Thursday, January 12, 2006

Chris and Cody

The PBS series Frontline has been showing a beautiful documentary this week. "Country Boys" by David Sutherland follows the lives of Chris Johnson and Cody Perkins, two teen boys growing up in eastern Kentucky. Cody and Chris work to overcome problems with poverty, family and schools while reaching for a slice of the American dream. This film shows us a lot about what it means to come of age; I found it completely engrossing. What impresses me the most from a reporting standpoint is how Sutherland developed his sources -- Cody and Chris, their families, their friends, their teachers -- in order to paint such a subtle yet vivid portrait of their lives.
Update: when I last tried this link Thursday morning, the PBS server didn't seem to be working, so check back again if the link doesn't work the first time. And I'll check later to make sure they get it up and running again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Deadly Sugar

Here's a lead that completely grabbed my attention:

"Begin on the sixth floor, third room from the end, swathed in fluorescence: a 60-year-old woman was having two toes sawed off. One floor up, corner room: a middle-aged man sprawled, recuperating from a kidney transplant. Next door: nerve damage. Eighth floor, first room to the left: stroke. Two doors down: more toes being removed. Next room: a flawed heart."

So starts N. R. Kleinfield's story, "Diabetes and its Awful Toll Quietly Emerge as a Crisis," the first installment of the four-part "Bad Blood" series this week in the New York Times. The stories by Kleinfield and Ian Urbina tell how more than one in every eight adults in New York has diabetes, causing health officials to label the disease an epidemic. The stories vividly show diabetes' human toll and spell out the long-term public policy and financial implications.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Withered Harvest

The United Farmworkers union and its founder, Cesar Chavez, have been revered by many since they first began organizing in the 1960s. I remember boycotting grapes through the 1970s on their behalf. But in her four-part investigative series, "UFW: A Broken Contract," Miriam Pawel of the Los Angeles Times digs deeply into the union's current state of affairs and finds much that has turned rotten. This is a richly reported story that uses data from union and government documents and plentiful examples from the fields to trace what went wrong. Here's a link to the third part of the series. The fourth part comes out tomorrow.,0,3382590.story?track=tottext,0,7810402.story?track=tothtml

Monday, January 09, 2006

Who is Sam Alito?

The Washington Post proves once again its ability to cover politics better than anyone with its two-part profile of Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr., which concluded today. Jo Becker and Dale Russakoff use interviews and documents to trace Alito's rise to power from his days as a Princeton undergraduate through his years in the Reagan White House to his time as an appellate judge. This story comes across as thorough and fair, not an easy task when it comes to a controversial Supreme Court nomination.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Boomer Blues

We've all heard that the baby boomers are getting older. Some of us feel it in our bones. In "Who'll Take Care of Mom & Dad?" Tim Bonfield and Cliff Radel of the Cincinnati Enquirer look at the personal, financial and governmental implications of 77 million boomers reaching retirement age and beyond. Bonfield and Radel do a nice job of pulling together important data and presenting it in a clear, lively way.

Fake Cops

Despite its ownership woes, the Chicago Sun-Times continues to produce excellent investigative work. Frank Main's and Steve Warmbir's "Bogus Badges: Crooks' New Weapon of Choice" in Sunday's paper is a great example. Their story shows how an increasing number of crooks in the Chicago region are posing as cops to terrorize innocent people. The story is full of vivid examples and offers advice on what to do if you are suspicious about the true identity of someone in uniform.
Full Disclosure: Steve and Frank are two of my favorite people to have lunch with.
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