Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

« Bill Moyers: On the Record | Main | A Brief History of Disbelief »

"Open-Source Journalism"

Back in 1999, Salon columnist Andrew Leonard coined the term, "Open-Source Journalism" while describing a story where a writer for JANE'S submitted an article for critique prior to publication to "Slashdot," after which readers "sliced and diced the story into tiny pieces," to such degree that an editor at the magazine later announced that the article would not be published after all. Leonard poses the question:

Will better journalism ensue if more reporters and editors beta test their own work? Hard to say — in the deadline-crazed world of technology journalism, there's often hardly enough time to get a story properly copy edited and proofed, let alone reviewed by hundreds of frothing critics. Still, the principle is worth taking a look at. There's an immense amount of expertise on the Net — sites like Slashdot are pioneering new territory as they facilitate access to that knowledge, to the great and last benefit of all.

The tremendous growth in readership of political blogs in the last five years, such as Josh Marshall's Talkingpontsmemo, which receives close to a million visitors a month, has put this concept to test outside just the technology news arena. As Marshall explains in a blog post from April 3, 2005:

"It would have been impossible for me, for instance, to have written most of what I've written on Social Security over the last few months if I didn't have literally thousands of people reading their local papers and letting me know what they're seeing or reporting back from townhall meetings or giving me the heads up on things that are about to break on the hill. That's not a replacement for journalism; it's different. But it's potentially very powerful."

What do you think?

Have blogs and the Internet in general strengthened or weakened the craft of journalism?


TrackBack URL for this entry:


If it weren't for blogs journalists wouldn't be held accountable - there's just too much corruption throughout the system.

Good Bloggers are held to a higher standard by their readers and other bloggers via fact checking and cross referencing.

Doubt it? Here's one journalists foray into the entire seedy underbelly and how it's impacting our country's very economic structure.

If it weren't for journalists such as Bill Moyers I'd have lost hope in journalists altogether.

Yes, Journalism is dead except for Bill Moyers, Now, and the Internet. I just got this from the ACLU, bet you wont see a word about it in any media unless Bill Moyers breaks the story and they have to rebutt it...

Dear ACLU Supporter,

Thanks to you, we took a major step forward yesterday in our efforts to hold the Bush torture team accountable. We’ve been vocal in our demands urging Congress to act -- and we’re finally getting results.

John Yoo, author of the infamous Bush “torture memo,” and former Attorney General John Ashcroft both agreed to testify at an upcoming hearing. And in a bold “we mean business” move, at a packed, standing-room only hearing, a House Judiciary subcommittee gave Judiciary Chairman John Conyers the power to issue a subpoena to David Addington, Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff.

Now, just hours ago, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers used that authority and issued Mr. Addington a subpoena, compelling him to testify on June 26, at 10am.

These events are important steps to get at the truth, but tough questions must be asked of Bush administration officials. Let Congress know which questions you want answered when the Bush torture team finally appears.

Yes, Journalism is dead except for Bill Moyers, Now, and the Internet. I just got this from the ACLU, bet you wont see a word about it in any media unless Bill Moyers breaks the story and they have to rebutt it...

Dear ACLU Supporter,

Thanks to you, we took a major step forward yesterday in our efforts to hold the Bush torture team accountable. We’ve been vocal in our demands urging Congress to act -- and we’re finally getting results.

John Yoo, author of the infamous Bush “torture memo,” and former Attorney General John Ashcroft both agreed to testify at an upcoming hearing. And in a bold “we mean business” move, at a packed, standing-room only hearing, a House Judiciary subcommittee gave Judiciary Chairman John Conyers the power to issue a subpoena to David Addington, Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff.

Now, just hours ago, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers used that authority and issued Mr. Addington a subpoena, compelling him to testify on June 26, at 10am.

These events are important steps to get at the truth, but tough questions must be asked of Bush administration officials. Let Congress know which questions you want answered when the Bush torture team finally appears.

Yes, Journalism is dead except for Bill Moyers, Now, and the Internet. I just got this from the ACLU, bet you wont see a word about it in any media unless Bill Moyers breaks the story and they have to rebutt it...

Dear ACLU Supporter,

Thanks to you, we took a major step forward yesterday in our efforts to hold the Bush torture team accountable. We’ve been vocal in our demands urging Congress to act -- and we’re finally getting results.

John Yoo, author of the infamous Bush “torture memo,” and former Attorney General John Ashcroft both agreed to testify at an upcoming hearing. And in a bold “we mean business” move, at a packed, standing-room only hearing, a House Judiciary subcommittee gave Judiciary Chairman John Conyers the power to issue a subpoena to David Addington, Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff.

Now, just hours ago, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers used that authority and issued Mr. Addington a subpoena, compelling him to testify on June 26, at 10am.

These events are important steps to get at the truth, but tough questions must be asked of Bush administration officials. Let Congress know which questions you want answered when the Bush torture team finally appears.

"Have blogs and the Internet in general strengthened or weakened the craft of journalism?"

Blogs are an expression of (the craft of) journalism - in the sense that everyone is a journalist. Indeed, we all used to be journalists, but in the age of ubiquitous mass media, the messages of the 'collective individuals' got lost.

At issue, however, is the relative powerlessness and inequity of the blogger(s): the vast majority of bloggers is and was opposed to the war in Iraq, yet it went (and it goes) on anyway.

Add to this concerns about the digital divide: the majority of online active users is just as unrepresentative of the wider population as professional journalists (or politicians for that matter) are.

Furthermore, blogging and other kinds of online engagement come with a crucial caveat: a disconnection on demand option. In other words: the commitment, activism and civic engagement of the blogger is permanently impermanent, unreliable, and intrinsically temporary.

