Sited – PressThink

27 February 2011

Written by: Lawrie Zion

 ‘I call this blog PressThink because that’s the kind of work I do. The title points to forms of thought that identify “journalism” to itself — but also to the habit of not thinking about certain things.’

It was eight years ago — an aeon, given just how quickly the media is changing — that New York University professor Jay Rosen wrote those words. Since then, thanks to his musings on PressThink, his influence on the way we do think about the press and media has steadily grown. 

While Rosen has only fleetingly been a hack himself, he has become increasingly influential among journalists over the last five years. Individual posts such as ‘The People Formerly Known as the Audience’ from mid-2006, have reverberated well beyond the blogosphere, finding a particular resonance in those parts of the mainstream media that have sought to embrace the era of participatory media, including our own ABC.

Speaking of which, the ABC ran a terrific interview in August 2010 where Rosen outlined the problems with what he describes as ‘horse race journalism’ — a term that he used to characterise much of the media coverage of the recent Australian election.

More recently,  his views about the role of Twitter in the recent revolutions in the Middle East have been acknowledged by journalists such as The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont: ‘Rosen is right. And when I began researching this subject I too started out as a sceptic.’

For the uninitiated, a terrific sampler of Rosen’s ruminations is his recent wrap: ‘The Year in PressThink: These are the Ten Best Things I Wrote in 2010’. Pick of the bunch for me is ‘The View from Nowhere: Questions and Answers’ where Rosen interviews himself, which means he gets to pose the question about what on earth he means by ‘the view from nowhere’ — a term he’s been using for the last seven years.

And the answer goes exactly like this:

Three things. In pro journalism, American style, the View from Nowhere is a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer. Frequently it places the journalist between polarized extremes, and calls that neither-nor position “impartial.” Second, it’s a means of defense against a style of criticism that is fully anticipated: charges of bias originating in partisan politics and the two-party system. Third: it’s an attempt to secure a kind of universal legitimacy that is implicitly denied to those who stake out positions or betray a point of view. American journalists have almost a lust for the View from Nowhere because they think it has more authority than any other possible stance.

For any journalist who knows what it’s like to be stalked by the indignant incantations of media ‘bias’ this is refreshing stuff. But of course, that just happens to be my view.

Lawrie Zion is a co-founder of upstart and a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at La Trobe University. Follow him on twitter @lzion.


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