Friday, July 07, 2006

Park Pressure

I missed the impressive "Development Inches Toward National Parks" by Frank Bass of the Associated Press when it first came out in June but saw it highlighted this week on the Investigative Reporters and Editors Web site. Bass shows how nearby population growth, security concerns, soaring popularity, environmental changes and new construction are putting tremendous pressure on U.S. national parks. Bass weaves together hard data, analysis, interviews and vivid descriptions to describe how vulnerable our beloved parks have become. His lead uses strong verbs to set the scene:
"The ice-covered mountaintops are shrouded by fog. A stream gushes against the rocks on a headlong rush to the lake. High above the deserted visitors' parking lot, an elk stares at a lone hiker."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Big Vote

While Mexico's elections grabbed the headlines, Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times ventured to Goma in the usually ignored country of Congo to cover the most expensive election in African history. Her "Congo Nears Historic Election, Praying for Peace" vividly portrays what the ballot means to a war-ravaged country that last held free elections in 1965 and has only 300 miles of paved roads. I'm impressed with how Polgreen uses verbs to show us a place few of us will ever visit. For example, she describes a reverend's drawing of Congo's history this way:

"In the picture, vultures ferry diamonds, gold and cobalt out of Congo and carry machine guns and tanks in. Greedy bureaucrats gobble stacks of tax dollars, and soldiers clobber civilians."

Photographer Lynsey Addario's beautiful slide show gives us a close-up view of what the election means to Congo's people.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Making the Grade

During this past school year, Laurel Rosenhall of The Sacramento Bee tracked the impact of the California High School Exit Exam on students and teachers. The last story in that series, "Put to the Test," looks at what happened at Hiram Johnson High School, a Sacramento school that has struggled to meet the demands of the new testing regimen. I like how Rosenhall shows the benefits and pitfalls of the high-stakes test through the lives of students as they approach graduation night.

For another bittersweet look at graduation, check out "Adam's Way" by Mary Rogers of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Rogers profiles Adam Murray, a teen who refuses to give up on his troubled mother.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Transplant Troubles

I'm glad the Los Angeles Times is continuing its investigations into the nation's medical transplant system. "20% of U.S. Transplant Centers Are Found to Be Substandard" by Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein reveals that 48 out of 236 federally funded heart, lung and liver transplant programs keep operating despite failing to meet minimum standards or not performing enough operations to ensure competency. According to the analysis by Weber and Ornstein, 71 more people died between 2002 and 2004 because of the failings.

On a lighter note, "The Coin of This Realm Is Gargantuan" by Richard C. Paddock of the Times tells us about the unusual currency on the island of Yap. The tale may sound like something out of Dr. Seuss, but Paddock does a nice job of putting the story in the context of a people bravely trying to hold on to their culture.
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