Best of 2010: Joel Meares

Meares picks his top stories from 2010

1) The Biggest Fish in Albany The best part of writing this profile of Liz Benjamin—Albany blogger, TV personality, reporter extraordinaire—was the kind e-mail I received from her after it was published. Until seeing that land in my inbox, I was terrified. If you read the piece, you will know why—she’s a tough cookie. Another highlight: when, after sitting on Liz’s office couch for an hour as she worked around me, she finally realized I was there.

2) Not Watching Sacramento A bit of a kumbaya moment here, but this was an important story: a shrinking press corps struggles to cover a swelling legislative industry in America’s biggest state; a large scale reflection of what is happening all over the country. It was a challenge to cover Sacramento from the other coast, but reporters there seemed to really want to talk about it and help out.

3) Q&A with Former Detroit News Reporter Charlie LeDuff: I spoke to LeDuff shortly after he quit the Detroit News about a brilliant piece he had written in Mother Jones. It is ostensibly about the accidental murder, by SWAT team, of seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, but it quickly becomes an examination of a Detroit imploding—it’s the kind of too-good stuff that inspires awe and envy. Our conversation was wide-ranging. We spoke about LeDuff’s reporting for the piece, and in some detail about the specifics of Aiyana’s case, but my favorite moment from the interview came when LeDuff, an eccentric among eccentrics, talked about “participatory journalism.” Particularly, he recalled the time he was filming a television piece about gay life in America, for which he rode a mechanical bull to earn the trust of his subjects. I will keep this particular lesson with me in all my reporting: “If you can share the thrill of a bull, you can share more.”

My second favorite Q&A, by the by, was with Kara Spak, the Chicago Sun-Times reporter who lived out my Jeopardy dream, and won a lot of moolah doing it.

4) Keeping Up With Chuck Todd We were pretty hard on Todd, and when I approached him for comment on some of the criticisms we would be including in the piece, he wrote me a long, eloquent, and pretty well reasoned defense of his brand of political journalism. And he wrote it on an airplane, confirming my theory that the guy just does not stop.

5)Bubble Boys This was my response to the D.C. “bubble boys” who cried “nothing to see here” following WikiLeaks’ release of the Iraq War logs back in July. It was my feeling, and the feeling of many of my colleagues, that whether the leaks contained anything new was less important than whether they added texture and context to reporting, and whether they brought an important story once more to the fore. And I think with everything that’s happened WikiLeaks since then, my opinion is pretty much the same.

6) Apples and Oranges, Koalas and Grizzlies A look at the differences between the Australian election and the U.S. midterms that I am convinced nobody but my mother read, and then, probably not even her—but it was fun to do. Australian newspapermen Paul Kelly and Peter Hartcher had some interesting things to say on the differences, and where some pundits were going wrong by drawing the comparison, but my Aussi-isms (“bloke,” “Vegemite”) were bloody well overdone.

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