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Columbia Journalism Review

Columbia Journalism Review September - October 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

1 min
opening shot

In 2014, the efforts to make organized sports safer and more just had a run of significant victories. In January, a federal judge rejected the NFL’S proposed $765 million concussion settlement, forcing the league to offer a better deal to retired players. In March, a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board’s Chicago office said Northwestern University football players were university employees and could vote to join a union. In July, the ncaa agreed to spend $75 million on medical monitoring and research to settle concussion-related lawsuits by former studentathletes. And in August, another federal judge dismantled the entire rationale for amateurism, the conceptual bedrock of the NCAA, and paved the way for college athletes to be paid. Critics have rightly pointed out the shortcomings, and the relatively modest progress…

3 min
balancing act

Most of the media industry’s problems can be boiled down to simple math—or is it physics? Whichever it is, it’s not good. On one axis we can plot the dynamic force of advertising rates cratering toward ground level. On the other, we see the swelling public demand for things to read or watch or click, or talk back to. This stuff used to be called journalism, and now it’s called content. What’s great is that people love content, about almost anything—wriggling babies, Gaza, immigration, downed planes, baseball scores. The problem is that anyone trying to run a newsroom is left in a brutally tough spot: with less revenue coming in and more demand for content that is good enough to help them compete. This is not a brilliant or original insight,…

7 min

Brick by Bezos Which Bezos? Commenting on your article about Jeff Bezos taking over The Washington Post (“Brick by brick,” July/August 2014”), I have no doubt that the Post will NOT be controlled by a socalled literature-loving, charming billionaire. No, the Post will get the “other” Bezos—the real Bezos—whose aim has always been to accumulate power, not money, though he has managed collaterally, and with intense cleverness, to amass a lot of that as well. Bezos now has dominion over one of the world’s leading media outlets and its editorial coverage. Anyone who believes he will be a benevolent, hands-off owner who delegates operations to Post staffers is simply deluded. Bad enough that this guy has severely weakened a vast number of businesses, including the book publishing industry, but now he…

8 min

Must-See TV: When late-night went political Dick Cavett isn’t the first hardnosed reporter who comes to mind when we think of the Watergate scandal. Probably because he wasn’t so much a capital-J journalist as a cornball-yet-erudite talk-show host. Still, over a two-year stretch he grilled everyone from chief conspirator G. Gordon Liddy to Attorney General Richard Kleindienst to President Richard Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean—an unthinkable degree of reporting by today’s late-night TV standards. “I set out to do an entertaining talk show when I went into television, never dreaming I would get up to my neck in a national scandal,” says Cavett in a new pbs documentary that aired on the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation in August. The Dick Cavett Show demonstrated the ability of late night to not…

2 min
bad taste, poor judgment

Darts & Laurels DART to the ghoulish journalists who rummaged through the scattered belongings of people killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine, while investigators fretted that the site was being contaminated. That includes Sky News reporter Colin Brazier, who was reporting live from the site on July 20 when he picked up a toothbrush, a set of keys, and a child’s bottle from an open piece of luggage. Brazier noted, “We shouldn’t really be doing this, I suppose,” but his report still set off a storm of protest on social media that prompted Sky News to apologize for the incident that same day. Brazier himself apologized in a column in The Guardian a few days later, explaining that he wasn’t thinking clearly amid…

1 min
outta site

Language Corner Language evolution is happening right in plain sight. “Off-site” and “on-site” are in the process of becoming “offsite” and “onsite.” And they’re adding “noun” to their parts of speech as well. That’s because people are using their own logic instead of dictionaries. Right now, nearly every dictionary says “off-site” and “on-site” take hyphens. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fifth edition, is alone of the major dictionaries in allowing “offsite” and “onsite.” But if you look online (which started out as “on line,” moved swiftly to “on-line,” and even faster to “online”), you’ll see “onsite” and “offsite” popping up more frequently. After all, we have “onstage,” “offshore,” and many other words that have lost their hyphens. (Of course, we also have “off-key,” “onscreen,” and others that still have them, most…