Thursday, June 09, 2005

Fisking of CJR's announcement of Navasky's role

Finally today Columbia Journalism Review put a notice up from dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism Nicholas Lemann announcing Victor Navasky's new role of chairman of CJR.

Here is the announcement interspersed with my comments:
A Note From the Dean

Two years ago, when I became dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia, one of my first official acts was to accept, reluctantly, the resignation of David Laventhol as editorial director of Columbia Journalism Review, because he had decided to become chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists. I wanted to continue the tradition of having a distinguished journalist in the supervisory role at CJR, and, after a few months, I was able to persuade Victor Navasky to take this job on.
Does this mean that Navasky was in the has been on the job for a few months shy of two years, as Lemann's announcement implies? If so, the secrecy is far worse than I (or anyone else who has reported on the matter) thought. It means that for roughly 21 months, The CJR has been under the control of Navasky without acknowledgement.

And if this is so, it also means that CJR misled several media outlets recently:
  • This blog, in its initial story on the topic a week ago: "Hoyt said Navasky had been with CJR for a couple of months in an incrementally responsible role."
  • The New York Sun: "In the past six months, after an extended period of negotiations with Mr. Lemann, Mr. Navasky has quietly taken the reins of CJR."
  • Fox News's Brit Hume: "According to CJR executive editor Michael Hoyt, Navasky has 'gradual[ly]' been taking on a key role over the past few months, a role, Hoyt says, that's higher than his own."
CJR needs to clarify when exactly the editorial and business sides of the organization started reporting to Navasky. Continuing...
Victor was an ideal choice, to my mind, because he was already a member of our faculty and the head of our magazine journalism program, and also because, in his long run as editor and publisher of The Nation, he has established himself as a genius at guiding the fortunes of a small magazine.
An "ideal choice"? Does Lemann have no understanding of the potential conflict that arises when a self-avowed "card-carrying ideologist" (A Matter of Opinion, p. 269)--one who is still running a left-liberal opinion magazine--takes over a "neutral" watchdog? Incredible. And remember, Navasky sees the role of The Nation in part as "serving as a forum for the debate between the radicals and the liberals" (A Matter of Opinion, p. 269)
The Nation's circulation was about 20,000 when Victor took over in 1978, and is now, thanks to the efforts of Victor and his colleagues, nearly 184,000.
Kudos to Navasky for whatever role he played in driving up circulation.
I announced Victor's appointment to the Journalism School community one year ago.

Because Victor was still in the process of turning over the reins at The Nation to his successor there, Katrina vanden Heuvel, he was not comfortable taking an official title on the masthead of CJR.
Is Navasky's discomfort sufficient reason to hide his role? Of course not. Not even his own staff thought as much.
Although that process is still not complete, he began supervising CJR—meaning that both the editorial and business sides report to him.
Began supervising CJR when?
He holds a weekly meeting with the magazine'?s executive editor, Mike Hoyt, its publisher, Evan Cornog, and its business staff, but does not work there full time, because his primary responsibility here is still as a faculty member. Thus far he has concentrated mainly on the business side of CJR.

We'?ve now agreed on a title for Victor: chairman. He will appear on the masthead of CJR in the next issue.
Read: We've agreed to put him on the masthead only since we were embarrassed into doing so by an little-known blog and the others that picked up the story. He should have been on the masthead months ago. (Remember this from the Sun? "Shortly after that blog entry, Mr. Lemann and Mr. Navasky settled on the title of 'chairman,' and said Mr. Navasky's name would be on the masthead."
Nicholas Lemann
Wow. Dean Lemann, we need explanations:
  • When exactly did Navasky take over CJR? Two months ago? Three? Six? Twenty-one? How many issues of CJR have been printed without Navasky's name on the masthead when he was in fact running the show?
  • Why did you allow the the secrecy around his role?
  • What are your thoughts on an avowed left-liberal running your supposedly neutral publication? What are your staff's thoughts?


  • Welcome, readers of Instapundit. Please have a look around.
  • Mediacrity delivers a thorough explanation of how unimpressed he is.
  • Much more on the CJR/Navasky story elsewhere on the blog. Go to the main page; most of the posts from today backwards to May 31 are on the Navasky story. The original story-breaking post is here.