Sunday, January 01, 2006

Gems of the Year

Happy New Year everyone! Before I feature new gems for 2006, I want to honor the Top 10 gems of 2005 (OK, I should really say the top gems of the last 4 months of 2005 since that is when I launched this blog). This list is purely subjective, but I think all the entries boast impressive reporting and great writing. There are many others that didn't crack the Top 10 that are also worthy of admiration. Some of these stories cover the huge events of the year such as the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, while others tell intensely personal dramas that reflect some of the underlying issues of our times such as poverty and drug abuse. I tip my hat to everyone who worked on these stories.

1. Top honors go to my very first gem -- the reporting of the New Orleans Times-Picayune's and during and after Hurricane Katrina. These reporters had to abandon their newsroom, and many of their own homes were destroyed, but they kept on reporting and writing, telling the world the horrors that were happening to their hometown. Many reporters did an excellent job of covering Katrina, but the home team did it the best.

2. "Final Solute" by Rocky Mountain News reporter Jim Sheeler and photographer Todd Heisler is the most moving story I've read yet about the impact of the war in Iraq on the Marines who have fought in it and their families.

3. Barry Bearak's powerful "The Day the Sea Came" in the New York Times Magazine shows the impact of the South Asian tsunami in a gripping, highly personal way.

4. I've seen some impressive multi-media storytelling this year, but I think the best is MSNBC's continuing coverage of Katrina's aftermath in two Mississippi towns.

5. For "Low Wages, Strong Backs," 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. I especially admire this story because it reflects the commitment and skill of a young reporter working for a small newspaper. In addition to the enterprising reporting, Meagher and Suzanne Travers did a lovely job writing this story.

6. Larry Welborn of The Orange County Register spent 31 years investigating the mystery of Linda Louise Cummings, a shy young woman found dead in her Santa Ana apartment in 1974. His eight-part series, "Murder by Suicide?" may end up solving a murder.

7. In a terrific investigation, Chris Halsne of KIRO-TV 7 in Seattle shows how the state of Washington is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to give its prisoners addictive narcotics like morphine and Oxycodone.

8. James Nachtwey's photo essay in Time magazine, "One Life At A Time," powerfully shows the struggle of people suffering from preventable diseases around the world.

9. Jonathan Martin of The Seattle Times tells the story of a troubled couple's efforts to get their baby daughter back after state case workers took her away from them two days after she was born. "What's Best for Baby M?" is narrative storytelling at its best. Mike Siegel's poignant photo's tell the story in an equally powerful way.

10. In "Toxic Cargo," Phil Pitchford, Ben Goad, David Danelski and Mark Kawar of The Press-Enterprise look at the dangers of chemical spills from the increasing number of freight trains passing through their region. Their story showcases the ability of a mid-sized paper to do multi-media investigative reporting.


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