Posts Tagged ‘Columbia Journalism Review’

Columbia Journalism Review

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Social Security I—Missing in Action: It’s reasonable for people to debate the merits of ways to slice the deficit or to fix Social Security’s shortfall, but it is not reasonable for the press to serve up one-sided, shallow reporting about Social Security “reform,”  which has been the norm from too many news outlets. Trudy Lieberman says the press is missing something significant, perhaps until quite recently.

Social Security II—”A Scandal” Over the year the country’s elite news outlets and bloggers have carried on quite a conversation about the proposed changes to Social Security—but how these proposals affect ordinary people has been largely absent from the discussion. Trudy Lieberman sat down with longtime political reporter William Greider to talk about why that is so.

Obama Rising?: As the surprisingly active lame duck session draws to a close and the president’s third year in office approaches, a handful of pundits are filling out their presidential report cards. Once again, the Beltway consensus seems to have turned, and the president has bounced up from the deathbed in which we were told he had recently settled. Joel Meares reports.

Grim Sleeper II: The Darts & Laurels feature in our November/December issue recognized the excellent work that L.A. Weekly staff writer Christine Pelisek did in bringing a serial killer’s case to light, and maintaining public attention on the legislation that was necessary to bring “The Grim Sleeper” to justice. Now comes a creepy follow-up, as the police release hundreds of photos seized from the alleged killer’s home, in an effort to see if some of them are also victims. Lauren Kirchner reports.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 18, 2010 Leave a comment

From Columbia Journalism Review:

This Could Make You Cry: Joel Meares hurls a pointy, oversized CJR dart at Politics Daily columnist Matt Lewis’s head-scratchingly bad piece, “John Boehner’s Crying: Is He Drinking Too Much?” The premise of the column is that there must be something deeper at the heart of John Boehner’s propensity to cry. And—leaping off of a comment from that sober voice of reason, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz—that the something deeper might be his drinking. The fact that Lewis has zero evidence for this, something he  acknowledges repeatedly, doesn’t stop him from lining up the experts and shaping a 1,200-plus word nick-of-time entry into the competition for worst column of 2010.

Now They Tell us. This week’s coverage of the Virginia court decision declaring health reform’s individual mandate unconstitutional was surprisingly thorough and contextual, Trudy Lieberman writes. But what a pity the points made in the last few days were not presented during the fifteen months the law wound its way through Congress.

No Regrets: Craig Silverman pored over a year’s worth of his Regret the Error columns and gathered a collection of comments that speak to the problems and positive developments that marked the year in accuracy, errors and verification.

What to Read: This holiday season, there’s nothing better you can give your favorite overworked journalist than a good book. Our readers’ list of suggestions for books for journalists is already a good one; please jump in and add your own suggestion.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Skeptical To a Fault: CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, says Sharon Terlep’s story in the WSJ on GM trying to pay down its debt is a great indicator of how the leverage-is-good meme simply refuses to die, even after the financial crisis. The main reason for GM to carry debt is the tax advantages it gets, but the carmaker already has all the tax advantages it will be able to use for the foreseeable future, thanks to all the losses it made in previous years. Meanwhile, as GM vividly remembers, carrying a large debt load can be devastating in a cyclical downturn. But Terlep just can’t seem to believe it’s as simple as that.

Googlopoly?: Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum lauds The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein for an excellent column taking up the Google monopoly case.  If you want to know why there’s a problem with what Google’s doing, this is about the best place to start.

Flyover News: Iowa’s credible attorney general, Tom Miller, recently said he will bring criminal charges over the foreclosure scandal. But, as Chittum points out, most of the press didn’t have that significant news. Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism picked up on this story, as did The Huffington Post and HousingWire. But the only mainstream media coverage it got was in the Des Moines Register and Reuters.

More, Please: In Audit Notes, Chittum says The New York Times reported that The Atlantic magazine, a longtime money loser, is in the black. The Times credits the mag’s focus on the Web, but in fact most of the magazine’s revenue gains game from elsewhere. We’d like to know more.

