Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Lobbying Game

Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi of the Washington Post show how Washington politics really works in their investigative story, "How a Lobbyist Stacked the Deck." Grimaldi and Schmidt use financial records and interviews with participants to detail how powerful lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has since been indicted, used foreign trips, job offers for a congressional staffer and his wife, and donations to conservative groups to help scuttle an anti-gambling bill on behalf of his client, an online lottery firm. The resulting story reads like a political thriller.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Calamity's Children

I have been waiting for the American media to cover the devastating earthquake in Pakistan and India with the same passion with which they covered Hurricane Katrina. Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times succeeds in giving the earthquake's tens of thousands of victims the attention they deserve with his heart-breaking story, "With a Quick Blow, Her Future Dimmed." Watson tells us about Gulnaz, a 9-year-old girl who was just starting school when the earthquake badly injured her and left her without family. Here is a short passage from Watson's powerful story:

Not for the first time, Sadiq asked Gulnaz her family name. The yellow medical chart lying next to her head bore only her first name and a brief note on her surgery: amputation, right leg, below the knee. Gulnaz replied in a faint, trembling voice.
"It hurts," she said, crying. "I want to go to my mom."
"We will take you to your parents," he told the girl softly, knowing that was probably a lie. She had just lost her leg. He couldn't tell her that she was also alone.,0,5282276.story?track=tottext

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Barely Surviving

Tom Meagher of the Herald News in Passaic County, New Jersey, spent a month trying to survive on the pay of a low-wage laborer. "Low Wages, Strong Backs," which Meagher co-wrote with Suzanne Travers, gives a blow-by-blow account of the daily life of the working poor. The story uses sharp details and crisp writing to show the struggle to work in mind-numbing, back-breaking jobs and to find decent housing and affordable food. Here's an example of what it's like to get to his temporary job: "I pile into a jitney with about 20 other temps. There are no seat belts, and the bus rattles like a dishwasher - we shake back and forth like we're on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." To read more, click below.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Who's in Charge of Development?

An obscure law has allowed developers in the San Antonio area to ignore environmental and growth rules, John Tedesco of the San Antonio Express-News reveals. In a four-part series, "Law Lets Developers Ignore Growth Controls," Tedesco uses vivid examples to trace the big impact on people that an arcane law can have. The Express-News Web site lets readers respond to the story, which is a welcome feature.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Nuclear Risks

Unmanned guard booths, unlocked doors and sleepy guards are all that stand between terrorists and small nuclear reactors on 25 college campuses around the country, ABC News reporters and producers found. Led by correspondent Brian Ross, the investigative team for "Loose Nukes" found that none of these reactors has metal detectors and, in some cases, tour groups are allowed easy access to control rooms and reactor pools that hold radioactive waste. The report has prompted an investigation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Full disclosure: two of the researchers on this project, Michael Anderson and Karson Yiu, were students at the Medill School of Journalism where I teach.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tale of Two Schools

The American Dream is built on the promise that everyone has a fair shot at success. But Rosalind Rossi and Maudlyne Ihejirika of the Chicago Sun-Times take us inside two Chicago classrooms to show how some children start woefully far behind as early as kindergarten. Skillfully combining statistics with vivid portraits of students and teachers, their two-part series, "2 Kindergarten Classes Worlds Apart," portrays how the vast social and economic chasms in our cities harm our children's futures.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Lobbying Loopholes

In San Diego, a city recently plagued by corruption scandals, some of the government's biggest influence peddlers aren't even registered as lobbyists, Kelly Thornton of the San Diego Union-Tribune reveals in her story, "A Matter of Influence." By sifting through the appointment calendars of San Diego officials, Thornton uses good investigative techniques to show how lobbyists sidestep the law. Thornton writes: "Lobbying is a sensitive subject in a city where two councilmen were convicted of extortion and authorities are investigating whether conflicts of interest contributed to starving the pension fund while bloating retirement benefits. The one-two punch has crippled city services."
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