On November 15, Columbia Journalism Review will celebrate its 50th anniversary as one of the premier magazines in its field. The recognition of that long legacy will also be marked by the beginning of a new venture for the journal: Columbia Journalism Review Books.
Envisioned as a series by its staff, CJR Books is the newest arm of Columbia University Press. Its unofficial launch was November 1 with the 5,000-copy publication of Second Read: Writers Look Back at Classic Works of Reportage, edited by James Marcus and the staff of CJR. A collection of distinguished journalists revisiting key works of reportage, Second Read features writers like Nicholson Baker on Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year and David Ulin on Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The hope is that this is the kind of book “that opens even more books.”
Philip Leventhal, editor for journalism at Columbia University Press, said, “Columbia University was looking to build upon its list in journalism, and we felt that working with Columbia Journalism Review would be an excellent way to do this, given its extraordinary reputation and relationship with some of the most innovative and astute commentators and critics in journalism.”
The series’ editors are Victor Navasky, CJR publisher Evan Cornog, executive editor Mike Hoyt, and the editors of CJR; the books selected will be used to explore issues confronting journalism with a depth that a magazine with a frequency of six issues per year can’t match. The series, which does every title in print and e-book, hopes to put out two to four titles per year, and already has a few in the hopper, including The Best Business Writing 2012 (June 2012), edited by Dean Starkman, Martha Hamilton, Ryan Chittum, and Felix Salmon, and The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Economic Crisis and the Financial Press by Dean Starkman. Though CJR Books won’t exclusively publish contributors to CJR, the series will keep close ties with Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and its magazine (circulation of 16,000, distribution of 19,000) by helping “to promote its intellectual and educational mission.” To that end, an ad for Second Read appeared in the 50th anniversary issue of CJR and, Leventhal noted, CJR Books is “also working with CJR to publish content from the magazine as Kindle Singles.”
Leventhal sees titles under the CJR Books banner as avenues to address the future direction of journalism: “The past few years have witnessed many changes in the business and practice of journalism, but these subjects are often treated in a hyperbolic or superficial way. A series in conjunction with the Columbia Journalism Review would offer much needed perspectives on these issues.”—Gabe Habash