Fall 2001

The Documentary and Journalism: Where They Converge

At a time when so much of journalism is quicker, shorter and hyped to grab the public’s presumed short-attention span, the documentary—with its slower pace and meandering moments—is finding receptive audiences in many old places and some new ones as well. In this issue of Nieman Reports, we’ve asked those who document our world to explore how their work converges with ours. How is what they do related to journalism? And what does the documentary form allow its adherents to do in reporting news or exploring issues that other forms of journalism do not?

The Documentary and Journalism
By Melissa Ludtke, Editor
Radio and the Internet
‘What the Hell is a Radio Documentary?’ (1 comment)
It’s a familiar question. Now here are some answers.
By Stephen Smith
Radio Diarists Document Their Lives
These ‘reporters’ capture moments journalists never could.
By Joe Richman
A Tape Recorder Becomes a Connecting Thread
By Joshua Cutler
‘It was just me and the recorder.’
By Cristel
Using the Web for an Interactive Documentary Project
At 360degrees.org, the U.S. criminal justice system is examined from many perspectives.
By Sue Johnson
Radio Documentaries Take Listeners Into Dark Corners
Interview with David Isay
Radio Storytelling Builds Community On-Air and Off
‘The journalist must be facilitator, fact-checker, ethicist, but not puppet-master….’
By Jay Allison
Listening to Radio Talk
At Transom.org, the conversation is about documentaries and public radio.
First-Person Narratives on Radio Document Historic Memory
While emotionally powerful, their production presents journalistic challenges.
By Sandy Tolan
A Festival to Celebrate Radio Documentaries
Organized by Chicago Public Radio, it happens in October.
By Johanna Zorn
Photography and the Written Word
Exploring the Relationship Between Photographer and Subject
‘Documentary photography is purity and freedom….’
By Denise Keim
Photojournalism at a Crossroads (1 comment)
Technology, culture and economics will determine its future.
By Peter Howe
Being Receptive to the Unexpected
A photographer immerses himself in a community to tell its stories.
By Eli Reed
Photojournalism and Documentary Photography (9 comments)
They are identical mediums, sending different messages.
By Antonin Kratochvil with Michael Persson
Documenting Democracy in America
The Indivisible project portrays grassroots activitiy in 12 communities.
Indivisible: Eau Claire, South Carolina
Photos by Eli Reed
A Place for Words and Images to Call Home
At DoubleTake, photographers and writers document the human experience.
By Robert Coles
Revealing Afghanistan
Chris Steele-Perkins captures a people’s grace and culture.
By Chris Steele-Perkins
A Photographer’s Journey Begins With a Coffin (2 comments)
By documenting youngsters’ lives, he hopes to understand what is happening.
By Andre Lambertson
Moving Pictures: Television and Film
A Nieman Year Spent Pondering Storytelling
‘TV documentaries were dull because they misused the medium.’
By Robert Drew
Documentary Journalism Vanishes From Network and Local Television (2 comments)
Withdrawal of advertising and emergence of news magazines were among the factors that killed it.
By Philip S. Balboni
Remembering Documentary Moments (2 comments)
Striking a Balance Between Filmmaking and Journalism (1 comment)
At ‘Frontline,’ the producers and their vision are front and center.
By Michael Kirk
Where Journalism and Television Documentary Meet (1 comment)
Connecting with viewers ‘through personal stories and subjective approaches.’
By Cara Mertes
Using Documentaries to Move People to Action
Films serve as powerful catalysts for the Television Race Initiative.
By Ellen Schneider
Documenting Social Ills With an Eye Toward Advocacy
Women’s health, homophobia, domestic violence, and rape are topics mainstream media often ignore.
By Margaret Lazarus
Long-Form Documentaries Serve a Vital Journalistic Role
Today’s complexities don’t fit into tidy news magazine packages.
By Robert Richter
Using the Drama of Cinéma Vérité to Tell Real Stories
