A visit to the Columbia Journalism Review

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The Columbia University library on an overcast Thursday morning in January

We had the privilege of visiting the team over at the Columbia Journalism Review on Thursday, January 12.

My favorite part of this experience was meeting the team members. We spoke with a variety of team members, including the editor, the editor-in-chief, a staff writer, a social media team member, fellows and more.

In fact, my overall favorite aspect of meeting with these various organizations this trip has been meeting people. They are all so fascinating. It’s wonderful to hear their colorful stories of where they come from, how they came to have the jobs they have and the diversity in their current work.

What a time to be in New York, and what a morning to sit in on the morning news meeting of the Columbia Journalism Review. We spoke to a team member who attended the Trump press conference. He explained how everyone’s eyes were on Trump except for his own. As a CJR reporter, he’s concerned about what the press is doing.

At the press conference, he was scanning Twitter for what members of the media were tweeting about Trump and the press conference itself. He was watching facial expressions, noting the questions that were being asked and evaluating the overall atmosphere of the press conference.

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It’s funny how, as a college student, you automatically feel at home in a campus environment, even if it’s not your own campus.

I think it is so rad that an organization such as CJR exists – a watchdog to watch the watchdogs. I also admire the work they do because it is no easy feat. To analyze your peers, make ethical calls and act as an authoritative voice – it’s a lot of responsibility.

We discussed the Buzz Feed dossier and how well known media ethicists vocalized their disapproval of Buzz Feed’s actions in publishing the dossier without proper verification of authenticity. I was surprised to hear that the editor at CJR thinks Buzz Feed acted correctly in publishing the dossier.

We didn’t get into too much detail as to why she thought it acceptable to publish (which you can read her article online here), but the editor most definitely caused me to think critically about the pros and cons of publishing the dossier at the point in time in which Buzz Feed did:

Pros:

  • In a highly competitive news market, especially when it comes to news about our President Elect, Buzz Feed was breaking juicy news. If you’re not first, you’re last.
  • The contents of the dossier are so mind-boggling and grave that a news organization almost has to share it – how do you sit on that and keep it quiet? Especially with the extensive nature of the coverage of President Elect Trump and the United States’ Russian relations. Publishing this dossier shows the full extent of the ludicrous nature of our current political media climate.

Cons:

  • The allegations in this document have not been verified as truth. Unverified “news” is not news. You learn that pretty much on day one of journalism school.
  • People will accept this as truth. Putting this information out in the public sphere will lead people to accept it as truth. Now there will forever be people who accept this as truth, whether it is or not. Buzz Feed will have to own the fact that they perpetuate the dissemination of false information if the information turns out to be false.

Luckily, I don’t have to come to a conclusion on whether I think Buzz Feed acted correctly. For now, I’m perfectly content being a recent college graduate making her way into the workforce. What a tough day to work at CJR!

Lastly, I would like to say that I don’t judge Buzz Feed for publishing the dossier. That must have been an incredibly stressful, difficult decision to make. I cannot imagine what went into making that decision. I applaud them for being bold and making a decision. Whether it was the right decision, I’m not sure. Only time will tell!

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  1. #1 by pschoening18 on January 23, 2017 - 8:33 pm

    Similar to your experience at the Columbia Journalism Review, my favorite aspect of the visit was meeting the people and seeing what they do on a day-to-day basis. I find the CJR’s work to be incredibly fascinating as well, and extremely relevant to studying the impact of media on contemporary U.S. society. The watchdog who watches the watchdog has a unique responsibility of analyzing the media’s actions, which is especially important given the context of the inauguration of a president who evidently resists the media to a significant extent. The CJR’s comments on Buzz Feed’s publishing of the dossier were intriguing, and as you have described, demonstrate the evolving political media climate due to the new presidential administration. I think we can predict that the media world will look very different in the next four years, just as our unprecedented new government is inevitably changing political discourse.

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