Covering the media's latest obsession

December 7, 2004






THE BIG STORY, 2003: Security and Privacy

Read the magazine online.
Lady Liberty by Hae Youn Kim

Front Editor: Alisa Weinstein
International Editor: Jessi Hempel
Back Editor: Malcolm Gay
Resources/Online Editor: Mary Hodder

Managing Editor/Prod. Manager: Laila Weir

Contributing Writers
Roya Aziz, Molly Blank, Yahaira Castro, Marton Dunai, James Fallows, Jason Felch, Violet Feng, Malcolm Gay, Bruce Gerstman, Elizabeth Gettelman, Tim Gnatek, Stephanie Groll, Tracey Gurd, Kathleen Hennessey, Mary Hodder, Bilen Mesfin, Matteen Mokalla, Mark Murrmann, Hadas Ragolsky, Jeffrey Rosen, Marc Rotenberg, Jared Saylor, Jessica Scully, Mary Spicuzza, Gabriel Spitzer, Brandon Sprague, Imran Vittachi, Alisa Weinstein, Michael Zuckerman

Director of design: Hae Youn Kim
DESIGN And production: Laila Weir, Jason Roberts, Tobi Designs: Hae Yuon Kim, Lloyd Dangle, Spike Lomibao, Diana Stoen

Copy editors: Chris Bagley, Simon Kinsella

Director of Photography: David Krantz

Contributing Photographers: Vincent LaForet, Joshua Dautoff

Contributing Photographers and Artists:
Hae Yuon Kim, David Krantz, Steven Rubin, Josh Taylor

Faculty editors: John Battelle, Katrina Heron


Orville Schell, Dean
Clay Felker, Director, Felker Magazine Center and faculty advisor

For subscriptions, sales or correspondence,
please contact:

The Big Story
Graduate School of Journalism
121 North Gate Hall #5860
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA. 94720-5860

Tel: 510 642 8240 • Fax: 510 643 9136


PHOTOGRAPH ON Shades of Gray: Why is Privacy So Difficult To Cover? COPYRIGHT DAVID KRANTZ.

As the only profession with its own Constitutional amendment, the media's purpose -- as defined by none other than Jefferson -- is to act as a critical check on our government's power. But thanks in part to Sept. 11, journalists are scrambling to keep up with a complicated mix of increased national security measures, continued media consolidation, and an unusually secretive and control-oriented administration. Toss in restrictive new legislation like the Patriot Act, and it's no wonder many journalists say the rich public debate upon which a democracy depends is in jeopardy.

But as Big Story writers James Fallows and Marc Rotenberg report in this year's review, the tension between national security and civil liberties began long before Sept. 11. Fallows takes us back to World War I, when the characters may have been different, but the story sounded remarkably the same. Marc Rotenberg recounts Sen. Frank Church's investigation of the U.S. intelligence agencies in the mid-1970's. The Church Committee's major finding were that secrecy invites abuse: specifically that a government left unchecked can conceal dangerous excesses, and that technology left unchecked increases the risks of subverting core civil rights.

What is the impact on civil liberties when national security becomes paramount and technologies once relegated to science fiction become commonplace? Where does a civilian's right to privacy fall in this debate, and what role should the media play?

That's the subject for this year's issue of The Big Story. We'll take a look at the way American journalists and their international counterparts have attempted to address these issues in print, and on our radios, televisions and computer screens. We asked our writers to report back on three questions: As journalists, are we doing enough? What are we mission? How can we do better?

Certainly mainstream media likes sensationalism, binary stories and black-and-white issues. But when it comes to national security and civil liberties, the resounding conclusion of our reporters is that we must cover the shades of gray.

Michael Zuckerman shares lessons on covering the complexities of technology in a restless media world. Meanwhile Jeffrey Rosen surveys the media's coverage of privacy issues -- and finds nuanced reporting hard to come by. And Mary Hodder examines the perils of digital identity.

We'll also walk you through the scary bits of the Patriot Act, and take you abroad for perspectives from some foreign journalists. We'll toss in some unique views and absurd stories in our Offbeat and Other Voices sections. And we'll show you our favorites from our first-even political cartoon contest.

As always, there is much more to cover than space permits. Make sure to check us out and if we've missed something, let us know. Thanks for reading.

~The Editors



Mission | Magazine | Subscribe | 360 News | About us | Home