The Struggle to Ban Alex Jones + Membership Models for News Organizations

There’s so much to unpack in this extremely timely chat with Jay Rosen. Jay teaches journalism at New York University and on this episode of Community Signal, he discusses an era of journalism where readers hold the power. The power of choice, the power to talk back to journalists and media organizations, and the power to rally with their fellow readers. And with this shift in power comes a (positive) shift in responsibilities for journalists.

Interestingly enough, technology platforms like Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and YouTube, are being met with similar calls to action and Jay cites their inability to listen to their users as a clear absence of business culture and principles. But is the recent removal of Alex Jones and Infowars from a few of these sites a sign of an internal crisis of conscience? This journalism student and community pro sure hopes so.

Patrick and Jay also talk about:

  • Why audience engagement managers are in such high demand
  • The role that media organizations and journalists play in protecting journalism and the democracy
  • The benefits that a membership model could bring to journalism

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Big Quotes

“I was very interested in the way [Alex Jones being banned from social media platforms] unfolded with Apple’s Tim Cook making the decision and then Facebook and YouTube following his lead, in effect. To me, that’s very interesting because these platform companies don’t really have principles that apply to this situation. They would prefer that these kinds of judgement calls don’t come up because they don’t really have principles and decision-making routines and any tradition, any culture, that would allow them to make smart editorial calls, which is essentially what this is. It’s an editorial decision. This belongs on our platform, this doesn’t. I think they have tried to avoid making these kinds of judgments. Then when Tim Cook at Apple just said, ‘We’re not going to host this guy anymore,’ that was enough for Zuckerberg and for YouTube to say, ‘Us, neither.’ Which is funny because it indicates an inability to think for themselves.” –@jayrosen_nyu

“When you talk about ‘asymmetrical bulls***,’ it just reminds me about one of the core principles of community that I adhere to, which is the idea that I serve the community that I manage, whatever that is. I don’t serve one person in it. If I have to spend an inordinate amount of time on one person because they are Alex Jones, or because they’re just in some other way problematic, destructive, damaging, harmful to the community, what it stands for, what it is, the standards it has, then something is wrong. You have to cut that out of the equation. Otherwise, you can get sucked into just serving one person instead of the community as a whole.” –@patrickokeefe

“Media companies, the employees of those companies who are journalists, newsrooms as professional communities; they should not be in the business of trying to defeat Donald Trump or make sure he loses his next election or elect Democrats, or anything like that. They have to find a way to oppose a political style that erodes democratic institutions and makes it impossible for a democratic public to function. I don’t think that’s an easy distinction to put into practice … but I do think that that is the germ of the distinction that we need.” –@jayrosen_nyu

“Solving these riddles of participation [tied to the membership model], which is definitely an adventure in online community, is, I think, a really important challenge to journalism now. Because if everything goes to a subscription model, what we’re going to have is a class of people who can afford to pay, who are very well informed, and then crap for everybody else, and that just isn’t acceptable.” –@jayrosen_nyu

About Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen has been teaching journalism at New York University since 1986. From 1999 to 2005, he served as chair of the program. Rosen is the author of PressThink, a blog about journalism and its ordeals, which he introduced in September 2003. In 1999, Yale University Press published his book, What Are Journalists For?, which is about the rise of the civic journalism movement during the pre-internet era.

In 2008, he was the co-publisher, with Arianna Huffington, of, which allowed anyone who was interested to sign up and contribute to campaign coverage for the Huffington Post. He is currently serving as ambassador to the American market for the Dutch site, De Correspondent as it looks to expand to the U.S. In 2017 he became director of the Membership Puzzle Project, funded by the Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund. It studies membership models for sustainability in news. Rosen is also an active press critic with a focus on problems in the coverage of politics.

Related Links

Jay also references and recommends these readings:


Your Thoughts

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