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Columbia Journalism Review

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Secret Money: Ryan Chittum says Bloomberg got a great scoop about the Chamber of Commerce, reporting that the health-insurance industry gave the secretive nonprofit a stunning $86.2 million last year to oppose Obama’s health-care reform. And, for the rest of us, Bloomberg shows how it got it.

Schwarzenegger’s Reviews: After seven years, political critics are beginning to weigh in on the outgoing governor’s Sacramento years. Three early reviews surfaced today. And while they each take different approaches—one an all-encompassing general look, one environmental, another a highly detailed history lesson—there seems to be consensus: Schwarzenegger, the governorship, started strong, but lost its way. Joel Meares has the story.

Disaster Porn? Maura R. O’Connor writes that the cholera outbreak in Haiti is being explained the same way so many of Haiti’s problems are by the American media: simply a consequence of the nation’s “crushing” or “devastating” poverty, with little context or investigation. Is coverage of the epidemic, which has now taken over one thousand lives, yet another example of an “disaster porn”?

Seeing Tunisia: One of of the world’s worst human rights offenders is Tunisia, yet journalists don’t frequently say so. Writing from Tunis, Justin D. Martin wants to know why not?

Buried and Jobless: Ryan Chittum criticizes The New York Times and The Washington Post for burying news on the GOP blocking an extension of unemployment benefits. The Wall Street Journal does much better. But can we get some context on how much extending the Bush tax cuts will cost in comparison to this $12 billion vote?

Rattner’s Star Turn: Chittum hits CNBC for allowing former car czar Steve Rattner to guest host a morning program while subpoenas, lawsuits, and multi-million-dollar settlements for bribing public officials swirl around him. Right after he went off air, another hit the wires—this one seeking to ban him from the securities industry for life.

Secret Health Care Money: Chittum praises a Bloomberg story that digs out how the health-insurance industry secretly gave a stunning $86 million to the Chamber of Commerce to oppose Obama’s reform plan. It shows how the Chamber serves as a front for loathed industries. It shouldn’t take this much journalistic shoe leather to bring transparency to massive corporate political donations.

Deflation, anyone? Chittum criticizes much of the major press for underplaying news that inflation hit a fifty-seven-year low. He argues that the press is much more inclined to play up hints of inflation than it is to play up deflation. That has political consequences, whether the press knows it or not.

Micro-Miss: The Audit’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, wonders if we’ll ever get a good article on the Indian microfinance crisis. The New York Times has missed the big global picture, while The Wall Street Journal’s effort was thin.

The Felix Thing: Does picking a Reuters staffer to be our new Peterson Fellow cause a conflict of interest that undermines CJR’s credibility? That’s what a couple of people have told us privately. Audit Chief Dean Starkman, our Kingsford Capital Fellow, explains why CJR picked Salmon and how we can manage such a conflict.

More, Please: Salmon criticizesWall Street Journal story on Deutsche Bank getting into the casino business that raises several questions it doesn’t answer. It’s an enjoyable piece, but here’s hoping for a follow-up.

Improved Hearing at the FT: Finally, Chittum tips his hat to the Financial Times for talking to the little guy for once. With a readership concentrated in the cloistered elite, the FT has a special obligation to show how these readers’ actions are affecting the little people who fix their teeth, defend their country, and cobble their shoes—and to hear directly from them. If you’re only talking to the top 0.1 percent, you’re not presenting a true picture of the economy.

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