The striking thing to me is how the basic character of the Review has persisted through earthquakes, external and internal. I still believe that I can see artifacts of the Review of my era in today’s issues. And I flatter myself that what the Review was doing in its first decades would still, I think, be recognized as the same kind of work CJR is doing now, given allowance for our quaintness of approach and false starts. We tried to grasp the essentials of what journalism is doing, tried to determine whether it is being done well or ill, how it might do better, how it is to survive and maintain its freedom in our social and political system. CJR remains a serious magazine without scholarly apparatus, aimed at generalists rather than specialists. The biggest change, of course, is the online edition of CJR, which gives the publication a timeliness and responsiveness that I could only dream of back in the 1960s.

Although there have been lapses, a lot of what the Review has published would, I hope, meet Pulitzer’s standards. In its earlier decades I think of Ben Bagdikian’s dissection of DuPont ownership of the Wilmington, Delaware, newspapers; Richard Reeves’s article on the closing of the Newark Evening News, for which CJR had to withstand a libel suit; the series developed by senior editor Jon Swan on coverage of occupational safety and health issues. These are arbitrary examples from my own experience. The important point is that there has now been a fifty-year flow, and it shows no sign of ceasing.

Having left as editor for the last time when I was in early middle age, I used to resist the notion that the magazine would be the most singular item in my obit. Now, looking at how it has flourished for all these decades, I am willing and pleased to have CJR writ next to my name. I would hope that, were he in communication, Joseph Pulitzer might assent to being linked to CJR as well, although, given the man’s temperament, he would no doubt be driving its editors crazy. 

 

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James Boylan is CJR’s founding editor.