Friday, May 12, 2006


USA TODAY, once belittled by many of us as McPaper, has proved this week that it can excel in the glorious tradition of watchdog journalism. Leslie Cauley uncovered how the National Security Agency has secretly collected the phone records of tens of millions of Americans. I think Cauley's story and the New York Times' prior revelations of domestic wiretapping rank in importance with the best of Woodward's and Bernstein's Watergate work. The USA Today Web site has also done an excellent job of packaging the story with reactions, timelines and video.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Will She Keep Her Baby?

Tania Cabral loves her baby daughter, A.J. She also loves crack. Last week reporter Edward Fitzpatrick and photographer John Freidah of the Providence Journal chronicled Cabral's journey through rehab and Rhode Island's Family Treatment Drug Court as she tries to leave her bouts of homelessness and drug abuse behind and regain custody of A.J. "A Mother's Addiction" is a long but gripping seven-part story with memorable characters and settings and a strong narrative. Kudos to the ProJo editors who gave Fitzpatrick and Freidah time and space to tell this story that reads like a novella.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Huddling with God

Tom Krattenmaker has an interesting story anchoring the home page of Salon this morning. "Going Long for Jesus" takes an in-depth look at how evangelical Christian chaplains are embedded with nearly 100 basketball, football and baseball teams to the dismay of some players and fans. Krattenmaker shows us the influence of these chaplains from post-game prayer circles on the 50-yard lines to players who thank God for helping them make the game-winning shot at the buzzer. This is an article with a strong point of view that raises fascinating questions about the mixture of religion and sports. You may have to click on an ad to read the story, but it's worth it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

25 Years Later

Two-and-a-half decades after AIDS first hit America, this week's Newsweek looks at how the epidemic increasingly harms blacks and women. "Battling a Black Epidemic" by Claudia Kalb and Andrew Murr is full of powerful examples and insightful analysis of why the disease is still spreading. The story comes with strong profiles, timelines and other sidebars. Ethan Hill's photo gallery of HIV-positive women, men and children is well worth the visit.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Turning in Mom

The Arizona Republic had a fascinating story a couple of weeks ago as part of a special series it's doing on the impact of meth on children and families. "Painful Decision by Girl, 14, May Have Saved 2 Lives" by Dennis Wagner uses a lively narrative style to show what happens to a Phoenix girl who must decide whether to turn her meth-dealing mom into police. Wagner used police reports, a videotaped police interview and courts records to research the story, but what makes it stand out is his use of a second-person voice. Here's how he starts the story: "You are a 14-year-old girl with a black Lab and a little brother and a mom who cooks meth in the kitchen late at night." It's an unusual approach that makes an end run around the dilemma of whether to identify the girl. Do you think it works?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

When the Lights Went Out

"Through Hell and High Water" by Jane O. Hansen of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reads like a novel. In today's first chapter she introduces us to four characters we can care deeply about: two seriously ill young men, Hunter Reeves and Preston Johnson, and their mothers, who grow close as they keep a close bedside watch over their sons. She shows us the setting: Charity Hospital for poor patients and Tulane University Hospital and Clinic for wealthier ones, across the street from each other in New Orleans. And she starts the plot racing as Hurricane Katrina bears down on the city and the two hospitals lose power. Hansen's narrative power and insightful reporting promise to give us a powerful story about heroism and despair as patients, their families, doctors and nurses struggle to survive through Katrina's wrath.
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