Which journalists are you thankful for?
That’s the question I posed on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, and it’s been exhilarating to see such an outpouring of appreciation for journalists and the work they do. Some names came up frequently. Some were startling. There was much love for local news reporters, independent bloggers and alternative media. Please take a look at the responses and the quote tweets, and add who you’re thankful for.
My own list is highly subjective, mostly limited to national political coverage from major outlets, and absolutely not exhaustive. These are just some of the journalists I’m thankful for. As you will see, I am particularly grateful for journalists who offer their readers and viewers clarity on the most important, troubling, and sometimes intentionally misconstrued issues of our times.
I start with Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Hannah-Jones is a brave and brilliant truth-teller whose landmark 1619 Project for the New York Times (now in book form) changed the way many of us think of the history and reality of our own country by exposing the centrality of slavery and its continuing legacy.
In an era where nativist con men use endemic disinformation to manipulate and incite white people, Hannah-Jones told a truth that helps people see what’s really going on around them. Not surprisingly, it scared the hell out of Republican Party leaders. And because the best defense is a good offense, they banned the teaching of the 1619 Project and “critical race theory” in more than a dozen states, and made it their central campaign issue in 2021 and possibly beyond.
Tragically, rather than write about the actual issues involved, political reporters marveled over how politically effective it was for the GOP. They allowed dishonest propaganda about critical race theory to spread instead of defending and championing Hannah-Jones and the obvious fact that race remains central to inequality in so many elements of our society, including housing, education, employment and incarceration.
I consider Hannah-Jones (@nhannahjones) one of my moral touchstones on Twitter, along with Heather McGhee (@hmcghee), whose book showed us how white people turned the U.S. economy into a zero-sum game after the civil rights movement, and Sherilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF), the ferocious defender of civil rights.
Voting, Disinformation, and Coup
Every political journalist in America should be sounding the alarm about the attack on voting rights and the voting system, and the existential threat to democracy posed by the possibility of permanent minority rule and stolen elections.
In the meantime, I will be thankful for Ari Berman, at Mother Jones.
Every political journalist in America should be fighting disinformation with their every breath. And fighting disinformation can’t become like fact-checking — showing up in widely ignored sidebars, rather than as a key element of the main news stories of the day.
Every political journalist in America should be striving to expose and hold accountable those responsible for the violent attempted coup of January 6. But with the exception of a few truly compelling video compilations, I’ve been disappointed by most of the coverage – especially of the law enforcement failure to see a threat in the first place.
I am thankful, however, for the amazing timelines put together by the academics at Just Security.
The Big Picture
I am thankful for opinion columnists Greg Sargent and Will Bunch, whose particularly compelling voices have risen to the challenge of the moment, when democracy and our existence as a pluralistic nation are in danger, when hatred and disinformation are insufficiently challenged, and when there are huge, exciting, urgent policy challenges.
Sargent and Bunch routinely crystallize truths, sound the alarm, and focus on what needs to be done, with common sense and keen insight – in Sargent’s case, absolutely frenetically, often twice a day, on the Washington Post’s website; in Bunch’s case, several times a week for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
No one has been better than Sargent at relentlessly exposing the increased radicalization of the Republican Party. He warned in March that “We’re getting lulled into treating the GOP’s ongoing radicalization against democracy as a normal feature of our politics.” A few days later he wrote about how angry right-wing populism is oddly lacking any good-faith proposed solutions. In October, he wrote that waiting for Republican leaders to feel shame was a big waste of time.
A recent Bunch column responded to the lackadaisical mainstream-media handicapping of the 2022 elections by describing the inevitability of chaos if Republicans take the House, including the impeachment of Joe Biden. Bunch wrote a marvelous column in October, about how the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to international journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov was also a warning to U.S. journalists “to start upping your banal game.”
I am thankful for Washington Post columnist Perry Bacon Jr., who wrote so boldly: “Perhaps democracy dies faster in darkness. But it could also die slowly in the light, as all of us watched but didn’t do enough to save it.”
I am thankful for David Dayen, the shockingly prolific editor of the American Prospect whose activism superbly informs rather than distorts his insights.
Speaking of prolific, I am thankful for Cory Doctorow, the science fiction author and privacy activist who writes an absolutely fascinating daily compendium of this thoughts on the side.
I am thankful for Adam Serwer, the conscience of the Atlantic.
I am thankful for Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick for constantly warning us about the Supreme Court.
You’ll notice that so far I’ve only been thankful for opinion writers. That’s because few if any straight-news political reporters are energetically sounding the alarm about our current political situation.
There is indeed some great political reporting going on, it’s just not being done by political reporters. It’s being done by investigative reporters. They are the ones adding real, lasting value to the political debate.
So I am thankful for Craig Whitlock, whose Afghanistan Papers in the Washington Post reported on documentary evidence “that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”
I just wish his colleagues would learn the obvious lessons.
I am thankful for David Fahrenthold, who continues to relentlessly expose the Trump and Trump family’s epic corruption for the Washington Post.
I don’t know where to start thanking the reporters at ProPublica. Wow.
I am thankful for Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, and Ronan Farrow, for bringing down Harvey Weinstein; for Julie K. Brown, for bringing down Jeffrey Epstein; and for every other reporter exposing abusers.
I’m thankful for NBC’s Mehdi Hasan, who is single-handedly making interviews on TV worth watching again.
I’m thankful for Isaac Chotiner, at the New Yorker, who listens.
The Media Critics
I am thankful for the growing community of people engaged in media criticism, either full-time, part-time, or simply as a labor of love. I think a fairly coherent and consistent critique of political journalism at our major news outlets had emerged over the years, and we just need to keep pounding away until either the current newsroom leaders heed us or get replaced by people who do.
I am so thankful for Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist at the Washington Post, for boldly using her pulpit to raise what are clearly painful issues in her newsroom and others, and doing so with authority and grace. Check out “A Trump lawyer wrote an instruction manual for a coup. Why haven’t you seen it on the news?” and “America’s rich people could have saved local journalism — and perhaps democracy. They refused.”
Here, by the way, is her list of journalists she’s thankful for.
I’m thankful for Jay Rosen, the NYU journalism professor whose insights about the “view from nowhere,” “asymmetric polarization,” and the “savvy style,” have revolutionized the field of media criticism and hugely influenced me over the years. His recent podcast with the New York Times was a gem.
I am thankful for Soledad O’Brien, the broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker, and former CNN anchor, whose 1.3 million-follower Twitter feed has become an ongoing conversation on the failings of political media.
I am thankful for newsletter writer Eric Boehlert who, despite wearing his partisanship on his sleeve, has an extraordinary eye for media hypocrisy and cowardice.
I’m thankful for the Pope, whose recent comments on journalism were glorious, moving, and inspirational.
The Rare Victories
I am thankful for Barbara Rodriguez at the 19th for writing about the role of misogyny in our culture and politics when almost no one else does.
I’m thankful that once in a while, mainstream reporters are allowed to write honest, blistering, and not “both-sidesy” stories about how radical the Republican Party has become. It’s rare, but kudos to Lisa Lerer and Astead W. Herndon for the New York Times article “Menace Enters the Republican Mainstream,” and to David D. Kirkpatrick and Mike McIntire for the New York Times article “‘Its Own Domestic Army’: How the G.O.P. Allied Itself With Militants“.
I am thankful for political cartoonists, who often convey more profound truths in one image than most political reporters do in a lifetime.
I’ve left out so, so many people. I would be thankful if you forgave me.