My top 10 articles, commentaries, and blog posts of 2015

12362437_125299394511655_1354983192_nThe standalone blog has become something of a dinosaur. I’ve been writing Media Nation since 2005. Increasingly, though, the online conversation is driven by social media. And I find that I’ve been using my blog more and more as an archive for posts that I wrote for other sites.

As a paid weekly columnist for WGBHNews.org and an occasional contributor to the Nieman Journalism Lab, I find that most of my best work is published there before it makes its way onto Media Nation. So I’m going to break with my past practice of writing an end-of-the-year round-up of my top 10 most-trafficked blog posts. Instead, I’m going to go with my top five, along with five pieces that were published elsewhere that, at least in my mind, stand out as my best work.

I no longer think it makes sense to post page views for each blog post since I imagine the page views for non-Media Nation pieces were much greater. But in the interests of full disclosure, I will tell you that my total number of visitors to Media Nation has been dropping, from 142,000 in 2013 to just under 120,000 in 2014 and about 102,000 in 2015 (which, after all, still has a few hours to go!).

My personal top five

The 2015 Muzzle Awards (WGBHNews.org, July 4). Since 1998 I’ve been writing the New England Muzzle Awards—an annual round-up of outrages against free speech. Until 2012 the Muzzles were published in the late, great Boston Phoenix. Now they are hosted by WGBHNews.org. As I noted in the introduction, the 2015 edition came amid “a crisis in transparency on Beacon Hill and throughout Massachusetts” as the state’s extraordinarily weak public records law finally started to garner public attention and outrage. Unfortunately, promised reforms have not yet materialized. The House passed an inadequate reform bill that is now awaiting action in the Senate, where—let’s hope—it may be strengthened.

How A Connecticut Journalist Broke A Key Part Of The Bizarre Las Vegas Newspaper Story (WGBHNews.org, December 29). In which I tell the tale of Christine Stuart, the editor and co-owner of CT News Junkie, who used social media to unmask the identity of “Edward Clarkin.” Clarkin’s byline appeared atop a plagiarism-filled article in Connecticut’s New Britain Herald about county judges in Nevada, one of whom had run afoul of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. The story is way too weird and complicated to explain here, but Clarkin is apparently a pseudonym for Herald owner Michael Schroeder, who is involved in Adelson’s purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

In New Haven, a low-power FM experiment seeks local conversation—and financial sustainability (Nieman Journalism Lab, August 4). The New Haven Independent, a 10-year-old nonprofit news site, launched WNHH Radio, a low-power FM community station (it also streams at the Independent). The project represented a considerable ramping-up of ambitions on the part of Independent founder and editor Paul Bass. More than four months after its debut, WNHH appears to be going strong. Note: The Independent is the main subject of my 2013 book, The Wired City, for which I also interviewed Christine Stuart of CT News Junkie.

What The New York Times‘ Screw-Up Tells Us About The Liberal Media’s Anti-Liberal Bias (WGBHNews.org, December 21). The Times recently reported that San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik had posted openly on social media about her terrorist inclinations. The Times turned out to be wrong—and two of the reporters who were involved also wrote a drastically wrong story earlier in the year about Hillary Clinton’s email activities that left readers with the impression that she was on the verge of being indicted. The problem is that members of the so-called liberal media like nothing better than to go after liberal politicians, both because they hope it will silence their conservative critics and because it plays into their self-image of even-handedness.

The Worcester Sun wants to bootstrap paywalled hyperlocal digital into a Sunday print product (Nieman Journalism Lab, September 29). A look at the Worcester Sun, an online-only news site founded by Mark Henderson, a former top digital executive with the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, and Fred Hurlbrink Jr., formerly of GateHouse Media. Henderson and Hurlbrink’s secret sauce is to leverage their website into a Sunday print edition—a move that could come sometime in 2016.

My top five Media Nation posts

Unlike my personal top five, I’ve ranked these strictly by online traffic.

1. Shaughnessy defends Globe over deleted sentence (September 1). Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, in a tough column over the non-renewal of popular Red Sox announcer Don Orsillo, asserted that two Fenway Park employees had told him they were ordered to confiscate pro-Orsillo signs from fans as they came into the ballpark. That reference was removed from later editions, which led speculators to speculate given that Globe publisher John Henry is also the principal owner of the Red Sox. Globe managing editor for digital David Skok took to Twitter to say that Shaughnessy’s sourcing was “weak.” Shaughnessy himself told me that he considered the deletion to be “part of the editing process that is always ongoing.”

2. McGrory tells Globe staffers they need to think digital (April 6). I published a longish memo that Globe editor Brian McGrory sent to the staff urging renewed efforts on the digital front. McGrory wrote that “we’re moving the morning and afternoon meetings up by 30 minutes, to 10 and 3 respectively—a small change that is part of a larger effort to make us quicker and more nimble on the web. The goal is, as mentioned before, to get everyone to think as much about our site as we do the paper.”

3. Berkshire Eagle publishes, defends a racist column (June 29). A local Republican activist wrote a column in the wake of unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, that could fairly be described as racist. “After the burning and looting in Baltimore and Ferguson we are seeing endless media hand-wringing that somehow ‘we’ must all do something more to help black America,” wrote Steven Nikitas. “And ‘we’ means white people, taxpayers, businesses, the criminal justice system, the universities and the government.” The Eagle defended the column on the grounds of free speech. I argued that Nikitas has no free-speech right of access to a daily newspaper’s op-ed page, and that if he wanted to write racist diatribes he should start a blog.

4. Henry Santoro to join WGBH Radio as a news anchor (April 17). Henry is an old friend from my Boston Phoenix days; he was a major part of the Phoenix‘s radio station, WFNX, and occasionally contributed to the paper as well. He joined a burgeoning number of former Phoenicians at WGBH, including Peter Kadzis, Adam Reilly, David Bernstein and me. (And another personal note: Later in the year, Barbara Howard, who’s married to the new director of Northeastern’s School of Journalism, Jonathan Kaufman, also joined WGBH as a news anchor.)

5. Globe to replace g section, Brian McGrory tells staff (January 1). Another McGrory memo, this one entirely self-explanatory.