Columbia Journalism Review

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Updated: 13 hours 12 min ago

60 Minutes' Africa 'problem'

March 26, 2015 - 4:30pm
The media’s narrative in Africa typically falls into at least one of three narrow categories, according to Columbia Journalism School associate professor Howard French: Immense Catastrophe, White Protagonists, or Wildlife. CBS’ 60 Minutes hit on all three in recent months, prompting French--previously a New York Times west and central Africa correspondent--to send 60 Minutes’ executive producer Jeff Fager a letter...

The huge FCC fine against a Virginia station is a sign we need to rethink broadcast indecency rules

March 26, 2015 - 3:06pm
“The stroking of an erect penis on a broadcast [news] program is shocking.” Count those among the words I didn’t expect to type this week. They appear in a written notice released Monday by the FCC. It informs WDBJ, a Roanoke, VA, television station, that the FCC intends to fine it $325,000—for a July 2012 news report that included, for...

Gazette publisher in Colorado defends controversial marijuana series

March 25, 2015 - 8:30pm
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- On Sunday, The Gazette, the daily newspaper here in Colorado's second-largest city, published the first of a four-day series called "Clearing the Haze," about the state's marijuana legalization experiment. So far, based on much of the public reaction, it might have been better called "Blowing Smoke." The newspaper teased its project in a Sunday front-page print...

How to cover Medicaid during campaign season

March 25, 2015 - 7:00am
Amid the abundance of presidential campaign coverage, stories that examine what type of a president a candidate might be—what he or she might do, policy-wise—are often hard to come by. The horse race dominates, but there is much more to cover and the super-charged topic of healthcare and the Affordable Care Act is a compelling place to start. With a...

What happens when platforms turn into publishers?

March 24, 2015 - 2:35pm
If you’re a publisher, Facebook holds a lot of power. The social media giant is already responsible for directing up to 40 percent of some sites’ traffic, and 75 percent of BuzzFeed’s. Now, according to a report in The New York Times on Tuesday, Facebook is negotiating with a number of publishers to be more than a funnel that directs...

How Chicago's press corps is dealing with 'Washington Rahm'

March 24, 2015 - 11:48am
For four years now, Mary Ann Ahern has been chasing Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel, a three-term Illinois congressman and former White House chief of staff who became Chicago’s mayor in 2011, has ducked out back doors while Ahern, a veteran TV reporter, has been waiting to talk to him, she said. He has retaliated for coverage he hasn't liked by restricting...

Why 'transgender' is preferred over 'transgendered'

March 23, 2015 - 2:50pm
Last week, in sharing some grammar “rules” that you love and hate, we mentioned the comments on our use the previous week of “transgendered,” as in “Many transgendered people …” @meperl quick heads-up on the first item: "transgender" as an adjective is strongly preferred over "transgendered" http://t.co/Mgec20A1k9— Parker Higgins (@xor) March 11, 2015 The link is to the relevant Media...

How the Medill Justice Project has thrived following controversy

March 23, 2015 - 12:30pm
More than four years after it was engulfed in controversy, the Medill Innocence Project remains in the headlines—and not always for the right reasons. Northwestern University, the project’s home, was hit last month with a well-publicized lawsuit by a man who says he was wrongfully jailed for 15 years as the result of an Innocence Project probe that freed a...

Academics are hardly mentioned in March Madness coverage

March 23, 2015 - 6:50am
March Madness, the annual NCAA Division I basketball tournament, has been as chaotic as usual so far, with obscure underdogs eliminating top teams and numerous games decided in the final seconds. But at least one thing is different this year: More people are questioning whether it’s right that the players at the center of the extravaganza, which generates over a...

3 tips for understanding science journalism

March 20, 2015 - 11:00am
Is Alcoholics Anonymous the most effective way to treat addiction? Some science and health journalists said yes this week. Others journalists said no. This puts readers in an awkward position: How do you make sense of it when good journalists writing for reputable publications appear to claim opposite truths, in both cases citing scientific evidence? A beautifully written story by...

