112th: Beth Knobel on The Watchdog Still Barks
Join Book Culture and Fordham University Press on Wednesday, October 17th at 7pm in celebrating the release of The Watchdog Still Barks by Beth Knobel. She will be joined by Kim Murphy, Deputy National Editor for Enterprise at the New York Times, and Steven Waldman, President and Co-Founder of Report for America.
Perhaps no other function of a free press is as important as the watchdog role—its ability to monitor the work of the government. It is easier for politicians to get away with abusing power—wasting public funds and making poor decisions—if the press is not shining its light with what is termed “accountability reporting.” This need has become especially clear in recent months, as the American press has come under virulent direct attack for carrying out its watchdog duties. Upending the traditional media narrative that watchdog accountability journalism is in a long, dismaying decline, The Watchdog Still Barks presents a study of how this most important form of journalism came of age in the digital era at American newspapers.
Although the American newspaper industry contracted significantly during the 1990s and 2000s, Fordham professor and former CBS News producer Beth Knobel illustrates through empirical data how the amount of deep watchdog reporting on the newspapers’ studied front pages generally increased over time despite shrinking circulations, low advertising revenue, and pressure to produce the kind of soft news that plays well on social media. Based on the first content analysis to focus specifically on accountability journalism nationally, The Watchdog Still Barks examines the front pages of nine newspapers located across the United States to paint a broad portrait of how public service journalism has changed since 1991 as the advent of the Internet transformed journalism. This portrait of the modern newspaper industry shows how papers of varying sizes and ownership structures around the country marshaled resources for accountability reporting despite significant financial and technological challenges.
The Watchdog Still Barks includes original interviews with editors who explain why they are staking their papers’ futures on the one thing that American newspapers still do better than any other segment of the media: watchdog and investigative reporting.
Beth Knobel is an Associate Professor at Fordham University, where she teaches multimedia Journalism. Previously, she served as Moscow Bureau Chief for CBS News, where she won an Emmy for coverage of the 2002 terrorist attack at a theater in Moscow, and Murrow and Sigma Delta Chi Awards for coveage of the 2004 terrorist attack on a school in the Russian town of Beslan. Dr. Knobel still works as a freelance producer and reporter for CBS News, assisting with Russia coverage. In addition to writing The Watchdog Still Barks, she is the co-author with her CBS News colleague Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" of Heat and Light: Advice for the Next Generation of Journalists--a 2010 guidebook for young reporters. Earlier in her career, Dr. Knobel worked at the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Ladies' Home Journal magazine, and the Columbia Daily Spectator.
Kim Murphy is Deputy National Editor for Enterprise at the New York Times. She started worked at The North Biloxian, Minot Daily News, and Orange County Register before becoming one of the Los Angeles Times’s star correspondents, with datelines across the United States and the world. She later became the LA TImes’s national editor and assistant managing editor for national and foreign news. Murphy won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 2005 for “her eloquent, wide-ranging coverage of Russia’s struggle to cope with terrorism, improve the economy and make democracy work.”
Steven Waldman is President and Co-Founder of Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms. Previously he was Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, where he authored the landmark report, Information Needs of Communities. Waldman had earlier served as Editor-in-Chief, President, and co-founder of Beliefnet, a multi-faith spirituality website. Earlier, he served as editor of The Washington Monthly, National Editor of U.S. News and World Report, and national correspondent for Newsweek. Waldman is also a former editor-in-chief of the Columbia Daily Spectator.