We're talking about a networked journalism that ties, if anything, oh so well to the mind-numbing "presentism" of contemporary (media) life.

Hey, I just found some videos of bill moyers speaking at the National Conference on Media Reform that are worth watching:

Bill, I am following you for the first time. First I saw you in Real time with Bill Maher. Now your very first interview with Jon Stewart has really triggered my interest in you. Jon is not someone where MSM loves to interview. He is good at his job of waking up americans with Humor. I am really pleased that you interviewed him and Joshua Micah Marshall. What a bright start to your show. It is quite refreshing that you interviewing people who have not been extensively interviewed who are really worthy of being interviewed. Overall good start Sir.

Short answer? Yes, blogging has improved journalism. Not only due to the large number of people reading and commenting on news stories, but also because of another aspect that used to be the bulwark of journalism... sourcing.

Blogs, for the most part, lack the credibility of news organizations. Credibility, however, is a double-edged sword. The lack of it is making blogs stronger--they have to cite sources (sources that stand up under scrutiny), meanwhile, the MSM has gotten into a very bad habit of basing most of its articles on "unnamed government sources" or "unnamed administration officials". We hope that the MSM is telling the truth, but we have no way of verifying these types of stories. Unfortunately, many of these stories as of late have proven either blatantly false or, at the very least, extremely exaggerated. And how have these lies and exaggerations been exposed?

By those credibility-lacking bloggers!

Maybe my answer wasn't so short after all...

To paraphrase an old saying, "Can 50,000 fact checking bloggers be wrong?'

What we are seeing here is the birth of new form of media. One with neary unlimited resouces. Some will rise above the "noise' on the Internet to become trustowrthy and respected sources of accurate information. We must nurture truth in whatever form it is delivered.

Blogs and the internet will hopefully strengthen the craft of Journalism. A recent guest blogger at Firedoglake described blogs as "a new and powerful deliberative body".

Many of us were on the internet prior to the invasion and we could access, Justin Raimando at, counterpunch,Salon,blogs and international news etc, providing us with a much wider perspective of the invasion than we could access in the MSM . We could also access a wider spectrum on NPr's Diane Rehm show prior to the invasion. Diane had Scott Ritter, retired CIA analyst, Zbigniew Brezinski and so many more who questioned the validity of the pre-war intelligence and the wisdom of the invasion of a country that had not attacked us. Via these resources I was able to draw my conclusion that the invasion was not based on credible evidence and was a very bad idea. Remember the term quagmire!

Since then the Majority of the MSM have allowed the same "cakewalk in Iraq" zealots to repeat unsubstantiated claims about Iran's "alleged" nuclear weapons program. Polls now report that 70% of Americans now believe that Iran posesses nuclear weapons. This belief did not happen via osmosis.

The most recent example of a mainstreamer not challenging these claims was on May 1 on NPR's Talk of the Nation where Neil Conan allows John Bolton to repeat these unsubstantiated claims about Iran over and over again with absolutely no challenges or questions about these claims.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews is the one mainstreamer who has been consistently challenging these "Iran has nuclear weapons" claims. I believe he is one of the mainstreamer who has applied the lessons of the run- up to the invasion.

I hope that Bill Moyers does a report on the MSM and Iran, and how most in the MSM have allowed these unsubstantiated claims to be repeated about Iran without being challenged.

Moyers should put together an investigative report about Iran and the media NOW, so that he does not have to do a program about a pre-emptive military strike on Iran in two years and the complicity of the MSM. I can provide him with many examples of this complicity. Deja Vu folks! Deja Vu!

Hindsight can be deadly!

TPM is brilliant, they literally have gotten themselves thousands of fact checkers and news interns for free. this is how the media in a democracy should work.

I think that blogs at the very least have positivly added added to the conversations which we need to under a democracy. There are are some kinks that need to be work out with accountability and respect for opinions. All and all I think this is a great platform for dialog.

Based on what I've read in these comments and elsewhere, the primary concern regarding blogs seems to be that of accountability. It’s certainly a valid issue, but when we have reporters for the NYT fabricating stories for years without discovery, primetime mainstream pundits like O’Reilly and Hannity saying whatever they please without regard for facts, 24-hour cable rumor mills, video news releases, “anonymous government sources”, and of course, the whole fiasco of media complicity in the build up to the Iraq War, it seems like the traditional journalism pot calling the kettle blog a dark color. The gatekeepers of traditional journalism have lost all credibility in my eyes, and most of us can never know what exactly what goes on behind those gates – their stories could be vetted by objective standards of journalistic integrity (whatever those are), but could just as likely be based on what’s of use or harm to the corporate owners and sponsors (and all their friends in the Beltway).

If anything, blogs appear to be bringing some accountability back to traditional journalism. A story goes out on CNN, and instantly there’s a thousand bloggers out there fact checking, rebutting, and/or expanding on it. I was, for example, aware of all the holes in the Iraq propaganda well before the war started, thanks almost entirely to blogs, and if a few million more Americans had gone to those sources instead of (just) the TV and newspapers, we might never have been in this mess.

Another valid concern is that of people ‘cherry-picking’ news, and gravitating to sites that reinforce their own polarized worldview. But this was going on well before 'blog' entered our lexicon. "Birds of feather" and all that. Conservatives are inclined to listen to Limbaugh and watch Fox News and read the Wall Street Journal, while liberals are inclined listen to Air American and watch Democracy Now and read Mother Jones. Blogs aren’t going to change that, but what they are doing is giving some control to the news consumers, as opposed to depending on whatever trickles down from the monolithic corporate media machine. At least we now have the option to seek second opinions and information ‘triangulation’, and to impose our own individual standards of truth, rather than relying on the so-called ‘experts’.

