Monday, June 06, 2011 2:13 PM
Save for the country’s top executives, almost everyone working in American business is doing more with less. So when serious journalists—an inherently cynical lot in the first place—grumble publicly about budget cuts, story quotas, and the pressure to blog or tweet, it makes sense that people outside of the industry aren’t moved to sympathy. Not only that, but we are bombarded with so much information online, in print, and over the airwaves, that it sometimes feels as though the world would keep spinning if, in a worst-case scenario, a few reporters had to find another way to make a living.
The problem is, more and more journalists and college graduates are forgoing the trenches to pursue a different career path. Instead of reporting the news, they’re working to help manipulate it as public relations specialists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, in 1980 there were .45 PR people and .36 journalists per every 100,000 workers. As of 2008, that number had shifted radically. There are now .90 PR people per 100,000 workers and just .25 journalists. As Columbia Journalism Review reports in its May-June 2011 issue, that’s a ratio of more than three-to-one, better equipped and better financed to influence what the public sees and hears.
“I don’t know anyone who can look at that calculus and see a very good outcome,” communications professor Robert McChesney, who recently co-authored The Death and Life of America Journalism, tells the bimonthly magazine. “What we are seeing now is the demise of journalism at the same time we have an increasing level of public relations and propaganda. . . . We are entering a zone that has never been seen before in the country.”
“True Enough: The Second Age of PR,” written by former New York Time reporter John Sullivan and copublished with ProPublica, explores the ways that corporations, the government, and other well-funded entities are able to influence news coverage, especially as fewer journalists have less time to report deeply on fast-moving stories. For instance, Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, tells Sullivan that in order to compete with their peers, editors and publishers put an even higher premium “on time, on speed, on getting the first bit of information up quickly. Often that first bit of information is coming from government agencies or public relations.” What’s more disconcerting is that even when reporters eventually do go back and flesh out a story, it’s the initial headline that’s quickest to spread and leave the most lasting impression.
Public relations agencies have also become adept at getting news outlets to treat corporate representatives and other sources with a clear agenda to act as sources. For precedent, just consider the number of former military personnel, many of them working for think tanks or weapons-making companies, who are tapped to opine about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Not only are they biased, but viewers perceived them to be more credible, since they are now independent of the government and media.
So, whether or not you feel sorry for those ink-stained wretches at your local paper, consider this: “Journalism,” CJR opines, “the counterweight to corporate and government PR, is shrinking.”
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Image byfreddthompson, licensed under Creative Commons
Wednesday, March 09, 2011 10:07 AM
According to Pew Charitable Trust’s 2008 “State of the News Media” special report on public attitudes toward the news media, “Majorities of Americans continued to say that journalists are often inaccurate (55 percent), do not care about the people they report on (53 percent), are biased (55 percent), one-sided (66 percent) and try to cover up their mistakes (63 percent).” It’s clear that much of the public deems journalists untrustworthy. As a recent grad from a journalism school, it’s painful to admit how fallible the news industry can be. One near-omnipresent snare for journalists—and a scourge of journalistic integrity—is the facile use of press releases to write stories, what has been dubbed “churnalism.”
The UK-based Media Standards Trust, “an independent registered charity which aims to foster high standards in news media on behalf of the public,” developed a website called Churnalism so that journalists and consumers can discern spin from news. “The site compresses all articles published on [UK] national newspaper websites . . . and then stores them in a fast access database,” according to the Trust’s website. “If the engine finds any articles where the similarity is greater than 20 percent, then it suggests the article may be churn.”
Expecting a snide, skeptical, uninterested response from the ostensibly guilty journalists, Media Standards Trust baited the news cycle with a discreetly published, fake press release for an unbelievable product. The Trust’s Martin Moore elaborated during an interview on WNYC’s On the Media:
Chris [Atkins, a collaborator with the Trust] invented what he called the “chastity garter belt,” which a woman would put around her thigh and had built-in technology which would record, by various clever scientific means, like her, her rising pulse rate and, and moisture levels on her leg, whether or not she was about to be unfaithful. And if she was, it would text a message to her partner warning him, so he could rush back and either forestall or catch, catch her before she did so.
Like hungry goldfish, the press gobbled the plump worm dangling before them. Chicago’s WGN-TV ran a short segment and, as Moore detailed during the WNYC interview, “The story was picked up by The Times of India, in the States, in Slovakia, in Greece, in Israel, all around the world.”
That, folks, is called egg on the face.
As an end note, just a reminder the public shouldn’t only be concerned with sneaky, unverified pitches from snake-oil retailers. “Not all churnalism comes from commercial sources,” warns the Columbia Journalism Review. “Much of it has political sources: public authorities trying to spin bad news, medical firms trying to obscure poor results, and political lobbying groups.”
For what it’s worth, 55 percent of this post was cut and pasted from various websites and not independently fact-checked.
Sources: Columbia Journalism Review, On the Media
Image by quinn.anya, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, January 20, 2011 1:11 PM
Middle Eastern affairs and conflicts are, to say the least, mired in complexity. America’s fingers are dipped in many of the region’s interests—halting the spread of terrorism, securing oil reserves, ensuring non-proliferation of nuclear technology, and controlling the opium trade, just to name a few. Getting the story straight is difficult for seasoned reporters and exponentially harder for a blogger in the comfortable embrace of his Midwestern cubicle. After world-rattling events, newshounds balk at our country’s feeble grasp of Middle Eastern contexts and lack of strategic intelligence and foresight.
Well, that need-to-know information can’t always be collected and those highly-sought experts shouldn’t necessarily be trusted, according to Columbia Journalism Review—especially in a country like Afghanistan, where professional journalism is a fairly new institution. “Afghan journalists are relatively new to their work, and they have been criticized for lacking professionalism,” writes CJR’s Vanessa M. Gezari. “But Afghan journalists describe the world they see: a complex place, littered with overlapping, conflicting accounts. There are no reliable sources here.” The other issue faced by Afghan journalists is that their mission—uncovering truth in a burgeoning democracy—is relatively similar to that of Western military intelligence officers. According to Gezari, “For Afghan journalists, the methodological similarity between reporting and intelligence work is problematic. Journalism has little institutional standing in Afghanistan, and many Afghan reporters told me that ordinary people suspect journalists of spying.”
