Friday, February 24, 2006

Detective Work

I'm hopping across the border to Canada today to praise the reporting and writing of Jon Wells of The Hamilton Spectator. Through most of February, Wells' "Post Mortem" series has traced the work of detectives trying to solve the murder of a young woman. Wells' reporting is incredibly detailed, and he uses narrative techniques and multiple viewpoints to pace the series like a must-turn-the-page detective yarn. Gary Yokoyama's photos accompany the story and offer their own powerful narrative. In addition to deserving credit for giving Wells the time to work on "Post Mortem," The Spectator has allowed Wells to blog about each day's story, adding a behind-the-scenes look at how he developed the series. So far he has given us 17 chapters. I can't wait to find out what happens next.
Thanks to Brian Summers for the tip.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Why People Go Hungry

I was determined to look for a story with a fun theme today after linking to some mega-serious stories so far this week (starvation, war, hurricanes). But I can't ignore Michael Wines' story in today's New York Times. I've lauded Wines' work from Africa before for the depth of his reporting and the vividness of his writing. What makes "Zambia's Plight Goes Begging in Year of Disasters" especially impressive is how clearly he links mass hunger to international bureaucracy and the decisions made in donor countries. He tells us how the U.N. is cutting basic food rations to tens of thousands of war refugees because the developed world did not respond to requests for help, partly because of donor fatigue after a year of humanitarian disasters. This is explanatory journalism at its best.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Killers

I must sound like a broken record (a "broken podcast" just doesn't have the same ring to it), but I am always astounded by the quality reporting done for the Frontline documentaries on PBS. Last night's "The Insurgency" produced by Matt Haan takes this quality to a new level with a chilling account of what is happening in Iraq. Haan and his team used intermediaries to get interviews and film footage from the fighters who are killing and maiming U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers and civilians. They also interviewed U.S. commanders and journalists in Iraq to gain an understanding of how the Baathist loyalists who originally led the insurgency have been muscled out of the way by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other foreign fighters. The Frontline Web site includes additional interviews, maps, analysis and readings. If you missed the show the first time around, you can watch it on the Frontline Web site starting on Friday night.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Season of Death

John Donnelly of the Boston Globe deserves praise for venturing to the far corners of desolate, dangerous Somalia to warn us of a growing humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions. Donnelly's "Drought Imperils Horn of Africa" describes how a devastating dry spell in vast sections of East Africa is the worst in a decade, and in some areas the worst in 40 years. He uses telling details to show the heart-breaking human side of this story, such as how the desperate women in the village of Goobato rise at 2 a.m. to trek 10 miles to the closest water source, a round-trip journey that takes seven hours. I tip my hat to Donnelly and the other reporters in Africa who persist in sharing the stories of people who much of the rest of the world tries to forget.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Native American Wasteland

The second part of Sarah Kershaw's remarkable "Tribal Underworld" is featured in today's New York Times. Kershaw profiles Eugenia Phair, a Lummi Indian who developed a lucrative trade illegally selling painkillers. She shows how Phair took advantage of desperately poor people living amid dizzying casino wealth and lax law enforcement on the Indian reservations. In the first part of the story, which ran Sunday, Kershaw traces the violent wave of drug trafficking that has surged in reservations across the country and the damage it has caused. Kershaw uses court records and interviews with more than 50 tribe members, law enforcement officials and prosecutors to give us powerful examples of how the drug trade has invaded Indian country.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

There's No Going Home Again

Robert Little of the Baltimore Sun deserves credit for continuing to pay attention to New Orleans' poorest people nearly six months after Hurricane Katrina. His "Barred from Coming Home" describes how the residents of public housing are being kept from returning to their homes even though their apartments are in better shape than much of the housing in the city. His reporting reveals the great rift of mistrust between what government officials say and what some New Orleans residents think is truly happening.,0,3725567.story?coll=bal-home-headlines
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