I have to cast a suspicious eye on those who lament the decline of this bulwark of elitism; who seem to feel that we poor common folk cannot be trusted to discern the facts on our own, and must be shepherded by credentialed professionals. To me, it is these very qualifications that that call the shepherds’ motives into question – ‘credentialed’ means they’ve been screened and approved by the status quo establishment, and ‘professional’ means they are financially dependent on (and thus subservient to) their corporate bosses. Any confidence in the system of self-imposed ‘quality control’ amongst these professionals seems wholly unfounded and dangerously naïve at this point.

This is not to say that all professional journalists are compromised, or that blogs should replace traditional news media. It is just as big mistake to lose all confidence in traditional journalism as it is to have unquestioning belief in it. But we can no longer assume that just because the Gray Lady says it is so, then it must be so. We must be savvy customers who evaluate each story on its own merits, as we should be doing with all the products we consume. Blogs can be a powerful tool in making those evaluations – a kind of “Consumer Reports” for journalism, if you will. Ideally, we should be working towards a synthesis of the two forms – utilizing the experience and resources of the professional journalist to generate the stories, and the ‘billion eyes’ of the Internet blogging community to watchdog and fact-check them; or vice versa, with the bloggers breaking the stories and the journalists applying the rigors of their field to validate them. Either way we get a much broader perspective and higher standard of proof.

Granted, this can result in an endless cycle with no ‘final, definitive word’ on the matter (as there always be someone somewhere that will take issue with something), which in turn can lead to information overload and paralyzing uncertainty for some. But to me, it is far better that those folks who are too insecure, lazy, or rigid to entertain and evaluate multiple perspectives – who would, in essence, trade freedom for security – be overwhelmed and paralyzed, rather than confidently marching us down the path to tyranny and destruction…

Welcome back Bill. Now all Americans are going to find out what "Free Press" is all about. No more deceiving the people with fear in the name of patriotism.

Its exciting finding this blog. Online journalism really enables a level of hyperlinking and associativity thats unprecedented in conventional journalism. As people are introduced to this new forum, there's countless instances of people talking over each other and talking for their own sake, but to give everyone a psuedo-nonymous voice and expect the same fidelity is of course unreasonable. We currently lack wide ranging (cross site) online reptuation systems to tie our varied psuedonyms together & to create more solvent online personas, but the technies are starting to dig into this problem with projects like OpenID.

I would tend towards characterizing Blogs and online mediums as imminently skimable, usually of a format dominated by brief self contained blurbs and containing links to all the relevant pieces of the issue, just this post i am replying to's format is. When you add in Trackback and comments, the net effect is the creation of ad hoc moving processes and dialogs, rather than a more conventional journalistic approach revoling around fact finding and tuned assembly.

The immediate effect is the demolition of existing journalism standards. Its not journalism, its something different, something more richly interactive. Unfortuantely, there are so many new voices (theres an internet term I love which describes the constant flux and churn of people on the internet called Eternal September 1993) and so little in the way of identity tooling on the internet right now the situation remains largely chaotic. Content comes in the form of thousands of opinions, few expert in origin, and the quality and purpose of which vary dramatically.

I think eventually we'll see more established yet still informal technical systems of credibility begin to emerge that give users the associative information to filter out the noisier and more obnoxious anonymous cruft on a wide ranging (cross site) scale and to distill the most reader accessible and most reader useful authors out of the noise. Accelerando, a modern near-future science fiction short story freely available online, describes the creation of reputation markets, which although perhaps a little more overt and direct than the ad hoc systems that are being created (OpenID being the primary ad-hocracy for open online identity right now). Once we have better moderation and opt in identity, new standards and criteron for judging online content will begin emerging and we can start tracing clouds of posts into more purified and rarified threads of thought.

I personally feel the main obstacle in online journalism is that most people give very little regard to whom their audience is online. Lacking a origin and destination (the reader is both: what you start from and who you are moving towards), its obvious how the poorly vectored flight path of these untrained user's content veers around without ever connecting. People are simply not attuned to carving a personal space out of such a large vacuous and non responsive online systems, unsure of what they need to do to generate interactivity throughout a community and to host the dialog they're trying to start. There still needs to be compelling journalistic or narative purpose at the heart of writing, a task many professionals attend college for, coupled with very high standards and requirements before someone's article begins accumulating commentary. After getting exasperated with initial failure, new community members are rarely precocious enough to go back and revise their game plan. More hyperlinked background on users and more training and experience time in the new internet medium will hopefully provide some socialization practices that help users get past these initial long tail walls by generating clearer and more explicit sets of expectations linking careful thoughtful reasoned out intent and content and getting on the radar.

It is still so very very early.

Stacey Slepman notes:
"One of the problems I see with the blogosphere is that it is far too easy to remain anonymous behind a nickname avoid the responsibility and the accountability issues that should be part of a free media. Behind internet nicknames, one doesn't have to issue "Mea culpa" statements, check facts or even admit that another has an equally valid point even if it disagrees with one's worldview. It can allow a person to be "au naturale" and respond without any type of discernment in the response.

The other, more frightening thing for me about the anonymity of the blogosphere is that I do not know who my detractors are. "

This 'frightening thing' is a clear way that blogs differ from print journalism. Even if I sign my name it could, because of the platform we are playing on, be someone else posing as me. So we create a blogging character that gives clues about our take on life, our mode of analysis and it is up to the reader to judge over time. How different this is from a byline, a corporate sponsor, but it is not necessarily inferior. I trust certain blogs and authors by reading them, fact checking them, comparing them to other sources, and coming to the conclusion that they have integrity, intelligence. These trusted authors also link me to other sites that provide a web of information I can size up. As another commenter stated those newspaper 'off the record' sources grow less credible each time used, and yet they land on the most prestigious front pages.

