Nieman Reports

A journal presenting information concerning media issues for the academic audience.

Articles from Vol. 55, No. 2, Summer

1 Journalism's First Obligation Is to Tell the Truth
"On this there is absolute unanimity and also utter confusion: Everyone agrees journalists must tell the truth. Yet people are fuddled about what "the truth" means.... This desire that information be truthful is elemental. Since news is the material...
2 Journalism's First Loyalty Is to Citizens
"A commitment to citizens is more than professional egoism. It is the implied covenant with the public.... The notion that those who report the news are not obstructed from digging up and telling the truth--even at the expense of the owners' other...
3 the Essence of Journalism Is a Discipline of Verification
"In the end, the discipline of verification is what separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction, or art.... Journalism alone is focused first on getting what happened down right.... Perhaps because the discipline of verification...
4 Journalists Must Maintain an Independence from Those They Cover
"... Being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism. ... impartiality was never what was meant by objectivity. ... the critical step in pursing truthfulness and informing citizens is not neutrality but independence.... This applies...
5 Journalists Must Serve as an Independent Monitor of Power
"In 1964, the Pulitzer Prize, the most coveted award in newspapers, went to the Philadelphia Bulletin in a new reporting category ... called Investigative Reporting. ... the journalism establishment was acknowledging a kind of work increasingly done...
6 Journalism Must Provide a Forum for Public Criticism and Comment
"... This forum function of the press would make it possible to create a democracy even in a large, diverse country by encouraging what James Madison and others considered the basis upon which democracy would stand--compromise, compromise, compromise.......
7 Journalists Must Make the Significant Interesting and Relevant
"... This classic way of posing the question of engagement--as information versus storytelling, or what people need versus what people want--is a distortion. This is not how journalism is practiced, journalists told us. Nor is it, we believe, how people...
8 Journalists Should Keep the News in Proportion and Make It Comprehensive
"Journalism is our modern cartography. It creates a map for citizens to navigate society. This is its utility and its economic reason for being.... As with any map, journalism's value depends on its completeness and proportionality. Journalists who...
9 Journalists Have an Obligation to Personal Conscience
"Every journalist--from the newsroom to the boardroom--must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility--a moral compass. What's more, they have a responsibility to voice their personal conscience out loud and allow others around them to do...
Accuracy Must Be Our Journalistic Grail
Editors at The Oregonian make writers pause and verify before publication. My copy editor colleague was blunt: "I'm going to need proof that these people exist and that this is how they spell their names." Ouch. Was he questioning my integrity?...
A Journalist Struggles with Objectivity vs. Obligation
With a Latino readership, is coverage of certain issues likely to be biased? Last year, while covering the U.S. presidential election, I definitely entered territory that was unfamiliar to me as a journalist. As a worker in the news business, I...
A Newspaper Strives to Make Its Coverage Complete
The new approach works but reporters feel constricted by its rigidity. Four years ago at The (Syracuse) Post-Standard we had a rare and precious opportunity to start our newspaper all over again. We'd announced that the morning and evening newspaper...
Being a Latina Journalist at a Spanish-Language Newspaper
`I don't have to explain why it's a story.' At the start of this year I accepted a position as opinion page editor and editorial writer at el diario/ La Prensa, a daily Spanish-language newspaper in New York City. Its readership is located primarily...
Convergence Arrives at Lippmann House
Fellows learn about digital technology, but wonder about its place in journalism. Digital technology has journalists and others talking about its impact on the future of news reporting. Some envision a day, not too far away, when the various media...
Coverage of Latino Life Is an American Story
Resistance comes from older managers. Acceptance comes from younger viewers. As CNN's urban affairs correspondent and the host of National Public Radio's "Latino USA," veteran journalist Maria Hinojosa reports on a myriad of topics, including issues...
Daring to Write Our Secrets
Latino journalists don't serve their communities by failing to probe for stories. As an editor at a magazine written for, and mostly by, Latinos living in the United States, my sense of duty towards our readers is often accompanied by nagging second...
Determining the Line between Fact and Fiction
In broadcast news, compelling TV and good journalism can coexist. A national cable television correspondent was covering murder trial of a man already serving time on a prior conviction. With a live report minutes away, she asked a young assistant...
Digital Technology Could Lead Journalism Back to Its Roots
Entrepreneurial reporters will gather and distribute news in new ways. I first heard the word convergence when it was proposed that I teach digital journalism to this year's class of Nieman Fellows. Evidently, its one of those words that defines...
El Nuevo Herald Provides a Latin American Take on the News
At its sister newspaper, The Miami Herald, news judgments are different. "Jubilo en Miami"--Joy in Miami--read a front-page headline in El Nuevo Herald during the height of the Elian Gonzalez saga. That day, El Nuevo Herald, the premier Spanish-language...
Fairness in Journalism Is Rewarded
By spotlighting examples, we learn how fairness is perceived. "Honest and fair dealing will win in the long run." Charles H. Taylor, founder of The Boston Globe, laid down this journalistic cornerstone in 1873. He meant it to apply to coverage...
