Exploring the Journalistic Mindset

How journalists think about their work and the profession is changing rapidly as we enter a hyper-partisan age and usher in a new generation of reporters who grew up expressing their views on social media. Examining this new journalistic mindset and its implications for the profession and democracy is now a major focus of my research. Early results led to this piece published in Harvard’s Nieman Reports.

The Future of Cannabis in New York

The Magazine, News & Digital Journalism Department’s reporting intensive this year went to pot – literally.

We had more than 40 student reporters investigate what New York would look like after the legalization of marijuana, a move that looked almost certain when we started the project in October 2019. But by May, it became clear COVID-19 would derail the legislation, along with much of spring semester. But the students remained engaged with the project nonetheless, worked on it from their hometowns rather than campus, and pivoted to adjust their stories to the new post-COVID reality.

Their efforts, and those of my co-directors – colleagues Jon Glass, Seth Gitner and Shevlia Dancy – resulted in package that has already won awards such as Best News Website — Large School from AEJMC. A piece I edited and helped develop has also won the Best Multimedia News Story award from the Associated Collegiate Press Contest.

The Power of Student Journalism

Check out the work Newhouse students can do when they come together under faculty supervision to focus their talents on a single topic. I am particularly proud of the stories featured under the channel heading “The First” as the stories focus on the Mohawks, an under-covered Native American tribe whose nation straddles the U.S. and Canadian borders.

I worked with those students and the others who reported along the Saint Lawrence River, while my amazing colleague Jon Glass worked with students who reported from the Niagara Falls area. Credit for the project’s success also goes to Seth Gitner, who focused on site design and development.

Another story in this package I edited that I think turned out particular well is this piece on a unique border crossing in northeastern New York where people from around the world come to claim asylum in Canada.

As these stories win awards like the David Teeuen Student Journalism Award and the National Scholastic Press Association Pinnacle Award for Best News Package, I grow more and more confident that this experience will empower our students to tell meaningful stories as soon as they enter the profession.

FOIA Plaintiff Study Hits Pay Dirt


My study on the plaintiffs in Freedom of Information lawsuits against the government apparently has some legs. The study first appeared in the IRE Journal, and was then expanded for the FOIA Project.

It then got picked up as part of an excellent Sunshine Week collaboration between USA Today and McClatchy Newspapers. Politico also did a piece.

Somewhat to my surprise and certainly to my delight, the report seems to have a life of its own, forming the basis of this report that just came out yesterday in the Columbia Journalism Review.


Engagement Project Shines Light on FOIA Failures

foiafailThe engagement initiative I jockeyed for the FOIA Project during Sunshine Week solicited nominations for the worst “FOIA Failure” from six prominent users of FOIA, including Charlie Savage of The New York Times and Jason Leopold of Vice News.

They selected cases where they sought records on everything from the final chapter of the CIA’s history of the Bay of Pigs, to more contemporary records on targeted drone strikes and secret government surveillance.

I then summarized their cases, linked to the supporting documentation in the FOIA Project’s database, invited the public to vote on the worst failure of them all, and pushed the project through a variety of social media channels.

New FOIA Project Report: Military Families Caught in the Middle

One of the housing projects at the center of the dispute, this one at Fort Irwin in California.
One of the housing projects at the center of the dispute, this one at Fort Irwin in California.

I found what I think is a big, as-of-yet unreported news story in one of the lawsuits in the FOIA Project‘s compressive database. I just wrote it up for a new TRAC special report.

It involves a really nasty dispute between two companies that had been partners in military housing projects valued at more than $2 billion. One of the companies accused the other of poor management and tried to kick it out of the projects. Now the other claims that tens of millions of dollars meant for the housing projects is being used to pay the other company’s legal bills. Caught in the middle are more than 11,000 military families.

Check it out at http://foiaproject.org/?p=2894

Journal Article Accepted

The study I co-authored with the amazing Dr. Tina Nabatchi, which evaluates the effects of Jefferson Action‘s Citizen Jury project on the 2012 Congressional election has been accepted to the Journal of Public Deliberation. We expect the article to appear in the December issue. The piece is: Munno, G., & Nabatchi, T. (2014). “Public Deliberation and Co-Production in the Political and Electoral Arena: A Citizens’ Jury Approach”