Top 10 Scandals

Posted on February 24, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The media had its fair share of scandals in 2010. From plagiarism to phone hacking to sex-crazed publishing executives, here are our five favorites:

1. Tribune tales: The award for bombshell media expose of the year goes to The New York Times’ David Carr, who wrote “Tales of a Bankrupt Culture,”  an explosive Oct. 5 pieceexposing the fratty, sexist and profanity-filled behavior of top executives at the financially bankrupt Tribune Co., which owns The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and a handful of other newspapers and TV and radio properties. One example: “After [Tribune CEO Randy] Michaels arrived, according to two people at the bar that night, he sat down and said, ‘watch this,’ and offered the waitress $100 to show him her breasts. The group sat dumbfounded.” And that was only the third paragraph of the more than 4,000 word piece, which eventually led to the resignations of Michaels and chief innovations office Lee Abrams, a former shock jock.

2. Smear campaign?: One of the biggest media stories of the year, without a doubt, has been WikiLeaks’ series of classified document dumps. But far more salacious are the headlines swirling around the personal life of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is under investigation on charges of rape and sexual misconduct in Sweden. Assange maintains the accusations are part of a smear campaign to discredit his work with WikiLeaks. Nevertheless, Assange’s anger boils over each time the charges are reported on, which has strained his relationships with the very news organizations he coordinated the leaks with in the first place. Most recently, Assange slammed The Guardian for publishing new and damaging details about the rape allegations from a 68-page Swedish police report.

3. Phone hackers of the world: In September, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story investigating phone hacking charges at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. The original incidents, in which the U.K. paper  paid a private investigator to tap into the voicemails of prominent Britons, all the way up to the Royal Family, dated back to 2006. But the Times piece revealed that the phone hacking was far more widespread than initially believed, thus giving the story a second set of legs and prompting new investigations into the sensational tabloid.

4. Exchanging Vows: They thought it would be a run-of-the-mill New York Times wedding announcement. But it may very well go down as one of the most lambasted Sunday Styles features in the paper’s history. Like all of the newlyweds privileged enough to have their marriages described in the Grey Lady’s Vows column, former TV reporter Carol Anne Riddell and advertising executive John Partilla wanted to the story of their union with the world. The only problem was, their union had required both of them to break up their previous marriages (each of which had also been featured in Vows), to the devastation of their former spouses and, presumably, their children. Needless to say,Riddell and Partilla’s December Vows cameo didn’t go over so well, as thousands of online commenters and a handful of prominent bloggers all vented their outrage. For his part, Ridell’s ex-husband, Bob Ennis, himself a New York media figure, was none too pleased with the piece.  “No, I wasn’t contacted or interviewed or given any opportunity to opine on any of it, including having my seven-year-old daughter’s picture in the paper,” he told Forbes. “People lie and cheat and steal all the time. That’s a fact of life. But rarely does a national news organization give them an unverified megaphone to whitewash it.”

5. Caught red handed: In the early days of February, it came to light that The Daily Beast’s investigative reporter, Gerald Posner, had lifted five unattributed sentences from the Miami Herald in a piece about a Florida murder mystery. Posner claimed he had copied the material inadvertently, chalking up his editorial indiscretion to the lightning-fast pace of web reporting (which, to be sure, the magazine-ish Daily Beast isn’t exactly known for). It would have been easier to believe him had Slate’s Jack Shafer, who caught the initial blunder, not uncovered several more instances of Posner-plagiarism involving other publications. As a result, Posner resigned from The Daily Beast on Feb. 11, and the whole thing spiraled from there, as more and more journalists came forward claiming Posner had ripped off their copy. At least one of them ended up suing him.

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