It is David Laventhol whom I would personally like to thank most of all. David was named CJR’s publisher in 1999, and shortly after that its chairman and editorial director. This was after a career in which he had re-shaped a great swath of the newspaper landscape, in an era in which the big dailies were aiming for the stars. He more or less invented the Style section at The Washington Post, helped build Newsday into a powerhouse as its editor and then its publisher; he served as publisher at the Los Angeles Times and then as president of Times Mirror. He liked to stretch journalistic ambitions and boundaries and understood that CJR was born to agitate for exactly that agenda. In 2000, he installed me as executive editor and Brent Cunningham as managing editor—pilot and co-pilot—and kindly eased us into the roles as he eased his way toward retirement.
David and I more or less took turns doing issues for a while, and one of my early ones was a big package on newsroom morale, complete with a survey and pretty cool cover art. I was proud for about a week. It arrived in people’s mailboxes around September 11, 2001, after which nobody ever thought much about newsroom morale again.
Until shortly before we put together this fiftieth anniversary issue, I had not stopped to realize that I’ve been running the editorial side of CJR for a decade. Which is nice. It’s never been a particularly safe position, given that dreams of solvency and greater impact regularly elicit new beginnings, and given that our audience tends to include a set of journalists who assume they could do a better job with it, an indeterminate subset of which may be right. So I feel lucky. To quote Dr. Seuss, These things are fun, and fun is good.
I mean the working kind of fun. We redesigned the magazine twice in that period. We published a book, Reporting Iraq, to be proud of. We won some shiny prizes. We became a better citizen of the world, looking more often beyond the borders of the United States. We wrestled hard, sometimes well, with the technical, economic, and cultural shock waves that have so deeply shaken journalism in this period. It has been, you may have noticed, some kind of decade.
In 2004, we built and staffed a website to cover the coverage of presidential politics, later merging that into CJR.org to create a handsome six-desk press criticism-and-analysis machine. There we cover the coverage of politics and policy, in a time of ferocious and context-free debate (Campaign Desk); business and finance, during a killer recession (The Audit); science and the environment, at a moment when a serious presidential candidate can deny evolution (The Observatory); news innovation and economics, in the middle of a wild and unpredictable interregnum for the business (The News Frontier, and The News Frontier Database); media issues and occurrences (Behind the News); and journalism-related books and culture (Page Views). A sharp crew of writers, thoughtful and fast, works under the steady hand of Justin Peters and, in the case of The Audit, Dean Starkman. There was a period when web and print did not harmonize here, when there were budget wars and a wall—metaphoric and literal—between CJR print and CJR digital. We took it down. The young staff, digital to their bones, is eager to write for the fifty-year-old print magazine, too, which makes me happy.
In print, I look back at the early part of the decade and wish we had some of those cover stories back. With a bimonthly you only get six at-bats a year, and you want a home run every time. Two that we did hit over the wall in those years are Brent Cunningham’s “Re-thinking Objectivity” in July 2003 and Liz Cox Barrett’s “Imagine” from that January, in which she set up several brainstorming parties of young newspaper reporters all over America and constructed a vision of a dream daily out of their collective mind.