All solid journalism clearly requires proper training. Eager to test out the tools of their trade, journalism professor Diane Winston’s students put themselves in harm’s way and took up a religious beat in Palestine by actually reporting on the spiritual landscape from the West Bank. Winston recounts the class’s introductory experience in The Chronicle Review:
Then came the moment when the airport van left us inside the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Punchy after a 14-hour plane ride, we dragged duffel bags and camera equipment through narrow, cobblestone streets and winding pathways until we found our way to the Lutheran Guest House and sleep. Several hours later, jet lag proved no match for religious authority as a muezzin’s predawn chant led the call to prayer.
Being there made all the difference. The intensive preparation cohered when students, faced with breaking news, drew on multiple skill sets to report and write stories—to practice journalism for real. Students covered protests and demonstrations that could have been dangerous but were crucial for readers worldwide.
We in the magazine world know that not all reporting needs to be serious or completely objective. The nuances of obscure culture can be just as revelatory, thrilling, disheartening, or impactful. In a bit of meta-reporting, Bidoun—a quarterly, experimental-format Middle Eastern arts-and-culture magazine—interviewed two reporters from the long-running educational publication Saudi Aramco World. The publication’s editorial mission is quite different from, say, a newspaper or prime-time broadcast; one of the reporters states that“Aramco World really saw itself as a cultural interface between the Middle East and the United States. I think there was prescience in that, the idea that greater understanding of the people and the issues of the Middle East would be important in the future.”
And speaking of Saudi Aramco World, the January-February 2011 features a very different type of dispatch from the Middle East: light-hearted photography. The magazine spotlights Iraqi photographer Jamal Penjweny’s project “Iraq is Flying” (pictures all over this post), in which he captured everyday Iraqi citizens in mid-air. Penjweny’s images remind the outside world of something we often take for granted: Iraq’s diverse people can transcend their portrayal by mainstream media, even with a permanent backdrop of war.
Bidoun,Chronicle Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Saudi Aramco World
Images courtesy of Jamal Penjweny.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 1:24 PM
Earlier this summer, Village Voice staff writer Elizabeth Dwoskin filed a story about Debrahlee Lorenzana, who had been fired from her job at Citibank because, according to her arbitration suit against the company, her body was too distracting for her male co-workers and managers. They had repeatedly attempted to control her wardrobe choices, which were not particularly revealing, it seems. The story went viral and was covered by major news outlets all over the world. Writing recently for the Columbia Journalism Review, Dwoskin remarks,
I watched this unfold in real-time—a punch-drunk, surreal, I-don’t-want-to jinx-myself-but-I-don’t-think-this-will-ever-happen-to-me-again sort of experience— extremely pleasurable, and also slightly disturbing. As a journalist, you spend so much time plugging away at stories that you hope will impact society. Then, suddenly, you hit on a sexy banker who lost her job, and, delighted as you are, you also can’t help but wonder: Is this what it takes to be talked about all over the world?
As Dwoskin points out, this is the weird reality of writing in an internet-mediated news culture. New stories can live and die by the page view. Notoriously, the blog Gawker once made editorial strategy of bonuses paid based on the number of views their stories received. That has changed a bit, as Gawker itself reported earlier this year. These days, bonuses are tied to the number of unique monthly visitors each site in the Gawker media empire garnishes over its monthly target. Exceed the expected number of visitors, and a particular site’s editor-in-chief has a bonus to divide among the site’s writers. I can’t declare this, prima facie, bad policy, but it certainly suggests the sort of viral-ness anxiety that Dwoskin is talking about.
In the end, even Dwoskin’s original story is in some way about the “viral” nature of certain kinds of superficial information and attitudes, as the alleged sexual appeal of Debrahlee Lorenzana increasingly became the central factor in her comfort at her job and for her professional prospects at Citibank. She tried to dress down, tried to appear less attractive (as her bosses apparently demanded), but her job became harder and harder to do. For all the questions about Lorenzana’s character that have cropped up in the aftermath, you can’t deny that her appearance came to dominate the story of her employment in a way we haven’t quite heard of before.
Sources: Columbia Journalism Review, Gawker
Image by Ivan Walsh, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010 3:56 PM
Should a journalist be friends with the subject(s) of his or her reporting? The Columbia Journalism Review ponders the question in the wake of a weekend party hosted by Vice President Joe Biden. The gathering saw both White House staff and Washington journalists chilling out and shooting squirt guns. In every single one of the pictures on Gawker, there is what appears to be a Super Soaker. Which begs the question: how many departments of the U.S. government are controlled by toymaker Hasbro? Indeed, Mr. Potato Head’s idiotic grin suggests a governmental budgeting strategy that overwhelmingly prioritizes the promotion of corn and corn subsidies, protecting his own dirty little starch.
Source: Columbia Journalism Review, Gawker
Image by World Economic Forum, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, June 03, 2010 5:09 PM
The TPMMuckraker has a nifty map out, one that shows the home state of every member of what Justin Elliott and Zachary Roth call the “Shadow Congress.” As they explain in a companion article:
It's not exactly breaking news that Washington is stuffed to the gills with lobbyists. One good government group recently tallied 8 lobbyists for every member of Congress during the health-care reform debate. But what doesn't get as much attention is that, over the last few decades, a vast army of what might be called uber-lobbyists has taken shape in the capital, made up of retiring lawmakers eager to cash in on K Street after a lifetime of making do with public sector salaries.
We've compiled a close-to-comprehensive list of former members of Congress currently working on behalf of private interests in Washington's influence-peddling industry. We count 172 of them -- almost one-third the number of current members of Congress.
“Shadow Congress” is a pretty intense name, but, then again, maybe these people plan on kidnapping Batman and taking over Gotham City. Or just peddling their influence in a way that we tend to frown upon these days. You like frowning, right?
(Thanks, Columbia Journalism Review.)
Image by kevindooley, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, April 23, 2010 11:09 AM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25 at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C. and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of best writing.
