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Columbia Journalism Review

Columbia Journalism Review March - April 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

In January, The New York Times introduced the first visual overhaul of its site since 2006. The changes are fairly subtle—a cleaner look, section navigation that requires an extra click, articles that are easier to browse. But the redesign wasn’t about the visible so much as the possible. The new version blends every medium into one experience, whether it’s the written word, photographs, video, or a graphic. And it allows for a deeper integration of the Times’ beefedup native advertising efforts, where ads are formatted to mimic a site’s editorial content. Journalism with a “play” button and ads that look like journalism—such is the digital mishmash on screens where every inch of real estate fights to hold audiences and no two users want the same thing. This redesign also marks the…

3 min
navigating the bedlam

It came as a jolt. After 25 years at The Washington Post, where I’d spent my early days as a reporter and my later years as the managing editor, I was ready for a break. And I was taking one, on my back porch, listening to music and enjoying the still life of a freelance book editor. But nine months in, I suddenly found myself contemplating the idea of moving to New York, to become the editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review. The idea seemed as ill-timed as it did tempting. So I did what anyone might. I asked my friends what they’d do. Most of them are journalists, the ideal test lab, and I thought I had a pretty good handle on what they’d say: Why upend your…

7 min

Accountability vs. access The reason that access journalism fails the test of true reporting is that access reporting depends on the acceptance of the writer by those from whom he seeks access (“The right debate,” CJR, January/February). The subjects of the news thus become the content editors of the news—that which they wish to grant to Writer A is disseminated. Access news reporting will never be able to completely rid itself of spin. Accountability reporting is much harder; it requires the reporter to come at a story from as many angles and sources as is possible under the constraints of time and budget. By forcing the reporter to take a 360-degree view of a story, it tends to remove, or severely limit, spin from any one source. To compare them is…

18 min

Open Bar Eightbar Baltimore, MD Year opened 2013 Distinguishing features Don’t expect to spot Eightbar from the sidewalk. Instead, you’ll need to enter Baltimore’s legendary Atomic Books, a pop-culture emporium where local journalists often appear to read from their latest books, and which offers an unmatchable selection of hard-to-find magazines. Inside Atomic is where you’ll find Eightbar, tucked into a modest, living roomsized space at the back of the shop. Artistic license Eightbar’s most eclectic feature? That would be the top of the L-shaped bar itself, which acts as something of an homage to Daniel Clowes, a comic artist and illustrator. Indeed, every last square inch of the bar pops with Clowes’ neurotic, oddball artwork, including magazine covers commissioned by The New Yorker. Clowes’ best-known comic book series, “Eightball,” provided inspiration for the bar’s name. Signature…

10 min
dancing with hollywood

MARTIN SIXSMITH SPENT FOUR YEARS HELPING AN IRISHWOMAN TRACK DOWN the son she had been forced to give up for adoption, turning the story of her quest into a book: The Lost Child of Philomena Lee. Sixsmith, a former BBC reporter, largely kept himself out the narrative, but understood that he had “quite a grabby story.” Then actor Steve Coogan read a companion article in the Guardian. He bought the rights to the book—sight unseen—and quickly went into production, making Sixsmith into a leading character, played by Coogan himself. “I think all authors are delighted that somebody is interested enough in their work to want to make it into a film,” Sixsmith says. Being a character was a nice bonus. Sixsmith is probably the only journalist to see himself played on the big…

8 min
placing a bet on usa today

THE BUSINESS MODEL OF NETWORK TELEVISION—PLUGGING THE POWER OF A national broadcast operation into a grid of local stations—is coming to newspapers, and Gannett, at least, is pinning its future on it. The McLean, VA, newspaper and broadcast chain has begun inserting national and international news sections carrying the USA Today brand into some of its local dailies. The move, designed to emulate the audience-and-revenue building power of network TV, has already dramatically boosted circulation at Gannett’s flagship paper (albeit under new, looser accounting rules), while giving the local papers a polished new look and better, more uniform national and international coverage. Gannett officials, buoyed by its success, see the experiment as having the potential to grow the business, and strengthen the USA Today brand, at a time when most print newspapers,…