Meme Watch (cont’d.): Chittum says the Journal went page one this week with a story on our mangled tax code, which is oviously inefficient and causes uncertainty for businesses and individuals. But it seems to him that the Journal overplays the case somewhat that such “uncertainty” is what’s keeping businesses from hiring. And, in doing so, the paper channels the business lobby’s political agenda.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Director’s Cut: Last Thursday, Judith Miller penned a column for The Wall Street Journal in which she accused the new film Fair Game of pushing “untruths” in its telling of the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame.  CJR approached Fair Game director Doug Liman (Swingers, Mr and Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity) for comment. He wrote back with this response to Miller’s piece. It starts this way: “Judith Miller demonstrated in her recent WSJ story about my film, Fair Game, the same cavalier attitude towards the facts that led to her departure from The New York Times in….”

Cancun Confidential: Joydeep Gupta wants to know where the money is. He is reporting for the Indo-Asian News Service, Gupta is in Cancún on the sixteenth annual Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP 16. At last year’s conference in Copenhagen, developed countries promised to spend $30 billion over the course of three years in developing countries where the impacts of climate change are already occurring. Gupta is trying to track that money down, and is profiled for CJR by Laura Paskus, from Cancun.

In the Air: In the latest of CJR’s Launch Pad series, in which founders of news startups discuss the challenges of their particular launch, Michael Andersen, founder of Portland Afoot, and Barry Johnson, who is at work on an arts journalism project, wrap up their series of conversations with a discussion about community building.

Digital Deja Vu: Google has a near-monopoly on search in the U.S. It uses that dominant position to boost its other businesses at the expense of competitors. As The Audit’s Deputy Chief, Ryan Chittum, notes: We’ve got a problem here. The Wall Street Journal took a look, pointing out how the search giant is able to dominate—or at least gain a significant position in—other aspects of the Web by using search results to point to its own services. But the obvious analogy, which the Journal doesn’t make, is to the emblematic tech company of the 1990s: Microsoft.

NYT v. the Derivatives Cartel: Back in September, the Chicago Fed hosted a symposium on OTC derivatives clearing (bear with us; don’t fall asleep just yet). The luncheon keynote was given by Ken Griffin, and summarized by the professor/blogger Craig Pirrong, who was there. CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, notes that recently, the New York Times‘s Louise Story took Griffin’s complaint and elevated it to the status of the main front-page story of the Sunday paper. It’s a long and powerful piece, Felix says, but also quite one-sided.

A Stunning Poll: Chittum says Bloomberg News got some stunning numbers polling Americans on whether big bonuses should be banned at Wall Street?s bailout recipients, which essentially means all of the Wall Street banks. Wait until you see them.

A Rehash from BusinessWeek: Felix says he was eager to read the new Bloomberg Businessweek profile of Larry Fink to learn something new, especially about the famously tense relationship between Fink and Goldman Sachs. But weirdly, the authors seem to go out of their way not to delve. Says Felix: If you only read one profile of Fink, the best one remains last April’s piece by Suzanna Andrews in Vanity Fair.

Herald-Trib BlockBuster: Down in Florida, State Farm noisily said it was exiting its coastal hurricane-insurance business, asserting that it couldn’t afford it anymore. But, Chittum points out in Audit Notes, thanks to an investigation by Paige St. John and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, we now know that State Farm is still actually in the hurricane-insurance business in Florida and its machinations are making it lots of money:

Short-Arming a Goldman Story: Chittum notes that when Senator Carl Levin released e-mails yesterday showing a Goldman Sachs executive exhorting his traders to engineer a short-squeeze, The Wall Street Journal buried it on C3 and gave it a  loopy headline: “Goldman Trader Used Rough Language.” Heavens! The Financial Times was quite a bit better.

NYT Shines on Mortgages: Felix says the paper’s David Bornstein had a great post about ESOP, an Ohio non-profit which acts as a middleman between homeowners and lenders, and which does a much better job of getting modifications done than banks and borrowers are if left to their own devices.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From Columbia Journalism Review:

NYT’s Anti-Bond Market Piece: Did you know there’s a fight to the death going on in Europe? The Times covered it this week under the headline “Central Bank and Financiers Fight Over Fate of the Euro,” and that’s the clear theme. But CJR‘s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, says that blaming speculators for anything going on in Europe is lazy and unproven.

