This list is an attempt to honor those individuals and institutions responsible for exemplary reportage and awareness-raising in 2010. It is aggregated from the suggestions of PULSE writers and editors and is comprised of journalists, editors and publishers who have shown a commitment to challenging power, holding it to account, highlighting issues pertaining to social justice and producing output that bucks conventional wisdom and encourages critical thinking. (Also check our Top 10 Global Thinkers of 2010)
2010 was the year of Wikileaks. From the antiseptic cruelty of the Apache attack on Iraqi civilians, the matter-of -fact entries of routine horrors recorded in the Afghan and Iraq war logs, to the locker-room candour of the US State Department diplomatic cables, Wikileaks has laid bare the casual attrition that sustains empires. Behind it all is Julian Assange, an enterprising, politically savvy, and morally upstanding individual who has shown the transformative potential of new media, which, through courage and imagination, could be made to serve as a check even on a hyper-power. By leveraging the mainstream media’s need for exclusives, Assange has ensured the broadest possible audience for his revelations. True, Assange is not Wikileaks, but from listening to the statements of his defecting colleagues–who fault him for needlessly confronting a superpower when he should have been concerned with building his institution–we are convinced that without someone as assertive and clear-headed as Assange, Wikileaks would have ended up as yet another web project with interesting information, infrequently cited, but with none of the amplification that it currently enjoys.
A rare critical voice in the mainstream media, particularly during George W. Bush’s reign, Helen Thomas was the first woman officer of the National Press Club, the first woman member and president of the White House Correspondents Association and the first woman member of the Gridiron club. Her career as one of history’s gutsiest female US press corp reporters was ended in her 90th year after some off-the-cuff comments she made to a roving rabbi with a camcorder were made public. She later apologized for her words, citing her “heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance.” While Thomas was attacked from all fronts, she was also defended by progressive media figures like Real News Founder Paul Jay who directed attention to the “hyper-pro-Israel lobby” which was just waiting for an opportunity to silence Thomas, and progressive American Jews like Medea Benjamin who stated on camera: “We should look at the 50+ year record of a very probing journalist and insightful commentator and not look at a 30 second soundbite.” Even the Washington Post felt compelled enough by Thomas’s outstanding legacy to allow The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel to bring attention to Thomas’s “legendary career” as a “a trailblazer for women journalists.”
From climate change, corporate predation, media reform, to state violence, Democracy Now! continues to set the bar for hard-hitting journalism. Its driving force is Amy Goodman. A media institution in her own right, Goodman has not only shown the true potential of independent media by turning Democracy Now! into the largest public media collaboration in the US and around the world, she has also served as a model for aspiring journalists who subscribe to Amira Hass’s motto that the real job of a journalist is to monitor the centers of power. Free of corporate sponsorship, DN’s hard-hitting daily broadcast rejects the soundbite format of mainstream media to provide in-depth coverage of the world’s most important issues. Unlike the MSM, Democracy Now! pays less attention to official voices than to those affected by the abuses of state and corporate power. Goodman relentlessly pursues her stories, and often follows them long after the mainstream media has moved on to chase new headlines. Her interest in a story therefore does not ebb as policy-makers may lose interest in it. For this reason, nowhere else could you find a fuller coverage of the disaster in Haiti, the flooding in Pakistan, the fallout from the various Wikileaks releases, the climate change summit in Cancun, the plight of 9/11 first responders. Goodman’s interviewees include voices that the MSM frequently excludes, including scholars, activists, heads of states out of favor with the United States, opposition leaders, and organizers. Through her journalism, writings and lectures, Goodman continues to set the bar for what US journalism should be.
Founder of one of the most readable blogs on US foreign Policy in the Middle East (Mondowiess) Philip Weiss’s work continues to challenge mainstream news reporting and thinking on issues related to Israel and Jewish identity. By producing regular output on issues ranging from US foreign policy, interest group politics, to identity, power and activism, Weiss has created a reputable platform for writers to engage in the Israel-Palestine question and the wider Middle East. His indispensable reporting and commentary on the Israel Lobby and its influence over US foreign policy continues to play a palpable role in opening up and shifting the debate on the region as a whole. Weiss has made a mark as a reputable investigative journalist who has spent years writing for several well-known publications including The Nation, New York Times Magazine, New York Observer and Esquire. Together with site co-editor Adam Horowitz, Weiss provides a seemingly inexhaustible degree of coverage on political and cultural issues which much of the mainstream press, including the progressive press, shy away from. During his appearance in the Doha Debates this year, he also managed a feat which many thought impossible: he turned the tables on the notoriously boorish interrogator Tim Sebastien.
