Friday, June 29, 2007

Toasting A Friend of Press Freedom...

Friday, June 29, 2007

The world of press freedom lost a true leader this past week. Dana Bullen, who for many years headed the World Press Freedom Committee, passed away June 25. A real ‘journalist's journalist,’ Bullen was foreign editor at The Washington Star, covered the U.S. Senate and Supreme Court, wrote a syndicated column and was selected as a Nieman Fellow. He headed the WPFC for 15 years, sitting in on many UNESCO meetings - where New World Information and Communication Order proposals were launched - lobbying behind the scenes to nip potential dangers in the bud. On an individual level Bullen also helped many journalists lacking institutional support by covering their legal bills through WPFC’s Fund Against Censorship. In 2000, Bullen was awarded the Inter American Press Association’s Chapultepec Grand Prize in recognition of his work for press freedom.

To see the New York Times obituary

We welcome you to post a comment about Bullen

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Shoes To Fill

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Two staunch defenders of press freedom are taking on prestigious journalism education positions. Searches to replace Mark Goodman of the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) and Brant Houston of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) are well underway.

Goodman, formerly SPLC's executive director, will serve as the Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University. Houston is leaving as executive director of the University of Missouri-based IRE to serve as the Knight Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Both Goodman and Houston have agreed to assist in the transitions and won't officially begin their new duties until January 2008. Their successors will join highly regarded, financially stable organizations. The challenge will be building on the leadership and legacies of their predecessors.

In Goodman's 22 years at the helm of SPLC, the organization reinforced its position as the top defender of press rights for high school and college journalists. He became deeply involved in a number of super-charged cases involving censorship, prior restraint and other crackdowns attempting to muzzle student journalists.

Houston, who will serve as acting director until Dec. 31, spent 13 years molding the world's leading training organization for investigative journalists. IRE has more than 4,500 members covering all facets of media. Its recent annual conference, held June 7-10 in Phoenix , drew 950 participants.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why Iowa Matters

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Check out our collleague Shawn Healy's take on the recent McCormick Tribune Foundation reporting institute on covering the presidential nominating process in Iowa. He gives some interesting insight as the resident scholar of the Freedom Museum:

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Being There

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It’s a stark and grisly black-and-white image from the past – a line of executioners, kneeling and squatting under a hot mid-day sun - captured the moment they open fire on a row of prisoners several yards in front of them. Facing in the direction of the firing squad, but blindfolded, most of the prisoners are already crumbling to the ground or being thrown backward as bullets hit them, dust flying up from the earth. A lone prisoner on the far right side of the image adds to the photograph’s considerable power – he still stands facing above and beyond his executioner, unable to see him, awaiting death.

For 27 years this Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Kurdish prisoners being executed was attributed only to an ‘anonymous’ photographer. When it ran the photo in 1979, the Iranian newspaper Ettela’at chose not to reveal the photographer’s name out of concern for his safety. Fast forward to 2002, when reporter Joshua Prager of The Wall Street Journal tracked down the unknown photojournalist. He eventually found the author of the photograph – Jahangir Razmi – and convinced Razmi to show him the entire contact sheet. The Iranian journalist’s name finally appeared as the photo’s author in a Journal story from December of this past year (throughout the years numerous other photographers had been cited as the author) and at the Pulitzer luncheon at Columbia University on May 21 Razmi received his Pulitzer certificate and $10,000 prize.

Kudos go out to many in a fascinating story like this – to the folks at the local UPI desk 27 years ago who immediately appreciated the photo’s value and had it transmitted around the globe; to Prager for the persistence in pursuing a difficult story; to Sig Gissler, who administers the Pulitzer for exploring whether this is now a safe time for the prize to be given; and to Razmi. For being there when it counts.
To see Prager’s December 2006 piece in the Wall Street Journal (includes a link to the entire contact sheet of photos that Razmi took that day)
To see a New Yorker piece on Razmi’s recent trip to the U.S.
To see an International Herald Tribune piece which includes the photograph

For those in the Chicago area: The First Division Museum at Cantigny (Wheaton, IL) is hosting a summer exhibit “REQUIEM: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina.” These 150 ‘moving and powerful photographs – taken by men and women on all sides who gave their lives during the conflict – begin with the French Indochina War in the 1950s and culminate with the fall of Phnom Penh and Saigon in 1975.’ The opening is June 21, 2007, at 6:30 pm. See the Cantigny website for more information at

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pomp-ing Up The Volume?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When you watch a candidates’ debate on television, do you feel your questions are answered? Or do you feel more like you’re watching a series of live campaign ads? The problem may not be as simple as the integrity of the candidates, it might be the format of the debates themselves.

Dante Chinni, a senior associate at the Project for Excellence in Journalism, writes in a June 12 column in the Christian Science Monitor that the televised debates between presidential hopefuls, which were once such a useful tool for voters wanting to compare candidates’ stances on important issues, have become a cumbersome mess full of showmanship and resembling “talent shows” more than actual discussions about the issues.

