Bill Keller: On covering the ‘freedom’ beat—prisons and Russia

October 28, 2022

CJR · Bill Keller: On covering the ‘freedom’ beat—prisons and Russia

Reporting from Moscow in the final years of the Cold War, Bill Keller witnessed the Soviet Union “fall apart like Humpty Dumpty.” On this week’s Kicker, Keller says Vladimir Putin is trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again—evoking international anxieties from the past. Kyle Pope, editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, asks Keller about these anxieties, and, alongside CJR staff, discusses how the media should approach nuclear speculation.

Also in this episode, Keller talks about his recent book, What’s Prison For? He shares lessons from reporting inside prisons in the US and abroad, and contemplates the through line of his journalism career, spanning criminal justice to the Cold War. In the end, Keller says, prisons and Russia belong to the same beat: freedom.


What’s Prison For? Bill Keller, Columbia Global Reports

Nuclear Nightmares, Bill Keller, The New York Times

The 1989 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, Bill Keller

Panic Time, E. Tammy Kim, Columbia Journalism Review

On the Brink: The Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK Presidential Library 

Emily Russell is a CJR fellow.