Friday, February 17, 2006

Capitalism, Chinese Style

Peter S. Goodman's "In China's Frontier, a Fortune Is Made" in today's Washington Post gives a wonderful insight into how China's booming economy works. Goodman's profile reveals how a combination of moxie and lucrative government contracts have allowed former school teacher Yan Jiehe to become China's second-richest man. Better than any economic statistics can, Goodman's sharp anecdotes, descriptions and quotes give us a sense of how capitalist China is developing.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's All Who You Know

Court employees and other Nashville insiders are getting thousands of parking tickets fixed without having to pay a dime, reporter Phil Williams of television station WTVF reports. In his two-part series, "The Ticket Fix," Williams reveals that over the past two years, 16,000 parking tickets -- or 12 percent of the total tickets in the Nashville area -- were dismissed by judges and no can explain why. Williams and his team include some priceless interviews, including one with a probation officer who didn't have to pay 81 parking tickets.
The folks at Investigative Reporters and Editors turned me on to this story.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Stolen Children

During the past month, the Toledo Blade has run a series of hard-hitting stories on the miseries of teen prostitution. In the latest installment, "Reports of Runaways End up at Bottom of Investigation Pile," Roberta de Boer and Robin Erb describe how the Toledo Police Department has only two detectives who investigate missing person reports, compared with seven 20 years ago. As a result, reports of missing teens can get lost in the shuffle, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to pimps and other predators. Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute gets credit for letting me and his other readers know about this story.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Blight Fight

In "Vacant Homes Turn KC's Heart into Hole in Map," Lynn Horsley of the The Kansas City Star uses a creative approach to delve into the reasons behind urban decay. Horsley gives us a house-by-house tour of Kansas City's inner city to explain why so many buildings are run down. She tells us the stories of the people who own the homes and describes what went wrong for them and their houses. This approach shows us that the reasons for the decay are complex without getting us tangled up in confusing policy analysis. It took some deep reporting to get this information, but I like how clearly it's presented. I also like how the accompanying video takes us on a visual tour of the neighborhood.

Monday, February 13, 2006

When Grown-Ups Fail

Noam N. Levey of the Los Angeles Times gives a devastating critique of foster care procedures in "A Child's Death Reveals a System's Tragic Flaw." Levey shows how the system failed 2-year-old Sarah Chavez, who was returned to her aunt and uncle despite warnings from her foster parents that the little girl may have been abused by the family members. The aunt and uncle now stand accused of beating Sarah to death. In addition to the sad facts, Levey uses a compelling narrative to pull us through this gut-wrenching story that describes how so many adults failed to protect Sarah.,0,7728594.story?page=1&track=tothtml

Sunday, February 12, 2006


"Costly Tutoring May Be Too Late" by Dave Weber in Sunday's Orlando Sentinel is a great example of how to use numbers in a powerful way. Weber unearths testing and budget data to reveal how Florida schools are falling far behind on offering tutoring required by the No Child Left Behind Act. What makes the story work especially well are the examples Weber gives us. For example, he describes how in the Miami/Dade County schools only 12 of 37 tutoring services that students were supposed to be able to use had opened shop by Feb. 1.

Looking at the issue from a national perspective, Susan Saulny of the New York Times reports that of the 2 million or so U.S. students eligible for tutoring, only 226,000, or about 12 percent, got help in 2004. In "Tutor Program Offered by Law Is Going Unused," Saulny clearly explains the complex reasons why so few students are participating.
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