The Year in PressThink: These are the Ten Best Things I Wrote in 2010.

As a year-end review, I put into one post my best stuff from 2010. (In chronological order.) Naturally I would be grateful for any year-end comments you may have.

18 Dec 2010 12:14 pm 7 Comments

1. The Quest for Innocence and the Loss of Reality in Political Journalism (PressThink, Feb. 21, 2010). “The quest for innocence means the desire to be manifestly agenda-less and thus ‘prove’ in the way you describe things that journalism is not an ideological trade. But this can get in the way of describing things! What’s lost is that sense of reality Isaiah Berlin talked about…”

Wherein I finally nail down a key term in my criticism of the political press: its innocence agenda, which interferes with truthtelling.

2. David Gregory: "No, I won't fact check my guests and you guys can't make me…" A Time Line (Public Notebook, April 18, 2010) "David Gregory, the host of NBC's Meet the Press, has painted himself into a strange corner with his assertion that there's no need to fact check what his guests say on the air because viewers can do that 'on their own terms.' His competitor, Jake Tapper of ABC News, disagrees. Tapper has instituted the after-the-show fact check on This Week. I am a participant in the story of how this happened, as you can see from the time line I have constructed."

One of the few instances–maybe the only one–in which an idea I suggested was actually adopted by a journalist in the national press.

3. Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: On the Actual Ideology of the American Press. (PressThink, June 14, 2010) "That it’s easy to describe the ideology of the press is a point on which the left, the right and the profession of journalism converge. I disagree. I think it’s tricky. So tricky, I’ve had to invent my own language for discussing it."

An attempt to bring some clarity to the most confused and contentious of all debates in press criticism: the bias question.

4. The Afghanistan War Logs Released by Wikileaks, the World’s First Stateless News Organization. (PressThink, July 26, 2010) “In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new.”

I rarely claim that something is new. But I think it was warranted in this case.

5. The Citizens Agenda in Campaign Coverage (PressThink, Aug. 15, 2010) "The idea is to learn from voters what those voters want the campaign to be about, and what they need to hear from the candidates to make a smart decision. So you go out and ask them: what do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes in this year’s election?"

An idea that has not been adopted by our political press because our political press prefers horse race journalism.

6. The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation. (Public Notebook, Sep. 6, 2010) "Typically when people like me—a professor of journalism who is deeply involved in the digital world—advise people like you—students just starting their careers in journalism—we say to you things like: You need to be blogging. You need to understand search engines. You need to know Flash and perhaps HTML5… And all of those things are true. They are all important. But I want to go in a completely different direction today. Ready? You need to understand that the way you imagine the users will determine how useful a journalist you will be."

Certainly the most viral thing I wrote in 2010, with over 200,000 views at my Posterous.

7. Why I am Not a Journalist: A True Story (PressThink, Sep. 28, 2010) "The short answer is: I wanted to be, but I screwed it up, so I couldn’t be. Discovering journalism in college saved me. At the time (1976) I was on a track that would have led to an assistant manager’s job at an Applebees…"

The most autobiographical piece I have written.

8. The 100 Percent Solution: For Innovation in News. (PressThink, Oct. 21, 2010) “It starts with a vision: what if we could cover all of it? When you try to act on that vision, you invariably run into problems. And it’s sweating those problems that leads to innovation, or at least to new knowledge."

It sounds crazy but I think it can work. This post is my response to an era of diminished expectations in journalism.

9. The View from Nowhere: Questions and Answers. (PressThink, Nov. 10, 2010) “American journalism is dumber than most journalists, who often share my sense of absurdity about these practices. A major reason we have a practice less intelligent than its practitioners is the prestige that the View from Nowhere still claims…”

This was the year that my construct, The View from Nowhere, went mainstream.

10. From Judith Miller to Julian Assange (PressThink, Dec. 9. 2010) "Today it is recognized at the Times and in the journalism world that Judy Miller was a bad actor who did a lot of damage and had to go. But it has never been recognized that secrecy was itself a bad actor in the events that led to the collapse, that it did a lot of damage, and parts of it might have to go. Our press has never come to terms with the ways in which it got itself on the wrong side of secrecy as the national security state swelled in size after September 11th."

Easily the biggest press story of the year has been Wikileaks. It continues to challenge us to rethink the world we are in.

Bonus link: Seven questions for Jay Rosen. The Economist did an interview with me about my press thinking. (Aug. 28, 2010)

So those are the highlights of a year in PressThink.  The comment bar is open…


Only took, what, 7 years for "The View from Nowhere" to go viral? (born 9/18/03, if my Googling is correct)

Yeah, seven years.  And that's not unusual, either. I started talking about what is now called "engagement" in 1989. It took 20 years before it was seen as an imperative to engage users. 

The team I led that created the N&R's first website in '94 OBSESSED about engagement, although we said "interactivity" much more than "engagement." That was a great crew — different backgrounds but all very visionary people. So MUCH of what they produced has been borne out in the past 15+ years. Too bad most have long since left journalism. One who hasn't is Cris Clonts in Twin Cities. If you don't know him, look him up.
And congrats on a great year. As I (crosses fingers) return to school next fall, this site will be one of my primary resources.

Thanks Jay – for very stimulating argument and ideas on your blog, with Dave Winer in the podcast and in your twitter comments. And thanks also for your contribution to the Australian political coverage before our last election. Here's to a very interesting 2011…
Cheers – Ken

Regarding your first item — I guess there may be an obligation to report the obvious (that we are not heading to tyranny).  But isn't there something else missing in the article?  Why doesn't the reporter ask the Tea Party people why they think the country is heading toward tyranny?  The reporter could have done an entire article about that subject.  Such an article would show that the Tea Party people cannot justify that belief.  And the reporter would not need to express an opinion about anything. 
Is there any reporter anywhere who has ever investigated in depth the foundation for the beliefs of the Tea Party?  That would seem to be a relevant story.  And it would show that there is "no there there."   This, I think, is the biggest problem with modern journalism — no one ever asks "why." 

Non sequitur here. It would be great if your outlinks automatically opened new windows. Sometimes I forget to hold the "Control" button and the browser leaves the site, wasting time going to the link and returning to the original. (Not everyone has fast connections… and it looks like with the new "rules of the road" the situation is gonna get worse unless you have more money than the next guy.)
I'm no geek so I don't know how the pros work, but bloggers like me, working in a wysiwig environment, highlight the word or phrase to be linked and make sure to check the box automatically opening a new window. We lose fewer readers by accident that way.
BTW I am now one of your Twitter followers. If you don't clutter up the feed with too many tweets I will be able to keep up. I have had to drop or avoid several interesting sources for being too loquatious for their own good.

Where your view from nowhere leads:
"Journalists are seen less and less as outside observers," Reporters Without Borders said in its report. "Their neutrality and the nature of their work are no longer respected."
Another reason to remain impartial: less chance of getting shot.