Hispanic Workers Bring Changes to Midwestern Communities
An Indiana newspaper decides to 100k at what these changes are. For years, growth and change came slowly to our pocket of southwest Indiana. The area was influenced by the thrifty Germans who settled here in Evansville, Indiana, and by a Southern...
In Crisis, Journalists Relinquish Independence
`Ideological biases can overtake the desire to be independent.' After clashing with a Chinese jet fighter, a U.S. spy plane crash lands on an island in southern China and its 24 crew members are held by the Chinese. This news instantly becomes...
Investigative Journalism Can Still Thrive at Newspapers
It requires fierce determination, hard work, some guerrilla tactics, and thick skin. It was never easy to be an investigative reporter, especially when the journalist wanted to tell a story that was original, that he or she saw but others didn't...
Inviting Viewers to Enter the Newsroom
With its Viewers' Bill of Rights, KGUN9-TV in Arizona broke new ground. When I first became a television news director I used to get calls from colleagues and media reporters asking me what I am doing to increase ratings. Two years ago, the question...
Is Journalism Losing Its Place in the Boisterous Public Forum?
An editor finds an appetite for serious conversation. Media ought to respond. In some ways, journalism has come full circle. It began as a spoken medium, the stories exchanged in the Greek marketplace and, later, in colonial American taverns, over...
It's Not Easy Escaping Ethnic Labels and Expectations
In cultural journalism, Latino critics confront a double-edged sword. Many of my fellow Latino journalists would surely agree that this dual identity--being a journalist and being Latino--is a double-edged sword. And many of us, seeking to establish...
Journalists Engage Readers by Learning Who They Are
Newsrooms should know more than marketers do about their audiences. The most oft-mentioned and misrepresented figure in journalism might be "the Reader" (or alternately, "the Viewer"), a spirit summoned to support nearly every content argument that...
Journalists Need Help with Ethical Decisions
In today's newsrooms, there are plenty to be made. When journalism students arrive at my door to ask what they should know about being reporters, I give them the same spiel again and again. I'm sure some consider it a rant. "Being a reporter...
KGUN9 Viewers' Bill of Rights
You Have a Right to Know KGUN9 will ask the tough questions, conduct the investigations necessary, and give the timely information needed to serve the public interest and protect public safety. You Have a Right to Ethical Newsgathering KGUN9...
Language Can Create Barriers for Young Journalists
One news director considered a reporter's Spanish `not Mexican enough.' During my newsroom years, I've never felt any discrimination for being Latino. I don't recall that my ethnic background was ever taken into consideration when being assigned...
Latinos Bring More Than Diversity to the Newsroom
In the new millennium, there is cause for celebration and reason for concern. This is an historic issue of Nieman Reports, the first one written by and about Latino journalists. Some might say it took too long for this to happen, but as one who...
Latino Voices: Journalism by and about Latinos
To viewers of "CNN Headline News" or readers of Internet news sites, the story might sound or look like this: "Census Bureau Reports Huge Rise in Hispanic Population" "Hispanic Population Increases Faster Than Experts Predicted" "Hispanics...
Loving and Cussing: The Family Newspaper
It's a place where community and citizens come before big profits In Alabama patois, for the publisher of a family paper to comment on Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel's principles is like hunting on a baited field. It just ain't fair. Put another...
Making Truth an Idea That Journalists Can Believe in Again
`Every journalist knows that truth can make nonnegotiable demands.' Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel accurately call truth the "first and most confusing principle." These days it sometimes seems as though we're embarrassed to be caught talking about...
News and Views Got Inside China during the Airplane Crisis
Voice of America delivered comprehensive reporting in native languages. During April's tense standoff between the United States and China over the U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft, American and other Western media repeatedly reported that the Chinese...
Nieman Foundation Announces U.S. Fellows for 2001-02
Thirteen U.S. journalists were appointed to the 64th class of NiemanFellows at Harvard University. Their names and interests follow: Geneive Abdo, former Tehran correspondent for The Guardian; comparative religion and the global religious revival...
Observations on the Potential and Paradox of Latinos in Journalism
Progress provides seats at morning stow meetings, but doesn't lessen the challenges. When I was growing up in New York in the 1960's, the only Latinos I routinely saw on television were getting arrested, or Ricky Ricardo. While my hometown was home...
Press Failure to Watchdog Can Have Devastating Consequences
Every news organization should monitor the powerful in the public interest. In this electronic age, the most serious challenge to American journalism is the threat of becoming irrelevant. Unless the American print and broadcast press can demonstrate...
Readers Know Unfairness When They See It
If journalists listen to readers' observations, there is progress in fairness to be made. So what is this thing called "fairness" anyway? Perhaps it's the opposite of "unfairness," for which no one I know has yet come up with a perfect definition....
Refusing to Take the Easier Route
Journalists have an important social contract to uphold. "Why didn't you just give them the names and save yourself from this barbaric torture?" Following my harrowing experience at the hands of Zimbabwean military authorities in January of 1999,...
