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Washington Post Chief Correspondent Dan Balz knows politics. For 40 years at the Washington Post, he’s been on the campaign trail with presidential candidates and developing a deep network of political sources. In conversation with Executive Editor Martin Baron, Balz shares with us the lessons he learned covering seven presidents--and how to report in the era of Trump.

Dan Balz is the recipient of the 2017 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism.  At our Chancellor Event, he spoke with Baron about reporting in today's political climate, including the Roy Moore scandal, Trump tweets and fake news. Check out Lisa's recommendation - Amanda Robb's Rolling Stone story Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal and the podcast in collaboration with Reveal. Watch the trailer to Abi's recommendation Lady Bird.

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When was the last time you read an obituary? For filmmaker Vanessa Gould, her first experience with an obit inspired a documentary about the New York Times obituaries desk.

Seven years ago, when the filmmaker's unknown artist friend died of cancer, Gould panicked. No one would know who he was. She sent his death announcement to some 20 newspapers and only heard back from one: the Times. And thus, Obit was born. The film takes us inside the paper's archival library — known as the "morgue" — and examines the work of a small team tasked with crafting profiles of the recently deceased. 

Professor Betsy West spoke with Gould after a screening of Obit at the Columbia Journalism School. To attend the next screening in our Film Fridays series, check out the Journalism School’s event calendar. Learn more about Abi's recommendation Jane. Watch Lisa's recommendation Too Funny To Fail on Hulu.  

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Filmmaker John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, wove together intimate first person accounts and archival footage to create a stunning, cinematic portrait of the events preceding the 1992 Los Angeles riots in the new documentary Let It Fall.

Ridley and veteran ABC News producer Jeanmarie Condon visited the Columbia Journalism School, speaking with professor June Cross about the film. To attend the next screening in our Film Fridays series, check out the Journalism School’s event calendar.

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He calls himself the “dirty trickster.” Five years ago, filmmakers Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro, and Morgan Pehme decided to follow lobbyist, adviser, and political strategist Roger Stone. What they didn’t know is he’d be at the heart of the next presidential election, and the key to Trump’s rise to power. At least that's his story, and he's sticking to it, in their Netflix film, Get Me Roger Stone, the final cut of five years, 65 interviews and 600 hours of footage on Washington's most controversial strategist.

Professor Betsy West spoke with the directors after screening the film at the Columbia Journalism School. To attend the next screening in our Film Fridays series, check out the Journalism School’s event calendar.

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When journalist Kate Howard came across the Defender Group in 2010, she thought she’d found the perfect story: a group composed of ex-military members and former victims of abuse coming together to rescue victims of human trafficking. It’s only after the story was published that she got a call about the group’s leader—from a former victim of his. Turns out that he was a sexual predator, white separatist and general bad guy.

After writing a follow-up story exposing her source’s lies (and his weapons stockpile), Howard created a reliable 15-minute background check that she still uses every time she interviews someone—and that has become a handy resource for her investigative work. This week, she shares what she learned from that experience and how to avoid making the same rookie mistake.

Kate Howard is a veteran investigative reporter for WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting (KCIR). She recently won the 2017 Investigative Reporters and Editors award for radio investigative journalism.

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We’re excited to kick off Season Four with NBC Anchor and Correspondent Kate Snow. Snow won a duPont in 2014 for the NBC special report, “Devastation in Oklahoma.”  

This year, she won a 2017 award for her Dateline NBC report, “The Cosby Accusers Speak,” and in this episode, she talks about her experience interviewing 27 of the women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual harassment and assault, and the complex process of getting their stories.

Watch Snow's story "Against All Odds: Ballerina Michaela DePrince’s Remarkable Journey," which is mentioned in the episode.

Stay tuned to On Assignment this season as we share conversations with the filmmakers, journalist, and reporters from Film Friday screenings, other J School events, and this past summer's Investigative Reporters and Editors conference. 