Try to get it--we are different.

The question: Have blogs and the Internet in general strengthened or weakened the craft of journalism?

Blogs and the Internet have absolutely stregthened the craft of journalism and it is about time.

In our democratic society, our government has been created for and by the people. Both of these tenents, provided by our constitution have been severely subverted by initially, no doubt well-intentioned, but now morally corrupt profit seeking businesses and power-hungry, legacy-driven government.

One of the checks and balances offered our society is that of journalistic integrity. So little of it is seen in our co-opted print and television media that it was only a matter of time before it began to show up in true journalistic and opinion form on the internet.

Like any other media, each interent source needs evaluation by the reader and should not be taken chapter and verse as the ultimate truth. Many established media outlets by their mere longevity are no longer questioned by the reader. Blogs question.

A well-read citizen is an informed citizen; a citizen prepared to make decisions about the direction his/her country is taking. A monopoly should not exist among the NY Times and Washington Posts of this world. Internet blogging challenges the old journalistic paradigm and will undoubtedly improve the quality of all types of journalism.

It will be interesting to continue to watch it evolve lest it succomb to many of the same mistakes of its predecessors.

What recourse do citizens have if broadcasters do not fulfill their terms and conditions of their broadcast license on public airwaves? If this happened once, what is to say it won't happen again? Where is the regulation and oversight?

thank you

I have to say that I just saw Bill's show tonight on the media ..

and the lead up to the iraq war ...

and I must admit that investigative journalism is on the ROAR!!!!

Opensource is all about increasing the participation of those who had been excluded. It is not about increasing exclusion or creating a replacement.

Blogs create plurality and diversity. As more and more people wake up and smell the atrocities and deceptions you will see more critical voices online. The blogosphere is a specific demographic slice venting personal opinions.

Andy Warhol predicted 15 seconds of fame for everyone. That was before the Internet. Now everyone can have their own niche. Everyone who can get online can now be a celebrity, at least in their own minds.

Speaking of the slice and dice on slashdot, see also:

I think that the internet has/is doing to journalism what it has done to nearly everything else it touches. It communitizes it. That means the break down between roles of the journalist and the reader as each starts to take on responsabilites of the other.

This is probably the most major shift in the journalism dynamic since it's modern inception. Not only has the medium and time frame changed, the methods are changing. Hopefully this will start breaking into the power bubbles and bring real competition to the role of truth witnesser.

Blogs, like any other media, have their quality products and their junk products. We see this in print media so why should it surprise us to see the same thing in the blogosphere?

FYI: Groklaw is a great example of original high quality reporting on a niche subject (law news relating to open source software). PJ at Groklaw has done a great job of covering the IBM verses SCO case along with reporting on propaganda artists (e.g. M. O'Gara) posing as technology journalists.

If it were not for the advent of blogging there simply would be no quality coverage in Groklaw's niche.

The idea of "beta testing" a report before publishing it is somewhat dubious, but not without merit. Of course, the most obvious problem is that the initial publication/post is a release of a sort as well. Drudge is good example of this...

On the other hand, it is actually working in many cases. Stories will be posted on blogs or lower tier publications, reviewed, critiqued, and in good cases, corrected or withdrawn. Then higher tier sources will pick up the story. Unfortunately, this requires the "higher teir" to tradeoff being first for being more probably correct... a good principle IMO.

"Open source" in the realm of computer programs is essentially a version of the peer-review system of science. The first reports/results may well be incorrect, and need to be viewed as such. What we gain, however, is a much better system of verification and correction... and by the point a work becomes part of a well respected distribution, it is much more trustworthy than could otherwise be acheived. Critically though, people must realize that this is how it works, not take initial reports as gospel, and different teirs of publications need to accept their different roles.

Another outstanding blogger needs lots of credit: Brad Friedman of For election/voting issues, there is no better.

In 2005, Brad exposed Thor Hearne, the Bush/Cheney2004 General Counsel, when he suddenly appeared at the too-late hearings about voting issues in the 2004 election before the House Administration Committee. The Committee Chairman, Abramoff's friend Bob Ney, invited Hearne's testimony -- not as the Bush/Cheney2004 General Counsel, but as an expert witness on Election Reform issues from the supposedly non-partisan "American Center for Voting Rights".

Brad Friedman did not let this slip by. His investigation showed that this "American Center for Voting Rights" was created only days earlier, and existed only as a small dusty rented mailbox in Texas with a brand new website, and was arguing the non-issue of voter fraud, to distract from what really happened in Ohio in November 2004.

Its contact person, and owner of the website domain was James Dyke, the Communications Director for the Republican National Committee (who, Brad recently reported, now works directly for Vice President Cheney).

When The ACVR also got a seat on the panel of Bush's 2005 Election Reform Commission, co-chaired by Jimmy Carter (with his proven record internationally in defining and supporting "fair elections") and James Baker III (with his proven record of manipulating the Justice system to put Bush in the White House in 2000) -- Brad went beyond blogging and took action -- getting Congressman John Conyers, Jr. and Jimmy Carter involved. While they weren't able to get rid of Hearne, they were able to balance the perspective so less damage could occur.

While other connections to corruption have been unveiled in the years since, the U.S. attorney purge scandal once again includes Thor Hearnes dirty works.

On April 19th of this year, Brad reported at The Huffington Post that Hearne's Missouri law office, Lathrop & Gage LC, had been under investigation by U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins back in May 2006 for a corrupt scheme involving then House Majority leader Roy Blunt's son, the Governor of Missouri, Matt Blunt.

A month after the investigation of Hearne's law firm came to light, Cummins was removed and Rove's aide, Timothy Griffin was put in place.

