Nieman Reports

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

Articles from Vol. 60, No. 2, Summer

A Difficult Journey from Repression to Democracy: Brave Journalists Who Challenge Authoritarian Regimes Often 'Enter a Postauthoritarian Era Full of Compromises and New Repressions.'
In August 19911 witnessed some of the more courageous and world-shaking journalistic acts of the 20th century. On a mild summer morning, the masterminds of a hard-line Communist coup put Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev under house arrest. To ensure...
A Distinction Journalists like to Ignore: 'Journalists, Both Then and Now, Too Readily Allow Fears of a Public Backlash to Inhibit Their Actions.'
When Nazi Germany forced thousands of Jewish scholars and professionals to flee in the 1930's and early 1940's, many disciplines in the United States made significant efforts to help their persecuted colleagues. One did not--journalism. Doctors,...
A Local Newspaper Endures a Stormy Backlash; 'We Had the Opportunity to Tell the Story of Powerless People Who'd Been Hurt by Powerful People Who Counted on the Public Never Learning What They'd Done.'
Some days we felt like one of those plucky anglers in a small boat who solidly hooks a halibut, only to be beaten to death by the thrashing brute when it's hauled aboard. The Post Register is a wee dory of a newspaper: With 26,000 daily circulation,...
A Nieman Classmate Remembers William F. Woo
The Nieman class of 1967 graduated in interesting times, and William F. Woo enjoyed them as much or more than any of us. It was the decade when the newspaper industry first began to track readership numbers, and soon they would start to fall. Fear...
A Quiet Courage: Journalists Demonstrate This Kind of Courage 'While Attention Is Focused Elsewhere.'
Journalists Carmen Gurruchaga from Spain and Jineth Bedoya Lima from Colombia discovered a common bond in Santee Alley's open-air market in downtown Los Angeles. In October 2001, while strolling through this market that offers everything from imitation...
Assessing the Risks Reporters in Iraq Confront: 'I Don't Believe in the Journalist as a Hero.'
John Burns, who is Baghdad bureau chief for The New York Times, delivered the 25th Joe Alex Morris, Jr. Memorial Lecture, held at the Nieman Foundation on March 9, 2006. This annual lecture honors Morris, a foreign correspondent with the Los Angeles...
A War Reporter Tries to Understand What Courage Is: 'Thinking about Courage Becomes a Reflection on Humanity.'
Emmanuel Ndamwumvaneza covers wars for our radio news station. One day, with no other reporter on hand, Emmanuel was sent to cover a health story. We'd heard that in Burundi's hospital emergency rooms, when sick people can't pay their bills up front...
Burmese Reporters in Exile Confront Different Risks; Publications Must Assert Independence from 'The International Donors upon Which They Rely for Financial Support in the Absence of a Sustainable Business Model.'
Power shortages and blackouts are nothing new in Burma. (1) Nor are news blackouts. In early February, authorities detected bird flu in Sagaing and Mandalay divisions but the news didn't appear in state-run newspapers or privately run journals until...
Challenging a Democratic Government's Secrecy: 'Of Particular Concern to Journalists Is the Lack of Support Some Owners of Canadian News Organizations Have Given as They've Tried to Contest These Policies.'
In Canada, only a few major media companies exist, with a resulting high concentration of ownership. As a consequence, relationships that develop between media owners and government leaders sometimes impede the flow of information to the public,...
Climbing to Freedom Word by Word: '... Our Ethical and Political Convictions Gave Us Strength to Resist and Keep Advancing.'
I will never know if I am a courageous or cowardly journalist, especially while being tortured or facing a mock firing squad execution of a paramilitary commando. In those horrific circumstances, which happened to me on March 2, 1976, my body was...
Conscience and Integrity in Journalism: The Louis M. Lyons Award, Given by Nieman Classes, Recognizes Journalists Who Display These Elements of Moral Courage
When the Nieman class arrived the fall of 1964, the Louis M. Lyons Award was just a plaque that was hung in the Nieman office, unassuming in appearance. Soon the idea of the Lyons award became close to our hearts. We were the last class chosen under...
Courage as a Story Needing to Be Told; 'Unlike Love, Which May Be an Emotion Only, Courage Must Manifest Itself in Action.'
Courage is one of the cardinal virtues (the others are justice, wisdom, temperance) and one of the human mysteries. It is hard to define, risky to predict. Courage is not bravery exactly. Not fearlessness precisely, for fearlessness may be amoral,...