Bookforum is the bibliophile’s banquet, a must-read for the culturally curious. In engaging with the world’s finest writers and their work, Bookforum transcends the predictable and delivers fascinating ideas and provocative conversations. If you call it literary, then call it political, philosophical, and artistic, too. http://www.bookforum.com/
Since 1975, Boston Review has been a harbor for the rigorous examination of culture and politics, as well as a haven for literature and poetry. Now in its 35th year, the publication has added another welcome element to its formidable repertoire: outstanding long-form investigative journalism. http://bostonreview.net/
Where would we be without Columbia Journalism Review? The bimonthly publication of the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism is a dynamic chronicler of the ever-expanding media landscape. And in providing analysis, criticism, commentary, and reportage, CJR also manages to tell captivating, expertly crafted stories. http://www.cjr.org/
Geist is a literary delight: a smart mélange of the quirky and the serious, a richly varied feast of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and photography, comics and cartography. With a kick-ass redesign in 2009, the Vancouver-based bimonthly seems imbued with an even more vigorous curiosity. http://www.geist.com/
Hip Mama is alive with passion for progressive parenting, for radical kids, for the many meanings of family—and in doing so, it builds deep compassion. It is an intimate forum, showcasing the voices of diverse parents, talking about their challenges, struggles, successes, and joys. http://www.hipmamazine.com/
A dozen years ago, the founders of Tin House set out to create a journal “tantamount to being guest of honor at the greatest literary house party ever.” Such success! In its 10th year, Tin House has been wild and delightful, a true feast for its lucky readers. http://www.tinhouse.com/
Published once each year, Witness manages to capture us completely, presenting works that “promote the modern writer as witness to his or her times.” Published since 2007 by the Black Mountain Institute (dedicated to literary and cross-cultural dialogue), Witness illuminates the American experience with a global lens. http://witness.blackmountaininstitute.org/
Friday, February 19, 2010 2:53 PM
Who do people trust to give them accurate information about climate change? Often, it’s their TV weathercaster. In fact, a 2008 survey showed that Americans generally place more faith in the local on-air talent than they do in Al Gore, other politicians, religious leaders, corporations, or the media as a whole, reports Columbia Journalism Review.
“Scientists commanded greater credibility” on climate change issues, the magazine notes, “but only 18 percent of Americans actually know one personally; 99 percent, by contrast, own a television.”
The problem with this state of affairs is twofold: For one thing, most weathercasters aren’t really scientists, and few are experts on climate change. For another, many of them—far more than you might suspect—are skeptics on the issue. CJR reports that in a 2008 survey of 121 meteorologists, a stunning 29 percent of them agreed that global warming was “a scam.” Only 24 percent believed that humans were responsible for most of the climate change over the past 50 years. Half of them were sure this wasn’t true, while another quarter were “neutral” on the issue. As the magazine notes:
This was the most important scientific question of the twenty-first century thus far, and a matter on which more than eight out of ten climate researchers were thoroughly convinced. And three quarters of the TV meteorologists … surveyed believe the climatologists were wrong.
Wow. The article has a tough time putting a finger on why weathercasters are such a doubting lot, but notes that several institutions have launched projects to teach them about basic climatology, a project supported by the field’s professional group, the American Meteorological Society. CJR sums up the spirit of the project: “If viewers are going to assume weathercasters are experts anyway, we might as well try to make them experts.”
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Image by cytosine, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, February 12, 2010 5:21 PM
The lines between fiction and nonfiction are blurring and giving rise to a new form “that we might call ‘true fiction,’” writes Alissa Quart in Columbia Journalism Review. Quart sees examples of this phenomenon all around, including Dave Eggers’ brilliant book What Is the What, which tells but also takes a few liberties with the tale of a Sudanese “Lost Boy”; the forthcoming graphic novel A.D. by Josh Neufeld, which depicts post-Katrina New Orleans; and even The Hurt Locker, the war film that is presented as fiction but is based on an original nonfiction magazine article.
Quart is quick to acknowledge that the fiction-nonfiction hybrid isn’t all that new, but she contends that writers well known for mixing the two, like Truman Capote and Norman Mailer, “imagined their work to be a certain kind of journalism.” Members of the newer breed, she notes, “seem to be backing away from categorizing things as ‘true,’ even as they are also rethinking what nonfiction is and can be.”
The new anthology The Lost Origins of the Essay, Quart writes, even makes the case “that some works long considered fiction are actually closer to this hybrid form,” and she quotes from a piece by the anthology’s editor, John D’Agata: “Do we read nonfiction in order to receive information, or do we read it to experience art?”
Coincidentally, it was a recent story by D’Agata in The Believer that left me confused about what was information and what was art. In “What Happens There,” D’Agata traces the final moments of Levi Presley, a 16-year-old who killed himself by jumping from the top of the 1,149-foot-high Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The writer does several things at once: In the guise of a reporter, he attempts to penetrate the wall of silence surrounding suicide in Las Vegas, which has the highest suicide rate in the nation year after year. Wearing a memoirist’s hat, he interweaves his own experiences in the city, where he briefly lived to care for his mother. And as a facile prose stylist, he attempts to vividly convey the sights, sounds, and smells that Presley might have encountered as he walked toward his deadly jump through the sprawling casino complex.
I was immediately drawn in by D’Agata’s deft, artful writing, and yet as the tale unfolded I was stopped cold at several junctures, mostly because as a journalist I had certain expectations about what I perceived as, first and foremost, a piece of journalism. To wit:
• The story begins with the glaringly vague time reference “one summer,” yet anyone with Google at his fingertips can learn that Presley committed suicide in 2002. Why not place the story’s main event in time for the reader? When is one of the six key story components in classic news journalism—components that are, ironically, the organizing principle of D’Agata’s new book About a Mountain, which includes the suicide tale.
• After meeting with Presley’s parents to discuss their son’s death, he writes, “At some point, it came clear while I was visiting the Presleys that in fact I had not spoken to their son the night he died.” I first read this as a jarringly understated admission, delivered almost as an aside, that he had misrepresented himself to the parents in order to meet with them. Ethical red flags were flying all over the place before I figured out elsewhere—via his book’s jacket notes—that D’Agata himself had believed he might have spoken with Presley on that fateful night. Maybe fans of the new “true fiction” will read right past this, but for me this was a major stumbling block.
• D’Agata pays a private investigator $400 for “vital information” about Presley that he’s unable to ferret out himself, and rather than praising the investigator’s ability to dig up these details, he feels compelled to coyly note that she “had a smoker’s voice, a barking dog and screaming kids and Jeopardy on in the background” when he called her. Yeah, and she probably was overweight and wearing ridiculous slippers and sucking on a Bud Lite. D’Agata clearly has a keen eye for detail, but extending it to someone who’s basically helping him report the story, with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge dose of classist disapproval, gave me a shudder of discomfort.
