Nieman Reports

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

Articles from Vol. 55, No. 3, Fall

A Bullet, a Boy, a Story, and a Reporter's Observations: A Journalist with an Injured Family Member Witnesses the Press in Action. (When Journalists Arrive ...)
A bullet went through my nephew's chest and out his side without much medical fuss. Two stitches on either end and he left the hospital with a bottle of Vicodin. His heart was just missed, and the family was thankful for the randomness of certain trajectories....
A Feeling of Being Set Adrift: At the Akron Beacon Journal, More Buyouts Create More Uncertainty. (Newspaper Cutbacks)
The atmosphere is carnival-like. There is a joviality in the room, an hysterical hilarity that has been missing from my newsroom for many months. For a few minutes, I am stunned, angry even, at this abrupt change in mood. We have just been told that...
A Festival to Celebrate Radio Documentaries: Organized by Chicago Public Radio, It Happens in October. (Radio and the Internet)
Imagine a Sundance Festival for radio and you start to get the idea of what the Third Coast International Audio Festival is all about. This festival is designed to honor and enrich the world of documentary audio and create new opportunities for extraordinary...
A Neighbor Wonders about Her Role as a Media Source: `Had My Attempt to Honor Dear Friends Actually Caused Harm?' (When Journalists Arrive ...)
Tears well up as I start writing this--sadness and horror surge through a veil of persisting disbelief. On Saturday, January 27, my husband, Bob, our daughter, Cindy, her husband, John, and I gathered around a gently bubbling cheese fondue in celebration...
A Nieman Year Spent Pondering Storytelling: `TV Documentaries Were Dull Because They Misused the Medium.' (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
In the early 1950's, with television in its infancy, the ability to capture real-life moments as they happen and use those images to tell a story was little more than an idea of what the documentary approach on this new medium might become. I'd spent...
A Photographer's Journey Begins with a Coffin: By Documenting Youngsters' Lives, He Hopes to Understand What Is Happening. (Photography and the Written Word)
My photographic journey into the lives of black youth in Baltimore began in an accidental way. The newspaper I worked for sent me to photograph a young woman for a column called "Candid Closet," and she was supposed to represent one of the most fashion...
A Place for Words and Images to Call Home: At Double Take, Photographers and Writers Document the Human Experience. (Photography and the Written Word)
Who work at DoubleTake magazine try not to forget how our publication got to be and why we still want to remember fondly the spoken and written words of William Carlos Williams. In his words, we find his yearning determination to respect mightily the...
A Tape Recorder Becomes a Connecting Thread. (Radio and the Internet)
I went to a small high school where everyone had some vague notion that I had a disease called Tourette's syndrome. But very few students really knew what that meant and even fewer seemed to care enough to find out. That was until I brought the tape...
Being Receptive to the Unexpected: A Photographer Immerses Himself in a Community to Tell Its Stories. (Photograph and the Written Word)
I am in that place again of waiting for a documentary project's beginning moments and, as always, my stomach rumbles with anticipation. I've promised myself that I'm not going to fight the eternal battle that goes on inside of me whenever I am preparing...
Class Notes
--1943-- Frank K. Kelly writes, "I must be one of the oldest living Fellows. I was in the class of 1942-43. I was called into the army in January 1943 and returned to finish my fellowship in the spring of 1946." Kelly has been honored recently...
Diversity Can Be Improved during This Economic Downturn: For That to Happen, a Diverse Newsroom Must Become a Focus of Corporate Leaders. (Newspaper Cutbacks)
The media industry should be ashamed of itself. All of this talk about the economic downturn has, once again, caused publishers, top editors, general managers and news directors to review the options and implement buyouts, cost-cutting, hiring freezes...
Documentary Filmmakers Decide How to Present Compelling Evidence: Using Film to Tell a Story Changes Nearly Everything. (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
Similarities abound between the reporting methods used by documentary filmmakers and print journalists. But the results are regarded differently, with more people believing the documentary is more objective. The information on the screen often seems...
Documentary Journalism Vanishes from Network and Local Television: Withdrawal of Advertising and Emergence of News Magazines Were among the Factors That Killed It. (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
This autumn, for the 12th year in a row, I will take my seat around a large conference table in the historic World Room at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, joining seven distinguished colleagues as we begin three long days of judging...
