Friday, January 20, 2006

Remembering the Ethan Allen

What really happened when the tour boat Ethan Allen sank in Lake George, N.Y., last October, killing 20 people? Reporter Jeff Seidel and photographer Amy Leang of the Detroit Free Press presented a five-part series this week that examines what went wrong on that picture-perfect day and how the tragedy has affected the survivors and the people who rescued them. Part 5, which ran today, is a beautifully written example of how a story about one person can say so much about life. Thanks to Brian Summers for recommending this series.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oil Rush

I admire reporters who go far off the beaten track to find their stories. That's why I'm impressed with Kelly Hearn's story, "Selling the Amazon for a Handful of Beads," posted on AlterNet this week. Hearn, who is also a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, investigates how international oil companies made deals with the Ecuadorian military for rights to 4.4 billion barrels of oil beneath the Amazon rain forests. The oil drilling in Ecuador's Oriente province has left in its wake poverty, environmental destruction and public health ills among the region's indigenous people, Hearn tells us. This story is a good example of advocacy journalism that backs up its opinions with strong documentation and powerful interviews.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Friendly Fire

Penetrating the Pentagon for information is one of the toughest tasks a reporter can undertake, but Josh White of the Washington Post succeeds in his story, "An Army Death, and a Family Left In the Dark." White uses documents and interviews to try to unravel the mystery of what happened to Army Spec. Jesse Buryj in Iraq in May of 2004. The Army told his family that Buryj had been shot to death, but the Pentagon stonewalled them when they tried to find out why. The family suspects that politics and diplomatic intrigue played a role in delaying their finding out the truth: that he was killed by friendly fire.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Spy Talk

The New York Times is once again leading the charge in the investigation of the Bush Administration's approval of spying on Americans. "Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends" by Lowell Bergman, Eric Lichtblau, Scott Shane and Don Van Natta Jr. in Tuesday's paper reveals that the National Security Agency used the domestic spying program to swamp the FBI with information that proved largely useless. The Times has been criticized, with some justification, for holding on to the original spying story for too long before running it. But let's remember that its reporters were the only ones to dig out this controversial story in the first place.

Monday, January 16, 2006


How could Jack Abramoff's corrupt lobbying spread so easily? Michael Kranish and Susan Milligan give us part of the answer in today's Boston Globe. "Oversight of Lobbyists Found Lax" shows how a law that is supposed to track congressional lobbyists lacks teeth. Milligan and Kranish have mined documents to give us dozens of examples of how the law is filled with loopholes and rarely enforced.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Digging for Perspective

Eleven days ago I commended the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for its coverage of the breaking news at the Sago mine disaster. While the rest of the world turns its attention elsewhere, the Post-Gazette came out with a powerful special report today that details all that went wrong at the mine while telling us about the lives of the miners and their community. "Breakdown at Sago Mine" is a wonderful example of using narrative to tell a complex story. Through thorough reporting, Dan Fitzpatrick, Diana Nelson Jones, Cindi Lash, Steve Levin, Dan Majors, James O'Toole, Dennis B. Roddy, Rebekah Scott, Anya Sostek, Anita Srikameswaran and Steve Twedt succeed in presenting the human side of this tragedy while also clearly explaining the hard facts. Tom Birdsong, Mark Roth, Lillian Thomas and Greg Victor edited the section, which was produced by page designers Joyce Howard, Lauren Lake and editorial artist Kristin Synowka.
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