Rattner Ratted Out:
Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum says The New York Times fronted an excellent story on the Steven Rattner scandal. If you wondered why Andrew Cuomo, New York’s attorney general and governor-elect, is pursuing Rattner so fervently,  now you know, thanks to Louise Story and Michael Barbaro.

Unconvincing Outlier:
Salmon says much of the commentary on extending unemployment insurance adds up to something reasonably clear: unemployment insurance isn’t just about fairness, it’s also extremely effective as stimulus. Any side effect that encourages people to stay unemployed is, in comparison, modest. Which is why it’s very odd to find Kelly Evans, in The Wall Street Journal, writing the exact opposite.

Sorkin Comes Around: Chittum says there was a tough column in The New York Times early this week on how the feds’ are going after the minnows and avoiding the sharks over the financial crisis. That the piece comes from Andrew Ross Sorkin, who’s about as inside as they come on Wall Street (for better or for worse),  is significant.

DealBook Drumbeat: And Chittum asks: Is that the sound of a drumbeat coming out of Sorkin’s DealBook? On the heels of Sorkin’s column, a new DealBook columnist, ProPublica’s excellent Jesse Eisinger, asks where the prosecutions are.

What Crackdown?: Boy, the Obama administration’s slapdash PR effort to show it’s cracking down on financial fraud sure looks to be failing—and getting some serious blowback. Chittum says it gets even better (and by better, he means worse): Bloomberg’s Jonathan Weil comes along this week with an outstanding column further showing that the feds “crackdown” on fraud is itself bogus.

Out of Turn:
In Audit Notes, Chittum points out that New York’s Lieutenant Governor, Richard Ravitch, went off the reservation in a speech, reported by Bloomberg, criticizing the state’s cash cow, Wall Street.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Fox reports, Fox decides: An internal Fox News memo leaked to Media Matters shows the conservative news network reminding employees to shape their language in ways that would undermine the Democratic argument for health reform. Joel Meares reports.

Crowd power in MinnesotaLauren Kirchner reports on how Jeff Severns Guntzel, proprietor of MinnPost’s The Intelligencer blog, employs his readers to help locate stories hidden in vast reams of data and information.

Off the Hamster Wheel: Two years after the site’s launch, Global Post is changing the way it does business in order to produce fewer stories, but stories with more impact. A nonprofit arm to fund special projects is part of the plan. Lauren Kirchner interviews Executive Editor Charles Sennott.

Social Security, Real People: In the seventh of her series, Social Security in the Heartland—an effort to see how changes and reforms in the system might affect ordinary Americans, and to try to get the press to do more of that too—Trudy Lieberman interviews Judy Love of Champagne-Urbana, who has thoughts about what raising the retirement would do to women like her.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

RS Strikes Again: CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, asks:  Can Rolling Stone claim another scalp? Could be. Six months after ending the career of Stanley McChrystal, Rolling Stone published Jeff Goodell’s blistering, 7,600-word profile of Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy. Entitled “The Dark Lord of Coal Country,” it’s powerful stuff.

Crains v. BONY:  With Peter Eavis having left the WSJ, Salmon wonders: Who will join Jonathan Weil and David Reilly in taking on the job of poring over banks’ balance sheets to expose their crazy accounting? Crain’s New York Business’s Aaron Elstein, that’s who! He pulls no punches in a recent story on Bank of New York.

Kinsley v. Chittum: Michael Kinsley writes to say that Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum missed the point of his column asking “Are we poorer than we used to be?”  Ryan replies and, at the end of an interesting exchange, they’ll have to agree to disagree.

Weak on Dimon  (Part II): Salmon already dissected Roger Lowenstein’s “credulous” New York Times Mag profile of press favorite Jamie Dimon.  But Chittum says a couple of other problems stuck out for him that also need addressing, including that Dimon is scarcely challenged on the crucial issue of “too big to fail.”

Amazon’s Unfair Edge: Slate’s Farhad Manjoo wrote about how online retailers like Amazon get a huge unfair advantage over their bricks and mortar counterparts. Chittum walks through this good piece on an important subject.

