Most of CJR’s darts have been aimed at conflicts

CJR
The Columbia Journalism Review celebrates 50 years of its famous Darts & Laurels feature with a look at the dark side — 1,370 incidents which covered “every journalistic sin imaginable, and some that defy imagination.”

Some famous recipients include: Walter Cronkite, Katie Couric, Tim Russert and Mike Wallace.

“The most common Darts—a combined 36 percent—were for some type of self-dealing: conflicts of interest or crossing the line between business and editorial… There also were numerous instances of outlets failing to report honestly on themselves when the information was embarrassing or unflattering.”

Others were simply outrageous.

“Like the 1976 editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News that urged the execution of a convicted murderer—’It’s about time for Leonard Edwards to take the Hot Squat’—and concluded with the directive to ‘Fry him.’ Or this headline on a 2002 story in the Trenton, New Jersey, Trentonian about a fire at a psychiatric hospital: ‘Roasted Nuts.’ “

And one was just strange:

“In 2001, the Logan, Utah, Herald Journal published an editorial headlined, ‘You Just Never Know,’ in which the editors revealed ‘a situation that we think needs to see the light of day, even if only partially.’ It involved ‘a well-paid public employee’ who regularly visits ‘a reclusive woman in a central Logan apartment,’ from ‘beyond the walls’ of which ‘can be heard hours of loud slapping sounds and blood-curdling screams’ that can only be interpreted ‘as some warped, sadomasochistic ritual.’ The journalistic rationale? Not gossip or prurient interest, the editors assured their readers, but rather: ‘At least now you know our community is not immune to such things, and that they don’t always involve people you would immediately suspect of such behavior.’ “

Also in the 50th anniversary issue of CJR: The complications of our age: “Journalism requires support and criticism” | The first issue: Why a review of journalism? || Related: CJR names Cyndi Stivers new editor in chief

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  • http://twitter.com/JohnHamer John Hamer

    I’ve been a Darts & Laurels reader for decades and well remember when Aregood was on the hot seat, so to speak. Reader (Bill) is spot on about the power of that incendiary editorial, for which Richard really deserved a Laurel! Here’s a Dart I was involved in a few years back that was richly and totally deserved, against KIRO7-TV: http://katiabachko.com/clips/media_criticism/katia_bachko_darts_mayjun.pdf  As the Dart rightly concludes, journalists make mistakes all the time, but it’s really disappointing when they fail to own up to them, apologize, run corrections and explain what happened. That erodes credibility and public trust more than anything else.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnHamer John Hamer

    I’ve been a Darts & Laurels reader for decades and well remember when Aregood was on the hot seat, so to speak. Reader (Bill) is spot on about the power of that incendiary editorial, for which Richard really deserved a Laurel! Here’s a Dart I was involved in a few years back that was richly and totally deserved, against KIRO7-TV: http://katiabachko.com/clips/media_criticism/katia_bachko_darts_mayjun.pdf  As the Dart rightly concludes, journalists make mistakes all the time, but it’s really disappointing when they fail to own up to them, apologize, run corrections and explain what happened. That erodes credibility and public trust more than anything else.

  • Bill Reader

    Aregood — And that editorial remains an example I use in the classroom of “telling’ it like it is.” It also shows how parsimony can make the point stronger.

    Thanks a million for your great work and big yah-know-whats (maybe it’s a Penna thing). 

    Bill R. (currently trapped in the ivory tower … )

  • Richard Aregood

    Thanks for the kind words, Bill. The odd part of getting that “dart” was that it essentially made my career.

  • Bill Reader

    Disappointing to learn that Richard Aregood’s classic editorial, “Yes, the Chair,” received a dart from CJR back in the mid-70s. Maybe that set the stage for the pallid, stick-up-the-rectum, holier-than-thou blandness that now passes for “civil discourse” on America’s vestigial editorial pages. 

    Dick’s “Fry him” editorial, which was very much in tune with the blue-collar values of the Daily News’ primary audience, set the stage for something else — Aregood’s much-deserved Pulitzer Prize about 10 years later. 

    I’d like to see CJR start issuing “darts” to the prudish, Kumbaya-seeking mediocrity of the modern editorial page, and sending more laurels to the bold wordsmiths who keep the form alive and kicking (sometimes kicking AND screaming).

    Bill Reader, former editorial writer