Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): In 2020 I wrote this thread. Tonight I accidentally deleted it. So I had to do a reconstruction job using the Internet Archive.

The thread is about something pretty big that I feel I got wrong. And it gets more and more wrong as time moves on. So if that's your thing... 1/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): In January of 2009, I published at my site: "Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press." http://archive.pressthink.org/2009/01/12/atomization.html It was one of my most successful posts. But it had a flaw that I now consider fatal. This thread is the story of that flaw. 2/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): Most of that 2009 post was my attempt to introduce a different way of thinking about the political influence of journalists, beyond criticisms of bias and constructs like "working the refs." I found it in a simple diagram from media scholar @danielchallin Here's a screenshot. 3/ https://twitter.com/jayrosen_nyu/status/1584023107617988609/photo/1

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): Hallin proposed that we think about the political influence of journalists by imagining three spheres: the sphere of consensus (core beliefs that make us one society), of legitimate controversy (things we disagree on and argue about), and of deviance (what is beyond the pale.) 4/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): The sphere of legitimate debate is familiar terrain for journalists. It is where most their work takes place. In the sphere of deviance, says Hallin, are “political actors and views which journalists and the political mainstream of society reject as unworthy of being heard.” 5/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): In the sphere of consensus we find propositions so widely held they're almost universal. Here, Hallin writes, “journalists do not feel compelled either to present opposing views or to remain disinterested observers.” Respect for the Constitution would have been an example. 6/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): As I wrote in 2009: "The three spheres are not really separate; they create one another, like the public and private do. The boundaries between regions are semi-porous and impermanent. Things can move out of one sphere and into another." http://archive.pressthink.org/2009/01/12/atomization.html 7/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): Hallin's model opened space for critique. Journalists are not only gatekeepers, but sphere sorters. Part of their power is to police the boundaries between the spheres of deviance and legitimate debate. By what principles are they guided in use of this power? Good question! 8/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): Simple example: booking guests on the Sunday shows. As I put it in 2009, "One day David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network shows up on Meet the Press, but Amy Goodman of Democracy Now never does." His vision of the country is admitted to the sphere of debate. Hers is not. 9/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): "These decisions are often invisible to the people making them, and so we cannot argue with those people. It's like trying to complain to your kid's teacher about the values ​​the child is learning in school when the teacher insists that the school does not teach values." 10/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): So far so good. "Hallin's spheres" took off as a tool of criticism. They have a Wikipedia entry now: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallin%27s_spheres It covers some of the same ground as the better known Overton Window, but the circular model with "consensus" as the donut hole is its own imaginary. 11/ https://twitter.com/jayrosen_nyu/status/1584023120918503424/photo/1

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): Now recall the title of my 2009 post that has a fatal flaw: "Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press." I was trying for more than an introduction to Hallin's ideas. I wanted to isolate something the internet was doing to journalism. 12/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): "Audience atomization" was my two-word term for a fact about mass media that was easy to overlook until the internet changed it: In the broadcasting era, people were connected "up" to the media — to the White House, to the Oscars, to the NFL — but not "across" to each other. 13/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): A "mass" audience was made from atomized listeners, viewers, readers. They were connected vertically to power centers and media spectacles but disconnected horizontally. And not only that. Before the internet the tools of media production were in the hands of... the media. 14/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): Thus: "In the age of mass media, the press was able to define the sphere of legitimate debate with relative ease because the people on the receiving end were atomized." And, equally important, they were without the tools needed to self-publish and share. 15/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): But now we had the internet. Especially with social media, audience atomization had been overcome. People were connected to each other AND to the media. They could pool their frustrations, criticize the calls journalists made, and make their own: what's in bounds, what's out. 16/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): Now comes the part I regret. "Today one of the biggest factors changing our world is the falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other, share information, trade impressions and realize their number." At the time, I did not realize the significance of these words. 17/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): I was thinking of all the ways the internet empowered people to inform themselves. We have a phrase for it now, which in recent years has taken a dark turn: "do your own research." I had in mind patients with a rare ailment who find others, share treatments, pool knowledge... 18/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): Thus, the falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other, share information, and realize their number. "Among the first things they may do is establish that the 'sphere of legitimate debate' as defined by journalists doesn't match up with their own definition." 19/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): I saw this as a good thing— challenging for the press, but the press needed to be challenged... right? Well yes. But — and this is obvious — the falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other permits not only the criticism, but the utter rejection of journalism. 20/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): The falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other makes possible the mass delusion known as QAnon. It enables the Trump cult to detach itself from anything verifiable and spin off into resentment space. It's sustaining the "stop the steal" movement right now. 21/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): The falling cost for like-minded people to locate each other and share their truth is an integral part of a bewildering fact: today realism counsels us not to assign too much power to reality.

In 2009 I didn't see that coming. But I could have. It's a big thing I got wrong. 22/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): I know what some of you are thinking at this point: "Jay, you're just realizing this NOW?" No. That moment came years ago. I'm just writing it down and sharing it now. 23/

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): In my favorite scene from the movie "Spotlight," Liev Schreiber says: "Sometimes it's easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around in the dark. Suddenly a light gets turned on, and there's a fair share of blame to go around."


Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu): As a coda to this thread much of what I wrote here resulted from my years of struggle with a single text: @zephoria's lecture, "You Think You Want Media Literacy... Do You?" https://points.datasociety.net/you-think-you-want-media-literacy-do-you-7cad6af18ec2