When the media becomes the news, everyone is entertained. Media scandals are the best scandals of all, for their enjoyable mix of forced professionalism and palpable discomfort. Come; let us look back at the year's ten best.
10) M.I.A. vs. the New York Times Magazine: The singer was so unhappy with Lynn Hirschberg's profile of her that she made a diss track about it, tweeted Hirschberg's cell phone number, and eventually won a small editor's note. That's the type of source feedback all journalists dream about.
9) Essence hires white editor: The black woman's magazine hired a white lady as its fashion editor. Drama ensued. Did this make the media world any less friendly for minorities, overall? We'll get back to you.
8) Rick Sanchez and Octavia Nasr fired by CNN: Plastic-faced Tweet machine Sanchez was fired by CNN after a bizarre rant about how Jews control the media; just months before, the network had canned correspondent Octavia Nasr after she issued a tweet that was insufficiently strident about condemning a Hezbollah leader. It didn't take much tea-leaf reading to see that 2010 was The Year of Firing Media People For Saying Dumb Shit.
7) Lou Dobbs hired illegal immigrants: Famed xenophobe and anti-immigration zealot Lou Dobbs was revealed to have hired illegal immigrants to tend to his palatial estate. He explained that he did it because of his hatred of racial profiling. Later, he was given a show on Fox Business Network. Karma's a bitch.
6) Dave Weigel and Journolist: Weigel was forced to resign as a blogger for the Washington Post after some of his emails on Journolist, a Bad Idea Jeans-brand listserv of DC political writers, were leaked to the press. Then he was hired by Slate, which is owned by the Washington Post Company. This is the #1 big media scandal of the year that, in retrospect, no one should have given much of a shit about.
5) Tribune Co's frat house of doom: Once-mighty Tribune Co. has been a laughingstock ever since evil billionaire gnome Sam Zell bought it at the absolute worst time and promptly started running it into the ground. But a huge New York Times exposeé of its horrific, sexist, cartoonish management practices really served as a well-deserved kick in the face of the reeling, bankrupt company. Sam Zell, Randy Michaels, and Lee Abrams are all gone now. Tribune is much less interesting and undoubtedly better.
4) Keith Olbermann and Joe Scarborough suspended for political donations: Olbermann gave donations to political candidates, in flagrant violation of MSNBC's rules; the network suspended him "indefinitely," which amounted to a few days, though it was plenty of time for Keith to martyr himself in his own mind. Then MSNBC had to do the same thing to Joe Scarborough, for the sake of consistency, even thought Scarborough's even less of a "journalist" than Olbermann is. The good thing is that the whole absurd episode prompted everyone to think long and hard about media ethics, for an hour or so, until we all got bored.
3) Juan Williams fired: After blurting out (on Fox News) that he feared air travelers who looked Muslim, Williams was canned by NPR—which, to be fair, had been looking for a reason to get rid of him for a long time, since his Fox News talking head career surpassed his "respected radio newsman" career long ago. Williams then took a highly-paid landing pad gig at Fox News, which is really a shame. The Year of Firing Media People For Saying Dumb Shit could not be stopped!
2) Wikileaks and Julian Assange: Wikileaks itself certainly set a record in 2010 for sheer number of government scandals revealed in a single year. What made it all the more interesting for we feeble-minded and easily distracted Americans was Wikileaks boss Julian Assange himself, who turned out to be incredibly sensitive about people leaking information about him, and also an awkward seducer. Though apparently a wildly successful one. I'll never figure out women. What was I saying? Ah yes; Julian Assange is an interesting and laughable media hero. May he survive 2011 in one piece! Disclaimer: Don't believe anything we say, we're 100% controlled by the U.S. government.
1) The Cooks Source scandal: It's fitting that the year's most entertaining media scandal came from a magazine that no one has ever heard of. Because of, you know, [standard tropes about the internet and democratization of communication, etc]. The editor of Cooks Source brazenly stole a freelancer's article from the internet, and then, when confronted with her crime, brushed off the writer, saying that perhaps she, the editor, should be paid for all the time and effort she put into editing it (poorly). Ah, but that editor did not consider [standard tropes about the internet]! The outrage online was so strong—and the PR so badly handled by Cooks Source—that the magazine actually had to shut down. A dazzling display of the power of the online mob and its unrestrained anger. Of course, for all the internet knows, Cooks Source could be back up and publishing again. After all, just because a lot of people on computers can get angry doesn't mean that [standard tropes about the value of the traditional media].
Honorable Mentions: Heidi Jones' false sexual assault allegations, pointless feuding at Parker Spitzer, Gerald Posner's endless plagiarism, Roger Ailes goes insane, Sumner Redstone's party girls on the payroll, J-school professor's G-chat sex scandal, Marty Peretz's ceaseless Muslim-hating, and the continued employment of Andrea Peyser and Richard Cohen.