Courage Can Mean Pushing Gradually against Boundaries in Iran: 'Courage Is Not Always about Overcoming Immediate Dangers or Reaching Immediate Ends.'
"This is our responsibility," said an Iranian journalist right after signing a letter to the prosecutor general of Tehran to stop the violence against imprisoned journalists. A week before the letter was written, in December 2004, I was released...
Courage Emerges from the Work Journalists Do: '... Journalists' Courage Needs a Source, and So Far I Have Recognized Three Such Sources: Insanity, Lack of Any Clue, Ideals.'
Courage. I think I'm the wrong person to talk about courage because I'm a coward. Being forced into action that might be described as courageous when you have no other option--that's not courage to me. What many photojournalists and reporters did...
Courage of the Wise and Patient Kind: 'Our Craft Demands Such Courage If We Are to Find a Constructive Way through the Many Difficulties That Challenge Us Today.'
All kinds of courage are needed from journalists in 2006: The courage an editor calls upon to run a story despite the anticipated brouhaha; the kind a publisher needs to make the case for newsroom resources, and the kind a CEO needs when talking...
Courage: What Network News Needs Now; 'Network News Spent Decades Establishing Its Solid Credentials. Now Is No Time for It to Lose Its Nerve.'
Faced with vigorous new competition and declining revenues, network television news is increasingly behaving as though oblivion is only a few fiscal quarters away. Short-term profit is trumping long-term viability. Compromise is defeating consistency....
Covering the Sago Mine Disaster: How a Game of 'Whisper Down the Coal Mine' Ricocheted around the World
When most of the news media misreported that a dozen men had survived the coal mine disaster in Sago, West Virginia last January, critics reflexively pointed fingers at the usual suspects: the demands of the 24/7 news cycle, the erosion of attribution,...
Death Threats Are Sent to Try to Stop Reporting; 'If I Kept Writing, I Thought, the Threats Would Eventually Stop Because They Weren't Working.'
When I got my first death threat in December 1997, I didn't take it too seriously. As a reporter for The Vancouver Sun, I had been digging up new information on a group of militant Sikh separatists believed to have been responsible for the 1985...
Dictatorship and Democracy Require Different Kinds of Courage; 'Officials Begged the Magazine Not to Pursue the Story and Then They Enticed Us with Rewards. All Efforts to Derail Our Reporting Failed.'
It was May 1999, and Nigeria's military ruler General Abdulsalami Abubakar had finally brought to conclusion a protracted political transition journey that lasted almost 14 years. The country was still awash in the euphoria of the exit of the disgraced...
Editorial Pages: Why Courage Is Hard to Find; the Star Tribune Published Strong Editorials about Bush Administration Truth Telling When Few Other Papers Did, and an Editor There Explores Some Reasons Why
I love what the word "newspaperman"--or "newspaperwoman"--implies: someone who knows a lot but lacks pretension; someone who knows how to take names and is unafraid of kicking backsides; someone who knows truth will prove ever elusive but is damn...
Going to Tell What Others Have Forgotten: A War Correspondent Seeks out People Who Live in Dangerous War Zones to Tell Their Stories and Finds That 'By Sharing the Fear It Helps a Lot.'
On March 29, Melissa Ludtke, the editor of Nieman Reports, spoke by telephone with Anne Nivat, who was in France, having returned from reporting trips that took her to Chechnya, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Nivat, who is a war correspondent for...
Government Clampdowns on Newspapers Send Reporting Online: In Belarus, with Many People Not Able to Use Their Computers to Read about What Is Happening, 'Online Is Not Yet a Worthy Substitute for Newspapers.'
Being an independent journalist in Belarus has always been a challenge. In recent years, news reports have been censored by government officials, reporters and editors have been arrested, physically attacked, threatened, expelled and one reporter...
Heroes in the Tough Transition to Digital News: A Long-Time Newspaper Journalist Assesses the Courage Required If Essential Values Are to Be Retained
In a realistic admission in the spring that it would take time--perhaps years--for McClatchy Company to regain its financial momentum after it acquired Knight Ridder, Gary Pruitt, the company's president, CEO and chairman said, "I'll take long-term...
H.L. Mencken: Courage in a Time of Lynching: Subscriptions Were Cancelled, Threats Made on Him and Sunpapers' Staff, and Advertisers' Products Were Boycotted, but Mencken's Words Were Published
On December 4, 1931, on the I Eastern Shore of Maryland, an African American named Matthew Williams shot and killed his white employer, then turned a pistol on himself, inflicting a wound. Staggering away from the scene of the crime, he was shot...