And in March of this year, as the attorney purge scandal broke through, with charges that prosecutors were removed for failing to investigate charges of "voter fraud" before the 20006 election, Brad Friedman reported that Hearne's American Center for Voting Rights had suddenly - poof - disappeared - website gone. In the same blog, Brad also provided a link to the new report, "The Politics of Voter Fraud" by Lorraine C. Minnite, Ph.D., assistant professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. Hearne is a featured disinformer in the report.

Meanwhile, Brad's other greatest exclusive scoop, the Clint Curtis/Tom Feeney vote rigging scandal, going back to December 2004 and Curtis's testimony and affidavit that Feeney sought a software program that could change voting results, is also in the spotlight, with Feeney's recent exposure as an Abramoff tool, and Curtis calling for a Congressional investigation last week into his recent contested House race against Feeney.

It's all a wild turn of events, and all put in a special light because of the amazing and diligent work of Brad Friedman and his team of guest bloggers at

With such as he, our democracy may yet survive.

For an eye-opening experience, go to the well-organized website and see how the above stories and more have evolved.

When they start awarding Pulitzers for internet journalists, Brad Friedman should be there.

As a journalist and editor who straddles conventional and the new media, there's no question that there are crucial roles for both. The big trouble I see for the mainstream media is not the quality of the reporting. When the Times or the Post gather their energies the product is generally always wortwhile.
Rather, it's what the conventional media cover and the story selection. The areas of coverage are as 20th century as the mass medium the news is printed on or broadcast. The important exception is what NPR is doing with its news programming.
The new media, whether it's blogs, podcasts, or news Web sites that focus on particular subjects, are just generally running circles around the old media on most stories. That includes the conventional realms of coverage -- courts, Congress, police, sports,local news, entertainment -- and certainly on the new areas of coverage -- technology, social media, communications, the Web itself. In other words, the franchise that the Times, the Post, Time, Fortune (you name it) had on being the best and last word on all things important has eroded tremendously. Political coverage is generally better on the new media than it is in the Post or the Times. So is coverage of the Internet and technology., a non-profit, is the most significant source now of environmental news and opinion. Here in Michigan, the Michigan Land Use Institute,, another non-profit covers agriculture, transportation, urban redevelopment, the environment, the Great Lakes more closely and competently than any conventional media source.

I do have a problem with "open source" journalism and that is that in any market place of information, whether traditional journalistic venues or the blogospheres, is that one person's facts are another's opinions and another's lies. The "perspective" of a medium's outlet is set by its editorial board and corporate owner (traditional) or the "owners" of the particular blog. Each of these groups have "perspectives" that hopefully serve the community that they see as their primary public.

In traditional news media outlets, an editor assigns a story to a reporter. The reporter gathers the relevant information and creates the story depending on how the story is being deifined: hard news, feature or analysis/commentary. When the story is returned, the editor edits it for length, perspective and location.

The perspective, or perhaps the better word for it may be worldview, of a particular medium outlet is not just a political-economic one but also based on the constraints the particular medium has for its delivery of information. Whether it is column inches, time slots, bandwidths or other physical constraints, the medium will dictate some of what is covered and how.

The same thing is also true in the blogosphere. Let's take for example this blog. If a person would write a piece that goes on and on before it makes its point, the blog editors have reserved the right to edit the content to fit the constraints of this particular medium. No one wants to drudge through 20 lengthy paragraphs before the poster finally makes a point. An editor is there at times to save a poster from looking like a complete idiot while still allowing the poster to make a point.

Where traditional media journalism and blogosphere "open source" journalism separate is in the contact factor. In traditional journalism, especially in local media, a staffer has a working knowledge of who all the other players in the newsroom are and how that influences how stories are or are not reported by that particular outlet. They have a working knowledge about how each person approaches their work and their ideas. And the other staff members also know that the person will stand behind what was reported under his or her name.

One of the problems I see with the blogosphere is that it is far too easy to remain anonymous behind a nickname avoid the responsibility and the accountability issues that should be part of a free media. Behind internet nicknames, one doesn't have to issue "Mea culpa" statements, check facts or even admit that another has an equally valid point even if it disagrees with one's worldview. It can allow a person to be "au naturale" and respond without any type of discernment in the response.

The other, more frightening thing for me about the anonymity of the blogosphere is that I do not know who my detractors are. I want to go back to the first paragraph that opened this thread about having a "thousand people slice and dice an article on Slashdot and then having the article rejected by the magazine it was written for because of the feedback" (my paraphrase). Let's make it a more managable number, say like 50 people and make it a magazine like Newsweek rather than Jane. I write a story as a stringer for Newsweek about the mood in Iowa about the upcoming caucuses. I post it on Slashdot before submitting it to Newsweek and 50 people anonymously do "slice and dice" under the idea of "freedom of information" to make the article fit their worldview. I do not know if those 50 people might happen to be state party chairs who don't like Iowa to be first in the nation, party activist in Iowa who don't like the way I am reporting the mood of the state, in-state journalists who feel I have scooped their domain, 50 people who feel they need to voice an opinion of any type because the site allows them to do that, or anything in between. Based on what was said on Slashdot, Newsweek kills the story because it is too politically hot for their editorial tastes. Slashdot has therefore controlled the content of the political agenda to the liking of its readership and Newsweek has abrogated its responsibility to present balanced coverage.

The one who shouts loudest wins rather than having a broadbased discourse. If I had the resources to check each of those respondents and out their anonymity, I would. But I don't have the resources and neither does Newsweek to break the anonymity, especially when the critiques number in the thousands rather than 50. And I think this is what some of the anonymous bloggers count on when they do not want to "sign" their names to their posts.

Yes, I realize that not all anonymous bloggers are anonymous for the reason stated above. But there are enough that most likely do do what I have said that the true "openness" of "open-source" journalism could be called into question.

