The Media Today

The media today: Making sense of the year that was

December 21, 2017

News cycle whiplash, a workplace-culture reckoning across several industries, a continued financial crisis, and a president who dominated our attention like none in memory. It was a sometimes exhilarating, often frustrating, and ultimately exhausting year. The Media Today is taking a break next week, so this morning we’re looking back at the year that was. Tomorrow, we’ll leave you with some predictions for 2018.

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At CJR this morning, we’ve posted our year-end review of awards, trends, players, and more from the world of journalism in 2017. It was a year when news alerts were so fast, frequent, and seemingly endless that it’s hard to believe it began with a different occupant in the White House. Battered by the winds of the daily churn, it was easy to lose sight of any larger trends, but in compiling our list, a few major themes emerged.

  • Any discussion of journalism in 2017 will begin with recognition of the man who dominated its airwaves and headlines. Coverage of Donald Trump, from the dossier to the Russia investigation to the end-of-year legislative push, captured the nation’s attention. Under his presidency, the White House Daily Briefing became must-see TV, the country’s two best newspapers engaged in a heavyweight scoop battle, and Maggie Haberman became a household name.
  • On the business side of the industry, it was the best of times for a select group of premium publications, who saw revenues surge as consumers voted with their wallets for quality journalism. But 2017 was also a year that brought a wave of closures and deep cutbacks at several alt-weeklies, and saw the continued hollowing out of local news around the country.
  • Though there’s an argument to be made that Serial-driven 2014 was the breakout year for podcasts, this was the year the media’s biggest players truly embraced the medium. The New York Times’s Michael Barbaro-helmed The Daily, with over 100 million downloads, is the cream of the crop, but the LA Times, The Washington Post, and others participated in a podcast creation boom that breathed new life into the medium.
  • When The New York Times’s Harvey Weinstein exposé published in early October, few could have predicted the wave of recriminations it would inspire. From film to tech to politics to the media itself, the #MeToo movement has been the defining topic of the past three months. We chose the Times’s Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who broke the Weinstein story, their colleagues Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt, who heralded the moment with their reporting on Bill O’Reilly, and Ronan Farrow, whose reporting on Weinstein for The New Yorker pushed the story forward, as our journalists of the year.

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Below, more from around the industry on the year that was.


  • Most engaging: Chartbeat published its list of the 100 most engaging stories of the year. Alex Tizon’s “My Family’s Slave” for The Atlantic was the winner by a wide margin.
  • The best of what’s around: I can’t say enough about the quality of journalism that appears on Longform’s “Best of 2017” lists. Open some tabs and carve out a chunk of time over the holidays to dive in.
  • Capturing the president’s eyes: Mediaite is out with its “Most Influential in Media 2017” list. It’s hard to argue with their top pick, the hosts that speak directly to the president every morning: Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade.
  • A pretty comprehensive list: Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch has a compendium of more than 130 of the best pieces he read this year, both in sports and non-sports journalism. It helped me discover a few gems that I missed.
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Other notable stories


  • The New York Times’s verdict on Glenn Thrush is in: He’ll be suspended through January, and will not be returning to the White House beat. After an investigation that arose from a Vox article detailing Thrush’s past behavior with women, Dean Baquet said Thrush had “behaved in ways that we do not condone,” but that “while we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired.”
  • Variety reports that Penske Media will buy a majority stake in Wenner Media, the parent company of Rolling Stone. As part of the deal, which values Wenner Media at just over $100 million, Jann Wenner will stay on as editorial director of the magazine.

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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.