Thursday, June 08, 2006

Globe Trotters

I can't resist recognizing the work of some of our own Medill News Service graduate students who worked with the Center For Public Integrity and American Public Media to produce "Power Trips: Congress Hits the Road." The main story, "Congress Travels the World, Private Sponsors Foot the Bill," by Chris Kirkham and Freeman Klopott details how corporate and nonprofit groups have spent nearly $50 million between Jan. 1, 2000, and June 30 of last year to send congressmen and their staffs on 23,000 trips throughout the world. To create the package of more than two dozen stories, reporters from Medill, the Center for Public Integrity and American Public Media created a database using Senate and House records. Most of the major U.S. media have since followed up on the story, but the Medill students and their colleagues had it first.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Back to New Orleans

I'm glad some journalists are still reporting hard about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Pete Souza, for example, presented a great photo essay in Sunday's Chicago Tribune showing what has happened to New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward. His images of cars washed up under houses, a smashed electric piano, and twisted street signs and telephone lines underscore how devastated much of the city remains. One of Souza's photos shows graffiti on the side of a house that simply says "Baghdad," reminding us that the Lower 9th still resembles a war zone.
These photos took about a minute to load on to my screen, but they're worth the wait.

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer has also continued to do an outstanding job covering Katrina. One of my favorites is "Poets on Hurricane Katrina," reported by Jeffrey Brown, which shows us a weekly poetry night in the French Quarter where verse gives shape to the anger and grief unleashed by the storm.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pain Killer

A spark of curiosity while looking through rows of numbers in a vital statistics report led to a great series by Scott Finn and Tara Tuckwiller running this week in The Charleston Gazette. After more than six months of digging through data and talking with medical examiners, epidemiologists and other experts, Finn and Tuckwiller found that methadone poisoning deaths around the country have more than tripled in recent years. The culprit, they concluded, was improper warnings when methadone is prescribed as a painkiller. Even when patients take the usual adult dosage approved by the FDA, they often die, Finn and Tuckwiller report. This is a well-written, well-researched story that shows what can happen when reporters follow the numbers.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Car Trouble

I'm seeing the level of investigative reporting on the business beat moving up a few notches in the post-Enron journalism world. A case in point is "A Look at the Books" by Jennifer Dixon in Sunday's Detroit Free Press. Dixon used SEC records and court papers to show how General Motors used improper accounting practices to inflate its income in four of the last six years, giving investors an inaccurate view of its true financial health. Dixon does a nice job of talking to outside experts to put GM's actions in perspective. She and her Free Press editors deserve credit for not being afraid to challenge the big boy in town.
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