Best of 2010: Dean Starkman

CJR's Kingsford Capital Fellow picks his top stories of the year

The Hamster Wheel. Why running as fast as we can is getting us nowhere. The Hamster Wheel isn’t speed; it’s motion for motion’s sake. The Hamster Wheel is volume without thought. It is news panic, a lack of discipline, an inability to say no. It is copy produced to meet arbitrary productivity metrics, it’s live-blogging the opening ceremonies, and matching stories that don’t matter—a recalibration of the news calculus.

As the Hamster Wheel Turns. As productivity demands soar, journalists need to talk. A February blog post that led to the cover story above.

The Price of Admission. Andrew Ross Sorkin’s debut and the limits of access journalism. A review of the breakout business book of the crisis, Too Big To Fail.

ProPublica and Planet Money Find the Keys to the Kingdom. An outstanding story shows that as the housing market slowed, drying up the market for CDOs, Wall Street banks maneuvered to create, on a huge scale, other CDOs—cat’s paw operations—to buy the CDOs they had already created.

Fortune With a Stellar Probe into Johnson & Johnson. A virtual case study in the deterioration of a once-exemplary corporate culture and one of the better-reported business stories you’ll see.

The Wall Street Journal’s Pulitzer Shutout is Bad for the Country
. It can’t be much fun getting beat by the Puget Sound Business Journal, which at least was a finalist for its series on the fall of Washington Mutual and coverage of Seattle-area foreclosures. It’s not good the Journal isn’t doing Pulitzer-level work in the eyes of Pulitzer jurists. It’s not good that the global financial news leader is drifting away the journalism establishment. Journalism needs an establishment, and the Journal needs to be in it. Especially now, with the financial crisis nowhere near fully explored or explained.

Toyota No Longer Attacking the L.A. Times. It is journalism at a higher level to publish in the face of denials and to see the main facts asserted vindicated by government investigations or corporate admissions.

What’s a Toyota “Exclusive?” at This Point? Given what had been printed on Toyota, Bloomberg’s incremental advances on the Toyota/NHTSA story pushed the definition of “exclusive” to the edge, if not over.

The Times, Goldman, and the SocGen Problem: The bank has minor, but valid point in a tiff with the paper over an AIG story.

The Times’s Last Goldman Story Mostly Held Up Fine. That said, the rest of Goldman’s beefs had little merit.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman. Tags: , , , , ,