Check out the list of winners from the 2017 duPont awards, and learn more about the duPont-Columbia Awards at

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Mariana van Zeller has worked as a correspondent and investigative reporter around the globe, covering stories from Nigeria to Brazil and Syria to the United States. The Columbia J School graduate, who won a 2017 duPont Award for her documentary Death by Fentanyl, spoke with On Assignment about covering the opioid crisis, as well as about balancing her personal and professional life.

Missed the July 1 duPont deadline? We're granting extensions upon request for a limited time only. Contact with your questions. Visit for more info and to submit your work.

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Lindsey Smith of Michigan Radio was one of the first reporters to break the story of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. She spoke to On Assignment about learning there were devastating lead levels in Flint's water and about covering the crisis, which has impacted her both professionally and personally. Her documentary,  Not Safe to Drink, won a duPont this past year for its outstanding storytelling and investigative work.  

Don’t forget to enter your own hard-hitting reporting to the duPont Awards. Our deadline for submissions is July 1, 2017. Visit for more info and to submit your work.

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For our Summer Series, we’re catching up with this past year’s 75th Anniversary duPont winners.

In this episode, Abi and Lisa speak to Daniel Zwerdling, NPR journalist extraordinaire, who has spent years reporting on veterans’ rights. Daniel won a 2017 duPont Columbia Award, together with Michael de Yoanna of Colorado Public Radio, for Missed Treatment, a groundbreaking exposé that revealed how the Army kicked out more than 22,000 returning disabled veterans, which aired on NPR.

In this episode we hear about how journalism is a lot like studying Psychology, his best interview techniques, and how he balances day-to-day stories with the longer investigations he builds over years.  

Speaking of the duPont-Columbia Awards, our 2018 call for entries is open until July 1. Visit for more info and to submit your best reporting.


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Our latest episode takes us behind the scenes of the 2017 Oscar and duPont-Columbia Award winning film “O.J. Made in America.”

Director Ezra Edelman talks about the groundbreaking film, which tells O.J. Simpson’s life story, woven with the racial and cultural environment he inhabited.

You can watch "O.J. Made in America” on Hulu. For this week, Lisa recommends her students' compelling final narrative video project - a series of short films on inequity and the divide in America, which you can see here. (Secret password: VST2017). Check out Abi’s pick, The New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast here.

The 2018 duPont-Columbia Awards are open. Visit for more info and to apply. Submit your best work for the 2018 duPont Awards.

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In this episode, independent filmmaker Nanfu Wang talks about her feature debut Hooligan Sparrow, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016. The film follows Ye Haiyan, more widely known as “Hooligan Sparrow,” and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment and imprisonment while filming.

You can watch Hooligan Sparrow on iTunes, Netflix and Amazon now. For more on Nanfu’s experience, take a look at her recent interview on PBS. For this week’s recommendations, Lisa suggests the ABC News documentary Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 which traces the roots of the LA riots, and Abi recommends Attacks on the Press: 2017 Edition, a new book by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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The latest episode takes us inside the troubled Newark Police Department. Frontline’s Policing the Police gives viewers a glimpse of what the officers are up against, the consequences of police misconduct, and what a community policing model could look like in the city. Correspondent (and Columbia Journalism School professor) Dr. Jelani Cobb embedded himself in the department’s Gang Unit to get a first-hand look at the issue, as the debate about race, policing and civil rights continues to unfold in the United States.


Dr. Cobb examines allegations of discriminatory policing in Newark, while also addressing the department’s broken relationship with the community.  The immersive documentary takes viewers inside Newark’s police department, as well as to city council meetings and closed door leadership meetings. Plus, Cobb interviewed officers and citizens, reviewed documents and even toured the city of Newark with his old college friend, Mayor Ras Baraka.

You can watch the whole film on the PBS website. Read more about Cobb’s experience in the New Yorker. Don’t forget to check out our recommendations: Gleason and Street fight.

Academy Award winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy follows the real-life story of Saba, a Pakistani woman who survived an honor killing, in “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” The documentary chronicles how Saba narrowly escaped the same fate as over 1,000 Pakistani women killed in the name of honor each year.

The story takes an unexpected turn when she chooses to forgive her perpetrators.

