Before long, WJR became AJR, the American Journalism Review. It remained based at the University of Maryland, but it did achieve that national profile. Along with the Columbia Journalism Review, Editor & Publisher magazine and perhaps a few others, it was a key place where journalists turned to read investigative stories, analysis or other sorts of coverage about our own profession and the businesses that supported it.
As digital publishing presented opportunities for other voices in the business, the field of journalists-covering-journalists grew and the magazines became less important, even though they all developed strong websites and didn’t simply publish their stories weekly or monthly.
Poynter and Nieman Lab became institutional leaders in the field, and individual bloggers, such as Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, Margaret Sullivan (and earlier New York Times public editors, but Sullivan has been easily the strongest digital voice), Mathew Ingram and, I hope, yours truly, grew the field even further. Even late-night comedy became an important source of media commentary, with Jon Stewart’s regular mocking and commentary on journalism’s failings.
AJR continued doing good work, but became less important, even within a niche it helped grow. The magazine stopped publishing its print edition in 2013 and announced Friday that it was ceasing the digital product as well.
The magazine’s life, decline and death are recounted in a message from Maryland Dean Lucy Dalglish, announcing its demise last week. Her brief history describes the magazine as “financially struggling” in the 1980s and supported by advertising and philanthropy in its heyday. Maybe it’s amazing that it lasted as long as it did.
I read AJR and appeared in it often enough that I should note its passing with appreciation and fondness. While I criticized then-AJR Editor Rem Rieder in a 2012 post about paywalls, I have far more praise than criticism for Rieder (who left the next year to become USA Today’s media editor), AJR and all the staff and students who have served it over the years.
If you get sentimental about such things, read The Life and Times of AJR, published in 2013, kind of like a dying person writing his or her own obit. The piece was kind of the ultimate navel-gazer, a magazine that existed so journalists could write about ourselves writing about itself. But I enjoyed it.
The archives, including print archives going back to 1991, will remain available online. I did an ego search, and I think the stories where I appeared as a source or subject illustrate the range of journalism issues and topics AJR covered:
My most recent AJR mention earlier this year cited my advice on confirming facts and avoiding falling for rumors or hoaxes.
Last year was my biggest year for AJR mentions. Most notably, an AJR piece by Kaylin Burgos on using Twitter to find a job focused on me, with six tips and four tweets by and about me. Other 2014 AJR attention included an interview about verifying information from social media, my views on updating the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, a brief about my blog’s temporary name change and a mention by Craig Silverman in a Q&A about the Verification Handbook.
I got a 2011 mention in a story on newspaper paywalls.
Older AJR pieces included a 2006 story on email interviews and a 1992 story about a former colleague and a long-ago employment controversy.
RIP, AJR. You gave journalism an excellent view of our navel for a long time. We’ll carry on from here.