It often conveys news, but is it journalism?
By Chris Hegedus
Documentary Filmmakers Decide How to Present Compelling Evidence
Using film to tell a story changes nearly everything.
By Michael Rabiger
Curator's Corner
Narrative Journalism: A New Nieman Program
Mark Kramer brings his teaching and narrative journalism conference to Harvard.
By Bob Giles
Nieman Notes
Nieman Fellows Take to the Road in Korea
‘For 10 days we changed from being reporters to being diplomats of our profession.’
By Stefanie Friedhoff
Journalist’s Trade: Newspaper Cutbacks
By Melissa Ludtke, Editor
A Feeling of Being Set Adrift
At the Akron Beacon Journal, more buyouts create more uncertainty.
By Thrity Umrigar
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Cuts Jeopardize Quality
‘One of journalism’s top destinations has become a departure lounge.’
By Jim Naughton
When the Cheering Stops and Anger Sets In
At the St. Paul Pioneer Press, beats will disappear and photos won’t be taken.
By Chuck Laszewski
Editors Need to Care About Words and Budgets
Journalists rarely talk about the business, except when it’s bad.
By Deborah Howell
Diversity Can Be Improved During This Economic Downturn
For that to happen, a diverse newsroom must become a focus of corporate leaders.
By William W. Sutton, Jr.
Ownership Guides a Newspaper’s Mission
Responding to Wall Street’s demands can erode long-term quality.
By John Morton
Newspaper Economics 2001: The McClatchy Way
The company is weathering the financial storm with a different strategy.
By Gary Pruitt
Making Change Work Away From Public Pressures
At Cox newspapers, economic hard times bring fresh approaches to news coverage.
By Jay Smith
Newspapers Confront a Barrage of Problems
Societal trends make business decisions more difficult.
By Stephen Lacy
Working Together, Journalists Can Have a Say in Corporate Policy
It is important to redefine what constitutes a ‘journalism issue.’
By Gilbert Cranberg
Prescient Words Delivered a Decade Ago
By Geneva Overholser
News is Strategic in the Newspaper Business
Newsroom cost cutting should not imperil its special strengths.
By Joseph Bower
Words & Reflections
By Melissa Ludtke, Editor
Words & Reflections: When Journalists Arrive …
A Neighbor Wonders About Her Role as a Media Source
‘Had my attempt to honor dear friends actually caused harm?’
By Audrey McCollum
The Chandra Levy Story
What does media coverage look and feel like from the other side?
By Kim Petersen
A Bullet, a Boy, a Story, and a Reporter’s Observations (1 comment)
A journalist with an injured family member witnesses the press in action.
By Robert Salladay
My Son Became a Voice the Media Relied on
For mother and son, ‘the tug-and-pull of the media was unnerving.’
By Barbara Schardt
With Child-Care Stories, It Still Comes Down to Mothers
Negative findings grab the headlines.
By Barbara A. Willer
Journalists Ask Questions, Then Refuse to Answer Them
‘How can we have the guts to run a controversial story and then put a muzzle on staffers to comment?’
By David Folkenflik
Viewer Dissatisfaction Understates the Anger at Local TV News
A journalist reports on audience concerns, but is anyone else paying attention?
By Ike Seamans
Words & Reflections: Books and Commentary
Silencing Voices for Racial Change During the 1950’s
National magazine editors published those urging moderation and the status quo.
By Carol Polsgrove
Journalism and Myth
Do They Create a Cautionary Tale?
By William F. Woo
The Evolutionary Growth of Newspapers’ Look and Feel
‘Readers appreciate the design and feel of a publication before assessing its contents.’
By Warren Watson
Editorials: Pungent, Profound and Path Breaking
A book offers practical pointers about how the best in journalism transmit ideas and opinion.
By Nancy Day
Essays by a Mexican Journalist Explore the Americas (1 comment)
Exposing the ‘nervous system of countries struggling with great change.’
By Dianne Solís
A Journalist Allows This Story to Speak for Itself
By Wilson Wanene
He Displeased His Bosses, Not to Mention Those He Covered
Daniel Schorr writes about his tempestuous career as a reporter.
By John Herbers