The economics of the podcast boom

March 20, 2015 - 6:50am
I’m about to celebrate my one-year anniversary as a podcaster. I started a show with two of my friends (one is my co-host, the other is our producer) last year because we noticed that more and more people were talking about and listening to podcasts, and we wanted to figure out what makes the medium tick. In some ways, being...

It’s Sunshine Week—but some states have a funny way of celebrating

March 19, 2015 - 2:50pm
We’re in the middle of Sunshine Week--an annual celebration of the importance of open government and freedom of information. But as state lawmakers gather for their spring sessions around the country, the sunshine spirit is stronger in some places than others. From South Carolina to Texas and California, lawmakers are busy drafting and debating bills that impose new burdens on...

No surprise: Campaign ads dominate issues coverage on local news, study finds

March 19, 2015 - 11:56am
In Philadelphia, “journalism never had a fighting chance.” That's part of the conclusion of a new study, released today, that looked at the extent to which local TV stations critically examined issues presented in political ads in the nation's fourth largest media market during the 2014 election. The bottom line: They didn't. The study comes from the Philly Political Media...

Florida's public-records law is strong. Here are 5 ways lawmakers want to weaken it

March 19, 2015 - 6:50am
MIAMI — It’s something of a springtime ritual: Florida legislators pushing bills designed to limit the state’s public-records law, long considered one of the strongest in the country. This year, lawmakers have filed more than three dozen bills to create exemptions in the expansive law—prompting some attentive coverage from the state press corps, and some pushback from transparency advocates. The...

Why digital media and identity issues are a match

March 18, 2015 - 2:50pm
Today's digital outlets have made identity issues—on race, gender, and sexuality—core to their reporting. BuzzFeed has a robust LGBT section, a Latino coverage editor, and hosted a recent Black History Month series. Fusion is a joint venture between Disney-ABC and Spanish language network Univision, which the site says targets a “young, diverse, and inclusive millennial generation,” and has a ‘justice’...

Common problems with Common Core reporting

March 18, 2015 - 6:50am
“Something big is happening in New Jersey,” PBS NewsHour special correspondent John Merrow intones ominously at the start of last week’s NewsHour segment on standardized testing in New Jersey and elsewhere. “It’s happening in Newark ... . It’s happening in Montclair ... . And it’s happening in the state capital.” The “something big,” according to PBS and other media outlets,...

How microsites are covering global news

March 18, 2015 - 6:50am
Lara Setrakian, the founder of the news site Syria Deeply, says she saw ISIS coming before it seized global headlines. “Because Syria Deeply was there, we watched, reported, documented, alerted, sketched, month by month, how ISIS became what it is now,” she said in a recent interview. “Anyone who was watching, anyone who was reading, wouldn’t have been surprised.” True...

With The Jinx, where does journalism end and entertainment begin?

March 17, 2015 - 3:39pm
In one of the many chilling moments of HBO’s The Jinx, murder suspect and Manhattan real estate heir Robert Durst mumbles to himself during a break from his interview with director Andrew Jarecki, seemingly oblivious to the microphone still recording from its perch on his sweater. Durst was quietly rehearsing how to explain his previous murder testimony when his lawyer...

Unpopular grammar rules

March 17, 2015 - 12:18pm
Last week, we discussed a few “rules” of grammar and usage, asking whether it was time to let them go. We also asked which “rules” you would keep or jettison. The outpouring, while more like a trickle, was predictably passionate. People love their grammar. @cjr @meperl As a professional editor, I can't decide by fiat to allow epicene 'they' or...

Politico's latest hire leaves a hole in Colorado politics coverage

March 17, 2015 - 6:50am
The latest threat to state-level reporting—Politico, which keeps hiring top political journalists away from local news organizations—has hit Colorado. Eli Stokols, one of the state's best political reporters, produced the final segment of #COpolitics: From the Source, his weekend public-affairs show, on Sunday. After nearly a decade in Denver TV, Stokols is leaving for Washington at the end of the...

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