Thursday, March 09, 2006

Reality Religion

Andrea Elliott of the New York Times concluded a revealing series this week about American Muslims. The three-part "An Imam in America" follows Sheik Reda Shata, the beloved imam of a Brooklyn mosque. Elliott gives us a nuanced portrait of Shata as he chaperones young Muslim couples as they date, endures an FBI interview and settles a neighborhood dispute between hot dog vendors. I learned more about the reality of Islam from "An Iman in America" than from anything else I've read. James Estrin's photos brilliantly capture Shata's day-to-day life at home, in his mosque and on the streets of New York.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Starving for Justice

Mental illness and life in jail are two of the toughest topics for reporters to tackle. Access to information isn't always easy and sources can be unreliable. But in "Out of Sight," Alicia Gallegos of the South Bend Tribune overcomes these obstacles to reveal how one mentally ill man suffered before dying in jail. With the help of photographer Marcus Marter, Gallegos tells the story of Nicholas Rice, a 22-year-old schizophrenic who died of malnutrition and dehydration while locked in a county jail. Her six-part series skillfully mixes investigative reporting techniques with a serial narrative writing approach.
Thanks to Brian Summers for pointing me to this story. Below are the links to the six parts of this series.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mourning Becomes Virtual

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a couple of stories this Sunday that grabbed my attention. In "Reality of a Death Saddens the Virtual World," Gabrielle Banks tells the fascinating, sad story of Shiva Kumar, an 18-year-old virtual game player and leader who drowned in January. While about 75 friends, teachers and relatives attended Kumar's funeral, the thousands of gamers who had become his friend in cyberspace but had never heard his voice or met him in person are still trying to figure out how to mourn. Banks deserves credit for recognizing how one teen's death sheds light on a world few adults are familiar with.

Also in Sunday's Post-Gazette, Chico Harlan tells us the surprising story of Rohan Murphy, a Penn State wrestler with no legs. In "Going to the Mat for What he Loves," Harlan avoids the obvious potential for pathos and instead uses wonderfully vivid and crisp language to share with us a tale of great courage.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Love and Loss

Suzanne Pullen of the San Francisco Chronicle shows a lot of heart in writing about a topic most of us don't want to think about -- the stillbirth of a baby. In "Calling All Angels" she movingly tells of her own experiences with the stillbirth of her baby, a boy she and her friends nicknamed Boo Boo. Between passages from her personal tale, Pullen gives us the facts about how each year an estimated 4.5 million woman worldwide deliver a stillborn baby. I was impressed with how well she gives a first-person narrative of her own experiences while also comprehensively covering the medical and psychological issues involved with stillbirths.

I also want to give a special shout-out today to Miranda Leitsinger and Ben Fox of the Associated Press for their work in getting documents released that at long last reveal the identities of the prisoners being held in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. They deserve credit for their tenacity in using the Freedom of Information Act in the face of massive government resistance. Their story appeared in every newspaper I read and every broadcast outlet I watched this weekend.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Wounded Winners

I've seen plenty of well-written, heart-breaking stories about the nearly 400 American men and women who have lost limbs during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But Brady Dennis of the St. Petersburg Times found a fresh, invigorating angle on this topic for Sunday's paper. In "Sports Therapy," he shows how many of these amputees are turning to their love of athletics to regain their sense of confidence and hope. Dennis mixes national data and interviews with a description of a group of veterans with missing limbs who are riding their bikes from Miami to Key West to raise public support for wounded troops.
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