Best of 2011: Joel Meares

From Jerry Brown to James O’Keefe, Meares picks his top CJR stories from the past year

The Cancer Report: I’ve written a fair bit about people who blog through their grief and sickness (not for CJR) and am always intrigued by both their strength and their motivations—to vent their anger, fear, and frustrations, yes, but more than that, to help others by providing a relatable voice or a flow of useful information on how to cope. It was particularly interesting to see how a journalist’s approach to reporting on one’s own sickness differed from the approach of those who don’t write or communicate for a living. For this story I spoke at length to the widow of NPR’s “My Cancer” blogger Leroy Sievers, and—sorry to sound like a beauty queen here—but the legacy Sievers left is inspiring.

The Littlest Press Shop: For whatever reason I’ve found myself drawn to Californian politics more than any other state’s, and find Sacramento a hyped-up and insane example of what’s happening at statehouses around the country: at the same time that state governments are facing mammoth challenges and are thus requiring serious scrutiny, the press pools charged with providing that scrutiny are shrinking. Dramatically. I had written about Sacramento’s shrinking press pool before and for this piece flipped my perspective, looking at newly installed governor Jerry Brown’s press operation—itself dramatically shrunken from Schwarzenegger’s.

NPR Flubs Response to Schiller Controversy: Our web editor Justin Peters worked closely with me on this, CJR’s first response to the “scandal” kicked up when James O’Keefe released a video showing an NPR fundraiser seemingly deriding Republicans and bragging that the network could survive without government funding. NPR handled the situation poorly and it was important that we came out strong and called for the organization to stand tall and proud of its journalism rather than continue to flap about in the political winds.

A Down Under View on Public Broadcasting: This Q&A with Jonathan Holmes, who hosts watchdog TV program Media Watch on the Australian public broadcaster’s main TV station, came shortly after the NPR-O’Keefe incident. We talked at length about the differences between the pressures put on the BBC in Britain, the ABC in Australia, and NPR and PBS in the states. One of the great joys of writing for CJR about politics and the media was being able examine the differences between how things are done/handled here and in Australia, where I’m originally from.

Meet the Iowa Press: This piece looks at four prominent Iowa journalists and how they deal with doing their day jobs while at the same time working as go-to talking heads when the Iowa caucuses come around. After the caucuses are over, the Des Moines Register political columnist Kathie Obradovich told me, “You sometimes hear sports figures talking about how they ‘left it all out on the field. It’s a sounds a little bit weird. But there is a feeling that I’ve done everything I possibly could to cover the caucuses and now it’s someone else’s football to carry it down the field.” The piece is a fun insight into the campaign circus.

The Royals Ban Satirical Coverage of Kate and Wills’ Big Day: I’m a sucker for stories from home and anything to do with the royals, so I have to include this. Essentially, when word came from Clarence House that no Westminster Abbey footage was allowed to be used in any drama, comedy, or satirical programming, Australian TV comedy troupe The Chaser had to cancel a planned Royal Wedding special to run on the channel ABC2 (one of the Australian public broadcaster’s TV channels). In the piece I called for an all-out Royal Wedding boycott, but have a confession to make: I caught the balcony kiss live.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor. Tags: , , ,