True/Slant Anniversary: Some of the best analysis and perspective published in our first year
Last night I published a top 5 list on our 5 biggest news breaks that were original to the True/Slant network. This post was supposed to be a top 5 list, too. But suddenly you get all Sophie’s Choice-like, trying to pick and choose between your babies, and then there you are with more than 5, and you realize that you don’t need to put your foot down and say “that’s it.”
On the other hand, I could have kept going.
These blog posts aren’t necessarily ‘original news’ that you’d never heard anywhere else. But they do offer a unique perspective or analysis on news stories percolating on the Internet or around the world that couldn’t be found anywhere else. They really embody what our CEO Lewis Dvorkin meant when he picked ‘News is more than what happens’ to be our company’s motto.
Read on, and feel free to share your own favorites from the year that was on True/Slant. And don’t forget to tune into tomorrow for my final list.
Austin Considine – Faces of health care
Austin has a real knack for taking the experiences of individuals in obscure parts of America and making them into a synechdoche for the lives we’re all leading. To that end, he really nailed it with his ‘faces of health care’ posts. He shot a pair of videos with two men in Indiana – Greg Jones and Lee Bender – and their varying, complicated experiences with our existing health insurance system. But just because health care reform has been signed into law doesn’t mean the story is over. I’m hoping that Austin will produce even more videos over the months and years ahead as Obamacare begins to take effect.
Megan Cottrell – Housing and poverty in Chicago and beyond
Like Austin, Megan is terrific at bringing you the experiences of real people in the world. But she also digs deep into parts of America that are all too often off-limits to the white, upper middle class person who is the standard cut-out audience member for many of the products hawked by our media. Megan’s blog posts have verged from a stop motion video her friends shot depicting the deconstruction of a housing project tower in Chicago to an explanation of why poor people stay poor to the experiences of individual residents of Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green housing projects like Doreen Ambrose. I went on yesterday about Stephen Webster and iterative story-telling, and Megan is another who uses the blog format so well.
But look, don’t take my word for it – Megan’s blogging was nominated for the prestigious Lisagor Award, one of the top honors for journalism in Chicago. We hope she’ll win!
Laurie Essig – James O’Keefe as the ‘Borat of the Right’
I won’t pretend that I don’t have my known biases about the plumber-like James O’Keefe or the ever-belligerent Andrew Breitbart. But just as the mainstream media was getting tuned into their attack on the group ACORN, Laurie Essig was pointing out that it wasn’t that the emperor had no clothes – it was that the emperor was naked and hiking down the smuggler’s route laid down by Sacha Baron Cohen in ‘Da Ali G Show’ and ‘Borat.’ Rather than investigative journalism, Laurie so effectively made the case that the ACORN ‘bust’ was entertainment for conservatives that Breitbart and company asked her if they could cross-post what she wrote.
High praise, or damnation? Both! And now “O’Keefe is like Borat” is a talking point for Breitbart in the house of cards he’s constructed to shelter his web of confusing arguments on why he’s a real news content creator, and not an open-source opposition researcher contributing to the Republican Party’s goals without direct pay from conservative institutions.
Patti Hartigan – The myth of ’serial abortions’
When Dr. George Tiller was murdered last year by anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder, the anti-abortion movement aggressively revived all of its typical memes to create moral ambiguity around Tiller’s terrible killing. One of these was the myth of ’serial abortions. Patti put it all on the line to debunk the myth of women who have had a series of abortions over the course of their lives. It’s not that they want to – it’s that many women have no other choice. Patti herself fit that latter category, and her post opened a lot of eyes to the tragic situations not involving a ‘choice’ or a ‘life’ that send many women into abortion clinics.
Joshua Kucera – Did Twitter lead us astray on Iran?
For a few weeks this summer, Andrew Sullivan and the Huffington Post convinced everyone that Twitter was a machine that killed fascists. Meanwhile, those of us who had friends who were caught up in the security sweeps in Iran after the country’s national elections knew that the truth on the ground was full of much scarier fail whales that couldn’t be cured by making your Twitter avatar green. Josh perfectly captured all the doubts that should be raised about the efficacy of Twitter as a tool for reporting what was happening on the ground in Iran, and made the case for why far-flung foreign correspondents are still necessary if we’re to truly make sense of complicated developing news stories around the world.
Miles O’Brien – Air France Flight 447 disappears over the Atlantic Ocean
No one can turn away from an airplane crash, especially one where the plane disappears outright and no one can find it. That was the case with Air France Flight 447, which took off from Rio last June on its way to Paris and vanished over the Atlantic Ocean. Miles took his skill for story-telling and combined it with his knowledge of aviation to write a pair of brilliant, in-depth blog posts – the first on June 1, the second a week later – that debunked a lot of the myths and explained a lot of the facts about Airbus’s planes and the route 447 was flying. It was Miles doing what he does best – truth telling about the weird and complicated worlds of aviation and space flight.
Ryan Sager – How Matt Drudge saved us from a swine flu epidemic
Remember when the H1N1 virus was going to kill everyone in America with the flu? And then it didn’t? Ryan’s post on the efficacy of mass panic to prevent epidemics was an early hit in the life of True/Slant. He made the case that some panic – not too much – could lead to defensive actions on the part of the population that might curtail the spread of germs. Like my praise for Kash’s post on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, Ryan perfectly illustrated the power of having a distinct approach to the news (how does the human brain’s perception of danger actually ward off major consequences?).
It’s not often that Matt Drudge gets praised for things like saving the world from impending doom – so why didn’t he link to it!?
Matt Taibbi – The peasant mentality in America
Matt has written a lot of great posts for True/Slant. But this one is still my favorite. Looking at all the not-wealthy Americans who defend the rights of banks that are ‘too big to fail’ to pillage and loot our economy, he found the perfect analogy – Russian peasants who were willing to defend the czar and his aristocracy at all costs.
Rick Ungar – The inevitability of a single payer health care
I hate to use words like canonical, but in a year when the health care debate was deformed beyond all imagination, Rick’s blog post remains a critical point of reference for me. The New Republic was right, in that self-serving sort of way – there was some brilliant reporting on the Obamacare debate. And there was also some amazing analysis. And Rick’s perspective of the facts about all the broken facets of our health care debate was a perfect example, showing us the mirage we were seeing in health care reform that was obscuring the real problems we’ll face in the long term because of spiraling health care costs and private companies that simply aren’t interesting in bearing them. Rick’s epic comment thread defending his theory is not to be missed, either.
I could go on, but I’d rather that you shared some of your favorites in the comments below.
And be sure to tune in late Saturday or early Sunday when I publish my final anniversary list – some of the strangest things that have been published on the True/Slant network.