Documenting Democracy in America: The Indivisible Project Portrays Grassroots Activity in 12 Communities. (Photograph and the Written Word)
What does democracy look like away from Capitol Hill? How is it created and maintained today among the individuals in one dot or another on the map of the United States? And who are those individuals? For such an inquiry, requiring an immersion in...
Documenting Social Ills with an Eye toward Advocacy: Women's Health, Homophobia, Domestic Violence, and Rape Are Topics Mainstream Media Often Ignore. (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
My partner Renner Wunderlich and I approach the documentaries we produce and direct from a position of advocacy. Often a film idea begins as a roaring argument related to an issue that one or the other of us has been committed to either as an activist...
Donald Woods Remembered by Nieman Classmates. (Nieman Notes)
Donald Woods, a 1979 Nieman Fellow, died August 19 in England of cancer. He was 67. A fifth-generation South African, Woods had accepted apartheid as sensible policy until, as a law student at the University of Cape Town, he began to comprehend the...
Editors Need to Care about Words and Budgets: Journalists Rarely Talk about the Business, except When It's Bad. (Newspaper Cutbacks)
I know exactly when it was that I realized I needed to be more savvy about the newspaper business. It was late one afternoon in the 1980's, and all the lights had gone out in a power failure at The Miami Herald. And the teacher was getting totally...
Exploring the Relationship between Photographer and Subject: `Documentary Photography Is Purity and Freedom.' (Photography and the Written Word)
Documentary photography is a medium of aesthetic expression in which form and content need to collaborate with the subject matter to capture an unchangeable image. This collaboration provides an active examination of contemporary society and a presentation...
First-Person Narratives on Radio Document Historic Memory: While Emotionally Powerful, Their Production Presents Journalistic Challenges. (Radio and the Internet)
Some stories are so good you just want to get out of their way. Or so it seemed with "The Lemon Tree," a documentary that captured, with two deeply personal stories, a slice of the last 50 years of Middle East history. In July 1948, at the height...
`It Was Just Me and the Recorder.' (Radio and the Internet)
I had been incarcerated at the Rhode Island Training School for three years when I met Joe [Richman]. He asked if I wanted to carry a tape recorder around the training school for a few months and record my life. I told him yes. But at the same time...
Journalists Ask Questions, Then Refuse to Answer Them: `How Can We Have the Guts to Run a Controversial Story and Then Put a Muzzle on Staffers to Comment?' (When Journalists Arrive ...)
A spokeswoman for a small but influential local branch of a major American corporation was helpfully trying to explain why all my calls to employees are deflected to her. "If we get a call, it's routed through PR, and we assess who the best person...
Journalist's Trade
Cutbacks. Lay-offs. Buyouts. Early retirement packages. Offered under different names and circumstances, the bottom-line objectives are similar: trim the staff to keep the enterprise afloat. Few journalistic homes have been spared cuts in staff during...
Listening to Radio Talk: At Transom.org, the Conversation Is about Documentaries and Public Radio. (Radio and the Internet)
Transom.org, an online project of Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, provides tools for public radio production and features original work from first-time producers. It also hosts forums for the general discussion of public radio journalism...
Long-Form Documentaries Serve a Vital Journalistic Role: Today's Complexities Don't Fit into Tidy News Magazine Packages. (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
If the famous Edward R. Murrow/ Fred Friendly documentary about Senator Joseph McCarthy had been merely a 10- or 12-minute segment of a newsmagazine show, the Wisconsin "Commie-hunter" today might rival Strom Thurmond as the oldest member of the U.S....
Making Change Work Away from Public Pressures: At Cox Newspapers, Economic Hard Times Bring Fresh Approaches to News Coverage. (Newspaper Cutbacks)
Tough economic times hit privately owned newspapers, too. How they respond--especially when employment ad revenue falls 40 percent, newsprint prices grow by double digits, and there's no elasticity left in circulation rates--explains why I wouldn't...
My Son Became a Voice the Media Relied On: For Mother and Son, `the Tug-and-Pull of the Media Was Unnerving.' (When Journalists Arrive ...)
March 5 began like every other Monday morning, except I was on call. If I didn't receive a phone call by seven a.m., I'd have the day off. That hour came and went without a call, so my mind turned to thinking about all I could get done that day as...
Narrative Journalism: A New Nieman Program: Mark Kramer Brings His Teaching and Narrative Journalism Conference to Harvard. (Curator's Corner)
In its Fall 2000 issue, this magazine published a series of articles exploring the idea that narrative writing was returning to newspapers. The lead article was written by Mark Kramer, a writer and highly respected teacher of the narrative craft who...
