Blog Profile / Columbia Journalism Review

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Archived Since:April 26, 2008

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The fabulist who changed journalism

Janet Cooke entered the acre-square newsroom of The Washington Post wearing a red wool suit and a white silk shirt. It was her first day of work. She was two hours late. She’d gotten lost walking the three blocks from her hotel. It was the third day of 1980, the beginning of a new chapter for this 25-year-old black woman...

A note from the editor

The New York World for its articles exposing the operations of the Ku Klux Klan, 1922. William Leonard Laurence of The New York Times for his eyewitness account of the atom-bombing of Nagasaki and subsequent articles on its significance, 1946. Seymour Hersh of Dispatch News Service for his exclusive disclosure of the Vietnam War tragedy at the hamlet of My...

As more police wear body-cams, states set new rules limiting access to footage

In the wake of widely publicized incidents of alleged police misconduct and officer-involved shootings, more and more cities around the country are equipping their police officers with body-worn cameras. But something else is happening, too: State lawmakers are setting new rules about who gets access to all that footage. Show More Summary

Thirteen seconds. Dozens of bullets. One explosive photo.

It is a photograph all young journalists should pin to their cubicle walls: the iconic image of the 1970 Kent State shootings, in which a teenage girl grieves over the body of a slain student. Forget for a moment that the picture is among the most famous in US history, or that the photographer—a 21-year-old Kent State journalism student named...

The big daily that could and the little paper that did

Neil E. Goldschmidt led a charmed life before a single news story destroyed him. He was among the most dynamic and accomplished political leaders in the state of Oregon, with a blend of progressive and pro-development policies that, when he was governor, turned the state into a vibrant eco-center of the Pacific Northwest. As mayor of Portland in the 1970s,...

The brave and the few

When I was a young reporter for The Oregonian in far-off Portland, my friends and I seethed over each new outrage in the South. The 1955 torture and murder of Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi, triggered a special revulsion. We wanted to impose racial justice on murderous bigots. We were certain that change had to be forced down the throats...

Eye on the Prize

In collaboration with CJR, a team of Columbia Journalism School students transformed our Pulitzer demographics database into an interactive graphic. This project, part of a graduate course on media writing and storytelling taught byShow More Summary

Don't mix up turgid and turbid

“He’s very fond of turbid prose,” a student wrote in a book report. When she got her paper back, the teacher had changed “turbid” to “turgid” and had deducted a point for incorrect word usage. But the student wasn’t going down without a fight, and appealed. The teacher pulled out his copy of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and turned to the...

A hole in the heart of American journalism

Toward the end of his life, the great and not altogether high-minded press baron Joseph Pulitzer sought to advance the idea that journalism should become a profession, akin to law or accounting, but devoted to the public interest. He lived in an age of concentrated wealth and technological disruption. He feared for the health of American democracy. He thought well-trained...

The jury has spoken

Roughly two weeks after her 30th birthday, Marguerite Higgins landed on Red Beach during the 1950 US Marine assault on Inchon, South Korea. Her story for the New York Herald Tribune described how, as she crouched in the trenches with the Marines, North Korean soldiers fired and “even hurled hand grenades down at us.” In the files of the Pulitzer...

The double-consciousness of John H. White

It is winter in New Orleans, and my mother is dying. As I sit at her bedside, on the verge of being overcome with grief, I try to distract myself with work. I’ve been asked to write about the great Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John H. White: his pictures, his legacy, and his famously unique spirit. My mother has dementia. She...

Exposing the Invisible Empire

After a white supremacist gunned down nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June, reporters at The Post and Courier, where I work, filed hundreds of stories on the shooting and its aftermath. One of my pieces, about questionable financial dealings by the church’s interim pastor, elicited a threatening email. As I scanned it on...

Remembering Shadid

The best way to understand the enduring greatness of Anthony Shadid is to begin with the words of Anthony himself, so here’s something he wrote after his first Pulitzer and after his second Pulitzer, at a time when he was considering the life that reporting had given him and who he had become. It’s from his memoir, House of Stone,...

100 years of data

Within the cardboard boxes and reams of microfilm that hold the last century of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism lies a troubling story about a group of journalistic underdogs: the women and people of color who are being shut out of American journalism’s most prestigious award. As the graphics in these pages show, the ranks of Pulitzer winners have grown more diverse,...

Gawker can’t hide its bad behavior behind press freedom

Earlier this month, a Gawker reporter unleashed a mini-bombshell. Mike Nunez at its sister site, Gizmodo, revealed that Facebook routinely suppressed conservative news from its trending news section, citing unnamed former Facebook employees, thus blemishing Facebook’s preferred guise as an impartial arbiter of the world’s communications. Show More Summary

Denver's new local site has the feel of a national startup

This winter, Dave Burdick, then a 33-year-old deputy features editor for The Denver Post, got an email that at first he thought could be spam. An investor in New York City had found him on LinkedIn and wanted to talk about an idea for a local online news startup. On Wednesday, that startup, dubbed Denverite, made a soft launch with...

How fake news sites frequently trick big-time journalists

It would’ve been one hell of a story. Early this month, “news” surfaced that Michael Jordan--yes, the Michael Jordan--had threatened to move his NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets, from North Carolina unless the state repealed a law barring transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice. Air Jordan hadn’t seemed so heroic since he saved Bugs Bunny in the...

Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

In this week's Lower case... Lewiston (Maine) Daily Sun, 4/2/79 San Francisco Chronicle, 12/15/82 The Toronto Star, 1/6/86

Why candidates' social media use may tell us more than polls

The 2016 election cycle has been one of the costliest so far, and one of the most unpredictable. Roller-coaster shifts in voter poll data, a cobweb of campaign money, and the reportedly disproportionate attention media outlets have given—or refused to give—to populist and independent candidates have stymied pollsters and pundits. Show More Summary

A local startup with an emphasis on uplift looks to grow

What’s the right formula for a for-profit, local online news startup in a smaller market? There’s probably no single answer to that question. But in north-central Ohio, the people behind Richland Source say they have a recipe that’s working for them. It includes original content that’s free to read, a diversifying revenue base anchored by digital ads, engagement with live...

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