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Posts Tagged ‘celia wexler’

Out of the News Honored for Best Research About Journalism at SPJ Sigma Delta Chi Awards

In Blog on June 24, 2013 at 9:00 am

The main ballroom of the National Press Club in Washington was an extraordinary place last Friday night, June 21, as the Society of Professional Journalists honored 84 reporters and editors in print, broadcast and online for excellence in journalism. 

I was thrilled to be among this distinguished group of 84.  Out of the News was cited for excellence in media research.  The message of event is similar to the message of my book: Despite enormous economic challenges, a lot of good journalism is being done throughout the country, and is serving democracy well.

I can’t do justice to all the winners, but here are a few examples of stellar reporting, thinking and writing that won the coveted awards.

 As Connecticut’s major newspaper, The Hartford Courant had the solemn and sad duty of trying to make sense of the massacre of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton last December.  In a series of editorials, it did so.  I especially admired “We Have to Change,”  with its opening admonition to readers, “Stay angry. Remember how you felt this weekend,” and its rejection of the political platitude that now is not the time to discuss gun control.  “We disagree; now is exactly the time,” the editorial states.  “If the brutal execution of 20 children and six educators doesn’t spur meaningful action, we are not worthy of their memory.”

David Fanning, who for decades has helmed PBS’s documentary series Frontline, had another winner in Big Sky, Big Money – by far the clearest and most definitive documentary I’ve seen that details the impact of relaxed campaign spending rules on democracy.  Set in 2012 in Montana during the closely contested Senate race between Sen. Jon Tester and challenger Rep. Denny Rehberg, the documentary probes how out-of-state money changed the political landscape in that state, to the consternation of Democrats and Republicans alike. 

The documentary also demonstrates the growing collaboration among nonprofit media.  PBS made the film in cooperation with the online investigative journalism site, ProPublica and American Public Media’s Marketplace.

 Another honor went to Jim Dwyer for a column on the unnecessary death of a 12-year-old boy from sepsis, an often lethal blood infection that, in this case, resulted from a cut.  A big man in a light suit, Dwyer doesn’t look the epitome of Manhattan cool.  Perhaps that reflects the humanity that imbues his metro columns for The New York Times.  Dwyer deftly describes various facets of his city and its residents, telling beautifully written stories that often show the consequences of bureaucratic indifference or incompetence.  His winning column detailed how Rory Staunton’s (age 12) symptoms were recognized too late both by his pediatrician and then by physicians at a New York hospital.  Their inattention led to his death.  The column paints a real-life portrait of an exceptional and thriving young man, while giving us an almost clinical report of the missed symptoms that robbed him of his life.  What is masterful is Dwyer’s attention to detail and his ability to let the facts make his case. There is outrage here, but it is controlled. 

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Hear About Out of the News at an Alexandria Library Book Talk

In Blog on June 4, 2013 at 8:00 am

If you are in the Alexandria, VA area join me on Wednesday at the Beatley Library!


Reporting It Right, The First Time

In Blog on May 7, 2013 at 9:00 am

The Boston Marathon bombings reminded us of the perils of real-time reporting.  Live tweeting, streaming news coverage and instant punditry all seemed to conspire together to confound and confuse.

In this age of nearly instant communication, there were instant and inaccurate reports, about the number of dead, the progress of the investigation, and the suspects.  The New York Post did everything but declare two teens in the crowd to be the perpetrators, circling their faces in red, on a cover photo titled “Bag Men.”   Other media outlets breathlessly told us that a Saudi man might be sought in the case, also wrong. We were even told that a suspect was arrested when no arrest had been made.

Washington Post media critic Paul Farhi isn’t bothered by fast-breaking news containing mistakes.  He wrote that in a media environment where events happen, and are reported, in real time, errors are inevitable, and don’t matter as much as they used to.   Farhi cites Mark Jurkowitz, associate director for the Project for Excellence in Journalism, who observed that technology greatly speeds up the correction of initial misinformation, and thus errors matter less.