$100 Hamster Wheel: Back on October 1, Salmon says, the Fed put out a short, bland press release announcing “a delay in the issue date of the redesigned $100 note.” Sometimes, there’s a great little story hidden behind such news, and in this case it was CNBC’s Eamon Javers who found it. Javers had time to put together his story, and it shows. But according to some weird rule of journalism, the minute that CNBC ran the story, a full nine weeks after the original press release came out, everybody else felt that they had to have it too, and immediately. Thus it became another example of  “hamster wheel” journalism.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

From Columbia Journalism Review:

Slice of the Onion? The satirical newspaper and website The Onion has hit on a unique way to expand in print and get out of print all at once: The Onion has decided to franchise its print edition out to local partners. Franchisees will pay a weekly fee to license Onion content; they’ll sell their own ads, pay to print and distribute the papers, and keep the profits from the ads they sell. Lauren Kirchner reports on a unique business plan.

Here Comes Jennifer Rubin: The Washington Post’s new conservative blogger doesn’t mince words. Ali Gharib reports.

Hacks and Heroes: Who’s missing from Salon’s “biggest media hacks” list? CJR’s readers weigh in, in this week’s News Meeting.

Do the Math: Justin D. Martin argues that statistics is too pressing a global language for journalists to neglect. Statistically untrained journalists are watchdogs without olfactory cells; they’ll catch wrongdoing when it’s visible, but they lack the skill to sniff a sour deal.

Jamie Dimon, All Shiny: Our Peterson Fellow, Felix Simon, is not a fan of Roger Lowenstein’s NYT Magazine piece on Jamie Dimon, which comes complete with a positively glowing cover photo. It seems altogether too sympathetic to the man, Simon reports.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Bernanke–the Wilderness Years:  Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum writes that not long ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke issued a public call for congress and the president to pass another round of stimulus for the battered economy—and nobody noticed. Chittum noted a while back how odd it was that a press corps that likes to parse the Fed chairman’s every word for evidence of what he’s thinking, and which thought Alan Greenspan’s 2001 support of the Bush tax cuts was worth reams of coverage, and which has devoted front page story after front page story to the Two Old Guys’ Report on the deficit, somehow didn’t think Bernanke’s cry was that big a deal. Two weeks later, The Wall Street Journal finally gets around to it.

Inured to “Trillions”: The Federal Reserve is forced by Congress to reveal who it secretly bailed out with trillions of dollars in loans. How does the press play such a stunning story? In many case, surprisingly poorly.  Read Chittum on who gets it and  who doesn’t.  Preview: Huffington Post, Bloomberg do. Other big MSMers? Not so much.

WSJ Caught in an Overdraft: Chittum writes that back when the Federal Reserve adopted rules forcing banks to make customers opt in to overdraft “protection,” it looked like aggressive press coverage might break the back of a $40 billion a year scheme that charged 4,500 percent APRs for what were effectively short-term loans and hit poorer customers disproportionately. But The Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago that banking-industry consultant Moebs says that a stunning 75 percent of customers have opted in to overdraft protection, which would mean all those pieces about the demise of “free checking” may have been premature. Unfortunately, the Journal’s piece is a good example of how not to do a story.

BizPress, Examined: Chittum provides a smart roundup of what other writers, including The New Yorker’s John Cassidy’s, the Financial Times’s Gillian Tett, are saying about the  pathologies of the business press.

Expertise Overreach: CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, notes that when Chris Whalen appeared on Tech Ticker with Henry Blodget; he said, in the accurate-if-sensationalist words of the Business Insider headline, that CALIFORNIA WILL DEFAULT ON ITS DEBT.  The interview was actually pretty intelligent and informative, by the standards of financial TV. But Brett Arends of Marketwatch didn’t like what he was hearing and decided to push back a bit with a few emailed questions, the results were illuminating

NYT Lags: Chittum says The New York Times is trying to play catchup with The Wall Street Journal, which has dominated the hedge-fund investigation story. But based on a recent day’s offerings from the Times, he doesn’t think  the WSJ is hearing footsteps just yet.