Retaining Independence Isn't Easy for Journalists
But protection of sources can cheat the public and betray the truth. Early in his tenure as a Chicago Bull, Michael Jordan asked reporters for a favor: He would appreciate if they wouldn't reveal that he had a child, since he wasn't married just...
Speaking the Language of Understanding
Spanish helps in reporting Latino stories, but it isn't enough. Oh, you're the one who speaks Spanish." I was at a farewell party for a coworker at the (NewYork) Daily News and had just been introduced to one of our investigative reporters. These...
Taylor Family Establishes Award for Fairness in Journalism
`Fairness keeps the playing field of a democratic society level.' All's fair in love and war, as the man claimed, but nobody makes that claim about journalism. The widespread perception that journalists periodically or even routinely deal from...
The Absence of Memory Hurts Journalism
Short-term investors stifle investment in long-term and necessary research. It is a lovely metaphor. Journalism today, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel tell us, is where cartography was in the 15th century. We report well about what our audiences...
The Borderlands of Journalism
Typical story assignments underscore the difficulty of defeating stereotypes. As many African-American or Native-American journalists discover, some editors think we are the sole representatives of our ethnic groups. Latinos pose a particularly...
`The Day after Yesterday'
"What I sought to do, in the midst of all this, was to express through people's stories the tensions I have described between history, myth and individual memory. As I have said, memory cannot be photographed. That is one reason why I believe we stone-age...
The Elusive Hispanic/Latino Identity
This article is excerpted from a resource guide for journalists put together by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Every person has a theme. We are each a new narrative, a different drama in the American experience. Sometimes we have...
The Evening News En Espanol
Univision's anchor connects the network's mission with journalism. Can you imagine a newsroom in the United States in which being a journalist of Hispanic origin is an asset? Where being bilingual is a requirement? Where covering Latin America along...
The `Latino Initiative' Reshapes the Los Angeles Times's Coverage
Its goal is to spread awareness of Latino news throughout the newsroom. For two years, I've been overseeing the Los Angeles Times's Latino Initiative, a newsroom-wide project that assigns bilingual reporters (not all of whom are Latino) to beats...
`The News Has Become the News'
Influential voices spotlight failures and remedies for today's journalists. Like the good journalists they are, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel have that proverbial nose for news. So, too, does Nieman Reports exhibit a good sense of timing by focusing...
The Only or the Lonely
Latino journalists speak up about coverage, but doing so takes its toll. I remember my first real job interview. The editor, a debonair man in his late 40's, pulled off his glasses and looked me in the eye. "Cindy, we normally don't hire straight...
The Pursuit of Truth Can Be Elusive in Africa
Independent journalists are branded unpatriotic and anti-government. Journalism in Africa has to be engaged in the pursuit of truth. I emphasize "pursuit," since we neither attain it always, nor is it always within our grasp. Truth is a very...
There's a Need at the Top for Latino Journalists
The road there can be filled with tough choices and difficult tradeoffs. I awoke to the rich possibilities of a life in journalism on a June day 23 years ago, the last day of my first week as a summer intern at the Chicago Tribune. For all its hallowed...
The Roots of NTV's Difficulties Dig Deeply into Political Turf
In Russia, there are lessons to be learned from what happened at Media-Most. It was February 28, 2001. The battle for NTV television--the largest non-government national television network in Russia and its affiliates in the Media-Most empire founded...
Thrity Umrigar Read on May 4 from Her Forthcoming Novel, "Bombay Time" (Picador USA/St. Martin's Press; July 2001), at the South Asian Humanities Seminar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sponsored by Harvard's Humanities Center
Thrity Umrigar read on May 4 from her forthcoming novel, "Bombay Time" (Picador USA/St. Martin's Press; July 2001), at the South Asian Humanities Seminar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sponsored by Harvard's Humanities Center. On being a journalist and...
Using a Cultural Icon to Explore a People's Heart
A photographer invites community members to help create new images. My photographic essay, "Sagrado Corazon/Sacred Heart," is an exploration of a cultural icon that reveals the syncretic aspects of my Chicano heritage. The Baroque Sacred Heart in...
What Does Financial Reporting Look like Today?
`Give 'em the scores and show a few highlights of the game.' My interview with a high government official was running longer than usual. Behind me I could feel my cameraman moving restlessly. When it was over, I found out why. "The interview...
When the Public Speaks, Do Journalists Listen?
`I don't recognize myself or anyone I know in your newspaper.' How well are journalists doing these days at behaving as what the Hutchins Commission in 1947 called "common carriers of public discussion?" That's the question Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel...
Why Has Journalism Abandoned Its Observer's Role?
`The mirrorer was viewed as fat to be trimmed, and was.' Reporters, who are in the best position to pick up the sentiments of readers and would-be readers, often complain to me that the public no longer sees us as either engaging or relevant. Complaints,...
Words & Reflections
David Nyhan, a columnist with The Boston Globe, describes why--at a time of deepening public mistrust of journalism--there needed to be a way of recognizing and rewarding fairness. "Rare is the subject of a news story, who does not feel hard-done by...