session right now, especially those of us who are reporting for a newspaper and have to figure out how to actually thematically tell a story the story of the session that just happened if that is the job and the bloggers who sort of maybe transcribed it and then want to end with an oomph.
For my part, I know there is a lot of excitement and buzz that started this conference off. I mean, a lot of excitement and buzz. People started showing up waiting to see I don't know. Is there going to be a grudge match in the middle of this square table and if so, who versus whom.
I have been trying through the morning to piece together what that's about. I know the media likes to cover itself kind of like there are a disproportionate number of books about authors and movies about acting and blog entries about blogging for sure.
For my part, then, I just thought I would try to get [inaudible]
John Palfrey: [inaudible] quite alright. That's loud. So do you want to put your signs up or
Jonathan Zittrain: Oh, no, no. That's okay.
John Palfrey: We will use them later?
Jonathan Zittrain: Yes. I actually have been thinking a little bit about law since I am about to start teaching [inaudible] on Monday and trying to wrap my mind around faking like I am a lawyer and law is a profession. It is an important profession because it stands at the exercise of state power. It's lawyers who argue in front of each other and then in front of judges who are lawyers as to whether we go to jail or remain free or owe each other millions of dollars over something.
It struck me that lawyers are both officers of the court that they are members of the system. They are card-carrying members of the status quo whose job it is to nip at the status quo; to challenge it depending on what adversarial role they are assigned in a trial and I wonder if that's not part of what journalism is meant to be too an identity with the system, with a system and also some license to try to challenge it.
I think the practice of law has become sick and mean. Law as a profession is in actually deep crisis right now and since lawyers don't accrue billable hours by talking about it unlike their more self-reflective counterparts in other professions, they don't really talk about it.
But by "sick and mean," at least I think I mean the influence of money has been different than the way it has been in the past in law. While law has become more of a business, I think we are evolving from an almost blog-like form of law where you have law firms of, you know, Jarvis and Winer who put their names and their credibilities at stake as they enter the world as lawyers if they were to to "I can't believe it's a law firm" as the title of the firm or, I guess, you know, KPMG: Pete Marwick, Arthur Anderson, Attorneys at Law.
And this doesn't face pressure from amateurs because law as a profession they really are the card-carrying lawyers and those who aren't and if you try to practice law and you haven't been blessed, you go to jail. Lawyers love to throw you in jail for that.
Little pressure from amateurs means there is little pressure from those who do it through law for the love of it like "ama" for love amateur you do it because you love it and therefore offer some kind of perhaps purity to your exercise because you are only doing it in the first instance because you love it.
So anyway, why am I talking about all this and in this context because I think that there is some sense that journalism may be similarly ill right now.
And I guess journalism has always been, you know, there have been people saying it's been ill since the 18th century, but no, it is really ill now both in terms of perhaps not properly setting an agenda for people and as going down the items of the agenda of things that people should draw their eyes and attention to not speaking truth. Whatever that means, that is the objectivity of the discussion and a sense that just as I claim law matters because law is what puts people in jail or not at times, a sense that this crisis if it exists in journalism matters too because people turn to the news or a news to frame their sense of the world and what is really at stake here is how we frame our stake our view of the world and therefore, how we act in the world.
Chris says we know Saddam didn't knock down the towers. Do I know that? I don't know. If I was in some Harvard 101 Epistemology class, I would be curled in the fetal position within ten minutes as the professor was like "How do you know? How do you know?" And it I would eventually say "Well, even Dick Cheney doesn't seem to think that he knocked down the towers. And if he doesn't think so, he really must not have knocked down the towers."
But if Cheney had actually clung to the view that he had knocked down the towers, it gets back to "He said, he said." And for lawyers, this problem of arriving at truth ends up in an adversarial system. You just get two views. You get the prosecution or the plaintiff and defense and then the jury has just stole the coin and come back with an answer.
The person with two watches is less sure of what time it is than the person with only one. We have a world of blogs in which there are thousands of watches and some of them are even indexed to other watches, so they are not even independent watches and you are trying to figure out what time it is.
I am reminded of the boar head story in which a kingdom tries to come up with a very accurate map of its territory thinking back to Judith's time and about maps of Iraq and objectivity and they eventually decide that the only real map is one that is of ratio one to one and around this kingdom are telephone poles topped with fragments of map that were mapping the territory immediately below since it was at a one-to-one ratio.
Occasionally now in these fragments, beggars and beasts sort of take shelter, but that is the only use to which this map is put.
If that's the kind of map we are driving towards maybe not one-to-one but bigger than just "If the New York Times says it, that's the truth," then it's true what people have been saying is the jury the people reading this are going to have to work more. They are going to have to be more discerning about the sources that are now so multiplicitous and possibly duplicitous that they are going interesting du is two multi is even worse than duplicitous that they are going to have to come to judgments about and that is also why I guess there has been talk about technology that there has got to be some way if the technology went so far as to create all this map, this huge map that we now can't understand precisely because it is so big maybe there is a way that the technology can empower the reader to decide whose map to look at, which portion to zoom in upon, that sort of thing basically mechanisms to allow audience empowerment that rank it up with the kind of broadcast empowerment that's been happening.
Alright, so to wrap up my own summary if that's what this is, why are we here? This is the question I think is still probably in the backs of our minds. By the end of the day we may have an answer and I think the next sessions will be ones in which we are slightly less polite and more real with each other, which will be good.
And my own answer, I guess, is that whatever our baseline whether you think journalism is in crisis or doing just fine, we want to make the enterprise of words and other representations about reality better to the extent that we can. It can always be better and figuring out how to do that and whether or not it can be done through a collective set of principles and action or if the answer is just "Everybody gets a watch" and whatever people want to do, they do, that, to me, is sort of the meta-question that we are talking about: Is there some shared vision of meta-principles that could come about that says "This is the way we can harness the technology that connects so many people to so many people so that we actually can use it to arrive at a better representation of reality a representation that still summarizes because otherwise, this summary would have to be as long as the session itself or just a recitation of its transcript the one-to-one map. That's the question.
And what is at stake? We are at a point of inflection where people are excited about blogs, people are excited about citizen journalism, attentions being focused on whatever journalism was before this happened, and I, at least, would like to see it not meet a pattern of CB radio where in the brief '80s, the United States went on a bizarre and just intense fascination with CB radio and smokeys and, you know, breaker one-nine and this kind of stuff and we somehow thought it was the gateway to a new thing. At least some of us did. [laughter]
John Palfrey: Do you still have it?
Jonathan Zittrain: Yeah, I still have it, actually. "Smokey and the Bandit" with Burt Reynolds. I think this is more than that, but I don't know if five years from now we are going to look back and see, see it this way and in part, the answer to that I believe is whether or not collectively we have anything to say about how to harness the opportunities now before us. Thanks.
John Palfrey: Jonathan, thank you for sending us off to lunch with such great words. Okay. So here's the roadmap. There is about a ten minute-ish break. Lunch will be served in the next room at about 12:30-ish and Judith Jonath will be our luncheon speaker.
We will give you a chance to eat a little bit, let Judith eat a little bit and we will have more discussion thereafter.
One other administrative note and also for the IRC I have been asked to announce a geek dinner on Saturday night; a Scripting News dinner at 6:30 at Bombay Club, so mark your social calendars if you are planning to be here on Saturday night for that which is not an official or formal part of this proceeding, but very much an open invitation. Alright. Have a great lunch and we will see you at 12:30. [applause] [END OF FILE]