Tweeting Rumors: Um, that’s a bad idea, says Chittum. He’s written before about how press standards tend to go wobbly when it comes to Apple gossip. Well, the NewarkStar-Ledger recently offered a stark example.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Why Amazon Caved: Amazon Web Services dropped WikiLeaks material from its servers on Tuesday, a move that is widely assumed to be a response to pressure from the Senate Homeland Security Committee, though a statement from Amazon disputed that. CJR assistant editor Lauren Kirchner spoke with Ethan Zuckerman, researcher for the Berkman Center for Internet and Society—who has written about the tricky intersection of public space (the Internet) and private infrastructure (service providers)—on the broader implications of this news.

Disclose This: Speaking of the Berkman Center, its co-director, Howard Zittrain, commented fairly neutrally in Newsweek recently on the surprise Google -Verizon alliance—in which Google seemed to step back from its longtime support of Net Neutrality.  Readers wouldn’t have known that Google is Berkman’s biggest sponsor. Emily Brill argues that journalists should think about donor disclosure in digital policy issues the same way they do about Big Pharma and other areas where big industries have major interests. From the current issue of CJR.

What’s True? In their new book, Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload, Tom Rosensteil and Bill Kovach outline the skills that a new breed of empowered, critical media consumers need to make sense of the torrent of information that flows from a fractured and ever-expanding media universe.  Craig Silverman spoke with Rosenstiel in a Q&A about the new world of news and why the discipline of verification is something we all need.

The Human Toll: From our business desk, The Audit, CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, tips his hat to a great analysis in The New York Times by Catherine Rampell about the long-term unemployed, complete with a new parsing of data from the Labor Department.

A Remembrance: Alfred Balk, the second editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, died in November at the age of eighty. James Boylan, CJR’s first and founding editor, remembers.

Columbia Journalism Review

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Corporate Welfare, Hurray! Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum dissects a recent Wall Street Journal report that says government activism is good… when it benefits Big Business. It’s a puff piece that asserts that Utah’s corporate-welfare policies are boosting its economy. But the math doesn’t add up.

A Hole in the NYTChittum says a recent New York Times piece on the Bizarro world of the Irish bailout started strong by showing that average people will shoulder the burden while corporate tax rates will remain untouched. But there’s a pretty big hole in the piece. It leaves the impression that the Irish government is getting bailed out because it overspent on its welfare system, but in fact those cuts are made to pay for obligations taken on from the private sector that caused the Irish crisis in the first place.  Context was missing.

Shorting the “Heard” — In a “Heard on the Street,” the WSJ‘s Simon Nixon says the Irish crisis bepeaks “a major weakness of the Basel capital rules. CJR Peterson Fellow Felix Salmon says that’s is an interesting idea, but if you look more closely at Nixon’s reasoning, his thesis ends up falling apart.

China Syndrome: Chittum says CNBC’s Becky Quick tosses off a dud over at Fortune, telling us all to “Stop the Beijing bashing!” because the “The health of the U.S. economy depends on trade with China.” The people appearing in the pages of Fortune and on the pixels of CNBC would have you believe that’s true. It’s part of the air they breathe. Fortunately for us, it’s not true.

Bonus—The Paterson E-Mails: We bring you a selection of articles and excerpts from the e-mails between the news mdia and New York Governor David Paterson’s two most senior press aides during the period of time when the The New York Times was working on an investigation that would lead to Paterson’s decision to drop his gubernatorial campaign, and when Albany was seized by rumors about what the impending bombshell would be. This is the result of our successful Freedom of Information Law suit.

Some are just for fun, but others reveal serious newsroom conflict, reporters angling for access, sharp elbows from the governor’s communications staff, or previously unknown aspects of the Times’s reporting. They all have something to say about how reporters do their work.

Columbia Journalism Review

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

A WikiLeaks Primer: WikiLeaks shared its documents with a number of news organizations, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and others, before wide release (The New York Times was not on WikiLeaks’s gift list, but did obtain the documents). Here’s a basic rundown of the initial coverages.

The Editors Discuss: The two English-language newspapers given early access to the WikiLeaks diplomatic cable dump have published two very different Q&As with readers regarding the leaks and their decisions to publish reports based on them, each reflecting their outlet’s style.  The New York Times’s Bill Keller, Jill Abramson, and Andrew W. Lehren respond to questions in a formal Q&A published here.The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, answers commenters’ questions more informally in the comments stream of this Guardian page. CJR’s Joel Meares compares and contrasts.