Chinni contends that this is largely attributed to having more candidates staying in the races than ever before. The “compressed schedule” means candidates “with a prayer and a few bucks” aren’t necessarily forced or encouraged to drop out if they feel they won’t place well in the race. This also leaves voters with more choices to make than before. All of this makes the debates very important, as the actual discussions between candidates offer more insight than individual campaign materials. But it also becomes a problem: with more candidates on the air, and more issues to discuss than ever before, each candidate gets less individual air time. Does this process serve the electorate well enough? Do these factors inhibit the thorough media coverage of the election process?

(Read Chinni’s full column here.)

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Tony The Tiger

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tony Blair's blistering attack on the British news media showed the frustration of a lame duck politician who once feasted on media adulation by mastering the art of PR spin. But once you move past the bitterness, Britain's outgoing prime minister offered perceptive criticisms of media standards and strategies. Kevin Sullivan's piece in the June 12 Washington Post quotes Blair as saying today's media "hunts in a pack" and "is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits." He said newspapers have morphed into "viewpapers" by emphasizing opinion over balance and impact over accuracy.
Blair also cited the pressures of the technology-fueled 24-hour news cycle for "unraveling" sound journalism standards. He fears the media's shrill tenor produce conspiracy, crisis and scandal stories that "sap the country's confidence and self-belief" while reducing the ability to make proper public policy decisions.

Speaking of media critics, O.J. Simpson told Editor & Publisher that "when Paris Hilton was going to jail last week, more people knew about that than knew we were sending people into space that day." The infamous former football star/actor said he yearns for the days when peephole reporting was the purview of gossip writers such as Rona Barrett. "Now, it is the equivalent of Edward R. Murrow reporting it today." Fanning O.J.'s flame was the Project for Excellence in Journalism's weekly roundup of top stories, which showed Paris Hilton snagged more cross-platform coverage last week than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Paul McLeary of the Columbia Journalism Review also tackled the "war-free news" issue in his June 12 column.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ethnic Media for President

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Newsflash to the presidential candidates: Nearly a quarter of the country consumes ethnic media, according to a 2006 poll by New America Media. So it's no surprise that Spanish-language TV network Univision recently asked that the presidential candidates participate in a Spanish-language debate. The request comes from the highest-rated Spanish-language TV network. Univision has high viewership among young adults and viewership ratings above CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, according to the LA Times.

The network hopes to televise a debate for each party on back to back Sundays in September, according to the L.A. Times, and the debates are likely to be held in Miami and focus on immigration issues. The debates "would mark a rare foray into presidential politics" for Univision, the article noted. They would also be the first entirely Spanish-language debates conducted for a U.S. presidential election.

So far New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd have accepted the invitation to participate. Not a bad idea, as the Democratic presidential candidates are said to be "courting Hispanic voters like never before" because of early primaries in heaviy Hispanic-populated states, according to The New York Times on Sunday.

To learn more about Univision's request, visit:

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Friday, June 8, 2007

Stop the Presses: College Campus Press Act

Friday, June 08, 2007

Illinois college journalists are in line to receive the same free press rights as their professional counterparts if Gov. Rod Blagojevich approves a bill passed this week by the state legislature. According to the Chicago Tribune, the College Campus Press Act- passed unanimously by the state senate and 112-2 in the Illinois House - would permit college student journalists "to write articles without fear that college officials could censor or bar publication of their work."

College press freedom is a hot topic in Illinois, after a prominent prior restraint case in 2001 at Governors State University. Three student journalists sued the school after a dean stopped the paper from being printed after learning there would be several stories critical of the university, according to the Tribune. The case went to the courts and the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that college administrators did have the right to use prior review and restraint for student papers if the publications weren't designated as a "public forum for student expression," according to Virginia-based Student Press Law Center. The new Illinois legislation designates college publications as public forums for student expression.

Gov. Blagojevich has 60 days to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.

For more, visit:,1,6884139.story

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Who Says Journalists Won't Give?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It just takes a little extra prodding – but they will. Take the Society for Environmental Journalists, for example. On the SEJ website a recent posting notes that the group has raised more than $130,000 in donations from individuals. Turns out, SEJ is a member of the Challenge Fund for Journalism (CFJ), a unique partnership in which selected journalism nonprofits are offered technical assistance to help them ‘grow’ their individual donor base – with a tempting matching grant acting as the carrot.

SEJ, for example, was challenged to raise more than $103,000 as part of its 21st Century Fund endowment. Donations had to be made by people who’d never given to SEJ before or were giving more than they had previously – by May 31, 2007 – to count toward the challenge grant. If SEJ made it, according to the agreement, CFJ would match these donations with a $51,500 grant. Cha-ching.

