Toasting the Columbia Journalism Review at 50

Looking back at a half century of conversation and criticism at a publication that believes journalism matters


Columbia Journalism Review

The Columbia Journalism Review is in the midst of its 50th anniversary year, a considerable achievement. As a graduate of the school of journalism (1965), I have been a long-time reader of the magazine, and for the past five years I have been called vice-chairman, a title that is significantly grander, to be honest, than my actual role offering opinions on a variety of matters, when asked, and performing services such as this one:

Please subscribe to the Columbia Journalism Review in print, digital, or Kindle versions. Details are on the website, where you can also sample the lively output of, which features an assortment of blogs on topics such as politics (Campaign Desk), science (The Observatory), business (The Audit), and news innovation (News Frontier).

The chairman and guiding spirit of the enterprise is Victor Navasky, George T. Delacorte Professor at the journalism school and publisher emeritus of The Nation. For more than a decade, the ranking editor has been Mike Hoyt, who arrived as a junior editor at CJR as the magazine was closing in on its 25th anniversary issue. For this momentous occasion so many years later, Mike and his small, dedicated staff put together a splendid November-December 2011 magazine choc-a-bloc with substantive articles (more about that in a moment) and extensive congratulatory advertising, providing a welcome financial boost for CJR's perennially needy coffers. Credit on this score goes to Christie Hefner, former CEO of Playboy, Inc., who is serving as chair of the 50th anniversary. There is also a board of overseers, led by Neil Barsky, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who had a successful run with a hedge fund he started and is now devoted to CJR with admirable support and spirited critiques.

For the balance of the year, there will be star-studded panels in New York and Washington (now in preparation) and a continued focus by the magazine and website on "journalism's past, present, and future" as succinctly promised on the cover of the special issue. Hoyt will continue as executive editor, now reporting to Cyndi Stivers, who was named editor-in-chief in the fall, arriving with a formidable leadership resume across multiple platforms and a stint as president of the American Society of Magazine Editors.

If you have already consumed the November-December issue, then you know how much there is to read and how thoughtfully crafted it all was. I have been reluctant to pile on the compliments, recognizing that there is inevitably a conflict of interest in my doing so. But I keep coming back to the magazine because there is so much worth reading and thinking about in this time of tumultuous change for journalism. So, think of this effusive piece as a less expensive version of those regular fund-raisers for public radio and PBS, and by all means, send a donation to augment your subscription. If you need persuasion, among the letters of praise assembled, here are a few excerpts I particularly liked:

Gail Collins: "I'm proud to say I was a reader back when CJR was a tyke moderating debates on whether it was possible to pound out a story on an electric typewriter. Perhaps you guys knew that we'd eventually wind up covering wars via Twitter, but I never had a clue and I'm grateful you were around to help get us through all the drama. Now I'm looking forward to reading the CJR take on news transmission by telepathy."

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Peter Osnos is a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He is the founder and editor at large of PublicAffairs books and a media fellow at the Century Foundation.

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