That seems like a rather weak defense.  If news outlets want to be taken seriously, the major value they bring to the table is that they report verified facts, not unverified assertions or speculation.  If CNN isn’t better than the Twitterverse, why does it exist?  If the chances of my receiving credible fact-based information aren’t improved if I pick up a newspaper rather than search for reports in the blogosphere, why should I bother with any mainstream news outlet?  Indeed, Farhi ends his column with another observation from Jurkowitz, who notes that mistakes damage the credibility of the news media as a whole, even when the public fails to distinguish media outlets that report the facts from those that are more lax.

The New York Times’ David Carr got it right when he noted that accuracy is something that the American public ought to expect, and get, from its news media.  If journalists merely regurgitate what they hear, anyone can do their job.

And despite our obsession with knowing everything in real time, we also look to mainstream media outlets for validation of what we learned, and – to some extent – the kind of power and beauty that words can impart to terrible events.  The day after the bombings, I picked up The New York Times, and came close to tears when I read the first sentence of its main story.  Listen to its cadence, the somber measured tone of the words, the restraint.

Two powerful bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon, killing three people, including an eight-year-old child, and injuring more than 100, as one of this city’s most cherished rites of spring was transformed from a scene of cheers and sweaty triumph to one of screams and carnage.

Journalism is not just about reporting what happened.  A journalist bears witness to terrible events, and in the bearing witness, brings some order into chaos.

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Out of the News Wins the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award

In Blog on April 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I’m pleased to announce that I have been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) with a 2012 Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism in the category of Research.


Out of the News on C-SPAN

In Blog on January 16, 2013 at 9:00 am


I was interviewed at the 2012 National Press Club Fair by C-SPAN’s Book TV and the interview is up on the C-SPAN website!

Out of the News At The National Press Club Book Fair

In Blog on November 23, 2012 at 9:00 am

Ever since I began writing a book, my dream was to sell it at the National Press Club book fair.  And as my publication date drew closer I even checked with the Press Club to make sure that my book would be published by the submission deadline.  Getting to the fair required a lot of procedural and other hurdles that impaired both my digestion and my sleep.  But finally, a few weeks ago, I received the official acceptance.

I then obsessed about my appearance for the great event.  I bought a vintage red choker, a new top, and earrings from a boutique in Alexandria.  One other mini-disaster threatened. Two hours before the fair, I got a call from the organizers informing me that my books had not yet arrived.  My husband offered to deliver books we had already purchased and dashed off to our home in Alexandria to get them.  Ten minutes later, I got a second call with the good news that the books showed up in the fair’s very last shipment.

All the strategizing, anxiety and planning was worth it. The fair is a terrific event, drawing many big-name authors and hundreds of visitors.  Those authors lucky enough to be selected celebrate their good fortune at a private reception before the event begins.  I wouldn’t stand in line to get a glimpse of a movie star, or snag an autograph from my favorite musician, but I was dazzled to be in the same room as accomplished writers such as Hedrick Smith and David Corn.  I also was pretty dazzled by Georgetown Cupcake’s contribution to the event!

The second, unexpected, highlight of the evening was being interviewed for a short segment for C-SPAN’s BookTV.  I love BookTV.  I think I am the equivalent of a football enthusiast who watches any game.   Any book talk draws me in, no matter what the subject.  On weekend nights, I will fall asleep listening to BookTV interviews.

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The National Press Club Book Fair And Authors’ Night

In Blog on November 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I was honored to have Out of The News featured at the 2012 National Press Club Book Fair!  A post on the experience to come soon but here are some pictures for now.


more pictures here!

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The Author

In Main Posts on March 12, 2011 at 4:01 am

Celia Viggo Wexler is an award-winning journalist who made a successful transition to a flourishing career as a public-interest lobbyist working for a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.  She worked for daily newspapers in the Midwest, Northeast and Washington, earning praise for her coverage of the business, consumer, and labor beats, and her investigative reporting on the influence of political contributions on public policy.

She worked for 12 years at Common Cause, a nonprofit good-government group, rising to the position of Vice President for Advocacy.  While at Common Cause, she wrote more than 50 studies that tracked the influence of big money on politics, and became a trusted source to dozens of journalists throughout the country. She now lobbies for the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Her free-lance stories have appeared in The Washington Post, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Toronto and earned her graduate degree in journalism from Point Park University, Pittsburgh.

read more and go to author page