Learning to nurture individual donors has been difficult for journalism groups historically. To help j-groups along, the Ford and Knight foundations established the CFJ in 2002. The fund – since joined by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation – is administered by the TCC Group, formerly The Conservation Company. At its recent May board meeting MTF’s Journalism Program became a supporter of this important initiative to help build the sector’s financial independence. We're looking forward to helping to add to the list of groups that have become stronger as a result of this partnership.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Community Journalists to Participate in World Affairs Fellowship

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Thirteen top U.S. journalists selected as World Affairs Journalism Fellows will spend up to three weeks abroad reporting on issues that are vital to their local communities. This program is administered by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and sponsored by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, with additional funding from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The fellowship covers travel and reporting expenses abroad and provides each Fellow with a mentor who has regional and topical expertise relevant to the reporting project. According to ICFJ Vice President of Programs Patrick Butler, "This fellowship is truly unique because it allows news organizations to make international issues relevant to their audiences across the United States.” He also says that it's "never been more important for Americans to understand what is happening beyond our borders," due to terrorism, climate change and other world issues, while news organizations are ironically scaling back international coverage.

World Affairs Journalism Fellows have won more than 20 top journalism awards for the stories they’ve done on this fellowship since 2002. This year’s fellows are:

Antigone Barton*, Reporter, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post
Linda Blackford, Enterprise Reporter, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader
Craig Gima, Reporter/Assistant City Editor, Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Stephanie R. Heinatz, Military Reporter, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
Ellen Lee, Technology Reporter, San Francisco Chronicle
Bob Moser, Business Reporter, The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, La.)
Matt O’Brien, Reporter, The Daily Review (Hayward, Calif.)
Julian Pecquet, Staff Writer, Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat
Jeffrey Sheban, Senior Business Reporter, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch
J.B. Smith, Staff Writer, Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald
Laura Ungar, Medical Writer, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.)
Carroll Wilson, Editor, Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)
Dan Zehr, Business Reporter, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman

* Barton is the Pulitzer Center Fellow

The Fellows will also be honored at reception at the National Press Club on June 5, which will feature ABC's John Donvan and will include an exhibit of past fellows’ best newspaper layouts and photos.

The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. Over the past 22 years, ICFJ has worked directly with journalists from 176 countries. Aiming to raise the standards of journalism, ICFJ offers hands-on training workshops, seminars, fellowships and international exchanges to reporters and media managers around the globe. For more information, or to apply for the 2008 program, please visit their website below:

World Affairs Journalism Fellows

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All Joking Aside....

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Leave it to The Onion to capture the hilarity of the over-caffeinated news cycle that Internet Age reporters and editors often bemoan. The Onion's recent piece "Media Landscape Redefined By 24-Second News Cycle" provides a laughable take on the deadline pressures journalists face in the digital world. The lede posits that the 24-second broadcast news cycle might not actually capture the depth and nuance of the "old" 45-second stories.

Newspapers aren't safe either, The Onion notes: "While the changes have brought higher ratings and ad revenues to televised news, print newspapers have suffered greatly, due to the high cost of printing and distributing a new edition every 24 seconds."

For more laughs:

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Please Don't Shoot the Messenger

Monday, June 04, 2007

Reading about journalists who go beyond the call of duty to carry out their work is a reminder that this is a job, yes, but also a calling that can inspire passion and demand exceptional courage. Take the case of Lydia Cacho, a Mexican journalist and human rights activist who reports for the CIMAC news agency and also writes features for "Dia Siete" magazine. Cacho has written extensively about prostitution rings in Cancun and wrote a book published last year, “Los Demonios del Eden” (“Demons of Eden”), about the Lebanese-born head of a local child pornography and prostitution ring. When she testified at his trial in May of this year, her car was sabotaged and she was threatened with violence. She now travels with bodyguards .

Lydia Cacho has just been named one of the 2007 Courage in Journalism Award Winners by the International Women’s Media Foundation. IWMF’s award, created in 1990, honors ‘women journalists who have shown extraordinary strength of character and integrity while reporting the news under dangerous or difficult circumstances’ and includes high-profile events in Los Angeles and New York. Other 2007 winners are:
+ The Iraqi women reporters of McClatchy’s Baghdad bureau, who risk their lives to cover the war in Iraq;
+ Ethiopian publisher Serkalem Fasil, who gave birth to a son while confined to a vermin-infested jail cell for her work; and
+ Peta Thornycroft of Zimbabwe, who is being given a lifetime achievement award for her many years of independent reporting on human rights abuses, farm occupation and government repression.


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Friday, June 1, 2007

Check, please!

Friday, June 01, 2007

A hearty congratulations to three McCormick Tribune journalism grantees recently chosen for the inaugural round of digital journalism grants from the Knight Foundation News Challenge. Only 25 of the more than 1,500 groups and individuals that applied were selected to receive grants for cutting edge projects in digital journalism. According to the Knight Foundation, the winners proposed innovative strategies for leveraging digital news to build community. These range from individual blogging grants to building networks of citizen journalists to cover a large metropolitan city.

Among the winners, the MTF grantees included:
  • School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kansas State University: Will serve as an incubator as one of seven universities to explore solutions to digital news problems.
  • Dori Maynard of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education: Received a $15,000 grant to blog on diversity issues in digital media.
  • Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University: Rich Gordon was awarded $639,000 to found a scholarship program designed to train computer scientists in journalism to address the need for talented tech-people at media companies.
The Knight Foundation will award $25 million during a five-year span "to help lead journalism into its digital future." For more information on the News Challenge and a complete project and winners list, check out:

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