Best of 2010: Clint Hendler

Hendler picks his top stories from 2010

No Handouts: The administration has denied independent photographers access to historic White House events that could easily be made public, instead releasing one carefully selected “handout” snap taken by their official photographer. It’s one of the clearest examples of message control under Obama, and it’s one done with an ironic twist: the official photographer was once a newspaper photographer active in the newsphotographers’ advocacy organization, and was known to his colleagues to have opposed similar lockouts under Bush.

Deep Trouble: When Game Change, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s extremely dishy account of the 2008 presidential election, quoted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noting that Obama had no “Negro dialect,” he had to ride out calls for his resignation. Reid didn’t contest the quote, but word from his camp was that the Senator felt the authors had “burned” him by reporting it. The authors claimed they did all their interviews “on deep background,” broke no promises, and offered no apologies. Should they have?

The Story Behind the Publication of WikiLeaks’s Afghanistan Logs: When WikiLeaks provided The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel with an advance look at 92,000 classified logs from the Afghanistan war, it was the first time WikiLeaks had partnered with such distinguished news organizations on a major leak. Assange and representatives from the three outlets met secretly in a London conference room, under fear that the National Security Agency could be on their case. Unlike previous WikiLeaks disclosures the operation netted major stories around the world, while bringing the organization to far greater attention.

A Swedish Shield, Unraised : WikiLeaks has long claimed that by hosting their servers in Sweden they and their sources are protected by its unusually strong press laws. But Swedish legal experts say that the site never properly registered under the law, that it likely wouldn’t qualify for them, and that years of WikiLeaks claims about the protection to sources offered by Swedish law were exaggerated or false.

Nixon Papers You Haven’t Seen
: In September, a group of historians filed a lawsuit seeking the release of Richard Nixon’s 1975 grand jury testimony. It was the only time the president was called to testify under oath about Watergate and other abuse of power matters. But even though the National Archives is charged with keeping the document forever, there’s no way for the public to get a look at these, or any other historically valuable federal grand jury records, without the expense and hassle of begging federal judges, who lack clear standards to decide when the public right to know outweighs the benefits of grand jury secrecy.

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