Best of 2009: Greg Marx

Marx picks his top stories from 2009

The Wrong Stuff< This piece was a lot of fun to work on, because it involved doing some reporting to educate myself on an important topic—how the press can go about dislodging factually incorrect ideas from people’s minds. Unfortunately, what I learned is kind of discouraging.

Target Practice and Straying from the Facts These two articles both grow out of what I learned while reporting “The Wrong Stuff,” and they focus on the press’s attempt to deal with political figures who have a reputation for stretching the truth (Betsy McCaughey and Sarah Palin). But while it’s important for the media to be aggressive in policing misinformation, in these instances the press missed the mark: in the first case, by opportunistically focusing on a weak target while neglecting the big picture; in the second, by fact-checking some perfectly defensible—and even innocuous—statements.

Post Pulls Milbank’s ‘Mad Bitch’ Video It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up, as the saying goes. In the wake of the “mad bitch” brouhaha—you remember, when Dana Milbank and Chris Cilizza teamed up for a “beer summit” spoof and in the process took a shot at the Secretary of State—the Washington Post hastily pulled the offending video from its Web site. In the process, they showed how far some legacy publications have to go in understanding best practices to correct, update, and remove information online.

Driving the Conversation No controversy here—just a look at how the New York Times’s influential series on distracted driving came to be, based on interviews with the lead reporter and several layers of editors. Working on this piece reminded me of why I like talking to journalists, and how the germ of an idea, and a good question, can lead to powerful results.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.