Best of 2011: Liz Cox Barrett

From Nevada to Paint Creek, Barrett picks her top stories from 2011

Unpacking Rory Reid’s 91 PACs Maneuver
Where there are campaign finance laws, there are work-arounds. And Jon Ralston, as a seasoned political reporter and self-described campaign finance report “obsessive” in Nevada —a state with, in Ralston’s words, “a Swiss cheese amalgam of statutes that allow all manner of nonsense”— Ralston knows from loopholes. Still, Ralston told me back in March, “In all the years I’ve looked at these reports, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“This” being how the campaign of then-gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid, son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, dodged campaign contribution limits by creating (and later dissolving) 91 shell political action committees to pump into his campaign $750,000 (75 times the legal limit). Ralston walked me through how he got the story.

“I Am Not Reporting Anything to You” How did Fox News and CNN handle the big Bin Laden news as it broke that night back in May? Geraldo and Wolf at their finest (with video).

On Eric Bolling’s Hizzy Fit Remember in June when President Obama had “a hood in the big crib (you know, in the “White Hizzy?”) No? What, you don’t watch Fox Business Network’s Follow the Money?

Profiling Paint Creek In September, Gov. Rick Perry was enjoying A Moment in the GOP presidential primary. Reporters headed to Paint Creek, the place where Perry grew up, to have a look at the “itty bitty,” snake-infested, west Texas town and give a sense of the place to their non-West Texas audiences. Pulling from reports by CBS News and the New York Times, I wrote up “ten tips for news organizations plotting their own Paint Creek datelines,” including: “Don’t depart without photographing the building with ‘Paint Creek Texas’ painted in cursive on one side.”

Immediate Returns In which Ben Smith reflected, for “The Reporter’s Voice” feature in CJR’s 50th Anniversary Issue, on his scoop-driven style of political reporting. Smith described “the absolute worst thing” he ever did, how he “like[s], love[s] politicians and political operatives,” and, mused that “now blogs feel so ancient and creaky” (hints of his recent move to BuzzFeed?)

The Great Teacher of Journalists: Kim Jong-il. A look at how the late Dear Leader was (and was not) like your editor. I thumbed through a 170-page book published in Pyongyang in 1983 celebrating Kim Jong-il’s “meticulous guidance” of his country’s press, including in a chapter recalling how “A Reporter [Was] Saved Miraculously from the Jaws of Death” (by Kim Jong-il.) Among the journalism advice from the Dear Editor: “Comrade journalist, you must see things on the spot before you write your articles. Otherwise you may talk big.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR. Tags: , , , ,