Darts & Laurels

2012's media highlights and lowlights

DART for callowness: Vice magazine After crowing about its access to on-the-lam software pioneer John McAfee (“We are with John McAfee Right Now, Suckers”) and inadvertently exposing the accused murderer’s Guatemalan hideout via the metadata in its photos, Vice then attempted to backpedal—but the damage to its own reputation was done (and McAfee was arrested).

LAUREL for changing minds about retouched bodies: Julia Bluhm When Julia Bluhm, 14, from Waterville, ME, got tired of looking at heavily doctored photos of young models in her fashion magazines, she didn’t just moan about it; she launched a petition on Change.org, which got more than 50,000 signatures. This got the attention of Seventeen editor Ann Shoket, who in July announced a Body Peace Treaty and pledged to keep it real for future fashion spreads.

DART for being copycats: Fareed Zakaria, Jonah Lehrer, Joe Milliken Fareed Zakaria was caught “accidentally” sampling New Yorker prose in a Time article last summer yet emerged relatively unscathed—just a few days’ suspension from his approximately 1,476 jobs and a resignation from Yale’s governing board. For this he should probably thank Jonah Lehrer, whose multiple journalistic transgressions exhausted everyone’s outrage.

Even so, Vermont freelancer Joe Milliken managed to plumb new depths. After he was accused of covering a sports event he never attended, lifting quotes and details from other accounts to fill in the gaps, he tried to clear his name on Poynter. Yet the evidence clearly showed that Milliken not only used another reporter’s quotes without attribution, he also altered them—making him both a plagiarist and a fabricator. Next time, Milliken, quit while you’re behind.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.