• D’Agata is able to get only one local official to go on the record about the suicide, county coroner Ron Flud. The coroner seems like a pretty straight-up guy—“a finder of facts,” he calls himself—who invites D’Agata into his office and expounds insightfully on the taboo of talking about suicide. But apparently this still isn’t enough for D’Agata. He calls Flud out for not answering a question about whether a suicide jumper is likely to lose consciousness in a fall, then proceeds to relay, in a self-serving writerly flourish, several things that Flud did not say.
• Someone who knew Presley hangs up on D’Agata when he asks personal questions about the deceased. But we don’t know who because the writer doesn’t tell us. The conversation is transmitted as a terse, paraphrased exchange with no context or explanation. Literary, yes, but mystifying.
• Finally, D’Agata appears to have never visited the suicide victim’s memorial website, which has been online since 2005. Here he could have gleaned several intimate details about Levi Presley—details not mentioned in the article—from reminiscences written by friends and family, and he could have learned the names of several sources to pursue for his allegedly hard-to-find interviews. He also would have learned from the entry by “Mom” that Presley’s mother called him her “precious Boomer”—from “baby Boomer”—not “Booper,” as D’Agata writes.
In the end, the story seems to be a case in which a creative writer took on a semi-journalistic task, in the process taking liberties that some audiences may enjoy (James Wolcott of Vanity Fair certainly did, calling the story a “show stopper”) and that others may find confusing, distracting, or journalistically dubious.
If we are indeed entering a new world of hybrid literary journalism—one in which, Quart writes, “we are seeing nonfiction freed from its rigid constraints”—I for one hope we remember that some subjects, like a teenager’s suicide, seem to demand a deep and abiding respect for facts and clarity. At first impression D’Agata appears to be honoring the memory of Levi Presley by speaking the unspeakable—yet by the story’s end, at least to this reader, he appears to have done just the opposite.
Source: Columbia Journalism Review, The Believer (subscription required), Vanity Fair
Image by Marcin Wichary, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, February 11, 2010 12:20 PM
Welcome to Kenya, where informed citizens still buy—and read—daily newspapers. Karen Rothmyer, a journalism professor at the University of Nairobi, chronicles Kenyans’ “seemingly unquenchable passion for print” in the current issue of Columbia Journalism Review.
“Each newspaper in Kenya is typically read by fourteen people, and those who can’t afford to buy a paper sometimes ‘rent’ one,” Rothmyer writes. “My neighborhood news vendor charges the equivalent of thirteen cents for thirty minutes with one of the major dailies, all of which are in English. That compares with fifty cents to buy one, a significant sum even to office workers earning $20 a day, and out of reach for the far more numerous casual workers who generally earn no more than $2.”
Rothmyer admits that limited Internet access is a factor in the enduring popularity of print newspapers, but there are also cultural factors at play:
Patrick Quarcoo, a successful Ghanaian entrepreneur who started a new Kenyan newspaper, the Star, in 2007—yes, you read that right, a new daily newspaper—says it was his grandmother who taught him about the significance of print in an African context. “She had no real formal education, but she always used to say in Pidgin English ‘Book no lies,’” he recalls. “She completely believed in the power of print to shape our destiny.”
That belief continues to be widespread today all over the continent. “People want to see it to believe it,” says Joe Otin, the media research and monitoring director at the Kenyan affiliate of Synovate, a media research and watchdog firm.
Additionally, politics in Kenya is “all-consuming,” a prominent print advertiser tells Rothmyer, a nationwide passion that fuels the demand for newspapers. (She sees this firsthand when she travels to the small, rural town of Busia, where a group of citizens meets regularly to read and discuss recent papers.)
“Newspapers will not die here, definitely not,” says Daniel Kasajja Orubia, a twenty-eight-year-old manager who is among the small number of Kenyans who own a mobile phone with Internet access. He says he regularly uses it to check the BBC or other sites, but, he insists, “I’ll still be reading newspapers in twenty years.”
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Image by ShironekoEuro, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 5:12 PM
The deals are a “stunning one-two punch,” according to All Things Digital: Microsoft announced today that it has struck agreements to integrate real-time feeds of status updates from Twitter and Facebook into Bing. The deals are nonexclusive—which means Google could follow suit—but for the time being, Bing has something the search giant has yet to tap, at least in the case of Facebook. And get this: Microsoft is paying for it—exact terms, of course, haven’t been disclosed.
This is nonetheless “a precedent that the ability of search engines to index and link to content is worth some money,” Ryan Chittum writes for Columbia Journalism Review. “Where this goes from here no one knows. . . . Would the AP yank its news off Google if Bing paid and Google didn’t? Would it be worth it in the lost revenue from not showing up in as many search results? That’s too early to tell.”
One thing is clear, as Chittum says: This will be worth watching.
Sources: All Things Digital, Columbia Journalism Review
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 4:15 PM
Just in time for sounding extra-smart when discussing health care, Merrill Perlman dissects the finer points of how to correctly use insure, assure, and ensure for Columbia Journalism Review’s Language Corner. Allowing for the fluidity of English (and subtle, disputed uses), Perlman still manages to boil down general proper rules into one illustrative sentence: “In Washington, legislators are trying to ‘assure’ their constituents that they are working to ‘ensure’ that any new health-care bill will ‘insure’ them.”
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Friday, October 09, 2009 10:37 AM
Starting at the end of the month the Washington Post is holding a contest to suss out “America’s Next Great Pundit” (that assumes we have one now…). Justin Peters over at Columbia Journalism Review came up with a clever new lineup of reality TV inspired contests the paper could (or might?) roll out next. Peters suggests plotlines for The Next Top Bad Idea, I Live in Georgetown, Get Me Out of Here!, Who Wants to Marry Fred Hiatt?, Impartial Idol, and these two gems:
: Ten reporters are set loose in the Post newsroom and tasked with sticking around for as long as possible without being laid off, reassigned, or forced to appear on an unfunny Web video segment. Watch as participants employ survival strategies such as hiding, marrying up, or impersonating Bob Woodward. The last reporter standing wins a thirteen-week contract and a full set of Kaplan LSAT prep books.
