The Overlooked, Under-Reported Stories of 2017

BillMoyers.com Staff

 

This is an excerpt from an article originally published in BillMoyers.com. Read the rest here.

 

This time every year, BillMoyers.com asks reporters, editors and bloggers which key story they feel the mainstream media failed to cover adequately over the last 12 months. See what they had to say.

 

 Donald Trump’s Conflicts of Interest--Ben Adler

The most overlooked story this year continues to be Trump’s conflicts of interest and the lack of legal mechanisms to protect the executive branch of the federal government from corruption. In 2016, the press — with the exception of Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek — ignored the vast web of global business interests and questionable connections that Trump and his company had and how they might conflict with American foreign policy interests. We completely failed to note that Trump was constitutionally ineligible to serve if he did not fully divest from his business, as he would be in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Since the election, outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters and The New Yorker have covered various conflicts of interest for Trump, his family members and his unpaid advisers such as Carl Icahn and Jared Kushner.

                             

But TV, the most popular medium from which Americans get their news, remains relentlessly focused on the sexier topics of the day. That’s often just what Trump tweeted. Sometimes, as when he’s tweeting provocations to North Korea, that’s an important news story. Other times, as when we’re being distracted by the president’s insults to the appearance of a talk show host, it’s not. In any case, the complicated connections between the personal financial interests of Trump, his White House staffers, family and associates and the policies being promulgated at the White House remains under-illuminated. As Public Citizen recently noted, but few journalists picked up on, even standard Republican deregulation of labor and the environment raises new ethical questions when Trump’s own business stands to profit from it.

 

Moreover, we have discovered, too late, that many of the safeguards rely upon public officials’ voluntary compliance. Trump violated norms, but no laws, by not releasing his tax returns. His staffers and cabinet appointees may have broken laws by promoting Trump brands and campaigning on behalf of elected officials, but no one in the Trump administration seems interested in enforcing those laws. The press should be not only examining these problems, but their potential solutions.

 

— Ben Adler, New York-based journalist

 

Everything That Wasn’t a Trump Tweet--Dahlia Lithwick

 

In my view, the most under-reported story of the year was everything. I mean, quite literally, everything that wasn’t a Trump tweet. We didn’t do a good enough job covering DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), refugees after the first travel ban, the oral arguments of the third travel ban, the creeping encroachments on reproductive freedoms in the states and systematic voter suppression.

 

We surely didn’t do a good job on Trump’s efforts to stack the judicial branch with unqualified bloggers, who by experience and temperament had no business even being before the judiciary committee. We episodically covered the opioid epidemic, the ways big think tanks have infiltrated government, the treatment of veterans… I could go on and on.

 

But here’s the thing: Scolding one another for missing the real story for the “distractions” is its own form of blaming and shaming. Attacks in the media are destabilizing enough without constant criticisms that we are all missing the real story. Everything is the real story, up to and including presidential tweets, which like it or not are official acts. My gift to myself and to you as readers is the fact that there is no monolithic “mainstream media” that is ignoring the important issues by design. It is simply true that the Bannon Chaos Machine works best when absolutely every story is the 25th most important story of the day, and everyone is wasting energy scolding others for their lack of focus. We need not play into this.

 

We can operate from a “yes, and” lens, acknowledging that the media misses a lot of big stories precisely because it’s covering a lot of other big stories. I could wish that we were less obsessed with individual journalists and their brands. But boy, do we owe a debt of thanks to the “yes, and” journalists who uncovered Roy Moore’s predation and the conflicts of interest in the Trump family. This year I say yes, and let’s cover all of it better and deeper. And let’s thank journalists for the work they do, and use our own voices to amplify the stories that cannot break through. I am not going down the shame-framing road this year. It’s all important to somebody. I am grateful it’s getting done at all.

 

— Dahlia Lithwick, writer and podcast host, Slate

 

US Airstrikes in Iraq--Danielle Ivory

 

In a year packed with excellent, important and outrage-inducing reporting, a deep story about airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq did not get nearly enough attention.

 

In The Uncounted, Azmat Zahra and Anand Gopal visited 150 US airstrike sites in Iraq, providing the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes there since the latest military action began in 2014.

 

They found that the civilian death rate was 31 times higher than the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State has previously claimed — making this, possibly, the least-transparent war in recent American history. They also found that civilians who survived the strikes were repeatedly classified as being ISIS sympathizers, with no clear path to clear their names.

 

— Danielle Ivory, business reporter, The New York Times

 

 

The Whereabouts of Our Military Personnel--Tom Engelhardt

 

Excuse me if, year after year, I’ve started to sound like a broken record, but when it comes to the missing stories of 2017, the one I always focus on — the one that was similarly AWOL in 2016, 2015 and so on — concerns America’s wars. Yes, they’re in the news as a kind of low-level hum in the background of our media lives. Afghanistan (yawn…), another more than 3,000 (or is it 4,000?) troops have been dispatched to join the 8,400 (or is it 12,000?) who were there as the Obama years ended (and don’t even think about the 26,000 private contractors working for the US in that country). Syria — yep, 500 American troops still fighting there (or rather maybe it’s actually 2,000). And OK, across the Middle East and increasingly Africa, great cities are in ruins, the foundations of multiple societies wrecked and failed states a dime a dozen, but no point in making too big a deal out of it.

 

And what about those 44,000 American troops reportedly stationed somewhere in the imperium but who knows where because the Pentagon claims it just can’t account for them? (And perhaps that’s not so surprising for a place that has never been capable of successfully auditing itself.) Or how about those 70,000 US Special Operations forces, that semisecret military that’s larger than the armies of a surprising number of countries and whose troops are deployed to more lands yearly (149 in 2017, according to Nick Turse of TomDispatch) than any great power has ever sent its forces to. And of course there’s the rising beat of Trump-era drone strikes, air strikes (hey, shades of Vietnam, the last B-52s have been let loose in Afghanistan!), special ops raids, dead civilians… and so on.

 

And yes, if you’re a news jockey or a war jockey and you’re searching oh-so-carefully, day by day, it’s all there somewhere (hence the links above), but war — permanent war across a vast swath of the planet, now in its 17th year and increasingly thought of by the US military as “generational” (i.e. forever) — well, no. It’s not really a story. It’s never put together in a truly meaningful way in the mainstream. It’s just not really there. Not there there. Not where any passing Trump tweet is in the news; not where the latest ISIS-inspired doofus who hit a subway stop in my hometown with a suicide bomb that didn’t quite work is; not where the president’s denunciations of NLF players who take a knee regularly are. 

 

War on our distant battlefields is the oh-so-distant backdrop for our oh-so-immediate lives. It’s not what any of the media outlets now assigning battalions of reporters to swarm every presidential hiccup or burp find worthy of significant attention. Only problem is: Our wars are changing this planet and our own lives in ways hard to make tweetable but oh-so-consequential in the long run. Our wars need to be covered, as our president might say, bigly. (Or was it “big league”?) Once again, in 2017, they were largely missing in action.

 

Tom Engelhardt, editor, TomDispatch

 

 This is an excerpt from an article originally published in BillMoyers.com. Read the rest here.

Popular: 
not popular
Photographer: 
Google Images; Wikipedia Commons
Bottom Slider: 
Out Slider

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><div><img><h2><h3><h4><span>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.