“A Girl in the River” won a duPont-Columbia Award this year as well as Best Documentary Short at last year’s Academy Awards. You can watch “A Girl in the River” on HBO now, or her other award-winning work, “Pakistan: Children of the Taliban” and “Saving Face.” This year, Obaid-Chinoy was named the first-ever artist to chair the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Also in this episode, our own Lisa Cohen discusses the recent guilty verdict in the Etan Patz case. Patz disappeared in 1979, becoming one of the first missing children featured on milk cartons. Lisa literally wrote the book on this case (check it out) and has reported on the case for decades at ABC News, CBS News, NY Magazine and other outlets. Watch her recent appearance on WNET about the case.

This year’s duPont-Columbia Awards celebrated our 75th anniversary in a room packed with journalism greats like NBC News’ Lester Holt, CBS News’ Jane Pauley, This American Life’s Ira Glass, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Bill Moyers, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and so many others. Holt kicked off the evening by addressing the current anti-media climate head-on. Throughout the ceremony, award winners and honorees echoed his sentiments, reaffirming just how critical journalism is, now more than ever.

See the complete list of this year’s winners here. Watch the full ceremony and learn more about the duPont-Columbia Awards at

We’re excited to kick off our third season with two of the minds behind the remarkable documentary, Life, Animated. Pulitzer Prize winner - and J-School grad Ron Suskind and Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams tell the real-life story of how Ron’s autistic son, Owen Suskind, reconnected with the world around him through classic Disney animated films, like The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.

When he was three, Owen suddenly went silent and could no longer communicate with other people. Then one day, his parents discovered his apparent gibberish was in fact movie dialogue Owen had learned from endless viewings of Disney classics.  The films helped him understand complex social cues, reconnect with the world, and ultimately in the course of this documentary,  live in it on his own.  Life, Animated tells Owen’s story through a combination of home movies, Disney sequences, original animation, and interviews with the Suskind family. It's based on the 2014 book of the same name by Owen's father. 

You can see the film, Life, Animated, on Amazon now. Watch the trailer for next week’s special Film Thursday movie, A Girl in the River, taking place on Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Stabile Student Center in the Columbia Journalism School.


The final installment of our “Women We Love” series features Nikole Hannah-Jones— investigative reporter for the New York Times Magazine. She’s become known for her extensive coverage of racial justice and civil rights for outlets including ProPublica, The Atlantic and Essence Magazine. She’s won many awards, including the 2012 Columbia Journalism School Tobenkin Award for distinguished coverage of racial or religious discrimination, and a Polk Award for her 2016 This American Life episode about school desegregation in Missouri.

Hannah-Jones discussed these experiences at the Columbia Journalism School in September as part of our Delacorte Lecture Series, which brings in leading writers and editors from the magazine world to speak to our students. Hear her explain how she’s spent more than a decade chronicling segregation in housing and schools, in a conversation with assistant professor Keith Gessen. Then read her piece “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City” and listen to

Listen to Abi's recommendation, the Slate podcast Trumpcast, and watch Lisa's recommendation, the documentary Best of Enemies.

The “Women We Love” series features great conversations with women who are in the field, setting an example for our students with their outstanding reporting. All have a special connection to our Columbia J-School Prizes Department.

The third installment of our “Women We Love” series features Kelly McEvers—co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered and veteran conflict reporter. McEvers shares her experiences covering the Arab Spring, the war in Iraq and more recently, back home reporting for her podcast Embedded.

Added extra - Bruce Shapiro, from the J-School's Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, joins us in studio to talk about trauma reporting, the kind Kelly knows all too well. 

Listen to our episode, then check out McEvers poignant self-reflective radio documentary on why reporters, herself included, risk their lives in conflict zones, Diary of a Bad Year. Hear Kelly’s original report on her source Ibrahim

Read Lisa’s #notokay hashtag recommendation, and Bruce’s pick, the New York Times trauma reporting, “How US torture left a legacy of damaged minds.”  And be sure to watch Abi’s antidote - the Documentary Now series, spoofing classic films we love.

