Jay Rosen – I Can Do Whatever The F@#k I Want

“I am a tenured professor of journalism, I can do whatever the fuck I want,” said Jay Rosen (right), NYU tenured professor of journalism. Rosen was speaking at the New York Social Media Club meeting, at Edelman Worldwide New York headquarters, last Tuesday.  

Rosen was explaining why mainstream media would never undertake his current project of “Pro-Am” journalism fittingly called  Assignment Zero. The schtick is to combine ”citizen journalists” and “professional” journalists to collaborate on a giant, evolving story.  Rosen says he already has 700 people signed up for the project, nearly triple what they expected. Every edit, thought, revision is recorded on the web. All this is intended to prove … ?

The truth is that mainstream media does “citizen journalism” better than citizens, academics, or PR people. A couple of years ago most major, mid market and then smaller newspapers started adding “citizen” comments to their web stories. Sometimes there are dozens of comments that are elaborate, well-thought out, poignant, or insightful. These comments expand the story and take it in unforseen directions and add credible witnesses and sources the reporter could not possibly have included. The “pros” are leading the story – reporting, editing, packaging – the “Ams” are expanding and broadening it. A simple, elegant, functioning, successful solution.

Jay Rosen has to do something to justify his tenure and his stature in “new media” circles, and Wired needs to get some play off its sponsorship, but isn’t this like looking in the rearview mirror and expecting to see the future? 

Howard Greenstein, co-founder of the nationwide Social Media Club, presided.  Jason Chervokas led a rather silly discussion. Renee Edelman was a gracious and welcoming host. Who is Renee Edelman? Read big brother Richard’s sweet Happy Birthday note to his little sister. The Edelman office has been remodeled since I was there last. It is now clean, spare, modern. Looking across to the soon-to-be-abandoned New York Times Building, over to Reuters and Dow Jones, MTV, Conde Nast, and all the rest of the buzzing lights and flashing images of Times Square, you can’t help but feel like you’re part of the big story, the news, what we live for.


  1. Jay Rosen says:

    What a clown you are, Mark. Taking something said for laughs and making it the headline to your story. And if you seriously think that comment boards at big media sites are the best examples we have of citizen journalism in action, then you don’t understand a thing about that action, and you shouldn’t be trying to inform people about the digital age.

    Rosen: Mark Rose is a clown.

    Use that as a headline for your next post.

  2. Mark Rose says:


    It would be nice if you offered an explanation or clarification rather than saying I am a clown. As a citizen practicing journalism, I believe I have a right to an opinion. Was there something inaccurate in the reporting, or are you simply rankled that someone disagrees with you? Surely, provocative headlines to illustrate a point are not new in journalism.


  3. Jay Rosen says:

    Explanation? Sure. I thought I gave an explanation but I will repeat it. You’re a clown because you took something said for laughs, that was not indicative of any major point or theme of discussion, and made it into a screaming headline, suggesting along the way that I needed to “justify” my academic appointment, and that’s why I created Assignment Zero, which is absurd.

    “I can do what I want…” was 20 seconds of hyperbole in an hour and half discussion, most of which was devoted to explaining what Assignment Zero is trying to figure out or demonstrate. And so a second reason you are a clown is that you either didn’t listen to, or decided to ignore the many explanations I gave that would have answered your clowning and rhetorical question, “All this is intended to prove … ?”

    No one’s questioning your right to have an opinion. I don’t know where you got that. You have every right to write about what you heard, pass judgment, give a thumbs up or thumbs down to the discussion. And I have every right to call you a clown for pulling out a sensational headline and acting like it says something about the event.

    Provoactive headlines are nothing new, that’s true. What didn’t you like about “Rosen says Mark Rose is a clown”…?

  4. Will says:

    Completely independent of Mark and Jay’s debate here I’d just like to wonder out loud why it is that just because Jay Rosen is talking about the merge between paid journalists and citizen unpaid journalists that this is perceived as something new. It’s not like this evolution and the obvious possible directions this can grow in has not be widely discussed and various growth spurts made. We see this relationship between paid media and citizen media merging in various ways all the time. I wish Jay luck with his project, I’m just not convinced its really all that big a deal.


  5. Mark Rose says:

    Actually, Jay, I do like that headline and promise to run it later in the week. Meanwhile, I am wondering the same thing Will is.

  6. Jay Rosen says:

    Did I use the word “new?” I don’t recall doing that.

    Anyway, it is matter of complete indifference to me whether you, Will, or you, Mark, consider Assignment Zero “new,” “old,” “kinda new but not completely,” “traditional,” or an expression of something that has been happening for a long time. Depending on which parts of the project are highlighted, all those descriptions could be accurate; and I am not one for insisting that everything we’re doing with Wired and at the site is “new.” It ain’t.

    Besides, over the years I’ve probably run into–in person, in print, or online–hundreds of people who are eager to tell me what what I am doing isn’t new, even though I try not to describe it as that. I’ve learned not to contest them because they’re usually right, and it really seems to matters to them that “not new” get stamped on the thing in question. As I said it does not matter much to me.

    A big deal? That’s not the same thing as “new.” I would say that right now Assignment Zero is not a big deal for the journalism and media worlds, because we don’t know if it will work, or whether the final results will be any good. It could fizzle, it could fail, it could result in an unexceptional story being told. All those outcomes are possible.

    What is a big deal, however, is the question behind this project, which I put this way in my piece at Wired.com: “We’re trying to figure something out here. Can large groups of widely scattered people, working together voluntarily on the net, report on something happening in their world right now, and by dividing the work wisely tell the story more completely, while hitting high standards in truth, accuracy and free expression?”

    If they can, this would matter, I wrote.

    If you can’t see why it would matter, then I would say the problem is a lack of imagination. Cheers….


  1. [...] also got a day job, which subsidizes his work and provides him with a safety net. As he told a gathering of online media makers last spring, “I am a tenured professor of journalism, I can do whatever the fuck I [...]

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