Fifty Candles

Journalism the world over is in the midst of profound, transformative change, and it is not yet clear what forms will eventually emerge and become dominant.

What will not change is the importance of the function of journalism in the lives of everyone. Ordinary citizens and their leaders; the politically and economically oppressed; tycoons and Main Street merchants; the faithful and the doubters—wherever we fit in the large and small construct of humanity, we need truth-tellers.

Personally, I am grateful that the Columbia Journalism Review will be around to help lead us through this meteor shower of change. It’s been an invaluable resource for journalists for a half century, and we need it now more than ever.

Tom Brokaw
New York, NY

Congratulations on your fiftieth anniversary. I’m proud to say I was a reader back when CJR was a tyke, moderating debates on whether it was possible to pound out a story on an electric typewriter. Perhaps you guys knew that we’d eventually wind up covering wars via Twitter, but I never had a clue, and I’m grateful you were around to help get us through all the drama. Now, I’m looking forward to reading the CJR take on news transmission by telepathy.

Gail Collins
New York, NY

My admiration for the Columbia Journalism Review—and the indispensable role it plays in fostering journalistic excellence—goes back more than two decades. I was a CJR intern in the summer of 1984, while a student at Columbia College.

In the short term, my summer at CJR helped inspire me to re-establish Columbia’s first student newspaper, Acta Columbiana. In the longer term, it taught me enduring lessons about the importance of critical analysis in journalism and the value of a strong and free press.

CJR’s commitments to engaging in fact-based criticism, fostering a vibrant marketplace of ideas, and preserving the spirit of the First Amendment in American society help make our nation’s press more effective and our democracy stronger.

I congratulate CJR on five decades of imparting those values to readers and interns alike. We all look forward to at least another half century of success.

Julius Genachowski
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
Washington, DC

Is there anyone more thin-skinned than a reporter whose career revolves around flaying others (for only the best of reasons, of course), but who treats the most constructive (and accurate) criticism as a personal affront? On the other hand, is there any business as bitchy and as competitive as our business? When I was a kid reporter covering the Pentagon for The Associated Press in the 1960s, I grew to become, via on-the-job training, a violent critic of that senseless, murderous war. And yet, if one of the major newspapers scooped the wire with a critical story about the war, and I was ordered to match it, I can still—more than four decades later—remember the temptation to dash into the Pentagon’s public-affairs office to grab the invariable pro forma denial . . . and sometimes did so. You guys at CJR have a most thankless job—to tell the truth to the journalistic powers that be. I sure hope you have a dog to kick at night.

Seymour Hersh

Washington, DC

I began reading the Columbia Journalism Review almost with its first edition half a century ago and once I became publisher of Newsday, I never stopped. I’d rather miss a meal than an edition. CJR is the journalism about journalism that has inspired my own journalism over many years now. And it just keeps getting better, stronger, and more essential.

Bill Moyers
New York, NY

At a time when much of the debate around the future of journalism centers on new business models, the Columbia Journalism Review has been a constant reminder that journalism is so much more than a business. Since its founding, CJR has understood that a strong press is essential to a functioning democracy.

CJR has always been a fervent defender of our free press, while never letting it off the hook. We also appreciate its willingness to wade into the world of media policy, recognizing the profound impact that decisions too often made behind closed doors in Washington have on journalism in America, and consequently on the nation itself.

CJR started the same year that FCC Chairman Newton Minow delivered his famous “vast wasteland” speech. “You must re-examine some fundamentals of your industry,” Minow challenged the media. “You must open your minds and open your hearts to the limitless horizons of tomorrow. . . . You must help prepare a generation for great decisions. You must help a great nation fulfill its future.”

The Editors