The Record Keeper: Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald owns the Guantánamo beat. David Glenn has a profile, in the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.

Number Cruncher: One night in a bar, a thirty-four-year-old physics professor at Iowa State College named John Atanasoff was inspired. According to Jane Smiley’s new book, The Man Who Invented the Computer, he sketched out what would become the first digital calculator, and never really got credit for that effort. CJR’s Lauren Kirchner has the book review, in the latest Page Views, our online ideas and reviews section.

Never the More: What happens when a public official uses confusing and erroneous wording? Do you quote? Merrill Perlman has some thoughts, in the latest Language Corner.

Columbia Journalism Review

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

A $4200 Bomb: Joel Meares reports on how to read Inspire, the English-language “magazine” that claims to be the work of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A recent  “special edition” details the attempt—total cost, it says, $4200— to bomb two cargo planes using tampered-with printers sent from Yemen, and warns of more to come.

The Hive: Every publication says that they want to be more engaged with readers, but few are taking their efforts as seriously as Slate. Daniel Luzer goes inside Slate’s effort to crowdsource good ideas.

The Ask: In the latest in our Launch Pad feature about news startups, Michael Andersen and Barry Johnson of Portland Afoot talk about how they make themselves sell ads to their monthly magazine and online guide.

Mission Creep: From our business desk, Peterson Fellow Felix Salmon discusses an example of expertise mission creep, in which television lures commentators to push beyond their base of knowledge.

Screwed: Ryan Chittum tips his hat to The Miami Herald, which dug up a telling anecdote for the foreclosure scandal, the mortgage crisis, and how both are two sides of the same coin. It’s a stunning story about how a woman refinanced her home to get $50,000, wound up getting defrauded at every turn, and is set to lose it to the bank.

Siberian Rhapsody: Finally—Ian Frazier is one of the few true stylists in nonfiction writing today. So says Ted Conover, who reviews Frazier’s Travels in Siberia, his ambitious, charming, and sweeping journey across the steppe and back in time. From the November issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.

Columbia Journalism Review

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Relentless: Long famed as the frizzy-haired muckraker of New York’s statehouse, Liz Benjamin has for fifteen years built a reputation for strong investigative reporting, tough questioning, and breaking news in print and online at The Albany Times-Union and the New York Daily NewsTimes-Union editor Rex Smith is succinct: “She is as relentless as the sea.” This year, Benjamin brought her intensity to television, taking over from Brian Taff as anchor of Capital Tonight. CJR’s Joel Meares has a profile.

Dropping out: The University of Colorado at Boulder kicked up a cloud of dust when it announced in August that it had formed a committee to consider the creation of a “new interdisciplinary academic program of information, communication and technology.” The kicker? It had formed another committee to explore the “discontinuance” of its journalism school. Curtis Brainard has the story from the November issue of CJR,  and an update.

Degrees of Rejection: Our language maven, Merrill Perlman, comes to the defense of “refudiate.” Really.

Columbia Journalism Review

November 19, 2010 Leave a comment

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.

Columbia Journalism Review

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Click: Are slideshows the scourge or the savior of websites?  Chadwick Matlin thinks through the question, from the new issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.

Taming DataLauren Kirchner reports on another free and easy tool available for journalists who want to quickly map a slew of data: either to simply illustrate the data for readers, or to look for patterns in that data to find an angle for a story: OpenHeatMap.

Solving Sarah: Robert Draper, the prolific political reporter, has a 7,720-word piece on Sarah Palin in this weekend’s New York Times magazine, which, as per tradition, was published in preview online. Joel Meares has a report on what the piece says about Palin and the press.

Social Security in the Heartland: Jim Bean, 50, is a rigger—the person who climbs up to the ceiling in theaters and entertainment centers to hang the lights and the sound equipment. In the latest of Trudy Lieberman’s series of pieces about how Social Security reform could affect ordinary Americans, Bean talks about his hopes and fears about retirement.

