Fall 2011 | Online Exclusives

Cold Case Reporting

Cases unheard. Justice denied. These words fit many crimes committed with racial intent a half century ago. Now reporters burrow into forgotten files, locate witnesses, track down suspects, publish what they find—and write for us about their work that in some cases is resulting in justice finally being served. Journalists then explore how stories about black America are told today. Next, our focus turns to news reporting in a time of revolutionary change in Arab nations. Intriguing essays then transport us from Iran to Indonesia, from financial collapse to consensus building, from envisioning computers replacing journalists to reporting from war’s frontlines. —Melissa Ludtke, Editor

Behold This Cliché: The Truth Shall Set You Free
'It is as if a mirror is being held up in which the nation can see for the first time the incivility of its ways—the unsightliness of its segregated buses, for instance.'
By Roya Hakakian
Cold Case Reporting: Revisiting Racial Crimes
Here’s What People Want to Know: Why Do Journalists Tell These Stories?
‘Why is what happened then considered news today? Why stir up memories of events that were long ago put to rest?’
By Hank Klibanoff
The Enduring Ambition of the Civil Rights Cold Case Project (1 comment)
‘What I didn’t know going in was how inspired I’d feel by hearing these journalists share fragments from their work that spoke to why telling these stories mattered to them—and should matter to all of us.’
By Robert J. Rosenthal
Revealing Sex Crimes Against Black Women (2 comments)
By Jan Gardner
Who Killed Frank Morris? (1 comment)
Hearing of a racial murder that happened 43 years earlier, a reporter starts digging. Four years and more than 150 stories later, a grand jury was convened.
By Stanley Nelson
When Lawyers and Journalists Share Common Cause
‘Our dual approaches keep steady attention fixed on the [Frank] Morris case and they pressure local and federal law enforcement to thoroughly investigate it, with a spillover effect of bringing renewed attention to other cold cases …’
By Paula C. Johnson and Janis L. McDonald
It Takes a Hard-Driving Team to Uncover the Truth of a Cold Case (1 comment)
‘… Thomas Moore and I became an indivisible army of two on the [Henry H.] Dee and [Charles E.] Moore case. We created a critical mass of trust that carried and insulated us.’
By David Ridgen
The Bonds of Our Reporting: The Civil Rights Cold Case Project (1 comment)
By David Ridgen
The Case of the Supposedly Sealed Files—And What They Revealed
‘I continue to pore through 40,000 pages of FBI records, the entire FBI case file in the Klan’s 1964 killings of [James] Chaney, [Andrew] Goodman and [Michael] Schwerner. Two suspects are still alive …’
By Jerry Mitchell
Compelled to Remember What Others Want to Forget (2 comments)
‘… I realize that the way forward is through doing what we do best. We tell stories. We are journalists. And if we, as journalists, don’t tell these forgotten stories, who will?’
By John Fleming
A Father’s Life Tugs His Son to Revisit Unsolved Crimes (3 comments)
‘More and more I was looking not just at my father’s story but also at the unfinished business of the civil rights movement.’
By Ben Greenberg
Being There to See—With the Challenge of Being Heard
‘I learned quickly that for a black reporter to cover a civil rights story in the Deep South and live to tell about it, I had to blend in.’
By Simeon Booker
To Be a ‘Negro’ Newsman—Reporting on the Emmett Till Murder Trial (1 comment)
By Simeon Booker
Six Decades of Watching Mississippi—Starting in 1947 (4 comments)
‘Late in 1977, we started to tackle the comeback of the [Ku Klux Klan] in Mississippi. In response, a cross wrapped in kerosene-soaked rags was set ablaze just past midnight outside our building.’
By Wilson F. “Bill” Minor
Stories His Images Told: Charles Moore
By Jan Gardner
Reporting on Black America: Who Tells the Stories?
Carl Sandburg’s Reporting Foretold the Chicago Race Riots of 1919 (1 comment)