News Is Strategic in the Newspaper Business: Newsroom Cost Cutting Should Not Imperil Its Special Strengths. (Newspaper Cutbacks)
The headlines sound grim. "U.S. newspaper groups cut costs as ad revenues fall" in the Financial Times. In the United States, the words were more precise: "Knight Ridder To Cut 1700 Jobs; Cuts Follow Earlier Losses of 400." The stories reveal that...
Newspaper Economics 2001: The McClatchy Way: The Company Is Weathering the Financial Storm with a Different Strategy. (Newspaper Cutbacks)
The sudden reversal of fortunes that befell the newspaper industry with the economic slowdown of 2001 appeared largely without warning, turning boom into gloom for many companies within the span of a single quarter. It has since asserted itself with...
Newspapers Confront a Barrage of Problems: Societal Trends Make Business Decisions More Difficult. (Newspaper Cutbacks)
In the media maelstrom that followed Jay Harris's resignation as publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, writers and critics most often have framed the issue behind his leaving as a battle between profit and journalism. They have expressed a concern...
Nieman Fellows Take to the Road in Korea: `For 10 Days We Changed from Being Reporters to Being Diplomats of Our Profession.' (Nieman Notes)
The Nieman Fellows meet South Korean journalists in a conference room on top of Seoul. Old linoleum floors, new microphones, and a view that strikes the eye: skyscrapers, flashing screens, roof decorations in glass and steel. A huge banner says, "Welcome...
Nieman Foundation Announces International Fellows for 2001-02. (Nieman Notes)
Twelve international journalists were appointed to the 64th class of Nieman Fellows at Harvard University. Their names, countries of residence, and interests follow: Waziri Adio, Lagos, Nigeria, editorial board member of This Day newspaper; the...
Ownership Guides a Newspaper's Mission: Responding to Wall Street's Demands Can Erode Long-Term Quality. (Newspaper Cutbacks)
The current fear about the impact on newspaper journalism of this ear's wave of newsroom reductions and other cost-cutting--in response to lowered profits--is rooted partly in differing perceptions of ownership responsibilities. Conventional wisdom,...
Photojournalism and Documentary Photography: They Are Identical Mediums, Sending Different Messages. (Photography and the Written Word)
Time in photography isn't only about its passage, whether measured in hours, days or months. It's about its captured moments, be it in a second, or five hundredths of a second. Increments of time are imperceptible to the eye, but not to light sensitive...
Photojournalism at a Crossroads: Technology, Culture and Economics Will Determine Its Future. (Photography and the Written Word)
Although of photojournalism's death have been substantially exaggerated during the last decade, it certainly isn't what it used to be. Its glory days are long gone, days when Life, Look, Picture Post and others employed teams of dazzlingly talented...
Radio Diarists Document Their Lives: These `Reporters' Capture Moments Journalists Never Could. (Radio and the Internet)
What made Josh Cutler a great radio diarist was that I never knew what he was going to say. Sometimes he didn't, either. Josh has Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary verbal and physical tics. I first met him in 1995...
Radio Documentaries Take Listeners into Dark Corners. (Radio and the Internet)
David Isay is the founder of Sound Portraits Productions. Its radio documentaries profile the lives of men, women and children living in communities often neglected or misunderstood. During the past 13 years, Isay's work has won nearly every award...
Radio Storytelling Builds Community On-Air and Off: `The Journalist Must Be Facilitator, Fact-Checker, Ethicist, but Not Puppet-Master.' (Radio and the Internet)
What separates radio documentary from any documentary? And what separates public radio journalism from any journalism? Radio gets inside us. Lacking earlids, we are defenseless, vulnerable to ambush. Sounds and voices surprise us from within. As...
Remembering Documentary Moments. (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
Looking back at television's more than 50-year history, the "golden years" for documentaries on both the networks and the affiliates came during a 20-year period beginning in the mid-1960's and lasting until the mid-1980's. A review of the archives...
Silencing Voices for Racial Change during the 1950's: National Magazine Editors Published Those Urging Moderation and the Status Quo. (Books and Commentary)
Not long after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision opened the door to racial change in America, Georgia author Lillian Smith received what seemed to her a peculiar request. The Antioch Review, a little literary magazine, had sent along to...
