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Columbia Journalism Review

Columbia Journalism Review July - August 2014

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

2 min
opening shot

Do journalists have a right to protect their sources? The issue is back in the news with the Supreme Court’s refusal in May to hear New York Times reporter James Risen’s appeal. Risen was subpoenaed in 2011 by federal prosecutors who wanted him to name the CIA agent who was a key source for his book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Risen’s fate is unclear; no national law shields reporters from prosecution for refusing to give up information. But government threats to reporters are more common than prosecution. Here’s a look at the last nine US reporters who faced the possibility of jail time. Joe Hosey, who works for the Joliet (Illinois) Patch, still faces the threat of jail time for refusing to…

3 min
letter from the editor

Power shift In the basement of The Guardian’s London offices, under the watchful eye of British intelligence agents, the paper’s staff last year was forced to destroy the encrypted computer files that Edward Snowden had leaked to them. ¶ It was a bizarre spectacle meant to show the power of the state over the feeble press. Or show it symbolically, anyway, since Downing Street knew at the time that The Guardian had a copy of the files safeguarded in the United States. Would the CIA or FBI ever burst into The Washington Post or The New York Times to crack open computer drives? Not likely, though with the Obama administration hell-bent on prosecuting leakers of confidential documents, it does make you wonder. There is the case of Times reporter James Risen, who…

7 min

Robot vs. Human How many news media drones—or camera and microphone mounted on the end of broomsticks (see last graph of Louise Roug’s article “Eye in the Sky,” May/ June 2014)—should authorities allow at a crash scene, big fire, or other newsy event? Several? Dozens? Hundreds? Should they be limited only to those operated by professional news reporters/ photographers who possess properly authorized “press” credentials? Or should any blogger or curious citizen be permitted to fly one—or two, or several—over a “newsy” scene? As a former editor of daily and weekly newspapers and correspondent for an international news service, it is easy for me to imagine a time when dozens of news organizations might wish to send a drone to a potential “news” site. Should the drone—or camera/microphone on broomstick—display a “press pass” clearly…

11 min

For four solid weeks in the middle of summer, a growing legion of US soccer fans cling to radios, laptops, and television screens as the 20th World Cup takes place in Brazil. What was once a niche sport is becoming mainstream—over 24 million Americans watched the last final in 2010—and media coverage has expanded to match in kind.—Edirin Oputu Darts & Laurels Pikettymania’ and the wrong way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo DART to MSNBC’s Way Too Early for its ludicrously insensitive Cinco de Mayo segment, which featured a producer staggering about in a sombrero and chugging tequila straight from a bottle as part of the program’s “Mexican heritage celebration.” Classy, MSNBC. DART to news editor Marie-Louise Gumuchian, late of CNN, for serial plagiarism. cnn fired her from her job—reporting international news for its…

10 min
the toy department shall lead us

WHEN EZRA KLEIN LEFT THE WASHINGTON POST IN JANUARY TO START HIS OWN website at Vox Media, a big factor in his decision was Vox’s custom-built content management system, called Chorus. “They had the technology we thought we were inventing,” Klein told The New York Times. As it happens, that technology, which powers Vox’s growing media empire, began with a sports blog in 2003. Vox’s sporty origins were no fluke. Turns out that sports media have long led the way in journalistic innovation. In 1898, Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated his new invention—the wireless telegraph—by sending updates from a regatta to the Dublin Daily Express. A year later, The New York Herald paid him to broadcast the America’s Cup. In the 1970s, Ted Turner bought the Atlanta Braves and Hawks so he could…

7 min
rosie the scribbler

LIZ SLY, THE BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF OF THE WASHINGTON POST, WAS SITTING in the lobby of a Damascus hotel a couple of years ago, discussing the civil war in Syria with a group of female colleagues, when in walked a male reporter they knew. “What are you doing here?” Sly deadpanned. “This is a woman’s job now.” It was a joke. But it underscored the reality that many of the journalists covering what arguably is the most dangerous story in the world today are women. But it isn’t just Syria. Women employed by the Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, cnn, npr, cbs, and other Western news organizations are leading the coverage of conflicts throughout North Africa and the Middle East. “All the dinners of journalists I go…