As I write this, every day seems to yield a new story about something called Occupy Wall Street. I have no idea how long Wall Street will be occupied, but it occurs to me that this fiftieth-anniversary issue of the Columbia Journalism Review celebrates something we might call Occupy Journalism. Like Occupy Wall Street, CJR is in the protest business. It is not protest in the sense of Occupy Wall Street, which seems to have targeted big banks and other financial institutions (although media concentration and protecting the line that keeps big money from intruding on editorial prerogatives have long been on CJR’s agenda). For fifty years, though, CJR has deployed media criticism to protest against shoddy journalism.
But enough with Darts. As everyone knows, journalism and, particularly, journalistic institutions, are in crisis. The old business model is broken, and digital journalism has to figure out how to keep up with itself without sacrificing ethical and professional standards. Which is where CJR comes in. On this momentous occasion (I think, pound for pound, this is the weightiest journal in CJR’s history), it’s time to distribute some Laurels: to Mike Hoyt, under whose leadership these past ten years CJR has so eloquently fought to define and uphold the highest standards in the profession; to the amazing staff that he has recruited, who have assembled and processed the issue you hold in your hands, not to mention many previous issues and CJR’s daily fare online; to Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, and our dean, Nicholas Lemann, who understand CJR’s mission and have helped us fulfill it; to Christie Hefner, who is heading up CJR’s fiftieth-anniversary celebrations (check cjr.org for announcements of upcoming events in partnership with The Paley Center for Media in New York and the Newseum in Washington, DC), and opened the doors to sponsors and so many of the advertisers in this issue; and to the advertisers themselves, who have shown their support for an institution which on more than one occasion has been critical of most of them; and to Neil Barsky, chairman of CJR’s new Board of Overseers, and the rest of the board members, who have taken it upon themselves to protect and advance the cause of CJR, which we prefer to think of as the cause of truth-telling and journalism itself.
Last but not least, as our readers know, last year cancer took away our new publisher, Cathryn Cronin Cranston, who came to us from the Harvard Business Review and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among other places. But her vision for CJR’s future lives. When asked, “What is CJR’s competition?” she replied, “CJR’s biggest competition is time. How can we make the magazine and website so compelling that they are must-read destinations? As far as other sources go that comment on the media—I think many, many more voices are useful, particularly in these revolutionary times. However, when the dust settles, it will be the trusted brands which maintain their excellence and reader focus that will come out intact.”
Not that we don’t have a way to go, but Happy Anniversary to us.