Saturday, December 24, 2005

Coming Back to Life

A year after the South Asian tsunami killed nearly 200,000 people and left more than a million homeless, Time magazine photographer John Stanmeyer returned to the Indonesian region of Aceh to trace what has happened in the last 12 months. His photos of the streets, canals and graveyards of Aceh vividly show how some people managed to move forward since the devastation. Simon Elegant's accompanying story movingly describes how chartibable groups are helping Aceh's surviving residents rebuild their lives. Stanmeyer's pictures and Elegant's words give us a story of hope after last year's despair.

Friday, December 23, 2005

On the Front Lines of the Culture War

Despite the turmoil on its editorial pages, the Los Angeles Times continues to produce amazing reporting. "Offering Abortion, Rebirth" by Stephanie Simon tells the story of Arkansas doctor William F. Harrison, who estimates that he has performed 20,000 abortions. By sketching a day in Harrison's clinic, Simon gives us a close-up picture of how abortion affects real women's lives. Thanks to Jeremy Kohler for pointing this story out to me.,0,2003322,full.story

The Times also excelled when it broke the story of how the Pentagon was planting articles in the Iraqi press. "Planted PR Stories Not News to Military" by Mark Mazzetti and Kevin Sack follows up on that story with revelations that U.S. military officials knew what its p.r. contractor was up to despite initial denials. This is a great example of digging deep with sources and documents to expose government misinformation.,0,1826110.story?track=tottext

Finally, the Times has been diligent with follow-up stories after Hurricane Katrina. "Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina Resettle Along a Racial Divide" by Tomas Alex Tizon and Doug Smith uses postal records to show that poor blacks from New Orleans were more likely to land farther away, where government-chartered buses or planes took them, while mostly white suburban evacuees tended to find housing closer to the city, minimizing the disruption to their lives.,0,1584806,print.story

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Deadly Lapses

We've reached that time when publications are rushing to get their best projects in print before the end of the year and the deadlines for most prizes. One of the best I've seen from a mid-sized paper is the Tulsa World's "Failed by the System." In the main story, Ziva Branstetter details how at least 30 Oklahoma children died from abuse and neglect in recent years despite the state Department of Human Services possessing reports that the children were in danger. One thing I like about this project is that the World's Web site allows viewers to read the actual case files for the 30 children. Branstetter's work is a good example of reporting that can make a difference and is one of many great stories posted on IRE's Web site.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dark Secrets

Kurt Eichenwald of The New York Times had an incredible story in Monday's paper that traces the descent of a 13-year-old boy into the world of online teen pornography. "Through His Webcam, a Boy Joins a Sordid Online World" is a compelling narrative made more powerful by the documentation provided by the California teenager, Justin Berry, who reveals a world where adults easily prey on children enticed by flattery and quick money. Eichenwald's story raises tricky ethical issues because he and the Times turned much of Berry's information over to prosecutors and because they paid to help Berry recover from alcohol and drug problems. The lords of journalism ethics usually say that reporters shouldn't act as investigative arms of prosecutors and shouldn't buy things for sources, but in this case I think Eichenwald and the Times did the right thing. What do you think?
My thanks to Jeremy Kohler and Robert Lemos for pointing me to this story.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Mississippi Rising

While much of the post-Katrina focus has been on New Orleans, MSNBC has created an amazing series that reports on the hurricane's aftermath in Mississippi. Currently led by producer James Cheng and correspondent Brock Meeks, "Rising from Ruin" looks at what is happening in two cities along the Gulf Coast, Waveland and Bay St. Louis. So far the rotating teams from MSNBC have reported on lingering unemployment, overdue mortgage payments, the arrival of migrant workers, the use of prison labor, the difficulties of collecting insurance, the challenge of re-opening schools and much more. In addition to the stories, the Web site includes slide shows and fascinating citizen diaries. It's a great example of multi-media story telling.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Life or Death

The Terri Schiavo case put the debate over end-of-life decisions in the headlines. In "Letting Go: Dylan's Last Days," Kevin Simpson of the Denver Post tells the heart-breaking story of Dave Walborn and Kerri Bruning, devoted parents who agonize over what to do about their son, one of a million U.S. children who have serious chronic or life- threatening conditions. Simpson's mastery of the telling detail makes this an article that brought tears to my eyes.

Hidden Criminals

Would you let your child sleep over at a friend's house if you knew a convicted rapist lived there? I should hope not. But if the rapist was convicted as a juvenile, Kentucky residents and people in 14 other states, where felony delinquency cases are never open to the public, would have no way of knowing, Andrew Wolfson of the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. In "Closed Courts Hide Crimes from Public," Wolfson examines the growing call to lift the secrecy from juvenile court cases with powerful examples and a strong analysis of what different states do. I was impressed with how fairly he presented both sides of this touchy topic.
Site Meter