Independent journalist and author Jeremy Scahill continues to raise the bar for American investigative journalism especially this year with his exemplary coverage of the US’s war on Afghanistan and its confused and irrational strategy endeavors. A constant monitor of centres of power, Scahill produces tireless investigative reports on the US government’s policies and profiteering from the privatization of war, torture as a method of interrogation, the US’s expanding war into Pakistan and the White House assassination policy. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration’s wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, Scahill continues to shine a burning lens on Barack Obama and his advisers. This year Scahill also penetrated the mainstream media on a wider range of issues, and famously refused to be muzzled during his fearless debate with virulent right-winger Ed Koch on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” From his humble beginnings at The Catholic Worker to his continued collaboration with Democracy Now!, Scahill is a fundamental necessity for US news media and a leader among a small but growing generation of US investigative journalists who shame establishment journalists with their exemplary output.
Al Jazeera’s Empire is as good as television gets — it is an intelligent, provocative, wide-ranging and bold look at global political, corporate and military powers, their agendas, and their effects. The show is produced by Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara, an individual of rare intellectual and political acuity. Bishara was formerly a professor of International Relations at the American University of Paris and a fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes et Sciences Sociales. He is the author of Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid (Zed Books). He is the younger brother of the noted Palestinian philosopher Azmi Bishara. Bishara leads a formidable team of producers and field reporters to present a show that is informative and stimulating. Many of the issues are developed further in Bishara’s writings on his Imperium blog.
In 2009, the New York Review of Books faulted Glenn Greenwald for being too persuasive, a defect which became only more acute in 2010. Greenwald was frequently on-air, demolishing adversaries on issues ranging from Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara to Wikileaks. A former constitutional law attorney, best-selling author, and world-renowned blogger, Glenn Greenwald has the extraordinary capacity to produce compelling and well-researched articles on a daily basis. Unlike most US progressives, Greenwald is unsparing in his criticism of both liberals and conservatives. He is also a staunch defender of constitutional rights and has been devastating in his demolition of the apologists for torture and permanent war.
Making a splash in 2009 with his best-selling Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, and his censored Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem video report, Max Blumenthal followed through this year with a slew of investigative reports on the inner workings of the Israel lobby, Israel’s human rights violations and racist policy endeavours, and more investigative coverage of the American Radical Right. Referred to as a “McCarthyite liar” by Israel lobby bulldog David Horowitz and a “young skunk who hasn’t learned to piss yet” by one of Britain’s well known neoconservative opportunists Christopher Hitchens, Blumenthal continues to ruffle the feathers of all the right people and has proven himself to be a force to be reckoned with as an investigative journalist with no boundaries.
MJ Rosenberg started as a Zionist activist, later entering the belly of the beast itself, working for AIPAC as a staffer. He has progressively distanced himself since, beginning with his move first to the Israel Policy Forum where he was director of policy from 1998-2009, and later to the Media Monitors Action Network where he now serves as a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow. Today he is the most forceful and unabashed critic of the lobby, rejecting its tribalism for a genuinely principled Jewish universalism. Through his prolific writings at TPM Cafe, Huffington Post, and now Al Jazeera, he has mainstreamed principled criticism of the lobby and encouraged others to follow in his footsteps. In the past year he has taken to task not just the Abraham Foxmans to Jeffrey Goldbergs, but also figures such as comedian Bill Maher for their pro-Zionist Islam-bashing masquerading as the defence of secular values. Rosenberg is a tireless gadfly who is constantly holding to account the purveyors of hatred and intolerance who abuse public fora to sow fear and discontent, from tea-party extremists to the suave mavens of American think-tankery.
Fatima Bhutto has been gaining the recognition she deserves as a fearless female intellectual with the release of her much-applauded memoir Songs of Blood and Sword this year. Despite her privileged lineage, Bhutto has courageously declined to engage in birthright politics, providing instead challenging commentary on US foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as a rare insider’s glimpse into the rampant corruption of Pakistani politics. A lover of literature and a writer of poetry, Bhutto is a sought-after columnist and speaker who continues to bring attention to the plight of the victims of Pakistan’s natural and unnatural disasters. But her scope is broader: she also speaks with authority on issues related to permament war and its humanitarian consequences worldwide. Despite the tragic legacy of her family, Bhutto has also refused to leave her home in Karachi and remains active in social justice and humanitarian issues.
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