Openness means to be open to all opinions whether those opinions agree with one's own, ask questions when what seems to be opinion is being reported as fact without making a value call of right or wrong, and a willingness to see the other's worldview and holding a place for it even if it is not one's own worldview.

One aside, and this is my opinion: today's open source journalism means very little sources and fact checking and very many "T"ruth opinions. Until sources are quoted on a regular basis and facts are rigorously checked, open source is really open opinion "journalism."

Welcome Back!

I am currently reading David Halberstam's book,The Powers that Be. It is an excellent in depth study of the growth and development many of Amaerica's mainstream media outlets - Luce's Time Inc., The Washington Post; L.A. Times (ooh! very scary!) and Paley's CBS. As we move into a new era of media possibilities, there are many lessons regarding the means by which journalism and journalists can be co-opted, muzzelled, or crushed - Murrow and Teddy White for example. As the blog world gains ground and we all seek ways to find regular reliable alternative sources of unadulterated news, we run the risk of Market Consolidation - it happens in all start up industries sooner of later. I would like to hear folks respond with ideas as to how the freedom and courage, so wonderfully exemplified by Josh Marshall, can survive the intense pressures that will come to be brought on such enterprises in the next few years. David Halberstam did his part by writing serious books about serious issues - but I never picked up his writing until he died. Your work over the years has also been inspirational in its efforts to avoid the forces. Thank you, Sir. Keep The Faith!

As long as we can keep our Internet access out of the hands of big government and greedy corporations (Like Time/Werner) it is one of the most important tools for TRUTH that we the PEOPLE have today in a world where politics and money dictate the propaganda that we are force fed on a daily basis.
Sure it has it's downfalls, but I would be so be so sadly dis-informed without my Internet.

Superb as always, Mr. Moyers, truly a breath of fresh air - Thank You!

Two questions:

Have you considered having a regular "Blogger Segment", with alternating bloggers?

Some wonderful reporters and writers are doing great work on matters critical to our Democracy in virtual obscurity, "The People" should hear from them directly.

Could you investigate and report on, as a follow up to the exposure of a Washington Beltway lackey media elite, the self-serving drum beat from members of that elite against "The Blogs"?

I have no choice but to get my news from the blogs, they've been way right for way long about dozens of important matters the last six years.

Yet, they have been deliberately marginalized by the very millionaire media elites with a vested interest in perpetuating that lie, saving their skin from public outrage if their collusion and/or ineptitude become common knowledge.

Those of us diligent enough to search ALL the available news knew about, "the facts being fixed around the intelligence", and "Curveball", and the "sixteen words", and an administration deliberately exposing a CIA agent, and on and on - precisely because lots of talented patriotic people on the internet, like Josh Marshall, are fulfilling the role for the "Fourth Estate" Jefferson envisaged.

And might I add a few rebuttals to commonly spewed inaccuracies about the blogs:

1) The information is self corrected by thousands of experts in real time and is far more accurate than articles in a paper or cable derived from "unnamed sources" I'm sick to death of hearing from.

2) The quality of the writing is seldom matched and never publicized in the traditional media, from Glenn Greenwald to Marcy Wheeler and many others the quality of the writing is only matched by the information contained therein.

3) Comity and professionalism is the most common trend among the best blogs, not the vitriol and hate spewing for the most part from the right wing Wurlitzer that includes some marginally trafficked sites, that the traditional media conveniently ascribes to the progressive sites, or at best to "both sides".

Thanks again, Mr. Moyers, please endure the slings and arrows and hang in there for "We The People"!

Mr. Moyers, thank you for returning to weekly television. The world needs you. I'm sure Mr. Brancaccio has been doing his best, but he hasn't been able to get PBS to allot more than 24 minutes per week. And it seems that about a third of those 24 minutes are recycled from old broadcasts, so we've had only about 16 minutes per week of real news on broadcast television.

A very smart person once wrote: "In the USA, we are immersed in the most powerful and sophisticated stream of propaganda that any human population has ever known." Your 55-minute NOW broadcast was enough real news (just barely) to help viewers avoid drowning in the propaganda stream; 16 minutes just isn't enough.

In response to your question:

Open-source journalism is a great idea, but it isn't a panacea. One of the earliest examples of true open-source journalism was the Independent Media Center (a.k.a. IMC, or Indymedia). For an interesting (and entertaining) example of one of the risks of open-source journalism, I highly recommend the short article "The Model, her Shadow, the Payload, and the IMC: A grey propaganda operation on the Indymedia network". The article can be found here: and the ensuing discussion can be found here:

"As long as source materials are kept private and as long as the final product is copyrighted, it is incorrect to call something open source. Critiquing an article or emailing a suggestion is not nearly enough to justify the title of "Open-Source Journalism". It actually has to be open source." --DR (above)

I feel like I'm back on Slashdot right now! You are misunderstanding what "open source journalism" is, or claims to be. The swarm of emails, posts, crossposts, hat-tips, comments and cross references that coalesce across the 'net to form a "story" is the phenomenon described as "open source journalism". In this respect bloggers (Josh Marshall included) are both the journalist and the audience in the same fashion that open source coders are both the developer and the end-user. It's the many eyes and the feedback-loop that produce the refined results. The phrase open-source journalism doesn't describe the (absolutely critical) goals of either the FSF or the Creative Commons, though.

It needs to be said, in direct response to the quotation above that both the CC licenses and the GPL rely on copyright -- so to claim that because something is copyrighted it is not open source is absolutely incorrect. The difference between written journalism and (most commercial) software applications is that writing is distributed as source already. AV is a different story, one that Creative Commons is going to great lengths to address (remix and reuse without the chilling effects of rampant copyright litigation).

