Friday, January 27, 2006

One Place, Two Worlds

In a story that reads like a chapter from a Graham Greene novel, Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times shows us how the U.N. mission in Haiti operates in a world apart from the people its troops are supposedly protecting. "Mission Missing Its Mark" describes how members of the U.N. deployment eat in fancy restaurants and shop with Haiti's elite while most of the people in the hemisphere's poorest country grow increasingly resentful. The cost of the U.N. mission, she tells us, surpasses Haiti's total national budget.,0,2597713.story?page=1

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Damning Dam Report

Here's another gem from members of Investigative Reporters and Editors. Greg Bruno and Jessica Gardner of the Times Herald-Record in New York's Hudson Valley found that government inspectors of two dams in the Catskill Mountains repeatedly fabricated their reports. For more than three years, about 70 percent of the weekly inspection reports for the two dams were actually photocopies of previous reports, Gardner and Bruno write in "Phony Dam Reports." This is a nice example of strong investigative work being done by a small newspaper.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bad Air

Randy Ludlow of The Columbus Dispatch reports that nearly five years after more than 100 workers became ill after breathing the fine mist of metalworking fluid at an Ohio brake plant, dozens remain disabled and out of work. In "Gasping for Help," Ludlow reveals that TRW Automotive did not break any OSHA rules because OSHA has no standards for metalworking fluids despite evidence that it is dangerous. What I like most about this story is that Ludlow took the time to follow up on old news to find out its long-term impact on people. He also impressively describes some of the brutal conditions at the plant.
Thanks to the good folks at Investigative Reporters and Editors for pointing out this story.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Rookie

Christopher Goffard of the St. Petersburg Times has written a fascinating profile of Charley Demosthenous, a struggling young public defender. For "In His Own Defense," Goffard followed Demosthenous around for the first year of his legal career as he learned how to defend difficult clients, negotiate treacherous courtroom terrain and battle his own insecurities. The depth of Goffard's reporting and his clever pacing give this story the narrative drive of a novel. Times photographer Melissa Lyttle and researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this series, which is scheduled to continue on Thursday and Sunday.
Thanks to Garrett Guillotte for the tip.

Monday, January 23, 2006

No Heart

The poor and the uninsured don't have the same access to life-saving organs for donation as other patients, Joy Victory of ABC News reports in "Need an Organ? It Helps to Be Rich." Victory used an article in a scientific journal as the starting point for her reporting, but she personalizes the story through the experiences of Brian Shane Regions, an uninsured man who needs a heart transplant. Thanks for the tip from the Poynter Institute's Al Tompkins and his "Al's Morning Meeting."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Guilty as Charged

A three-year investigation by the San Jose Mercury News reveals that the Santa Clara County, California, justice system routinely tolerates errors by judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. For today's first installment of the five-part series "Tainted Trials, Stolen Justice," reporter Fredric N. Tulsky reviewed 700 appeals cases to discover that innocent people in the county are being convicted and sent to prison. What makes the story especially compelling are the dramatic examples that Tulsky uses. This is an excellent example of investigative journalism that can make a difference.

Torn Between Two Countries

Cathy Eff fled to the United States during the brutal Russian crackdown against the failed 1956 Hungarian revolution, leaving her 2-year-old son Tamás behind with relatives. For 49 years she longed to see him again and rectify what she considers the biggest mistake of her life. She got that chance in October when Tamas and his family were able to visit her in New Jersey on a tourist visa. But now his visa is running out and immigration laws require him to go back to Hungary. In "American Dreams," Jennifer Weiss does a wonderful job in today's Star-Ledger of telling this story about family bonds, heartache and the enduring hopes of immigrants.
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