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Columbia Journalism Review

Columbia Journalism Review Winter 2018

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) encourages and stimulates excellence in journalism in the service of a free society. Published by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, CJR examines press performance as well as the forces that affect it. The bimonthly magazine offers a deliberative mix of reporting, analysis, criticism, and commentary.

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United States
Columbia University in City of New York
4 Issues

in this issue

3 min

JON ALLSOP is a CJR Delacorte Fellow. He previously worked on the copy desk at BuzzFeed News, and his investigative work on the US lottery industry has appeared in the Hartford Courant and the New York Daily News. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR is CNN’s chief international correspondent, anchor of the network’s global affairs program Amanpour, a senior adviser to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and a goodwill ambassador for press freedom and safety at UNESCO. STEVE BRODNER is a graphic artist and commentator. His art has won many major awards in the world of illustration and cartooning and has appeared in most publications in the US. He teaches narrative art at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. MARIA BUSTILLOS is the editor in chief of Popula, an alternative news and culture magazine…

3 min
a note from the editor

Journalism is under threat. The president of the United States is undercutting us, autocrats around the world are cracking down on us, police and the courts are moving against us. When CJR decided months ago to devote an entire issue to the threats faced by journalism, I assumed our challenge would be to find ways to bring a fresh eye to issues that we all, sadly, have come to know too well. My fears were misplaced. Not only are the dangers faced by reporters growing and morphing daily—making our efforts to catalog them that much more critical and vibrant—but the nature of the threats we face is, quite frankly, more wide-ranging and fundamental than I ever would have imagined. Donald Trump’s press-hating tweets and the trickle-down threat posed by his language are just…

11 min
fear itself

For reporters, it’s surely as close to a Golden Rule as journalism affords: Fear nobody and nothing in your quest to unearth hard truths and afflict the powerful. Donald Trump’s once-unimaginable matriculation into the White House has given journalists a historic opportunity to demonstrate this fearlessness. A fair number of reporters, editors, and opinionators have risen nobly to the occasion—partly with their investigative work, partly by learning to call politicians liars without qualification when they lie, and partly by playing their traditional role as the Paul Reveres of modern democracy, sounding the alarm when foes of freedom come into view. We are certainly raising a racket. The casual dishonesty of the administration’s press relations has become an unlikely First Amendment cause célèbre. Even the most cautious and careful luminaries of mainstream journalism…

8 min
the president’s phantom threats

During his tumultuous campaign, Donald Trump declared war on the press, pledging to “open up our libel laws” and impose fines on critical journalists if elected. Within a month of taking office, he vowed to go after leakers, comparing them to Nazis, and urged then-FBI director James Comey to jail reporters who published classified information. In response, money began pouring into legal defense funds set up to protect the press from the looming legal onslaught and defend the First Amendment. First Look Media, the news organization started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, put up $2 million and promised more; Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and The Washington Post, donated another $1 million to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The Democracy Fund (also backed by Omidyar) threw in…

6 min
when trump goes global

The hope of the Arab Spring has been realized: Now that anyone can publish anything from anywhere, it is impossible for even the most determined despot to jail every journalist and critic. But even as the most ruthless dictators are realizing the world has changed, they are quickly learning a new method for dismissing dissent and turning the guerrilla media techniques back on the guerrillas. Their instructor: Donald J. Trump, president of the United States. He was trained by his mentor, the McCarthy hearings lawyer Roy Cohn, to relentlessly discredit his enemies, by NBC in the reality television art of manipulating the truth into a lie and reselling it as the truth, and by the New York Post and Twitter in coining a viral phrase. In 2016 he emerged as the…

1 min
assaulted by antifa

On August 27, freelance reporter Dave Minsky was on assignment in Berkeley, California, covering a planned white nationalist demonstration and counterprotest. When the white nationalist demonstration was aborted, peaceful anti-fascist protesters celebrated in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. As Minsky—who has written for Reuters, Vice, the Miami New Times and the Santa Barbara News-Press—livestreamed the demonstration in the park, one masked protester approached him and tried to grab his phone. As Minsky backed up, he tripped and other masked protesters began beating him while he lay on the ground. “Two, three people started trying to grab my phones out of my hands, grab the [camera] off my neck,” he says. “They were hitting me in the face and kicking me in the face and the torso, in the ribs…