Investigative Journalism Doesn't Win Many Friends; '... Just about Everything Has Been Tried to Discourage These Kinds of Investigations by Those Who Are Unhappy with What We Find.'
It was 1992, in Moscow, and some of the world's most respected investigative journalists had gathered for an international conference. In the opening hours, stark differences emerged as reporters described conditions they confronted in the practice...
Iraqi Journalist Atwar Bahjat Receives 2006 Louis M. Lyons Award
On February 22, 2006 Iraqi TV journalist Atwar Bahjat was kidnapped and killed while covering the bombing of a Shiite shrine Askariya, also known as the Golden Mosque, in her hometown of Samarra. Also killed in the attack were Bahjat's Iraqi cameraman...
John Kenneth Galbraith, Nieman Friend, Dies
John Kenneth Galbraith died on April 29th in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 97. Here are some excerpts from two remembrances on the Nieman Web site, www.nieman.harvard. edu/galbraith/pageone/ In the early years of the program, Harvard professors...
Journalism's Triumphant Journey in Nepal: 'With the Royal Regime's Overt Intentions to Muzzle the Press and Radio, Journalists Have Fought Back to Keep Autocracy at Bay and the Flame of Freedom Burning.'
Before the 1980 plebiscite, the world of Nepali journalism was mostly form and little content. We called ourselves journalists, but not many of us were that, if you regard journalism first and foremost as a freedom forum to speak truth to the powerful...
MGG Pillai
MGG Pillai, freelance journalist and political commentator, died on April 28th in Kuala Lumpur of heart complications. He was 66 years old. Pillai was the first from Malaysia to receive a Nieman Fellowship. His son, Sreekant, recalls: "MGG...
Murder, Threats, Fires and Intimidation in Gambia: An Anonymous Letter Sent to a Prominent Journalist 'Promised to Teach a Lesson to Journalists Who Persisted in Their Negative Reporting.'
Gambia was once known as the "smiling coast," a place full of sunshine, welcoming with generosity of spirit. Home to the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, it was a bastion of democracy in a continent beset by military coups and despots....
Nieman Foundation Announces Fellows for 2006-07
The 2007 class of Nieman Fellows has been selected. The names and affiliations of the U.S. and international fellows are: U.S. Fellows Gina Acosta, editorial page copyeditor, The Washington Post. Christopher Cousins, reporter, The Times Record/Brunswick...
Persevering despite the Dangers; El Tiempo's Investigative Editor 'Has Become Accustomed to Receiving Floral Arrangements and Notes Sent to Regret Her Death, a Form of Indirect Death Threats.'
Where does courage intersect with journalism? This is a question with many answers, particularly in Colombia where war over drugs, territory and power has been with us--and taken many lives from us--for several decades. In my country, courage is...
Public Support Wanes, Some Journalists Press on; 'Despite the Low Esteem in Which the News Media Are Held Today, Some of the Best, Most Courageous News Coverage Is Being Produced.'
Exploring connections between what the public thinks about journalists and whether and how reporters and editors display courage in their work can be tricky territory. We know that most people today do not have high regard for reporters or news...
Repressive Actions Give Way to Business Realities; 'Independent Newspapers and Privately Owned TV and Radio Stations Lack the Economies of Scale Necessary to Become Sustainable Businesses.'
Until a few years ago, if a journalist in Rwanda published a story deemed unfavorable to the regime, police or unidentified "security operatives" would arrive unannounced and drag the frightened journalist or editor away to jail. For publishing...
Risking Relationships as a Measure of Courage: 'Questioning the Reasons for the War Meant Not Only Going against the President's Policy but against the Beliefs of Many People I Knew and Respected.'
When U.S. newspaper columnists analyze and make judgments about people, issues and events, the job rarely, if ever, entails dodging bullets or the state authorities, or being threatened with the loss of a job. So what does courage look like in our...
Sandy Tolan
Sandy Tolan celebrated the release of his new book, "The Lemon Tree," at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.. He writes: "After three years of research, field work, and writing, I am delighted to announce the publication, on May 2nd, of...
Seeking Journalistic Courage in Washington, D.C.: 'The Disturbing Trend Is That More and More of These Informational Offerings Are Nothing but PR Peddled as "News.'"
Courage in journalism today takes all the obvious, traditional forms--reporting from a war zone or from a totalitarian country where a reporter's life or safety are issues. In Washington, D.C., where I work, it's a far less dramatic form of courage...