Thank you for getting your videos online. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

The John Stewart interview was excellent as was the Josh Marshal one. I look forward to lots of good stuff from Team Moyers. Thank God you guys are back. If PBS hadn't put you back up you should have gone independent and broadcast straight to the web. Seriously we love you out here. When PBS does its fund drive can we just give the money straight to you? And Charlie Rose too. And Terry Gross. Ok maybe we can get a buffet menu to show how we want our contributions divided.

Thank you.

I blog, and I find the concept of "open source" journalism intriguing.

I think the system wouldn't have to fall under GPL licenses. It would just need to be an attempt for an open, accessible standard for communication. Each reporter's personal information and biases (to the best degree possible) would be posted. A shared standard of ethics that is easily viewable by anyone would also be set in place. After one week of a story being posted, it might become free to post elsewhere.

Furthermore, even the editorial board of the journalistic organization would be transparent. Writer's notes and sources could also be made transparent, in some instances. I think it is a great idea, although it would need someone with considerable experience and backing to make it happen... and I don't know if it would take the guise of a website where all sorts of people can sign up to submit stories.. and other websites and news agencies can print stories.. or what...

But it's an interesting idea.

I wish journalists would quit whining about blogs and their authors. Blogs are different. We do different things and we provide perspectives journalists cannot 1) because there is no profit in it for a newspaper, or 2) it doesn't scratch the important back that has an itch. For all the wonderful journalism Bill Moyers has done over the years, and I am a big fan, he has made a lot of money through his work and I bet he has had to pass on some stories that would put that in jeopardy. Grassroots, not for profit efforts find their difference in this independence. We shouldn't try to be better journalists, the two are just not commensurate. How many ways can you say different is different before those in journalism get it?

Yes. Blogs like TPM & Crooks & Liars, are very important. Direct web access to source documents and other reporting to back up the story.

There has also been some great reporting on other important stories, like Duke Cunningham & Abramoff. Larua Rozen has done some great work on that.

I read McClatchy regularly, and have for years, on line.

Shows like The Daily Show & Colbert are great. It helps that I agree with him. I love the Senior Black Commentator, the fake backdrops. Stewart has a good grasp of the facts. It's a smart take on the news.

There are thousands of great blogs out there that all put their unique spin on the news, and the people in it. It's the opposite of groupthink.

Thank you all for your hard work. And thank you Mr Moyers for returning to grace our screens with your special brand of truth.

There's Open Source and there's Open Source; the term has more than just the GPL meaning, and in the news-sense, we're talking about open-source intelligence.

Open-source intelligence emerged from (guess where) the intelligence-gathering field, and means collecting information from as many publically-available sources possible. Open-source journalism has adopted that method (and didn't one of the Knight-Ridder reporters state that journalists and CIA agents are basically doing the same sort of thing?).

Conveniently enough, there's been a fortunate convergence of open-source journalism using the techniques of open-source intelligence gathering and publishing their findings via open-source software.

Will open-source journalism save the fifth estate? That's hard to say. Information is out there, but right now, the filters are still pretty young, so there's plenty of dirt mixed in with the gold. It depends on the audience's interpretive abilities to tell the qualitative difference between TPM Muckraker and Matt Drudge. And even so, the past six years have shown that if the information is presented to the public, it won't matter to an administration who chooses to ignore public opinion.

Which is what Stewart was getting at in his bit: There is no accountability except for at the polls, and nothing else has mattered for some time now. All the open-source journalism available on the web or elsewhere hasn't changed that. In fact, the complete lack of attention to what the media did may have helped facilitate such movements. But in a way, it's no different than the massive marches that took place; they were some of the largest protests of the modern age, and their effect fizzled like a dud bottle rocket.

Tonight's information from Josh Marshall was most excellent, and encouraging, but what was missing is the information that the great American BBC journalist, Greg Palast, provides about Karl Rove's buddy, Timothy Griffin in his article "Bush's New US Attorney a Criminal?"

What you called "opposition work for the Republican National Committee" is further exposed as another major scheme to prune voter registration lists of tens of thousands of lower income, frequently black, and mostly Democratic voters. See .

Palast is a legitimate broadcast and print journalist, but chooses to work for the BBC and the Guardian, where he won't be stopped from what he's doing.

I first heard of him when I saw the 2004 documentary, "Orwell Rolls in His Grave", also featuring NYU's Mark Crispin Miller. Palast discovered Katharine Harris's purging of the poor from the Florida voter registration in 2000 and tried to bring the story to light before the election went to the Supreme Court, but the networks wouldn't touch it.

I highly recommend signing up for Palast's emails at .

He is breaking through a bit here in the U.S. He was published in the L.A. Times as an OpEd on Friday, April 27, with his piece "U.S. Media Have Lost the Will to Dig Deep".

AND on THIS COMING TUESDAY, MAY 1st, he will be appearing with RANDI RHODES and ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR. at the Community Church of New York, 40 East 35th St. at 7:00 pm. in an event called "SORDID SECRETS OF A WHITE HOUSE GONE WILD". Tickets are $15, with proceeds going benefitting WBAI Pacifica Radio and The Palast Investigative Fund.

I'm in Utah or I'd be there.

Since many bloggers, and especially those who comment on journalist's bloggers have no relationships with the powerful to maintain, we can ask the blunt questions that the mainstream press will not ask. In fact, If I had been at the war press conference, I would have wanted to know: Aren't you putting America at risk by abandoning your search for Osama bin Laden and going after Iraq? Iraq has not even threatened us, while Al-Qaeda has attacked us! Why are you dividing our resources? Isn't THAT unpatriotic?

