Best of 2009: Clint Hendler

Hendler picks his top stories from 2009

Carl Malamud, Public Printer You may have never heard of the Government Printing Office, a massive bureaucracy that’s responsible for disseminating—via the Congressional Record, the Federal Register, and the Federal Depository Library Program—massive amounts of information about the operations of our government. On the promise to make more data available online, Carl Malamud, a long-time aggressive open standards and open government activist, waged a full throated and fully unconventional campaign to earn Obama’s appointment to run the agency. Alas, Malamud’s now quieted push seems to have been ineffective: a Bush holdover remains in the position.

Dover, Behind the Scenes After eighteen years of extremely limited access to the ceremonies marking the return of deceased service members, on April 6 the Pentagon enacted a new policy that allowed reporters and cameras on the flight line at Dover Air Force Base. While the soldier’s next of kin must consent to the coverage, Americans routinely have a chance to see some of our wars’ human toll.

Mark Mahoney, Open Government Wrecking Ball When the Pulitzer Prizes get announced each spring, the big hauls usually go to the big names at the big papers. Mark Mahoney, editorialist for the Glens Falls, New York based Post-Star (circulation: 34,000), was a happy exception this past May. His straight shooting writing encouraging readers to take records access into their own hands and shaming the hyper-local government officials who sometimes thwart them won the judges’ attention.

Pinning Down The Jackass Tale Learning that President Obama thinks Kanye West is a jackass was not the most pressing issue of the year. But when an errant tweet exposed Obama’s pre-interview remark—one that his questioner said he considered to be “off the record” by “custom”—it raised the question of what might happen if, next time, the President let something more substantive slip.

Redacted: The Washington Post’s Unprecedented Deal with The Pentagon When Bob Woodward published General Stanley McChrystal’s memo recommending a major troop increase in Afghanistan, it reset the nation’s discussion as Obama weighed a new war plan. Lost was the paper’s odd decision not to publish the original version of the document, and instead, after discussions with the Department of Defense, publish a new version exclusively redacted by the Pentagon for the Post to publicly release.

Bomb Squad Ramparts—the high-flying, quick-burning, left-punching glossy magazine of the 1960s and ‘70s—earned its first book length historical treatment in 2009. Within it? Rollicking tales of New Left-collapse, CIA lawbreaking, and staff drama. Also: Jann Wenner insults, gun wielding Panthers, and a masturbating monkey.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.