Columbia Journalism Review

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Here’s some of what’s new and interesting on The Audit, the online business desk of the Columbia Journalism Review:

Not so Easy: Audit Deputy Editor Ryan Chittum says bloggers rightly criticize the press for focusing on the trivial at the expense of the meaningful, process at the expense of the issues, and for not asking tough questions when given the chance to question the president of the United States. But when liberal bloggers had a chance to show us their stuff in a sitdown/quasi press conference yesterday with Obama, they didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory.

Monster Quotes: We haven’t gotten a copy of Michael Hudson’s eagerly awaited new book Monster, which investigates the predatory lenders that caused the housing crisis, but Chittum says he’s itching to read it, especially after reading this post where he pulls some of the best quotes from his book. Among the gems: “I became a thief. And unfortunately, I found I was a very good thief.”

Promises, Promises): Chittum says Michael Hiltzik took an excellent look at that interesting Commodity Futures Trading Commission story in which retiring judge George H. Painter says his colleague Bruce Levine promised Wendy Gramm (Phil’s wife) twenty years ago that he would never rule for an investor, and that a “review of his rulings will confirm that he fulfilled his vow.” The plot thickened, as Chittum wrote last week, when The Wall Street Journal published a Dow Jones Newswire story that now looks like a hit job.

HAMP FAIL: The special inspector general of the TARP, Neil Barofsky, released a blistering report yesterday, including pointed criticism of Treasury’s AIG doings and the Obama administration’s failed mortgage-modification plan, called HAMP. So how did the press cover it? Says Chittum: Aside from CNN, Not very well.

Viva Robber Barons: Leave it to The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page, which runs a column bemoaning the mortal wounding of the overdraft charge and calling for its resurrection. John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute stumps for something he calls “The Free Checking Restoration Act. The argument is full of logical and factual flaws, and Chittum dismantles it.

And, from Page Views, our semi-regularly online arts & culture feature, a bonus:

Waiting for Substance: LynNell Hancock admits that she wept when she watched Waiting for Superman, the documentary that has garnered rave reviews and generated an uncommon level of discussion about public education in America. But not for reasons that the film’s director, Davis Guggenheim, would be delighted about.

We invite you to read LynNell’s review of this hot documentary.

Columbia Journalism Review

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Not-So-Silent Money: Liz Cox Barrett compares and contrasts two treatments of the secret-donors spending that will help shape next week’s election—in Politico and in The New York Times.

Thinking Social Security: Trudy Lieberman reports on how ordinary people in Champagne-Urbana, Illinois, think about and use Social Security—the fifth in her series, which we hope will inspire similar down-to-earth press coverage of the big impending decisions about this immense program.

Readers/Checkers: The Register Citizen is an 8,000-circulation paper in Litchfield County, Connecticut that is both a digital leader and a leader in accuracy innovation, via a box on every story that tells readers how to alert editors to factual errors. Craig Silverman reports in his latest Regret the Error column.

Scarify: How do you spell jack-o’-lantern? In her latest Language Corner column, Merrill Perlman has some observations on the scary words of Halloween.

Speaking of Scary: It wouldn’t be The Wall Street Journal editorial page if a column wasn’t misleading readers, this time in defense of the banks’ beloved overdraft charges. From our business desk, The Audit, Ryan Chittum has an analysis.


Missing $50-Millionaires: Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum praises David Cay Johnston for pointing out over at that earnings for those making over $50 million a year exploded last year—in what was supposed to be a bad year for the rich—and taking the press to task for missing the story.  Says Chittum: Johnston’s story is on the money and his press point is well taken.

The Nation Digs into a Flawed Pact: In Audit Notes, Chittum points favorably to The Nation‘s long look at that giant Countrywide/Bank of America settlement that Countrywide agreed to with state attorneys general a couple of years ago, and calls it a “fiasco.” The Nation has the goods.

Early iPad Results: In Audit Notes, Chittum parses some media economic news, via reporting from Ad Age’s Nat Ives on a bunch of sales numbers for magazines on the iPad. He finds a mixed bag, but Wired has to be pretty happy.

TARP Back-Scratching Chittum saysThe Washington Post does a good job of keeping an eye on bailed-out companies’ campaign donations with this story yesterday. The short version: The cash goes from taxpayers to companies to politicians.