: Fifty civilians are given prestigious, unpaid Post internships and set to work producing a daily newspaper. Each week their tasks get more difficult as another round of salaried and experienced employees gets laid off or bought out. Watch the hilarity as the apprentices guilelessly quote press secretaries, insert themselves into stories, and report on events by watching them on television. There are no winners in this contest.
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Friday, September 11, 2009 3:42 PM
Subprime loans are often blamed as the basis of current financial crisis. Thats unfortunate, according to Elinore Longobardi in the Columbia Journalism Review, because subprime describes only the borrower, in unflattering terms, and has nothing to say about the lender.
A better option is to point the finger at predatory lendingthe crooks who made bad loans to vulnerable populations like minorities and the elderly. The press used the term subprime somewhere between seventy or eighty times more frequently than the term predatory lending, according to CJR. That statistic points to the abject failure of the press in predicting the financial crisis, and it places the blame for the crisis in the wrong place.
Source: Columbia Journalism Review (Article not yet available online.)
Image by woodleywonderworks, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, July 31, 2009 3:00 PM
Did you hear the story about Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper taking communion and then stashing the wafer in his pocket? Don’t get your hackles raised yet: The faux pas apparently never happened. Over at the venerable Columbia Journalism Review, Craig Silverman dissects how such a strange fabrication could have ended up on the front page of the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Image by dtcchc, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, May 15, 2009 10:00 AM
The new Star Trek has unleashed a slew of inaccuracies about the franchise in newspapers across the country, and detail-oriented devotees aren’t letting them get away with it. Craig Silverman, editor of the fantastic newspaper-correction-spotter RegretTheError.com, tracks a series of Star Trek–related flubs—and subsequent corrections issued by editors bombarded with letters from Trekkies—in his most recent column for the Columbia Journalism Review:
The superfans deserve credit for being so diligent and outspoken. They seek out mistakes contained in the far reaches of every newspaper and set their emails to stun. And they’re on the hunt at all times…
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Image by alfredituzz :B, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, February 27, 2009 10:48 AM
The Columbia Journalism Review has compiled a hefty list of goodbyes from Rocky Mountain News staffers. The paper published its last issue today.
Bracing thoughts from sports columnist Dave Krieger:
Honestly? The corporate suits come in and cry their crocodile tears, then whiz on home to continue collecting their seven-figure salaries, pleased to have rid their shareholders of the albatross that was a helluva newspaper. Scripps is in the best financial shape of any newspaper company in America, save the Washington Post Co. . . .
We need publishers with vision and conviction and courage and it’s beginning to look like all we have are profiteers born on third base.
A eulogy of sorts from reporter Tillie Fong:
I feel the Rocky‘s closing as a death—not as an institution but as a part of my life, a part of ME, that has died.
I always felt that the Rockywas this feisty little paper that reflects the spirit of the people that it serves—fiercely independent, outspoken, active, but also caring and compassionate.
Romenesko posted a Denver Post memo listing the Rocky journalists it's hired; check out the rest of Romenesko's ongoing coverage here.
Sources: Columbia Journalism Review, Romenesko
Friday, January 30, 2009 10:15 AM
For those who’d call current sports journalism fluff: Gary Andrew Poole agrees with you. In an essay for the Columbia Journalism Review, though, he muses that it needn’t be. The shortcomings he bemoans—an emphasis on sensational stories, a move away from longer narrative work—aren't specific to sports writing, and neither are the market pressures he observes: the growing importance of web reporting, the increasingly rapid turnover of news items.
But Poole argues that sports writers are uniquely positioned to resist these trends. After all, fans can probably live without to-the-second updates on batting averages and shoulder injuries. A renewed focus on thoughtful analysis and creative storytelling might remind us why sports matter in the big picture, by exploring how they reflect our cultural values and imagination. Take a look at the article to hear Poole elaborate and to catch some insightful comments from readers, or consider other reasons why sportswriting has lost its game.
Image courtesy of Kevin Klöcker, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, January 16, 2009 10:29 AM
Amid a blizzard of headlines detailing the demise of quality journalism, there’s at least one spot of sunshine poking through the clouds: The New York Times is intensifying its environmental coverage with "a new, crack environmental reporting unit that will pull in eight specialized reporters from the Science, National, Metro, Foreign, and Business desks in a bid for richer, more prominent coverage," reports the Columbia Journalism Review.
The Times’ fortified environmental unit debuts in contrast to depleted environmental teams elsewhere. The L.A. Times significantly reduced its unit last year, and CNN went even further, axing its environment, science, and technology reporting staff altogether just over a month ago.
What kind of added depth can you expect from the Times’ new environmental all-stars? According to CJR:
One of the primary goals is to get more interesting, “big-thought” environment articles onto the front page, according to assistant managing editor Glenn Kramon, to whom [the unit’s editor, Erica] Goode will report. That means more investigative work, he added, and sifting through reporting and storytelling approaches that resonate with readers. “My goal is to make 'em angry enough to do something,” Kramon said.
Image by ReservasdeCoches.com, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 4:12 PM
Barack Obama is on the cover of January’s Columbia Journalism Review—but this hardly distinguishes the magazine from the others on the rack. The distinguishing feature is that Barack Obama appears something just short of sinister as he smirks and stares at you through a side-glancing eye. It’s almost as if the magazine’s art department peered inside the mind of a conservative talk show host and painted the Obama they found there.
The editorial inside calls on Obama to “turn the lights back on in the White House” and presents a laundry lists of actions he could take to decisively reject and reverse the excessive secrecy of his predecessor.
Here’s a taste:
* "In his first budget, restore, as Congress intended, the Office of Government Information Services to the National Archives and Records Administration, and remove it from the Justice Department, where conflicts of interest on transparency abound."
* "Get a handle on 'pseudo-secrecy'—the wholesale marking of documents with secret-ish labels outside of the official classification system—by reducing its use, establishing a system for appeals of such labels, and forbidding their use in Freedom of Information Act decisions."
* "Revise outsourcing contracts to ensure that records generated by private companies doing government business will be treated like any agency-generated document."
The magazine's pages are peppered with points on a “Sunshine Timeline” that begins with a set of laws on public court proceedings and records passed by Henry III in 1267 and stumbles through the centuries grabbing at events as it finds them:
1766: Sweden adopts the first freedom of information law.
