2016 was the year Donald Trump made a horrorshow comedy ritual out of pointing at the media pen at the back of his rallies and encouraging his crowds of screaming howler monkeys to spend a few moments sending hate their way. And Donald Trump’s America will be a very strange, even dangerous place for journalists. Crom knows even in normal times there’s a lot for even sane people to gripe at the media about, like cable giving an unhinged orange wig stand entirely too much free attention. But for New Year’s Eve this year, instead of yelling at the media for sucking like we did last year, we’re going to single out some moments where Journamalists done good, giving us some hope that the profession of getting The News to The People is actually alive and well, and, dare we say it, sometimes achieving excellence. And so, in almost no particular order, let’s look at some of 2016’s nifty achievements in reporting, which were simply chock full of nift:
Alex Jones Decides Wonkette Is ‘Fake News’
Sure, Alex Jones is no journalist. What he does is pretty much the antimatter of journalism — when facts come in contact with InfoWars, they vanish. It’s an imperfect metaphor, since Jones’s antijournalism isn’t similarly annihilated … maybe he’s more like a black hole of journamalism, from which no light can emerge. This much we are sure of: since Yr Wonkette made it onto the deranged trucker speed pusher’s list of “fake news” sources, we must be doing something right!
Daily Caller And RedState Said Thoughtful Things About The Dallas Police Shootings. Really!
We don’t know what alignment of the stars brought this rare moment of sober reflection upon outlets that normally react to news of police shootings of black men by explaining the victims had it coming, but when five Dallas cops were murdered in July by a sniper, following a peaceful rally protesting police brutality, the Daily Caller, Redstate, and even the freaking National Review all had thoughtful, compassionate things to say about the state of policing in these Fraying But United States. The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis said there really is a crisis in policing, not that it justifies the Dallas murders in the least, but that it is a real thing. RedState’s Leon H. Wolf similarly mourned the murdered officers, but also said the best way to prevent insane acts of violence against cops is to ensure that when cops go bad, they aren’t allowed to get away with it. The sad reality, however, said Wolf, is that
a huge, overwhelming segment of America does not really give a damn what cops do in the course of maintaining order because they assume (probably correctly) that abuse at the hands of police will never happen to them.
And then he castigated commenters at RedState who invariably find an excuse to blame the victims of police shootings. Amazing! And even the editor of the National Review Tweeted, “You know what else is ridiculous? Blaming Obama. And BLM. Nobody knows who did this.” We’re encouraged — is our conservative columnists learning?
Hey, Teen Vogue Is Doing Badass Political Reporting!
It seemed to come out of nowhere, but all of a sudden this fall, Teen Vogue seemed to be doing some of the sharpest political reporting and commentary out there. It tuns out this was no fluke — the magazine’s editor, Elaine Welteroth, and digital editorial director, Phillip Picardi, told NPR’s David Folkenflik they decided that was the best way to grow the magazine’s audience and impact online. Said Welteroth, “I think of our readers as young, conscious people. We can’t underestimate how far-reaching our content is, especially these days. Phil likes to say that our reader is woke and (laughter) I’d have to agree.” And that’s how we got a terrific essay titled “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.” It immediately became Teen Vogue’s most popular post.
Yes, there’s been some tut-tutting that the media have gotten so bad that some of the best journamalism out there is coming from a publication whose previous top online story was “How To Apply Glitter Nail Polish The Right Way.” But that’s missing the more important point: There’s a publication out there smart enough to have figured out that LOTS of young women have an appetite for smart reporting on serious issues, and there’s no way in the world that can be a bad thing. You go, woke girls.
Mother Jones’s Shane Bauer Revives First-Person Undercover Reporting
Shane Bauer, guys. If you missed his Mother Jones piece “My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard,” which exposed just how crappily a private prison in Louisiana was run, you missed one of the best pieces of writing this year — and look, here you are with a holiday weekend to catch up on your reading! Bauer’s piece may not have led directly to the Justice Department’s decision to move away from private prisons, but he certainly captured the reasons. Then he had to go and follow that up by hanging out with a bunch of border militia guys playing G.I. Joe in the Arizona Desert, looking for drug smugglers and undocumented immigrants, and what resulted was more brilliant first-person reporting, “Undercover With A Border Militia.” (Spoiler Warning: for all of the talk about Our Porous Borders, the amateur militia guys didn’t catch any of either.) Go. Read! And someone go find print copies of both issues of MoJo to swat James O’Keefe with and say, “THIS is undercover journalism, you hack!”
Wonkette Babby Dominates Cable News
When she eventually considers her long career as God-Empress of Earth, Donna Rose can look back proudly at her auspicious start as a media star, being fussed over by Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough during their coverage of the New Hampshire Primary:
At the very least, her momma can threaten to bring out the video to show her date if she won’t clean her room.
Brilliant Journalists Find A Thousand Reasons Trump’s Unfit For Presidency, America Too Stupid To Notice
Donald Trump did everything he could to hide his finances and business practices from voters, which is the sort of thing that makes a good journamalist raise a skeptical eyebrow (the only kind they have) and say, “There’s a story there, I bet.” And great googly moogly, there was no shortage of stories. A collective investigative project by reporters affiliated with USA Today brought us a catalogue of just some of the many times Donald Trump stiffed contractors who worked for him, driving some into bankruptcy.
The Daily Beast’s David Cay Johnston tracked down the very few Trump tax records to have made it out into the public record, and confidently predicted we’d learn Trump never paid income taxes — and while whoever leaked three pages of Trump tax returns showing exactly that chose to send them to the New York Times, Johnston was on the story first.
Kurt Eichenwald’s deep dives into Trump’s international financial entanglements actually made Newsweek actually relevant again, even if they also had as much effect on the electorate as Cassandra saying “Guys? You might want to look inside that big horse, for reals.” They also brought him the wrath of the Trump Flying Monkey Brigade, including some bastard who successfully triggered an epileptic seizure in Eichenwald by embedding a strobe-effect gif in a Tweet. Donald Trump may not have to go after journalists if his rabid troll army is so happy to take on the job. Because Making America Great Again involves personal vendettas against reporters.
And of course there’s the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who with a pad of paper, his phone, his Twitter account, and a mastery of how to search government records, tracked down the incredible story of how Donald Trump has lied constantly, for decades, about his supposed “tens of millions of dollars” in charitable donations, which actually turned out to be mouse turds compared to real billionaires’. Along the way, Fahrenthold uncovered the shady dealings of the Trump Foundation, exposed the “Pussy Tape,” and may have single-handedly restored the Washington Post’s reputation as a home for serious investigative journamalism. If you haven’t read Fahrenthold’s awesome first-person account of what it was like to be on the Trump Beat for a year, you will have to do so immediately, or we will definitely not invite you to our birthday party.
By all accounts, Donald Trump is set to become one of the most difficult presidents for the press to cover, ever. Happily, there are still plenty of reporters who love nothing more than a good challenge like that.
Extra Special Bonus Update: Via alert Wonkette Operative “FukuiSanYesOta,” we see we forgot to include Jane Mayer’s outstanding New Yorker profile of Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter (co-author our ass!) on The Art of the Deal. Absolutely invaluable reading (as is pretty much anything else by Mayer!)