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Why a drone journalism educator is getting his pilot's license

August 28, 2015 - 11:10am
Matt Waite has already enjoyed a varied career as an investigative journalist and author, as the principal developer behind PolitiFact, and, most recently, as an educator. He’ll soon add one more title to his CV: pilot. Waite, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been working toward his light-aircraft pilot’s license all summer—not because of any particular ambition...

Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

August 28, 2015 - 6:50am
In this week's Lower case... From NYCityNews (submitted by Bill McHugh of Bush, Louisiana). And this one, from Twitter, we couldn't stop laughing at: I am 87% sure my local paper doesn't know how pie charts work.— Philip Townley (@empressburger) August 23, 2015 Have a headline you want to share? Snap a photo and email it to or tweet it...

Nice try, government officials, but this time the law is on the citizen’s side

August 27, 2015 - 2:45pm
Government officials can get creative when they want to hide information from public view. They sue people who request records. They try to kill programs designed to allow citizens to resolve FOI disputes without filing a lawsuit. They make decisions in open meetings without public deliberation. They even use Sunshine Week to propose bills to make it more difficult for...

As the WDBJ tragedy evolves, how will journalists frame the story?

August 27, 2015 - 11:40am
It is less than an hour’s drive from Roanoke, due south across Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway, to Smith Mountain Lake, where WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward—24 and 27 years old, respectively—were shot to death by a former colleague on live TV early Wednesday morning. Nothing prepares journalists anywhere for the murder of our own. Yet the news...

Math doesn't get the media attention it deserves

August 26, 2015 - 12:15pm
Last week, a story of an unusual nature managed to break into the regular news cycle. It was a story about math--more specifically, the discovery of a five-sided shape that can be used to cover an area without leaving gaps or overlapping pieces (a trick known as “tiling the plane”). The Guardian picked up the story, as did The Huffington...

In Katrina's wake

August 26, 2015 - 11:10am
Hurricane Katrina attacked New Orleans in August 2005. Among the many ways in which the city was unprepared for the disaster was the absence of a chain of command among local police. “There were no rules in place other than ‘Wait it out and, when the winds wind down, begin your patrols,’ ” a former narcotics officer tells Ronnie Greene in...

Should news organizations share the video of the WDBJ7 shooting?

August 26, 2015 - 10:43am
On Wednesday morning, two journalists near Roanoke, Va. were fatally shot during a live taping. The video was posted to various news outlets, prompting a discussion on Twitter about whether it was appropriate to show the footage. [View the story "Journalists react to WDBJ shooting footage" on Storify]

As legacy media cuts back on FOIA, digital-only news outlets step in

August 25, 2015 - 3:05pm
Ask any journalist and they’ll tell you the Freedom of Information Act process is broken. Denials are at record highs, navigating the bureaucracy can be a nightmare, and the federal agencies recently killed a modest reform bill. But a series of FOIA lawsuits also have just shown how the 50-year-old transparency law can still be indispensable. And absent any change...

How a Reuters investigation exposed a little-known side of the medical industry

August 25, 2015 - 2:40pm
In January, a pair of Reuters journalists spotted an unusual court motion filed by Johnson & Johnson. The pharmaceutical giant is one of seven companies that make a product known as pelvic mesh, used to treat conditions like urinary incontinence and uterine prolapse, that is at the center of a major wave of personal injury litigation. Johnson & Johnson claimed...

Why stock market reporting should be treated with caution

August 25, 2015 - 12:05pm
US stock markets sank, bobbed upward, and ultimately sank again on Monday, in what many financial journalists and Wall Street bigwigs described as a “wild ride” worthy of the history books. The reporting on what the numbers meant was as dizzying as the markets themselves. Often ominous horse-race journalism charted the swings and searched for a culprit, while mellow explainers...

American Journalism Review's former editor picks out its best pieces

August 24, 2015 - 2:45pm
Rem Rieder, the top editor of American Journalism Review for 22 years, highlights the publication's "greatest hits."   The Sad Saga of Gary Webb The hard-charging investigative reporter's career imploded in the wake of his much-criticized “Dark Alliance” series about the CIA and crack cocaine. But while Webb overreached, some key findings in “Dark Alliance” were on target--and important. Last December Webb...

The end of American Journalism Review and what it means for media criticism

August 24, 2015 - 2:45pm
AJR is no more. You might not have noticed, because by the time it winked out this summer there was not a lot of it left. The American Journalism Review had gone from publishing 11 semi-solid issues a year with a decent website, to three issues per year, to zero print issues per year with Web content about “media innovation”...

You say you want a revolution

August 24, 2015 - 11:25am
Copernicus was among the first to try to persuade us that we, the earthbound, circle the sun. That is, our orbit “centers on” the sun, and we “revolve around” it. But aside from heliocentrism, people frequently say that an issue “centers around” something: A university “organizes events and activities centered around popular science fiction all year”; a library’s summer “activities...

Is it ethical to write about hacked Ashley Madison users?

August 21, 2015 - 3:40pm
On Thursday morning, the hosts of an Australian radio show invited listeners to call in if they suspected their partners of cheating. The hosts would then search for the supposed cheaters’ names in the membership rolls of Ashley Madison, a dating Web site that appeals to married adults with the slogan, “Life is short, have an affair.” The site was...

Is Kansas really an Obamacare outlier? Here's why it might not be

August 21, 2015 - 11:30am
For all the controversy that continues to surround the Affordable Care Act, one thing seems pretty clear: After the reform law was passed, uninsured rates declined across the country. Clear, that is, except here in Kansas, where the headlines have told a different story. “Poll: Kansas Uninsured Rate Goes Up By 40 Percent,” reported KCUR, the Kansas City public radio...

'Indignant Minnesotans' remind journalists that data can hurt

August 21, 2015 - 6:50am
Minnesotans got a bitter lesson on the limits of data this week when the Washington Post’s Wonkblog published a map ranking every county in the US by “scenery and climate.” Reporter Christopher Ingraham built the graphic with data from the 1999 “natural amenities index,” a list based on climate, topography, and water. The North Star state didn’t fare well, with...

Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

August 20, 2015 - 11:24am
This week's news brought two winners:   The Island Now, Williston Park, NY, 8/13/15   The Daily Beast, 8/19/15 Submitted by Howard Sann   Have a headline you want to share? Snap a photo and email it to or tweet it to us @CJR.  

‘Inside Amazon,’ but not fully in context

August 19, 2015 - 4:20pm
The New York Times has taken considerable flak, much from its own public editor, for relying too heavily on anonymous sources in its stories. A standard rationale for unattributed quotes—that sources fear retribution from employers—is only sporadically convincing. One obvious exception, however, would seem to be when investigating the ruthlessness of a company and its work environment. A front-page report...

Tampa Bay Times' investigation is a model for how to report on school resegregation

August 19, 2015 - 3:30pm
The resegregation of public schools around the country, and the often willful failure of communities to maintain the gains of integration, is a national story. As Nikole Hannah-Jones reported for ProPublica and The Atlantic last year, federal officials and the courts have stepped back from enforcing integration mandates in many places, sometimes returning control to indifferent local officials. The result:...

Five ways to improve environmental reporting

August 19, 2015 - 11:07am
In the weeks following the death of Cecil the Lion, a 13-year-old African lion killed during a trophy hunt, media outlets big and small wondered what would now become of the lions still living in Africa. Scientific American interviewed the researcher tracking Cecil, who said the hunt had served as a catalyst for millions of people to “express their enthusiasm...