1935: The creation of the Federal Register, “the first comprehensive accounting of U.S. executive-branch rules and regulations.”
1953: “The American Society of Newspapers commissions a survey of all the laws (local, state, and federal) that could be used to gain access to government records—and concludes that the situation is bleak.”
1966: The Freedom of Information Act passes. “Without the votes to sustain the veto, and with Bill Moyers, his press secretary, urging him on, LBJ signs the bill.”
Wednesday, December 31, 2008 9:53 AM
Have you heard much about Iraq lately? Chances are you haven’t: Megan Garber of the Columbia Journalism Review reports that coverage of the Iraq war typically fills less than 2 percent of the news hole. That statistic alone is deplorable, but even worse, according to Garber, is the scarcity of “nuanced treatments of Iraq that would flesh out our simplistic things were bad but they’re getting better narrative into something more substantial and therefore more valuable.”
Garber describes the current attitude of the press toward the war as largely apathetic, and all too willing to report nuggets of conventional wisdom—like "the surge is working"—with little critical analysis.
Whether the quality of Iraq coverage will improve is an open question. The quantity, however, is certain to keep dwindling. ABC, CBS, and NBC have all pulled their full-time correspondents from Iraq, according to the New York Times. CNN’s former Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf, told the Times, “The war has gone on longer than a lot of news organizations’ ability or appetite to cover it.”
Friday, December 19, 2008 4:14 PM
How many browser tabs do you have open right now? On most work days, I’m switching between at least eight. According to journalist Maggie Jackson, I’m not alone: Apparently, the average office worker changes tasks every three minutes. Jackson is the author of this year’s Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, and as the title suggests, she’s a bit worried about our tendency to divide our attention. In a recent interview with Columbia Journalism Review, she talks about how this distraction affects our ability to process the news.
Namely, it becomes difficult to fully absorb the news. We only process stories superficially when we try to juggle so many—we fail to “create knowledge out of data.” Jackson marshals plenty of studies to back up her claims, like one that found that people remember 10 percent fewer of a newsperson’s words when there’s a crawl on the TV screen. But she’s at her most compelling when she characterizes the problem and its effects in her own words.
For Jackson, the abundance of news stories is not necessarily the main problem, and neither is the profusion of technologies designed to get us news faster. The issue is the pride we take in our ability to multitask—we’ve “elevated it to a national pastime” and treat it “as a value system.”
The beauty of her analysis is that it allows us some room to change. We can’t really alter the fact that we live in an information economy, but we have some choice in our reactions to it. Jackson notes that researchers are just recently beginning to understand the science of attention, and she’s optimistic that their work will help us find ways to stay focused in a world that promotes distraction.
You can watch more of the interview below. Also check out CJR's feature on journalism and information overload here.
Image courtesy of Mo Riza, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, December 12, 2008 12:15 PM
When my mom arrived at work in Chicago on Tuesday morning to news about Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s arrest, she immediately picked up the phone and called her sister in Springfield to gush. Finally! The dirty governor was going down. They crossed their fingers that the story would get national play.
Boy has it ever. A good political scandal doesn’t have to work too hard to capture public attention, and in this case, the connection to president-elect Barack Obama gave Blagojevich’s take-down extra currency.
Not surprisingly, the governor’s attempt to auction off Obama’s Senate seat emerged as the dominant storyline in news about his arrest. What has received less attention is a brewing journalistic scandal in the laundry list of complaints against Blagojevich. For anyone concerned with media ethics, it can’t be overlooked.
Clint Hendler at the Columbia Journalism Review has a nice, detailed account of what we know so far about discussions between Blagojevich’s chief of staff, John Harris, and an unknown “financial advisor” to Chicago Tribune owner Sam Zell. The talks in question involve the governor’s request that the paper fire members of its editorial board and editorial page staff, who have published unflattering pieces about him, in exchange for state aid in selling the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field, which are owned by the Tribune Company.
Charges against the governor disturbingly indicate that the paper was “very sensitive to the message.” As CJR points out, Zell has a lot of questions to answer if he intends to salvage a smidgeon of his fledgling news organization’s reputation. For instance, “Did the financial advisor make the deal that Harris implied he did?” And a couple of months ago, when the paper almost ran a story about the Blagojevich wiretaps, was Zell involved in its decision not to?
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker sums up the disgrace of it all nicely:
Apparently, the caveat that one should never do battle with someone who buys ink by the barrel has been rendered meaningless by “financial advisers” in the Tribune Tower, where Zell's yearlong reign of error is leading one of the nation's greatest newspaper companies to ruin.
Image by theogeo, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 12:04 PM
“Overload!”, the Columbia Journalism Review’s current cover story, is every bit as overwhelming as its subject.
In a lengthy, thorough explication, Bree Nordenson lays out the results of a study commissioned by the Associated Press to track the news consumption of young adults around the world. The gist of the findings is grim, but hardly surprising: There’s more information out there than ever before, and this is not a good thing. “The American public is no better informed now than it has been during less information-rich times,” Nordenson writes.
Or, in numerical terms: “Two hundred and ten billion e-mails are sent each day. Say goodbye to the gigabyte and hello to the exabyte, five of which are worth 37,000 Libraries of Congress. In 2006 alone, the world produced 161 exabytes of digital data, the equivalent of three million times the information contained in all the books ever written.”
The way information, particularly news, is disseminated has been revolutionized, for better and worse, by the internet. Context has disappeared; data usually travels in a chaotic tsunami and arrives “unbundled” and often indecipherable. “These days, news comes at us in a flood of unrelated snippets,” Nordenson writes.
The rest of the article examines a number of different trends affecting the current state of news consumption: the limits of human attention, the role of media in democracy, and the new role of journalism. The piece does end on a relatively optimistic note, however; the final section, titled “Why Journalism Won’t Disappear,” contains this easier-said-than-done prescription: "If news organizations decide to rethink their role and give consumers the context and coherence they want and need in an age of overload, they may just achieve the financial stability they’ve been scrambling for, even as they recapture their public-service mission before it slips away."
Monday, November 03, 2008 1:46 PM
After reporting significant losses in addition to rising production costs, the Christian Science Monitor has turned to a solution that it hopes will minimize losses while maintaining or even increasing readership. The newspaper’s daily content will soon be entirely web-based, with a print edition (photo features, in-depth reportage) coming out weekly. Along with the change comes a steep drop in subscription prices, from $220/year to $89/year. However, this doesn’t mean that the CSM is completely dodging the bullet: Editor John Yemma still plans to cut 10-15 percent of staff next year.