The “Women We Love” series features great conversations with women who are in the field, setting an example for our students with their outstanding reporting. All have a special connection to our Columbia J-School Prizes Department.

Photo by Jay Clendenin. 

The second installment of our “Women We Love” series features Monica Alba—embed journalist at NBC News, Columbia Journalism School alum and former duPont Fellow. In the episode, Alba shares some behind-the-scenes insight into what life is like on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton. She’s been part of Clinton’s press corps for over a year, but she stole an hour away to return to the J School so we could hear what it’s like to be on the tarmac day-after-day with the campaign. Hint: “Stamina” is the word of the episode.

Learn more about what Alba and her fellow campaign embeds experience on the trail here. Watch Alba discuss the email scandal and Bernie Sanders’ campaign with Clinton here.

The “Women We Love” series features great conversations with women who are in the field, setting an example for our students with their outstanding reporting. All have a special connection to our Columbia J-School Prizes Department.


We interrupt our Women We Love series for a breaking story - a conversation with New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman, who literally wrote the book  on the Roger Ailes/Fox News story (The Loudest Voice in the Room) and has led the pack on it since. His latest is a cover story detailing the recent developments, with new revelations. Professor Bill Grueskin talks to Sherman with a room full of interested journalists and journalists-in-training, just as we learn the news that Fox News has settled anchor Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit for 20 million dollars.  Then we talk to Grueskin in our On Assignment studio to hear what impressed him most about Sherman's exhaustive work. Read more about Sherman in this feature done by The New York Times. 

Watch a trailer for Bill's recommendation Hell or High Water, and one for Abi and Lisa's, Weiner, coming to our very own Film Fridays Nov 1st.

On Assignment's season two premiere is the first episode in a series called, Women We Love. These episodes will feature great conversations with women who are out in the field setting an example for our students with their outstanding reporting. All have a special connection to our Columbia J-School Prizes Department.

Our first episode features filmmaker Kirsten Johnson, whose film Cameraperson, was the final screening at the duPont sponsored film series Film Fridays last spring. She has worked as the principal cinematographer on over 40 feature-length documentaries. Some of her credits include award-winning pieces like “The Invisible War,“Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Women, War and Peace.” Kirsten has a longstanding collaboration with Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras and is credited as cinematographer for “The Oath,“Citizenfour,” and the upcoming "Asylum."

Her directorial debut, Cameraperson, is a deeply personal and autobiographical film that Kirsten calls, “an acknowledgement of how complex it is to film and be filmed.” It was an official selection for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

For more on Kirsten, take a look at her recent interview in The New Yorker. Cameraperson premieres at the IFC Center in New York City on September 9th.

The final episode of our mini season features three time duPont-Columbia winner WVUE Chief Investigative Reporter, Lee Zurik. Lee demands unprecedented accountability from government officials, private citizens and corporations in New Orleans. Listen in on a conversation between Lee and Lisa at the recent Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) annual conference, where he talks about one of the most outrageous objects of his scrutiny, plus how he cultivates sources.

Take a look at his duPont Award-winning investigations: Body of Evidence, Dirty Deeds and Hiding Behind the Badge.

NPR Congressional Correspondent Ailsa Chang joins Abi for a conversation on her transition from law to journalism and being open to a career’s unexpected turns.

Ailsa won a duPont Award in 2012 for her two-part investigative series on allegations of illegal searches and unlawful marijuana arrests by the New York City Police Department.

Listen to her stories from Capitol Hill here.

We kick off On Assignment’s Summer Mini Series with CBS News 60 Minutes producer and duPont winner, Nicole Young.

In this episode, Nicole talks about the power of the follow-up, and how one unplanned question led to the best moment in Hard Times, a story about homelessness in Florida.

Take a look at some of Nicole Young’s duPont Award-winning work: Deep Water Horizon, Tragedy in Newtown and A Crime Against Humanity.

Our duPont fellows, Erika Glass and Laura Brickman, bring you an outtake from our conversation with the J school's Daniel Alarcón, who moderated an episode with the producers of Serial.