Self-Censorship as a Reaction to Murders by Drug Cartels: 'The Message of This Newsroom Assault Was Obvious: Stop Messing with Drug-Trafficking Affairs.'
Jose Luis Ortega Mata was a brave publisher of Semanario, a weekly newsmagazine in the Mexico-U.S. border town of Ojinaga, Chihuahua. He denounced drug trafficking in that northern region of Mexico and the relationship between drug lords with local...
Teamwork Replaces Ego on the Frontlines of War; 'Reckless Correspondents Endanger Not Just Themselves but Everyone in the Close-Knit Teams That Operate in Iraq.'
Heroism under fire was long the stuff of barroom legend, not just for soldiers but also for war correspondents. Many journalists revelled in a reputation for careless courage in the adrenaline rush to get the story first. Reporters built reputations...
Telling a Story That No Other Newspaper Will Tell: If We Don't Print These Stories about the Casino, Who Will? People Need to See This.'
Teaching journalism, as I do, is difficult today no matter where you do it. But in Iowa, it's especially tough. Iowa's newspapers are in a sorry state. Iowa's largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register, bought by Gannett in 1985, once was one of...
The Courage of Journalists in the Middle East: 'Acting with Integrity Means Honestly Probing the Causes of the Many Problems and Tensions That Define the Modern Middle East.'
A journalist can choose to work courageously in the Middle East in several different ways, given the many dangers that define the news business in this region, including dangers from active wars, guerrilla and militia groups, state violence, terrorism,...
The Difficult Isolation Courage Can Bring: Newspaper Boycotts Forced 'The Need for Courage beyond the Physical.'
If you grew up a white man in the last great American frontier that was the Deep South in the first half of the 20th century, courage was well understood. It was not a matter of cerebration. It was the instinct that impelled a man to fight rather...
The Embrace of Principled Stands: During the Civil Rights Era, a Few Newspaper Owners, Editors and Reporters Risked Their Lives and Livelihoods by Supporting Supreme Court Rulings and Desegregation
Buford Boone's years as an FBI agent introduced him to fear, I but nothing like he felt when he climbed the stairs inside the Tuscaloosa courthouse in January 1957 to face a seething, racist mob of white men and women. Boone--who had returned to...
The Forces Threatening Journalism: 'The Challenges Facing News Professionals-And Threatening Journalism in the Public Interest-Are Significant and Cannot Be Avoided.'
"If someone says that he cares for some individual, community or cause, but is unwilling to risk harm or danger on his, her or its behalf, he puts in question the genuineness of his care and concern. Courage, the capacity to risk harm or danger...
The Muslim Cartoon Controversy Exposed an Absence of Courage; '... the Continuing Timidity of the American Media Looked Increasingly like Cowardice, Appeasement, or Better-You-Than-Me Cynicism.'
"Give up the cartoonists; they're in the attic." That is what many of us feel has been our lot since our brethren in Denmark were forced into hiding after drawing likenesses of the Prophet Mohammed. As art will do, "them damn pictures"--"Boss"...
The Road Traveled from Journalism to Jail: 'What Is Absent in Journalism Is Not Courage but Consciousness and Compassion.'
Six days after I took a buyout from my newspaper and left behind three decades in journalism, I did something I had never done before: I joined a protest against U.S.-sponsored torture and got myself arrested. I had covered demonstrations before...
The Sacramento Bee Wins Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers
The Sacramento Bee received the 2006 Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers for "The Pineros: Men of the Pines," a series by Tom Knudson and Hector Amezcua that documents the misuse and abuse of Latino immigrants in America's forest industry....
The Survival Mode of Reporting from a War Zone: 'Our Generation Is More Vocal about Trauma We Experience Than Others Have Been. It Can't Be Avoided When You See This Much Violence and Senseless Death.'
Farnaz Fassihi directed The Wall Street Journal's Baghdad bureau from 2003 until December 2005. She then became the newspaper's senior Middle East correspondent, covering Iran and other Arab countries. She spoke in May with Nieman Reports editor,...
Threats Come at Journalists in Pakistan from All Sides: Despite Gains in Press Freedom, News Organizations and Reporters Engage in Self-Censorship as a Strategy to Protect Themselves and Their Business
When I think about courage in the context of my country, Pakistan, I am reminded of the Cowardly Lion who went looking for the Wizard of Oz so he could get courage and then realized he actually already had it. It strikes me that reporting honestly...