‘No other mainstream white journalist in America’s second largest city was writing anything close to Sandburg’s depth about its festering racial problems.’
By Cameron McWhirter
Roi Ottley: An African-American Journalist Covers World War II (1 comment)
By Cameron McWhirter
Diversity in Newsrooms: Fresh Strategies, New Goals
Meeting 21st-century challenges means pushing the newsroom diversity argument away from staff numbers and toward content and revenue.
By Milton Coleman
What Often Goes Unsaid (1 comment)
The racial dynamic of what happens inside a newsroom is ‘an elusive if contentious subject that seldom rises to become a topic of media forums or workshops—except when minority journalists come together to talk.’
By Amy Alexander
Familiar Patterns of Minority Exclusion Follow Mainstream Media Online (3 comments)
‘The parallels between the legacies and online media are as stark as they are disheartening.’
By Jean Marie Brown
Black Journalism Takes Root in Contemporary Times
By Jack E. White
Arab News: Troubles and Possibilities
Arab Media: Rebuilding Trust With Their Public (1 comment)
‘Young Arabs have little time or respect for their traditional news media.’
By Rami G. Khouri
In Jordan, Some Threats Against a Foreign Journalist Are Realized
After the Arab Spring, media restrictions tighten in ways unprecedented in Randa Habib’s 24 years as Agence France-Press bureau chief in Amman, and her life is threatened because of what she reports.
By Randa Habib
Morocco and Press Freedom: A Complicated Relationship (5 comments)
A visibly corrupt government but a wide space for journalists to denounce it, relentlessly harassed newspapers but still a vivid, daring and popular press—welcome to the kingdom of paradox.
By Ahmed Benchemsi
The Ups and Downs of Two Pioneering Magazines
By Ahmed Benchemsi
The Revolutionary Force of Facebook and Twitter
‘Social media now hold a vital place in this media ecosystem, filling informational voids left by the still bridled state and traditional media.’
By Jillian C. York
Egyptian Journalism: An Oddly Connected Mix of Old and New Media (1 comment)
‘… in this disheartening traditional media landscape, we find encouraging signs of independent media—in the truest sense of the phrase …’
By Sabah Hamamou
Words & Reflections
Evin Prison: A Destination for ‘Troublesome’ Journalists In Iran
‘ “I hit my head hard against the faux marble wall again and again, ignoring the pain that crept up my neck. I deserved the pain. I had betrayed my family, my colleagues, myself.” ’
By Nazila Fathi
War, Satire and the Way It Is—For Women Reporters
‘… being female can be an advantage in Afghanistan, in part because Western women are still curiosities there, especially outside Kabul.’
By Monica Campbell
Indonesia’s Religious Violence: The Reluctance of Reporters to Tell the Story (1 comment)
‘In an average Indonesian newsroom, most media workers identify closely with an Islamic and nationalist identity.’
By Andreas Harsono
Will Machines Replace Journalists?
After looking at start-ups for their book, “The Monkey That Won a Pulitzer,” two Italian journalists launched a project that uses motion graphics to tell news stories with context.
By Nicola Bruno
Consensus-Building Journalism: An Immodest Proposal (1 comment)
‘What this country could use is an enormous mediation session, and in the unique role they hold, journalists are logical people to lead it.’
By Gilda C. Parrella
What Mediation Looks Like for Journalists (1 comment)
By Gilda C. Parrella
Is the Financial Crisis Also a Crime Story? (2 comments)
What happens when reporters pursue the wrong narrative in covering financial news? It is a personal story with deeper implications.
By Danny Schechter
Nieman Notes
The Smart Move Was in Reverse
A typical career trajectory for a reporter begins with local news, but sometimes there’s another road to travel first.
By Kate Galbraith
Class Notes
Compiled by Jan Gardner
Reasons for Hope
Three journalists who report on the drug trade’s violence in the United States and Mexico compare notes during a peaceful pause.
By Julie Reynolds