Jay Rosen: What I Think I Know About Journalism

Jay Rosen's "What I Think I Know About Journalism" is a four-point mini-manifesto for the future of reporting and newsgathering. Rosen indicts the current notion of reporting with the "View from Nowhere" which Peter Goodman describes as "the routine of laundering my own views [by] dinging someone at some think tank to say what you want to tell the reader." Rosen also celebrates public participation in newsgathering, and decries commodity factual accounts of current events, calling instead for "narratives" that provide frame and context for the facts.

The more people involved in flying the airplane, or moving the surgeon's scalpel during a brain operation, the worse off we are. But this is not true in journalism. It benefits from participation, as with Investigate your MP's expenses, also called crowd sourcing, or this invitation from the Los Angeles Times: share public documents. A far simpler example is sources. If sources won't participate, there often is no story. Witnesses contribute when they pull out their cameras and record what is happening in front of them. The news system is stronger for it...

To feel informed, we also need background knowledge, a framework into which the relevant facts can be put. Or, as I put it in 2008, "There are some stories--and the mortgage crisis is a great example--where until I grasp the whole I am unable to make sense of any part. Not only am I not a customer for news reports prior to that moment, but the very frequency of the updates alienates me from the providers of those updates because the news stream is adding daily to my feeling of being ill-informed, overwhelmed, out of the loop."

What I Think I Know About Journalism (via Memex 1.1)


  1. The first sentence of his post is wrong. We are MUCH better off with multiple people flying airplanes (just listen to the conversation between Capt. Sullenberger and his copilot while they landed on the Hudson for example). And we are MUCH better off when there’s a host of support people (from assisting doctors to surgical nurses, to robot wielding laser scalpels) in surgery.

    Clearly this guy needs to get himself a better researcher. Or a better analogy maker. Somebody to help him be a better journalist.

    1. I think he meant, “too many chefs spoil the broth.” 2 people flying the same plane: good. 3: maybe alright. 20: definitely subpar.

  2. All too often, though, including a “narrative” translates into “self-important jerk telling me what I should think about this story.” I don’t want that, so I tend to be very annoyed when news stories include “narratives.” If there’s an interpretation or conclusion to be had, let me make it. Don’t ram it down my throat with cherry-picked pseudo-context.

  3. “too many chefs spoil the broth.”
    Is only true when there is an inadequate authority structure, that is, decision value assignment. In other words, in an efficient kitchen, ultimately, only one chef decides how much salt to add.
    `~- Nehmo

  4. I like the synonyms for “he said–she said” journalism! And the condemnation of course.

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