CJR’s most popular stories in 2018

December 24, 2018

The year 2018 was a busy one for CJR. We grew our audience, released a new app, and took over a newsstand in midtown Manhattan. We also published three magazines covering threats to reporters, the struggles of working journalists, and race in media. To celebrate the end of 2018, we have compiled the most popular stories published this year. Here’s the countdown:


10. CJR Special Report: Photojournalism’s moment of reckoning

Freelance journalist Kristen Chick interviewed more than 50 people for a CJR investigation that spanned five months, revealing sexual misconduct in photojournalism. The piece detailed allegations that male gatekeepers in the industry have abused their positions to make unwanted sexual advances toward women. Meanwhile, publications, institutions, agencies, and industry leaders have turned a blind eye.


9. Freelancers are precarious. When should they push back?

In the summer, Abby Seiff wrote an article explaining how powerless freelancers are. She revealed that The Washington Post killed her commissioned story because she retweeted a criticism of the paper. Although she was able to speak out, other freelancers cannot for fear of losing assignments. This allows editors to abuse their powers, stringing writers along with endless questions or killing stories for unjust reasons. “At the end of the day, no one wants to be the one to raise a voice. The stakes are too high; the scales too tipped,” Seiff says.


8. Meditations on Axios’s smart brevity longform

CJR published a story about Axios at its launch in January 2017. However, with the recent announcement that the site is taking its “Smart Brevity” model and applying it to longform (whatever that means), we thought it was time to catch up with the outlet. Despite claiming that the “media is broken—and too often a scam,” writer Lyz Lenz says Axios is a “fairly standard online media project: SEO-optimized articles, with lots of links to other pages on the site.”


7. The Times tech columnist ‘unplugged’ from the internet. Except he didn’t

Farhad Manjoo joined the Opinion section of The New York Times in November. In March, when he was still serving as a tech columnist, he wrote a widely lauded piece about the benefits of unplugging from technology. “I turned off my digital news notifications, unplugged from Twitter and other social networks,” Manjoo wrote. However, journalist Dan Mitchell revealed that Manjoo tweeted many hundreds of times during the period he claimed to be disconnected. “I think it’s clear that I meant I ‘unplugged’ from Twitter as a source of news, not that I didn’t tweet at all,” he told CJR in response to our findings.


6. Behind the story: Olivia Nuzzi on how she got Hope Hicks to talk

Olivia Nuzzi revealed how she got former White House communications director Hope Hicks to talk to her. The New York magazine Washington correspondent explains to Elon Green that trust was a big factor in gaining access to her source. The piece includes many great moments, like the time Jared Kushner called Secret Service on Nuzzi because she refused to delete a recording of him in the West Wing, and opening the door to Corey Lewandowski’s house after she knocked and no one answered.


5. Meet the journalism student who found out she won a Pulitzer in class

Kelsey Ables, who was our intern at the time, came into the CJR newsroom and told us her classmate found out she won a Pulitzer Prize during class. We asked her to write up a story about Mariel Padilla, who won the award for her work with The Cincinnati Enquirer covering the city’s heroin crisis. The CJR article includes screenshots of texts from people telling the 23-year-old she just won one of the top prizes in the profession.


4. The source: How hacked emails and a yacht in Monaco ended my career at WSJ

The firing of journalist Jay Solomon from The Wall Street Journal because of his dealings with a source raised many questions. Solomon, in this first-person piece, explains how attempts to maintain a relationship with an Iranian-American businessman led him into situations that made him appear too involved with his source. “I blended in, and perhaps my presence was seen as consent or a willingness,” Solomon wrote.


3. Seymour Hersh on spies, state secrets, and the stories he doesn’t tell

Veteran reporter Seymour Hersh speaks with Elon Green about his long career as an investigative journalist, including his interviewing process and his reporting on the My Lai massacre and the Nixon administration. “When I talk about something secret and I show up with a tape recorder, I’m dead,” Hersh says. He also expresses strong views on how the press is treating the current administration: “The secret to Trump, I think, is he wants to be loved by The New York Times as much as by Fox News.” But asked how the Times is handling Trump? “I think they’re overpunching.”


2. An Arizona school district kept a secret blacklist for decades. A reporter found it

In January, we published a story that reinforces one of the oldest adages of journalism: always stay until the end. Arizona Daily Star reporter Hank Stephenson explained in a first-person piece that he attended a meeting held by the Tucson Unified School District. At the end of it, a new superintendent confirmed the list’s existence. “After three hours, I was the only reporter left in the room. Sometimes that’s all it takes,” Stephenson writes.


1. The mystery of Tucker Carlson

Lyz Lenz’s profile of Fox News host Tucker Carlson is CJR’s most popular story of 2018. The piece attempts to explain how Carlson went from a respected conservative writer to making remarks about immigrants that have sent advertisers running. As a single mom and freelance writer struggling in journalism, Lenz juxtaposes her life with Carlson’s (Carlson is worth over $8 million, but claims to be part of the disenfranchised class of America). She also explains how his incendiary language is what has attracted the likes of David Duke, President Donald Trump, and an audience of 2.7 million viewers. “The more outrage he inspires, the braver, the bolder, the more courageous he seems to his audience,” Lenz writes.

The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.