2017 Digital Media Awards: Hottest Takes, Best Reporting and Biggest Misfires

Before Donald Trump announces his “MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR” winners — which will probably consist mostly of genuinely good reporting that was unfavorable to him and his administration — MediaFile wanted to get in on the action.

After all, the president isn’t the only one allowed to provide his thoughts on the media’s 2017 efforts in an awards-show format.

2017 can probably be best summed up as the year of the hot take. Some of these takes were so blistering they begged to be featured in year-end retrospectives like this.

Of course, 2017 also produced some truly excellent journalism, along with a few pieces that caused the media to do some serious soul-searching on how to do better in the future.

Oh, and 2017 was also responsible for “Cat Person.” Enjoy the awards!

Hottest Take: CNN declaring Ivanka Trump “America’s most powerful Jewish woman

That June headline was so hot it managed to burn Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and every other Jewish woman who managed to earn a prominent position of power in the highest ranks of American leadership by working a little harder than simply being the daughter of the president.

Also, this: “[O]ne question looming over Ivanka is how — or whether — she will use her status at the top of the new Washington to guide a national conversation about the rising number of threats to Jewish community centers and places of worship.”

Narrator voice: She didn’t.

Best Accidental Masterpiece: Ryan Lizza’s interview with Anthony Scaramucci

Before the New Yorker fired him in December over sexual misconduct allegations, Lizza lucked into the interview of the year with Scaramucci, the former White House communications director and founder of the Scaramucci Post.

This was the infamous interview when Scaramucci said that, unlike then-White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, “I’m not trying to suck my own cock.” Trump fired the Mooch a few days after the interview was published, succinctly illustrating the consequences of forgetting to use the phrase “off the record” when talking to a journalist.

Best Game-Changing Reporting: Ronan Farrow’s efforts to expose Harvey Weinstein

Farrow wrote multiple stories about the many monstrous deeds committed by the ex-Hollywood titan, but this New Yorker piece detailing how Weinstein hired a team of investigators to track actresses and journalists with dirt on him deserves special mention for how plainly it laid out the kind of man Weinstein is.

While we’re dishing out #MeToo-related accolades, an Honorable Mention should be awarded to Yashar Ali, whose Twitter DMs are probably full of thousands of stories from women and men who trusted him with their harrowing sexual harassment accounts. His efforts to amplify their voices helped the movement grow and thrive.

Biggest Misfire: The New York Times’ profile of an Ohio Nazi

This article received so much negative feedback that the Times had to slap a disclaimer at the top of the piece that includes links to both the reporter’s and the national editor’s statements attempting to explain themselves.

The criticism mostly revolved around the concept of giving Nazis and white supremacists platforms in the first place, but also humanizing them by emphasizing how much they love “Seinfeld.”

Best Use of a Friend as a Source: BuzzFeed News’ Adam B. Vary

According to Vary, he and actor Anthony Rapp have been friends since 1999. But Rapp only shared his harrowing story of the night he was allegedly sexually assaulted by Kevin Spacey with Vary a few weeks before he published the bombshell piece that essentially ended Spacey’s prolific career in the entertainment industry.

Journalism school professors teach their students not to use your friends as sources, but when you have the opportunity to expose a bully and potential pedophile (Rapp was 14 when Spacey, 26 at the time, allegedly assaulted him), the public good could outweigh the journalistic faux pas.

Vary was even transparent about his relationship with Rapp, and that didn’t at all diminish the dramatic impact of Rapp’s allegations.

“The More You Know” Award: The Washington Post’s deep-dive into the NYC strippers’ strike

Like Vary did with Rapp, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my friendship with Amber Ferguson, the Washington Post reporter who wrote this thorough review of the New York City strippers’ strike, including the roles racism and “bottle girls” played in the labor dispute.

A piece like this exemplifies one of the most important goals good journalism can accomplish: shining a spotlight on a subject that would otherwise go almost entirely unnoticed by the general public. You may not have expected to sympathize with the plight of New York’s strippers, but thanks to the Washington Post, here you are.

The One Trump Was Right About: Brian Ross’ incorrect reporting on Michael Flynn

In this case, Trump was right to criticize the mainstream media for lax journalistic standards. Ross, an investigative reporter for ABC News, royally messed up with his erroneous report that former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that then-candidate Trump told him to contact Russians.

As ABC News’ statement of apology to CNN put it, “The reporting conveyed by Brian Ross during the special report had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards process.” Because of his poor editorial judgment, Ross was suspended for four weeks before recently returning to ABC in a diminished role.

Trump, never one to let what he perceives as a victory go, rubbed it in via Twitter:

Best “Hatchet Job”: The Hatchet’s reporting on SA election drama

While these aspiring GW politicians and their teams were busy being ridiculously extra, The Hatchet was reporting on the chaos like professionals. Kudos Colonials!

Worst Take of 2017: The New York Post’s “Why I Don’t Date Hot Women Anymore” Piece

It’s not technically political, but it is the grossest piece of content to disgrace our computer screens in 2017. For example:

  • “He spent the better part of his 30s going on up to three dates a week, courting 20-something blond models, but eventually realized that dating the prettiest young things had its drawbacks — he found them flighty, selfish and vapid.”
  • “Chitre … considers herself ‘a 9 or a 10,’ but she says she’s done with gorgeous guys. Now, she’s more interested in ‘superballer’ men with high-paying careers.”
  • “Unlike the square-jawed bachelors who disrespected her, Argese is more boy-next-door in the looks department. But he’s kind and attentive.”

There’s enough vapid vanity in this piece to make Regina George blush. And for that, it has earned the honor of Worst Take of 2017.

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