Transforming Anger at Journalists' Deaths into Action: The International News Safety Institute Provides Training and Support for Journalists Whose Work Puts Them in Danger
Recently I read an op-ed by a journalism teacher that made me mad. Under the headline "The glamour of the frontline," this sage set out to expose the "dirty little secret in journalism" that conflict reporting was glamorous and fun and a great way...
Trauma Lingers after Escaping the Danger: 'My Whole World Felt Wounded during My First Months in the United States: I Could Not Sleep and, When I Did, It Seemed Only to Dream Weird Things.'
I remember when my friend kept asking me if I was the one who made a two-hour phone call from her apartment in Manhattan to a small town in the Midwest. For a year and a half I denied it because it was the number of a doctor who diagnosed me as...
Truth in the Crossfire: In a Brutal Attack, 'My Truth ... Was Dealt a Mortal Wound.'
Jineth Bedoya Lima, a reporter with El Espectador in Bogota, was kidnapped and tortured by paramilitary forces in Colombia in 2000. In the Spring 2001 issue of Nieman Reports, she wrote about this experience as part of a collection of stories entitled...
Violence in Liberia Extends to Journalists; 'The Government Warned That Any Journalist or News Organization That Violated the Ban Would Be Considered and Treated as "Rebels.'"
Journalists report out of a sense of responsibility to inform and to educate the public. But it takes courage for journalists to take on reporting assignments that they can anticipate will have dangerous consequences, including the possibility of...
War Teaches Lessons about Fear and Courage: 'In War Zones, I Would Learn about Another Feeling, One I Have Yet to Define but Seems the Opposite of Fear.'
Courage. I feel the tears push past my eyelashes as I reflect on the word because in my heart, I know that I lack it, and all I really want to do is crawl into bed and sleep so I never wake up. Working as a photo journalist, I've been through...
Western Correspondents Display Cold War Courage: 'I Walked and Cried. Death Seemed a Great Relief but So Difficult to Find. If Only the Interrogator Would Call Me. I Would Admit Anything.'
If any Associated Press (AP) correspondent had been asked about courage in journalism in the 1950's at the height of the cold war, as the tempo of arrests, show trials and death sentences mounted behind the Iron Curtain, three names would have surfaced:...
What We Learned about the Courage of Women Journalists
It was 16 years ago when a group of American women journalists convened the first international conference exclusively for women journalists. Held in Washington, D.C., this gathering evolved, as it was taking place, from one in which we thought...
What We Share about Courage
In the working life of most American journalists, courage does not typically define what we do. Holding public officials and corporate leaders accountable, digging through files and records and challenging what political and business leaders say...
When a Journalist's Voice Is Silenced; in Using the Internet to Share His Views, Li Datong Is 'Breaking the Wishes of Authorities Who Would Prefer He Did Not Speak to the Foreign Press.'
Li Datong is difficult to locate at first. At a glance he could have been any one of a number of middle-aged bespectacled gentlemen taking a break over cigarettes and tea in the crowded lobby of the Poly Building, a multiplex sporting a modern theatre,...
When Bearing Witness Overrides a Reporter's Fear: '.Courage Is Not Me, a Clunky Reporter Clutching a Notebook and Treading on People's Lives, Trying to Get Them to Open Up Their Souls.'
The novelist Adam Thorpe, writing in The Guardian (U.K.) newspaper, recently reviewed my book, "The Place at the End of the World: Stories From the Frontline," It was a very good review but, as always, when one reads something written about oneself,...
When Corporate Managers Nudge News Decisions: The Clash of Cultures 'Affects Editors' and Reporters' Ability to Investigate Stories and Break New Ones.'
In the South African winter of 2005, a young broadcast reporter, Mandla Zembe, went to cover a rally for the anniversary of the Soweto uprisings in the eastern seaboard province of KwaZulu-Natal. Two days earlier, South Africa's President Thabo...
When Death Seems Inevitable; There Was a Problem with Acceptance of Death; I Was Never in a Mood to Accept Torture.'
Courage, I discovered while covering the "dirty war" in Argentina, is a relatively simple matter of overcoming fear. I realized one day that I could deal with the idea that I would be killed, simply by accepting it as a fact. The knot in my stomach...
Witnessing War to Send Its Images Home: 'What of Our Colleagues Who Have Trauma Engraved on Their Psyches?'
Santiago Lyon, a 2004 Nieman Fellow, is the director of photography at The Associated Press, and therefore responsible for sending photographers into war zones, conflicts, civil unrest, and on other potentially dangerous assignments. At a Nieman...