Striking a Balance between Filmmaking and Journalism: At `Frontline,' the Producers and Their Vision Are Front and Center. (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
Twenty years ago, a South African charmer named David Fanning and I were sizing each other up in a bar at the Century Plaza in Los Angeles. He was putting together a weekly PBS documentary television series, and I was trying to parlay a freshly minted...
The Chandra Levy Story: What Does Media Coverage Look and Feel like from the Other Side? (When Journalists Arrive ...)
As executive director of the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation, I found myself in the midst of the top story in the nation--the missing Washington, D.C. intern--when the family turned to us for help. Our organization was established...
The Documentary and Journalism. (Cover Story)
At a time when so much of journalism is quicker, shorter and hyped to grab the public's presumed short-attention span, the documentary--with its slower pace and meandering moments--is finding receptive audiences in many old places and some new ones...
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Cuts Jeopardize Quality: `One of Journalism's Top Destinations Has Become a Departure Lounge.' (Newspaper Cutbacks)
Despite a reputation for puckish behavior, the reason I wore a brown dinosaur costume at The Philadelphia Inquirer in late 1995 had nothing to do with our newsroom antics. Nor did I intend to symbolize acceptance of the muddle-headed view that newspapers...
Using Documentaries to Move People to Action: Films Serve as Powerful Catalysts for the Television Race Initiative. (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
Storytelling has brought communities together and enabled them to pass on knowledge since the dawn of time. Yet only recently have we, using television, begun to tap the enormous power of stories to stir collective action. A finely wrought documentary...
Using the Drama of Cinema Verite to Tell Real Stories: It Often Conveys News, but Is It Journalism? (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
Since the mid-1970's, I've collaborated with D.A. Pennebaker on movies that follow the drama of real life stories. Being immersed in people's lives when they're doing what they care passionately about, when risks are great and stakes are high, is a...
Using the Web for an Interactive Documentary Project: At 360degrees.org, the U.S. Criminal Justice System Is Examined from Many Perspectives. (Radio and the Internet)
"My name is John Milk. I'm 21, a black male ... in prison. I wanted to be a police officer, you know what I'm saying? When I was smaller, I used to think about that all the time. All the sirens and loud noises and blue lights. It was just something...
Viewer Dissatisfaction Understates the Anger at Local TV News: A Journalist Reports on Audience Concerns, but Is Anyone Else Paying Attention? (When Journalists Arrive ...)
In ancient Greece, and later in Rome, messengers carried news throughout the empire. If recipients didn't like it, they'd kill the messenger. We, in the media, are descendants of those messengers and now many viewers and readers want to kill us. ...
`What the Hell Is a Radio Documentary?' It's a Familiar Question. Now Here Are Some Answers. (Radio and the Internet)
I was interviewing a man in Tennessee this year, a well-educated professional in his 60's and a devoted listener to public radio. I introduced myself by explaining that I'm based at Minnesota Public Radio and make documentaries for National Public...
When the Cheering Stops and Anger Sets In: At the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Beats Will Disappear and Photos Won't Be Taken. (Newspaper Cutbacks)
When John Schueler resigned in May 22 as publisher of the Minneapolis) Star Tribune, I cheered. At last, our competitor, 10 miles away, would begin cutting staff and resources. Three weeks later, I applauded again when our editor announced we would...
Where Journalism and Television Documentary Meet: Connecting with Viewers `through Personal Stories and Subjective Approaches.' (Moving Pictures: Television and Film)
Documentary journalism is alive and well, contrary to reports of its early demise. Yes, funding is extremely difficult to obtain, and broadcasts even harder to achieve. Of the hundreds of documentaries made each year, most never get beyond family,...
With Child-Care Stories, It Still Comes Down to Mothers Negative Findings Grab the Headlines. (When Journalists Arrive ...)
The number of mothers working outside the home has grown dramatically in recent decades. Today, nearly two-thirds of mothers of children under age six are in the labor force. With more than 13 million preschool-age children in some form of non-parental...
Words & Reflections
Washington Post editor and columnist Meg Greenfield put it this way in her posthumous autobiography: "Few journalists have much appreciation of the enormous impact we have on the lives of those we write about." In a speech "NBC Nightly News" anchor...
Working Together, Journalists Can Have a Say in Corporate Policy: It Is Important to Redefine What Constitutes a 'Journalism Issue.' (Newspaper Cutbacks)
Jay Harris brought editors to their feet at the annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in April with an on-target attack on the profit pressures that make so many of their professional lives miserable. The question now is whether...