Saturday, April 22, 2006

Currency Exchange

The Los Angeles Times has been running a fascinating series, "The New Foreign Aid," about the estimated one billion people who get some financial help from family and friends working abroad. Richard Boudreaux, Carol J. Williams, Richard C. Paddock and Tracy Wilkinson give us interesting examples from Mexico, Haiti, the Philippines and Kenya of how cash from abroad props up local economies and influences lives for both good and bad. I like how the Times uses its far-flung foreign correspondents in a cooperative effort to analyze this worldwide trend.,0,4836197.story?track=tottext

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hot Wheels

A team of vocational students at West Philadelphia High School have built what could be America's fastest environmentally friendly sports car. In "Eco-Coupe Fires Dreams," Akweli Parker of The Philadelphia Inquirer chronicles how these students, many of them struggling to stay in school, hope to race their car to the top of the prestigious Tour de Sol competition next month. Parker's deep reporting and sharp writing make this story read like the start of an exciting Hollywood script.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

When Nature Calls Your Pooch

Here's a fun change of pace from the usual gloom and doom. In "Not-So-Sweet Smell of Success," Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Boston Globe tells us about a new suburban phenomenon: professional pooper scoopers. Johnson reports that the combination of increasing dog ownership and busy families has created a niche for companies such as DoodyCalls, Your Dogs Business and Doggy Doody Disposal to clean up pet poop from people's yards. Kudos to Johnson for spotting, or possibly stepping into, this trend and writing a fun, informative story about it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Book Blues

The Chicago Tribune had a couple of impressive stories in Sunday's paper. In "Aging Textbooks Fail Illinois Kids," Diane Rado and Ana Beatriz Cholo spells out how nearly 80 percent of school districts surveyed in Illinois use out-of-date textbooks. Cholo and Rado give excellent examples of how some students are using rubber bands and duct tape to hold together their decrepit books because state funding doesn't match the rising costs of textbooks.,1,530320.story?coll=chi-news-hed

In the same edition, "Stateway's Swan Song" by Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo paints a vivid portrait of the people living in the last remaining building of Stateway Gardens, an enormous public housing project that is meeting the wrecking ball.
Chris Walker's powerful photos also give us a strong sense of the residents' lives.,1,5613482.htmlstory?coll=chi-news-hed

Not to be out done by their cross-town rivals, the staff of the Chicago Sun-Times put together incredibly comprehensive coverage of the guilty verdict for former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. The main story by Natasha Korecki, Abdon Pallasch, Mark J. Konkol and Steve Warmbir (full disclosure: Pallasch and Warmbir are friends of mine so I'm biased) and the dozen or so sidebars are great examples of how to cover the big story in town.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Holy Sights

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette moved beyond the traditional coverage of Easter Sunday by running a fascinating package by photographer Martha Rial about Bethlehem, Jerusalem and other Biblical sites. "The Community of Arab Christians is Dwindling in the Holy Land" uses a mix of photographs, audio and short profiles to show how Christians in the Holy Land continue to worship while struggling to survive. I like how Rial is able to transcend politics to convey the drama of people's daily lives.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Tax Day Blues

I'll probably spend much of Monday standing in line at the post office waiting to file the tax return that I procrastinated working on until the last minute. While doing so, I'll contemplate "Feeling Taxed? Not Big Business " by Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian. Hammond carefully dissects Oregon's tax policies to explain why the burden of paying for state government is falling increasingly on its residents while businesses pay a smaller share. I admire Hammond's willingness to wade into complicated issues to investigate an issue that has great significance for her readers.
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