There were so many gigantic news events in 2017 that the merely huge, or yooge, got the dog-bites-man treatment. What happened while we were focused on the president's tweets; the attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act; the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico; the tax bill; and #MeToo? Los Angeles Times Opinion asked two close observers of the media environment, Sean Davis (from the political right of center) and Adam H. Johnson (from the political left of center) to list the top 5 under-covered stories of the year.
By Sean Davis
▪ 1. "Russian collusion" charges were a dud
Despite a year's worth of investigation into the matter, zero independently verifiable evidence of alleged illegal collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government has been offered to the public. In fact, there's far more evidence that President Obama's Department of Justice colluded with a shady DNC-funded outfit — Fusion GPS — to cook up a pretext for spying on the administration's political opponents. The anti-Trump collusion hand played by Trump's detractors is so far a complete bust. The real story is a journalistic jackpot that for some reason nobody wants to claim.
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▪ 2. The economy roared
The U.S. economy came roaring back in 2017. GDP growth is strong and steady, and the unemployment rate now approaches lows not seen since the early 2000s. The economy has added over 1.9 million payroll jobs this year. Consumer confidence is at a 17-year high. The 2017 economic recovery is nonetheless a major story widely ignored by the political press.
▪ 3. The stock market boomed
It's not just the economy, though. The stock market, following a lost decade of equity returns, also came roaring back over the last year. Although New York Times columnist Paul Krugman predicted after Trump's election that the stock market would "never" recover, the exact opposite has happened, with the Dow Jones industrial average repeatedly posting record highs throughout the year.
▪ 4. Islamic State was crushed in Raqqah and Mosul
A year ago, the Islamic State wasn't just on the rise in the Middle East, it was firmly in charge, with wide swaths of the region under its control. But in October, U.S.-backed forces completed the total liberation of Raqqah, the Islamic State's Syrian capital. That followed the liberation of Mosul, a major Iraqi city captured by the Islamic State in 2014. In less than a year, Trump and his national security team accomplished what the previous administration suggested was impossible.
▪ 5. Thanks to James Comey, the FBI's reputation is in tatters
This year we learned that the FBI's top ranks were infested with political actors eager to use the agency to settle scores. Not only did former Director James B. Comey abscond with confidential documents, he leaked them to his friends and the press, then refused to give those documents to Congress. In addition, his top deputies — those responsible for investigating both Hillary Clinton and Trump — were sharing text messages about how important it was to defeat Trump. Comey's biggest accomplishment wasn't equitable enforcement of the law; it was the corrupt politicization of the agency's leadership ranks and the destruction of its reputation.
By Adam H. Johnson
▪ 1. Disenfranchisement of African American voters
While the outrage took place in 2016, the mainstream media's indifference to voter suppression was deafening throughout 2017. Investigations by academics and journalists alike have revealed extensive civil rights violations on election day, the culmination of a long-term ploy by Republicans to reduce the number of African American voters through ID laws and other devices.
▪ 2. The South Korean peace movement
A sustained antiwar movement in South Korea has been pushing back against the Pentagon's deployment of the provocative Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile system. Populating their stories with pro-THAAD quotes from defense contractor-funded think tanks and Western warmongers, the U.S. media have mostly ignored the fact that the majority of South Koreans oppose the "defensive" system, including their newly elected president who, this summer, suspended its deployment.
▪ 3. President Trump's unprecedented non-Russia corruption
Time will tell the extent of President Trump's connection to Russian officials and how it may have influenced his campaign but — regardless — Trump has led the most nakedly corrupt administration in modern American history, enriching himself, his family and friends and hiring a Cabinet of political cronies and billionaires. Many journalists have done great work revealing this corruption, but these stories have not turned into full-blown scandals, let alone harmed the president.
▪ 4. U.S. helped to starve and bomb Yemen
The U.S. has been fueling, arming and providing political cover to an almost three-year siege of Yemen by Saudi Arabia and others. The conflict has caused more than 10,000 civilian deaths and almost 1 million cases of cholera. But the media downplay the U.S. government's part. For example, two editorials in the Washington Post and a CBS "60 Minutes" report last month on the bombing and humanitarian disaster left out the U.S. role entirely.
▪ 5. Hate crimes against transgender people
Queer activists, including members of the New Orleans-based BreakOUT, have noted an uptick in violence against the transgender community. A recent Human Rights Watch report documented 102 killings of transgender people since January. Eighty-eight of the victims were transgender women, nearly all of them black or Latina. The report suggested two related causes: poverty, which is 30 percent higher in the trans community than the population at large, and a lack of legal protections for trans people in general. (Most states having zero laws prohibiting discrimination against trans people.)
Sean Davis is a cofounder of the Federalist. Adam H. Johnson is a media analyst for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and co-host of the Citations Needed podcast.