On Assignment’s season finale features accomplished filmmaker and the founder of Columbia Journalism School’s Documentary Program June Cross. She took  the stage at a recent Film Friday screening with producer Lisa Desai to discuss their latest film - Wilhemina’s War, available on PBS until June 1st, then for sale online at Women Make Movies.

In this podcast, June walks our audience through the film’s exhaustive five year production, which traces the impact of HIV through three generations of women in a rural South Carolina community. Hear June and Lisa on the successes and pitfalls of documentary filmmaking and the difficulties of covering such an emotionally painful subject.

June’s previous film, the autobiographical duPont Award winning Secret Daughter about her complex family history across the racial divide, is available to stream here

Watch June’s Recommendations here: A VICE profile of Phil Tippet, the animator behind Star Wars and Jurassic Park...and OJ: Made in America, debuting on ESPN June 11. Watch the trailer and read the glowing NY Magazine review here.

Listen in on a conversation with the journalists behind the worldwide phenomenon Serial: Host and Executive Producer Sarah Koenig, Executive Producer Julie Snyder and Producer Dana Chivvis. Serial won a 2016 duPont-Columbia Award, and has been downloaded over 200 million times.

Radio Ambulante Executive Producer and J-School Professor, Daniel Alarcón, moderated the event.

Listen to Daniel’s podcast recommendations: NPR’s Embedded, two podcast about soccer called Men in Blazers and The Guardian’s Football Weekly, and How to Be a Girl, which chronicles the lives of a single mom and her eight-year-old transgender daughter.

In this episode, Spotlight comes to the J-School. Meet the Boston Globe reporters who unveiled a major sexual abuse scandal within the ranks of the Catholic Church. Editor Walter “Robby” Robinson and reporter Sacha Pfieffer discuss taking on the highest of power, how their Pulitzer Prize-winning stories inspired the film Spotlight - the big winner at this year’s Academy Awards, and what it felt like in the audience when the Oscar was announced.

Watch Abi’s recommendation about the value of a “like” on The Intercept and Lisa’s 360 immersive film recommendation on FRONTLINE- we highly recommend using a Samsung Gear or Google Cardboard headset (if you know someone who has one).


What would it be like if the Nazis were still in power after the holocaust? Towns all over Indonesia experience this every day. Adi Rukun, an Indonesian optometrist, sets out to confront the men responsible for murdering his brother - The Look of Silence tells his story. The film’s director, Joshua Oppenheimer talks about what happens when the perpetrators of a genocide go unpunished.  

The Look of Silence is a companion piece to The Act of Killing - both films were nominated for Oscars. Oppenheimer visited Columbia Journalism School last year to show the film and to talk about it afterwards, as part of our Film Fridays documentary series.

For more information about Abi’s recommendation, The Circus, see Showtime’s site. And learn about why Lisa is excited about HBO’s Everything is Copy.


What’s it like to take on one of the most powerful institutions in the country? Filmmaker Alex Gibney talks to Professor Betsy West about the making of his controversial, duPont-winning film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. He discusses the legal risks associated with taking on the Church of Scientology and the psychological hold the church has on its members.

Join us next week for a special non-documentary screening and discussion. We’re showing Spotlight at 6:30 p.m. on March 25th at the Columbia Journalism School. We’ll be joined by two Boston Globe team members portrayed in the film, editor Walter "Robby" Robertson (played by Michael Keaton) and reporter Sacha Pfeiffer (played by Rachel McAdams). Details here.

New York Times' Paris Bureau Chief Alissa J. Rubin talks to former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson about covering war-torn countries, the helicopter crash that left her severely injured and reporting on the Paris terror attacks.

Read Rubin’s story on Farkhunda and her reporting on women police in Afghanistan. Join us for our next documentary screening and discussion with filmmakers. We’re showing The Wolfpack at 6:30PM at Columbia University. Details here.

On Assignment is a chance to listen in on powerful conversations with some of the most influential journalists of today. Upcoming episodes feature the likes of Alissa J. Rubin, Jill Abramson, Joshua Oppenheimer and Alex Gibney. We're excited to share these with you! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Soundcloud for updates, and subscribe on iTunes.