It can only help! To me, this is like going back to the early days of journalism, before such legal encumbrances slowing down the stream of information, and before shrinking ownership dictated what may or may not be said. Enlightened incorporation of these new journalistic assets needn't be feared by mainstream journalists as there is a cost benefit involved as well as environmental. Think of the travel involved in getting all these pieces of information - it is like having farmers markets all around the country instead of great trucks shipping in produce. Not to mention the involvement of the citizenry, which is ultimately good for our democracy. Bravo, Mr. Moyers, for seeing and expressing these possibilities in your first edition!

RE: the Jon Stewart interview: no, it is too overwhelmingly oppressive and discouraging to believe there is hope for positive change in our government. The humor of Stewart is wonderful, the reality is not.

Bill Moyers is now focused on one of the biggest threats to our way of life and our countrys future success. The popular news media, especially TV with the exception of PBS and CSPAN are now a part of the entertainment industry. The name of the game is do and say anything that will attract an audience. Attracting eye balls or readership is king! Advertising revenue is much more important than honest journalism. Americans need to wake up and turn the popular TV news off. Along with PBS and CSPAN, journalist need to create a new media and sources of news that truly examines and explores what our corporations, government and so called leaders are doing to our country for the sake of money.

Thank you for a great show this evening with Jon Stewart and Josh Marshall. It was both insightful and comforting to hear reasoned and measured thought against the endless obfuscation of our elected officials. (they are responsible to the entire population, not just those that like them, right, RIGHT?) As to the question of whether the blogs and the internet strengthen or weaken the craft of journalism, I would have to say in these polarizing times, people tend to search out those that agree with their opinions. It seems that any level of journalistic integrity as craft is weakened by the bias the other side determines it has and the careful bi-partisan "crafting" is still branded by one side or another as "leaning". The sheer voice of reason presented on BMJ, no matter how well crafted, researched, reasoned and presented will be seen as accurate and well written by the left and "partisan hackery" presented by seasoned gasbags of the left by the red side. Craft doesn't suffer when everything is red or blue, we do.

Generally speaking, in order for something to be considered open source it has to be published under a GPL-style license. The content of Talking Points however is copyrighted:

"All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of TPM Media LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content."

The GPL does allow redistribution of content and also does not force any trademarks on it. The only major restriction is that any derivative works must also be published under the GPL.

Wikipedia I think is an excellent example of how the GPL philosophy can apply to information. It is the worlds largest encyclopedia and has been growing exponentially. It is an extremely valuable resource, despite the fact that it may not be 100% accurate at all times.

What makes Wikipedia different from a blog is that it can be edited by anyone. The way Talking Points was described, it required readers to mail in ideas for stories, then Marshall would decide whether or not it is worth writing up and posting. With Wikipedia, readers are able to write and publish their own articles. And if a Wikipedia moderator abuses their power, it is perfectly within the right of anyone to download all the content on wikipedia and use it to start their own online encyclopedia, with themselves as moderators.

For "Open Source" to apply to journalism, journalists would have to begin publishing their work under a GPL-style license(such as CreativeCommons). Instead of PBS producing an episode of Frontline for example, they can just provide the "source" footage and the interviews, and then allow the viewers to compile and narrate their own version of the show, with their own style and biases. The benefits of open source in journalism I think will come when instead of a single article or episode, we can have several dozen, each about the same subject, and each appealing to a different audience or demographic. Being able to take an episode of a PBS show and then narrate it in French, German or even Kurdish can allow it to have an international audience. Similarly, the work of a public television station in Holland can be easily translated to English and redistributed in the rest of the world. An Iraqi can interview a government official that PBS may not have access to, and then integrate that interview into a piece already compiled by PBS about Iraq.

We have already seen all of these things happen in Open Source software and there is no reason why journalism could not benefit from the open source philosophy as well. However in order to do so organizations such as PBS need to embrace open source in the legal sense and make all source materials available to viewers. As long as source materials are kept private and as long as the final product is copyrighted, it is incorrect to call something open source. Critiquing an article or emailing a suggestion is not nearly enough to justify the title of "Open-Source Journalism". It actually has to be open source.

I'll piggyback on the already posted comments. It has the potential to be a great source of unfiltered news, as the Knight Ridders showed in your previous piece about Buying the War. But in that same piece is the negative effect of blogs, where news is confused with repackaged opinion, and the volume of it all is enough to drown out what is legitimate and trustworthy.

A bit like 24 hour cable news.

Blogs definitely have the potential to improve the flow of information to and among the people. For example, Josh Marshall's weekly calls for help with DOJ document dumps is a great opportunity for anyone who is interested to read and comment on findings in these documents.

However, blogs may also serve as sources of disinformation and as echo chambers. However, this problem seems no worse in the blogosphere than it is in mainstream journalism. (And mainstream journalism will never provide anything with the surreal entertainment value of Ann Althouse's drunken American Idol commentary.)

First, it's really great to have Bill Moyers back on PBS! Now, on topic, many blogs are just spouting opinion, and there's a place for that, but blogs like TPM and many others provide something that's been lost in mainstream journalism - perspective. The Internet puts "stringers" in every place with a computer. It's still necessary to have someone coordinate and vet all those tips, but with a blog the readers can even help with those functions. All those eyes and ears offer a way to get past the fog of insider "journalism" like that practices by the majority of so-called professionals these days.

Post a comment

THE MOYERS BLOG is our forum for viewers' comments intended for discussing and debating ideas and issues raised on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. THE MOYERS BLOG invites you to share your thoughts. We are committed to keeping an open discussion; in order to preserve a civil, respectful dialogue, our editors reserve the right to remove or alter any comments that we find unacceptable, for any reason. For more information, please click here.

A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

Your Comments


THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

Click to subscribe in iTunes

Subscribe with another reader

Get the vodcast (help)

For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

© Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