The Monitor’s transition appears to be relatively painless, but the Columbia Journalism Review warns that the strategy may not work for all troubled publications. One of the biggest variables in the plan’s success is ad revenue: Print advertisers may not want to make the switch, especially since the print edition of the Monitor skews to an older demographic than its online content. It’s also difficult to predict if subscribers who aren’t tech-savvy will adapt or simply give up. The evolution is slated for April 2009.
Friday, October 31, 2008 1:52 PM
Unlike most of the electorate, some political reporters are not eager to wake up on November 5 with the longest campaign in history a good night’s sleep behind them. “It's kind of like, this is who I am now,” Andrew Romano, a Newsweek blogger, tells the New Republic. “[S]o the idea of the campaign being over and not doing a politics blog is a little bit like, who am I after this election?”
Politico’s Ben Smith shares Romano’s sentiments. “It's so built into my system, that it's going to be hard to stop,” he tells TNR. “It's really pathological.”
But the tight psychological grip campaigns hold on reporters won’t be missed by all those covering the political beat. After the last presidential campaign, CNN correspondent Candy Crowley tells TNR it took her “a good month to stop waking up in the middle of the night in a panic that I've missed something.” Matt Bai of the New York Times notes that some reporters have been on the trail for nearly a year: “There are guys who went out to the primaries in November, December, and thought they'd be done in February or March, and they just never came home.”
Reporter weariness recently caught the critical eye of the Columbia Journalism Review, who took the New York Times to task for what they deemed an instance of lazy campaign coverage. Questioning the relevance of a Times cover story, CJR warns reporters not to “take out their election fatigue on voters.” Just pen a few more good stories, guys, then you can come home and sleep. . .or just keep blogging.
Monday, August 25, 2008 6:11 PM
Ahh, prepackaged conventions. What’s the media to do? How about rehash the primaries? Hence, we have the Hillary Clinton narrative that just won’t die: The party’s divided, delegates are going to spoil the convention, chaos will reign (cross your fingers).
The Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk smacked down the tired media meme last week. Choice moment:
[T]he angry-women-will-sink-Obama myth is yet another example of the media confusing activist opinion with public opinion in general. And public opinion generally defies such a simple—if dramatic—storyline.
But the media’s not the only one dumping gasoline on a dying fire. There’s also the McCain camp, which just released this ad:
Kevin Drum, newly blogging for Mother Jones, surmises that “the folks running McCain’s war room are getting cabin fever or something.” But that could be a good thing:
Maybe an attack ad this transparent will be just the thing to finally get all those ex-Hillary supporters fully on board with Obama.
Drum points to some savvy analysis by Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic, who notes that despite all the hand-wringing about party unity, the Democrats are remarkably in step with each other:
[F]or all the talk of disunity, the really remarkable story about the Democrats right now is the absence of meaningful dissent on the party's agenda. When it comes to substance, the Democrats are arguably more united than they have been since the early 1960s. Yes, you can find divisions on both domestic and foreign policy, on everything from the relative priority of deficit reduction to America's response to Darfur. But these debates don't match the kind we've seen in the past.
For her part, Hillary had this to say about McCain’s ad blasts this morning at a breakfast for the New York delegation: “I’m Hillary Clinton, and I do not approve that message.”
For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Democratic National Convention, click here.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008 10:09 AM
The Columbia Journalism Review recently inaugurated “Parting Thoughts,” an ongoing series of letters from former journalists writing on the biz and its future. In the handful of letters published thus far, there are a lot of wise words—and surprisingly few embittered ones.
Some write about their path to an entirely new career, like Tracy Gordon Fox’s elegant letter describing her shift from crime reporter to nursing student, and John Biemer’s explaining why he chose med school over the Chicago Tribune. Others share their thoughts on the downfall of newspapers, and most offer some form of advice (encouraging, terrifying, or some combination of the two) to all the would-be journalists out there. Here’s former Wall Street Journal editor Winston Wood:
If you’re interested in journalism, even now, give it a shot. It’s a great way to learn about the world, develop communication and analytical skills, and provide a public service. But over the long haul, there’s more stability and better money to be made panhandling.
Thursday, July 17, 2008 10:26 AM
The rise of photo-sharing sites like Flickr has been great for amateur photographers, bloggers, visual learners, and procrastinators—but at what cost to professional photojournalism, an expensive-by-comparison service that many editors can’t or won’t justify paying for?
In the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review (article not available online), Alissa Quart presents a nuanced, clear-headed view of how photojournalism is changing, outlining the risks (and benefits) of the rise of the amateur. “If they are taking snapshots,” Quart writes, “amateur photographers are likely not developing a story, or developing the kind of intimacy with their subjects that brings revelation.”
There’s still a special recipe to be a “real” photojournalist, and it’s not just the “trained” or “expert” eye but rather the sheer hours put into each assignment and the ability to sustain a thought, image, or impulse through a number of images, not just a single snapshot.
To present an image that tells the story, the photographer needs to know what that story is. (Of course, so do the writers and editors involved.) As with other content that’s increasingly hustled into column space in print and online, if photographs (and photographers) aren’t vetted, readers are more likely to be misled.
“I am optimistic about the future of photojournalism,” Quart writes, “but not of the photojournalism I most admire.”
Image by mikebaird, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, July 07, 2008 12:40 PM
Campaign seasons inevitably produce high-pressure systems of willful ignorance, disingenuous oversimplification, and mountain-out-of-molehill overreactions on the part of the media in response to nuanced statements by candidates or their surrogates. This year has been no different; in fact, this election has seen the mainstream media hype machine working overtime—hysterically wringing every last drop out of items whose newsworthiness was dubious from the start—with an intensity that makes the media mileage gained four years ago from the Swift Boat Veterans or Howard Dean’s scream look paltry by comparison.
The Columbia Journalism Review contrasts two recent pieces by Paul Krugman and Matthew Yglesias that analyze the mainstream media’s willful distortion of certain statements—in this case, Krugman and Yglesias consider (with varying degrees of optimism) the longer-term legacy of the media hysteria that erupted over General Wesley Clark's assessment of John McCain's military service.
