Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dangerous Crossing

The border between Mexico and the United States is growing increasingly dangerous for immigrants and border agents alike, Tim Vanderpool reports for the Tucson Weekly. Vanderpool's "Bloody Border" vividly describes what it's like to be on the front lines of the fight over illegal immigration.

The Afflicted

I've long admired Jason Beaubien's work on NPR. He came through again Tuesday with "AIDS Deaths Disrupt Family Relationships in Uganda." It tells the story of Mary Namutebbe, who must take care of her 10 grandchildren because all her children have died. By describing Namutebbe's efforts to save her grandchildren from destitution, Beaubien shows how AIDS is affecting all generations in Africa, even those who don't have the disease themselves. This is a good example of reporting that seeks to comfort the afflicted.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Darkest Hour

The mistaken headlines about the trapped West Virginia coal miners have given journalism another black eye. This fiasco reminds us that no matter how dramatic the news, we need to check, and double check, our sourcing before we announce something is fact. If we're not positive, let's say so. In its early editions, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette joined many of its brethren in running the initially false news that 12 miners had survived the blast, but it quickly corrected the mistake in latter editions and on its Web site. The Post-Gazette has treated the tragedy as a hometown story, and its reporters have done an impressive job of covering all facets of the unfolding events. An example is "Sago Mine Safety Record Not Spotless, but New Owners Showed Improvement" by Dan Fitzpatrick and Michael A. Fuoco. Fitzpatrick and Fuoco reveal that within the last half year, inspectors had raised concerns about combustible material in the mine four times and cited the mine 208 times last year for health and safety violations.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Perfect Storm Story

I usually have a tough time understanding science, but Anthony R. Wood of The Philadelphia Inquirer does a terrific job making things clear in his three-part "Gulf Stream" series that ran in December. Wood reaches back to Ben Franklin to show how changes in the Gulf Stream could disastrously harm our climate. It's a great example of explanatory journalism. Kudos as well to photographer Jonathan Wilson, artist Cynthia Greer, designer Sterling Chen and everyone else who worked on this fascinating multi-media package. And thanks to Steffen Fjaervik, whose posting on the Poynter Institute's "E-Media Tidbits" let me to this story.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Baby Snatchers

The Los Angeles Times starts the year with a couple of gems. In "Child-Theft Racket Growing in China," Mark Magnier reports on how kidnappers are swiping babies in China and then forcing them into prostitution or begging, or selling them for adoption overseas. Magnier does a great job explaining the reasons behind this disturbing trend and gives us heart-breaking examples of its impact on Chinese families.,0,4305055.story?track=tottext
Also in Sunday's Times, Peter Y. Hong tells us what's happened to the members of the 1989 University of Southern California football team 16 years after they won the Rose Bowl. In "Winners on the Field, They Found Life Harder to Tackle," Hong tells us that some became NFL stars and some succeeded in business while others ended up in jail or struggled with drugs. Tracking down the players took some master detective work.,0,3450417.story?track=tottext

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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