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Columbia Journalism Review

Columbia Journalism Review November - December 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

18 min
the wolf at the door

At a glance, the Daily Growl could be any morning news meeting held in the “win the internet through pet videos” bureau of a lavishly funded media startup. Rows of eager young people stand behind their monitors—“TMZ-style,” managing editor Lisa Keller told me—as Keller solicits memes and news pegs to supplement the content already scheduled on the team’s editorial calendar. Monitors are tuned to Twitter feeds and Photoshop works in progress. Any of the team’s 10 “community managers” and eight designers might produce as many as 10 postings a day. Those numbers don’t include the constant interaction with fans and followers and strangers that is also a big part of the job. The office is light-filled and, despite the heavy productivity expectations, seemingly free of stress. I’m struck by this,…

2 min
still working

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Studs Terkel’s groundbreaking book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, a collection of interviews with working Americans, from fashion models to coal miners. Working established an audience for first-person stories about real, everyday lives. As such, it has influenced storytellers and artists through the decades, and its spirit and style are very much evident in our digital-era media—from This American Life to The Moth storytelling project to podcasts. A look at Working’s on going legacy. (START) Videopolis’ 1975 documentary It’s a Living featured six different workers talking about their lives and jobs, plus Terkel himself The first musical adaptation of Working premiered in 1977 and numerous productions have followed up until today James Taylor’s “Millworker,” originally…

8 min
pundit, heal thyself

WHAT MAKES THE PRESIDENT TICK IS the question that preoccupies every White House correspondent. What makes this president tick has become the political question of our age. Distant, disdainful of Washington, somewhat depressive, and famously imperturbable, Barack Obama has been the object of intense fascination—and much frustration—among the Beltway press. What do they see? A talented politician uninterested in politics; a transcendent speechmaker who can be drily professorial; a cerebral pragmatist who has presided over rageful, polarized times. As a White House correspondent for NBC since 2008, Chuck Todd has had a plum perch from which to eye his quarry. The product of all that observation is The Stranger, the latest entry in the booming genre of Obama studies. The book is ambitious: Todd attempts a comprehensive analysis, from candidacy to troubled…

13 min
conned news

On September 15, 2011, executives of Arevenca, an Aruba-based oil company, and Avic Xac, a Chinese state aircraft company, signed the biggest oil deal in history in Madrid. The agreement promised $200 billion a year in trade over 10 years at a total value of $2 trillion. Francisco Javier González, the president of Arevenca, spoke at the signing about plans to supply not only fuel but also ports and railways. ¶ Within hours, the news was out. Scores of news websites around the world carried a wire story from EFE, Spain’s biggest news agency. Viewers could also see a Spanish-language video news report on EFE’S own page or on its YouTube channel; an extended English-language version promptly appeared on González’ YouTube channel. EFE had been played. Arevenca was little more than…

10 min

Send lettersletters@cjr.org For the love of science The title of Andrew’s FB page (“I Fucking Love Science”) and growing online empire is the first clue that the whole enterprise has something rotten at the core (“Do you know Elise Andrew?” September/October). The in-your-face F-bomb is a declaration that she holds to no tradition of civility, but instead marches under the most prominent flag of the vulgar and narcissistic anti-culture. The British writer and physician Theodore Dalrymple has done the most to examine this disastrous turn in modern life in his books Life at the Bottom and Our Culture—What’s Left of It. Every serious journalist ought to read these disturbing reports from the front lines of our civilization. Language and words matter, not just for content, but for the signals and links that they…

2 min
an education

ON THE JOB EVERY MORNING, PEGGY MONROE SCOURS THE skin of her six children for bedbugs. When she finds one, she pinches it until it bursts. The King’s Inn—a cheap motel off East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, CO, where the family has lived for about a year—is infested with the bloodsucking insects. At night, the four oldest children sleep on the floor on thin mats that interlock like puzzle pieces; the two youngest sleep in the queen-size bed with Peggy and their father, Jonathan Jacko. The cat, Barack, sleeps wherever he can find room. The Monroes are one of two families profiled by The Denver Post for a project on homeless schoolchildren called “Trying to Live, Trying to Learn.” Over the last decade, the number of homeless students in the state more…