Krugman believes the era of “Rovian” attack politics is waning, that a contrite press might begin to tone down its “faux outrage over fake scandals.” But Yglesias responds that old habits die hard, and the days of overblown oversimplification aren't likely to end anytime soon: “If Democrats are really counting on responsible, substantive news coverage to hand them the election then John McCain has things in the bag.”
CJR’s own two-part analysis (here and here) of the media uproar surrounding the “Clark fallout” supports this pessimistic outlook. (Also check out the Carpetbagger's thoughts on how the media’s irresponsible treatment of the episode has spilled over into coverage of John Kerry’s recent Face the Nation appearance.)
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 10:29 AM
Those with their fingers (cursors? browsers? aggregators?) on the pulse of the blogosphere, along with regular readers of the New York Times Magazine, are by now probably familiar with—if not already tired of—the online fracas surrounding Emily Gould’s 8,000-word cover story about her meteoric rise to celebrity as a blogger and the complete erasure of whatever boundaries might have once existed between her public and private lives. Whatever your opinion of Gould, her piece, or the entities (ex-boyfriends, former employers, herself) she alternately skewers and exonerates, the piece and resulting online meta-noise illuminate some interesting points about online culture, the current media landscape, and the millennial generation’s tendency to overshare. But if you’re one of those rare souls who have more important things to do than read blogs all day and just need a (relatively) quick gloss, the Huffington Post provides a comprehensive link dump regarding the whole sordid, incestuous affair, while the Columbia Journalism Review offers a concise and cogent analysis that might, if we're lucky, serve as the last word on the brouhaha.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008 11:07 AM
Let’s play word association. Except, when I say, “Rupert Murdoch,” you don’t hiss and croak, “sulfurous prince from the bottomless pit.” Instead, do like Columbia Journalism Review and see Murdoch’s Fox Business Network as potentially the most relevant and useful—not to mention populist—resource for financial news out there. It may have its irritating quirks and it may not be widely watched (yet), but its perspective is fresher than wealthy-investor-oriented CNBC. Maybe that jargon barn is hell’s true diplomat.
Image by World Economic Forum, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, February 18, 2008 10:33 AM
In spite of (or perhaps because of) the obscuring hormonal haze of my adolescence, I still recall some of my high-school teachers as inaccessible martinets. Why did they have to be so stern, so old, and so very, very crusty? As it turns out, the inaccessibility of teachers and administrators presents a dilemma not just for students, but also for journalists who cover the inner workings of their local school systems.
In a recent Q & A with the Columbia Journalism Review, former education reporter Linda Perlstein discusses her new job as the public editor at the National Education Writers Association. In Perlstein’s view, the unwillingness of teachers and administrators to discuss frankly the weaknesses of their schools stands as one of the most damning obstacles for education reporters. In the bureaucratic culture of public schools, people aren’t willing to rock the boat, lest their bosses push them overboard. As Perlstein tells CJR,
Principals don’t really want to hear what the teachers have to say, superintendents don’t really want to hear what the principals have to say, the education department doesn’t seem to want to hear what the state board has to say—and what that means for reporters is: everyone’s really afraid to be honest.
As a result of such institutionalized silence, reporters aren’t left with much information: They have, on the one hand, the strengths that educators identify in their own schools; and, on the other hand, there’s the out-of-context data that suggests the unmet standards of such programs as No Child Left Behind. The casualty of this divide is that old journalistic standby, nuance. Happily, part of Perlstein’s new job is to help reporters ferret out that complexity. Here’s hoping.
For more on the trials of education coverage, read our recent post on the demise of higher-education reporting.
Image by ne*, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 1:09 PM
Democracy relies on the media to make its citizens well-informed and meaningful participants in civic life. This, of course, doesn’t always happen, especially when you're relying on TV news.
That’s when the fact-checkers come in. In the November/December issue of Utne Reader, Eric Kelsey and I wrote an article on the "fifth estate": journalists who devote themselves to checking other journalists’ facts.
The Columbia Journalism Review, a 2007 Utne Independent Press Award nominee, jumped into this fray once again with two new offerings. The publication first relaunched the Campaign Desk, which looks at the presidential race. Here’s CJR on the mission of the Campaign Desk:
We’ll look at who's doing interesting, original reporting and who's being taken in by spin; we’ll focus on how and why the narratives that come to define a candidate get started and relentlessly repeated, and if they are off base, we’ll try to set them straight. We’re on the lookout for misleading statistics, partial truths and oversimplifications, glittering generalities, and other language crimes that can infect the coverage.
Campaign Desk writers have covered topics as diverse as journalists demanding coffee from John Edwards at an all-night campaign stop during the Iowa caucus to giving the full story behind a scuffle between an AP reporter and Mitt Romney.
The second offering by CJR is The Observatory, which of rakes through the not-always-peer-reviewed muck of science journalism. The Observatory opened with an article about how new, collaborative web-technology is affecting science writing. With all the spin, inaccuracies, and half-truths bandied about in the media, these CJR projects will have their work cut out for them.
Image by Justin Henry licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, November 15, 2007 5:31 PM
There’s good news for the icy-hearted cynics in all of us: Protests actually work! A new study shows that protests against misbehaving corporations can send a company’s stock prices tumbling—just as long as the New York Times is there to cover it.
Writing for Columbia Journalism Review’s business-media blog, Elinore Longobardi discusses a new study that analyzes how media coverage impacts protests against corporations. The paper, written by sociologists Brayden G. King and Sarah A. Soule, will appear in the next issue of Administrative Science Quarterly.
King and Soule examined New York Times coverage of protests from 1962 to 1990, and discovered that while boycotts didn’t make much difference—nor did the size of the protest—Times exposure caused the defamed company’s stock value to drop between 0.4 and 1.0 percent (on average). The effect took place within one day, and the longer the Times article, the bigger the loss.
The study cites prominent examples from the time period, including protests against Dow Chemicals over its role in the Vietnam War.
The data for this study ends in 1990, but King and Soule are moving forward with additional research through 1995, which will introduce companies like Gap and Nike into the mix.
As for only choosing the Times, King and Soule found that it was the only paper worth analyzing—the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post gave paltry space to protests by comparison.
For more on protest, check out the cover story from our May/June 2007 issue: Protest is Dead. Long Live Protest.
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