Columbia Journalism Review

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Dissecting dystopia

August 29, 2016 - 6:50am
This unusual election season has many writers falling back on philosophers and philosophy to describe what’s happening. Two words thrown around a lot are “dystopia” and “existential.” Let’s muse about those.  “Dystopia,” the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says, is “an imaginary place which is depressingly wretched and whose people lead a fearful existence.” The adjectival form of the word was first used...

The new drone rules: What journalists need to know

August 26, 2016 - 4:22pm
New rules governing the use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones, come into effect on August 29. The changes, released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), make it easier for everyday journalists to incorporate drone footage into their work. But just because you can use a drone, doesn’t mean you should use a drone. spoke with...

Inspired by elephants, entrepreneur turns sleepy yoga magazine into digital juggernaut

August 25, 2016 - 11:44am
How does an unemployed thirty-something journalism school graduate with a background in Buddhist publishing take a flailing regional glossy about yoga and turn it into a multimedia “feel-good” content juggernaut that attracts millions of monthly readers? He starts by changing the name. Waylon Lewis, an ambitious Boulder native with no experience running a publication, took over Yoga in the Rockies...

Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

August 24, 2016 - 12:21pm
In this week's Lower Case... San Jose Mercury, 5/8/76 The Vancouver Sun, 7/23/86 Want to see more regrettable headlines? Check out the Lower Case archives.

Reuters’s new polling simulator is built for the age of Trump

August 24, 2016 - 9:57am
Campaign season is a quadrennial reminder that numbers often drive the most consequential stories. Census surveys are sliced and diced into shareable charts. A glut of polling is chewed up and spit out as intricate graphics. Election forecasters roll out bigger, better, and more interactive models. Altogether, it’s something of a data visualization arms race. The latest entrant is Reuters*,...

As sites abandon comments, The Coral Project aims to turn the tide

August 23, 2016 - 12:40pm
NPR last week announced its decision to shut down comments on its website in favor of comments on social media—saying “the audience itself has decided.” In a post explaining its decision, NPR’s ombudsman and public editor Elizabeth Jensen says only .06 percent of site users comment on the site. NPR guesses that the commenters on the NPR site are not...

A controversial ballot measure has Colorado news outlets grappling with the "S" word

August 23, 2016 - 11:45am
On Election Day, voters in Colorado will have a big decision to make: whether to approve an initiative that would allow terminally ill patients to obtain a prescription for drugs to end their lives. But before then, news outlets in the state have a decision of their own to make: what language to use when describing the proposal. Like abortion,...

This is not your mother's language column

August 22, 2016 - 1:33pm
An alien who read a lot of news and features reports from the past year could not be blamed for concluding that Americans must really hate their parents and grandparents, or at least reject a lot of what they liked. There’s the redecorated restaurant not suitable for Dad. “We wanted to make it look more upscale, with a little more...

Platform aimed at audience interaction generates story ideas, goodwill

August 22, 2016 - 11:28am
One morning in January, Elizabeth Marlow was on her way to work listening to KALW in San Francisco, her favorite local public radio station, when she heard an announcement encouraging listeners to share questions they wanted the station to investigate. So Marlow, a nurse practitioner who has lived in the Bay Area for 18 years, went to the KALW site...

Shield laws and journalist's privilege: The basics every reporter should know

August 22, 2016 - 6:50am
Compelled disclosure is in the air. A federal judge has ordered Glenn Beck to disclose the names of confidential sources he used in his reporting that a Saudi Arabian man was involved in the Boston Marathon bombing. The man sued Beck for defamation after he was cleared of any involvement. Journalist and filmmaker Mark Boal, who wrote and produced The...

The curious case of sports writers who switch to wine

August 19, 2016 - 12:06pm
The San Diego Union of the 1980s dispatched a team of journalists including Dan Berger, Robert Whitley, Bruce Schoenfeld, and Linda Murphy to bring readers the plays and personalities of sports. Today, the four former sports-desk colleagues are among the most respected wine writers in the world, their works appearing in prestigious wine-centric magazines Decanter and Wine Spectator as well...

Has Olympics coverage shortchanged Brazil?

August 18, 2016 - 5:24pm
The scale of the Olympics enterprise is startling. For every athlete participating in the Games, there are now three members of the press scurrying across Rio de Janeiro looking for stories to tell--as many as 30,000 accredited journalists in total. For years, there has been very little global journalism focused on Rio and the 6 million human dramas unfolding there...

5 lessons on the craft of journalism from Longform podcast

August 18, 2016 - 3:00pm
At first I was reluctant to dive into the Longform podcast, a series of interviews with nonfiction writers and journalists that recently produced its 200th episode. The reasons for my wariness were petty. What sane freelancer wants to listen to highly successful writers and editors droning on about their awards and awesome careers? Not this guy! But about a year...

ESPN’s drug-war epic ‘Pin Kings’ invigorates multi-platform storytelling genre

August 18, 2016 - 12:40pm
Kevin Pedersen and Alex DeCubas were co-captains of their high school wrestling team who ended up on opposite sides of the War on Drugs. DeCubas became one of the nation’s most sought after drug kingpins, with connections to the Colombian drug cartels, and Pedersen became a decorated agent with the DEA, the agency tasked with arresting DeCubas. It’s a helluva story,...

Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

August 18, 2016 - 11:22am
This week, we have two hilarious headlines. The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, 9/10/86 Bellingham (Wash.) Herald 2/15/77

Elisabeth Rosenthal on leaving NYT to edit Kaiser Health News: 'I hope we can add an investigative edge'

August 18, 2016 - 6:50am
In September, after 22 years as a New York Times correspondent, Elisabeth Rosenthal will take over as editor-in-chief of the nonprofit Kaiser Health News. Rosenthal, an emergency room doctor by training, wrote a lengthy, well-received series for the Times about the high cost of American healthcare, “Paying Till It Hurts.”  With the series, she told me in early 2014, she...

Another Gatehouse paper in Florida moves to unionize

August 17, 2016 - 5:00pm
Newsroom employees at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune took steps to unionize Wednesday, just days after journalists at a sister publication, the Lakeland Ledger, officially became the first newspaper in modern Florida history to form a newsroom union. The move also comes a day after Gatehouse Media, which owns both papers, announced a round of company-wide buyouts to reduce staff again, with...

Three Olympics storylines to retire after Rio

August 17, 2016 - 4:25pm
World records are broken. Superstars come and go. But cliché Olympics storylines never die. The biennial games momentarily unite countries around friendly international competition—and media organizations around the allure of drawing global audiences. Estimates on the number of journalists descending on Rio de Janeiro this month reached 30,000, and they come in addition to local media worldwide covering thousands of...

Gifted and haunted: Remembering David Carr

August 17, 2016 - 11:52am
A year after he died suddenly in the newsroom of The New York Times, David Carr still pops up several times a day on the Google Alert I set for him back in 2005, when he first explained to me what that was. This is not ironic, rather simply true in the way that something you learn from someone keeps...

Will a new law really make Illinois' FOIA stronger? Journalists there aren't so sure

August 16, 2016 - 12:00pm
The law, passed in response to a family’s fight for documents related to their daughter’s death, was touted by politicians as strengthening the state’s FOIA laws. Certainly stiffer penalties would seem to do that by sending the message to public bodies that not complying with FOIA could be costly. And the new law also establishes a presumption that a...