The Best American Crime Writing Series (renamed The Best American Crime Reporting in 2006) ran from 2002 to 2010 and presented the finest in true crime journalism. Many of the stories are available from the online magazines in which they were first printed or from other legitimate sources. Links to all 105 available stories appear below the fold. I have previously presented links to the stories from the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 editions. Some of those links have gone bad, so they have been reworked. [more inside]
Marlene Sanders’ Feminist Legacy [Slate obit] - "She wrote of her accomplishments: 'As I look back on my career, the women's movement provided an exceptional point when time, place and position all came together to give me the power and focus to contribute to the country’s awareness of the status of women.'" [more inside]
Loaded with Lead. America has an estimated 10,000 gun ranges and 40 million annual recreational shooters. But when guns are fired with lead-based ammunition, they spread a toxin: lead vapor and dust. A year-long Seattle Times investigation shows that due to poor ventilation and contact with lead-coated surfaces, thousands of workers, shooters and their family members have been contaminated and been made sick at shooting ranges nationwide. Reckless range owners/operators, unenforced regulations as well as a lack of oversight and inspections are to blame. [more inside]
Interview with a fast talker. Interview with a hand model. Interview with a Joss Whedon. Interview with the relentlessly positive. Interview with a cat lady. Interview with a racist. [more inside]
The Final Rhapsody of Charles Bowden by Scott Carrier [Mother Jones] [warning, descriptions of graphic violence] [more inside]
Mother Jones reports on Bill O'Reilly's claimed experience in combat zones, reaching conclusions like one of his claims "is at odds with news reports from the time—including the report from his own bureau." O'Reilly responded, and Mother Jones factchecked his monologue. Meanwhile, a veteran CBS News reporter weighed in, backing the work by Mother Jones.
Brian Williams, Under Scrutiny, Will Take Leave From ‘NBC Nightly News’ [New York Times]
Brian Williams, acknowledging that the scrutiny and criticism he was attracting was becoming a distraction for his network, said on Saturday that he was stepping aside as anchor of NBC’s “Nightly News” for the next several days.[more inside]
Ebola and the Construction of Fear by Karen Sternheimer (Everyday Sociology)
"Sociologist Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things, explains how misguided panics are not just benign opportunities to prevent something horrible, but can divert attention and public funds away from more likely threats. He notes:[more inside]Panic-driven public spending generates over the long term a pathology akin to one found in drug addicts. The money and attention we fritter away on our compulsions, the less we have available for our real needs, which consequently grow larger (p. xvii).
Alaskan television reporter quits on-air in spectacular fashion Charlo Greene (apparently her real name) quit her job on-air, after outing herself as the owner of the marijuana exchange on which she was reporting.
Westerners are so convinced China is a dystopian hellscape they’ll share anything that confirms it. [more inside]
"I say “you” deliberately here, because much of the writing about low-wage workers tends to obscure just that fact — that these stories could well be about you. Too much writing on the left and the right has tended to treat the people in some of the nation’s most common jobs as if they are some exotic Other rather than our neighbors, our family members and ourselves. " --Sarah Jaffe on the media's strange ways of talking about low-wage workers.
"On Monday, veteran Washington Post editor and New Yorker contributor Marc Fisher published a deeply reported, scrupulous Columbia Journalism Review cover story on how the Internet’s metabolism and economy [including instant-headline video start-up NowThisNews], which places a premium on being first to a story and on attracting clicks, has led to compromises when it comes to the whole accuracy thing. As if on cue, a fun news story has been making the rounds in the past few days: A survey found that 11 percent of Americans believe that "HTML" is a sexually transmitted disease. Other findings included that 20 percent believe a "motherboard" is a cruise-ship deck and 15 percent believe "software" is a type of clothing. The survey itself... may not exist." -- TNR on the Circular Fact Checking ecosystem of online news reporting.
Since the first stirrings of the Nieman Foundation’s narrative writing program nearly 20 years ago, the staff has tended a treasure trove of resource material devoted to excellence in journalistic storytelling. Much of that material went online first via the Nieman Narrative Digest and, in 2009, here at Nieman Storyboard. Storyboard 75 represents some of the most popular posts from our archive so far. Essays, interviews, how-to’s and analyses of narrative journalism.
Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" appeared in Esquire Magazine in April 1966. Sinatra had turned down interview requests from Esquire for years and refused to be interviewed for the profile. Rather than give up, Talese spent the three months following and observing the man and interviewing any members of his entourage who were willing to speak -- and the final story was published without Sinatra's cooperation or blessing. In 2003, editors pronounced it the best article the magazine had ever published. Nieman Storyboard interviewed Talese last month about the piece and has annotated it with his comments. [more inside]
Shooting The Messengers
So, what guides a journalist's decisions in these unlovely places? The frequently repeated maxim that "no story is worth dying for" rings a little hollow. The awkward truth is that, in this field, personal bravery is simultaneously discouraged and rewarded.[more inside]
Every year, Kids Wish Network raises millions of dollars in donations in the name of dying children and their families. Every year, it spends less than 3 cents on the dollar helping kids... In the past decade alone, Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its corporate solicitors. An additional $4.8 million has gone to pay the charity's founder and his own consulting firms... But Kids Wish is not an isolated case... An old-fashioned investigative reporting piece into the worst charities in the US. [more inside]
Legendary war correspondent Ernie Pyle didn't get to Normandy Beach until the day after D-Day.
In a series of three columns, he described what he saw, and found.
"A Pure Miracle"
"The Horrible Waste Of War."
"A Long Thin Line Of Personal Anguish."
In a series of three columns, he described what he saw, and found.
"A Pure Miracle"
"The Horrible Waste Of War."
"A Long Thin Line Of Personal Anguish."
As May evaporates into the lazy haze of June, why not take some time to reflect on that which really matters: The Best May News Bloopers (Some cursing), compiled by NewsBeFunny - a veritable treasure trove of flubs, goofs, spills, and camera-crashing.
Frank Deford, a 50-year veteran of Sports Illustrated, once labeled Meltzer the most accomplished reporter in sports journalism. “You could cover the Vatican or State Department,” Deford said recently, “and not do as good a job as Dave Meltzer does on wrestling.”For nearly 30 years, Dave Meltzer has published the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, featuring weekly behind the locker room door insight into the business of professional wrestling. How far reaching has Meltzer's impact been? In one famous incident, Hulk Hogan, frustrated by what he perceived as consistently negative coverage in the publication, burned a copy of the newsletter during a live Pay-Per-View event.
Five reasons why news outlets are even worse than you think. Brett Arends describes five corrupting influences that keep the public from getting the facts. [more inside]
Last month, HBO Documentaires released "Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life And Times Of Tim Hetherington." It is a "posthumous recounting of one of the most impressive photojournalism careers to date." "'Restrepo' director has sorrowful Sundance return. [more inside]
The Art Of Making Magazines "By making what they call "not a how-to book, but… a how-to-think-about-it-book," they help us look at something we've probably been taking for granted: What is a magazine?"
After Forbes magazine declared Dayton, OH, one of America's " fastest dying cities," a group of local media makers created Reinvention Stories. The interactive film/multimedia experience rolls out this month in three acts.
Just because you don't like a study doesn't mean it's wrong. Gawker takes the rest of the blog world to task for misinterpreting this new paper on women who watch televised sports. [more inside]
In July 2007, NPR published a two part series (direct links: 1, 2) about a four year old uninvestigated rape case at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Sparked in part by a 2006 report (pdf) from Amnesty International that included a startling statistic: "One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime," NPR's investigation led to the reopening of the case and Congressional hearings. In February 2011, Harper's published an update of sorts: Tiny Little Laws: A Plague of Sexual Violence in Indian Country (Via)
The Hemingway Papers: The legendary writer’s reporting from the Toronto Star archives, featuring historical annotations by William McGeary, a former editor who researched Hemingway’s columns extensively for the newspaper, along with new insight and analysis from the Star’s team of Hemingway experts.
This past August a murder charge was dismissed against Nga Truong, a young mother who had confessed to Worcester, MA Police interrogators in 2008 that she had smothered and killed her 13 month-old baby, Khyle. A judge later concluded that confession was coerced -- extracted in part by police "deception," "trickery and implied promises" -- and the case was dropped. (pdf). Her case raises questions: What coercive power do detectives have who are driven to extract confessions? Under what circumstances might someone admit to a crime they have not committed? WBUR (Boston's NPR station) investigated Truong's case and has an extensive report, Anatomy of a Bad Confession: Part One and Two [more inside]
Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037, a documentary by Ben Niles. "Invention for 900 Hands", a nine-part series in The New York Times. "K 2571: The Making of a Steinway Grand", an article in The Atlantic Monthly. [more inside]
How to build a newsroom time machine. Some pessimists predicted ALL ON PAPER would be an exercise in futility. It’s proven to be a lesson in humility – for both the student journalists struggling with the old tech for the first time, and for the veteran journalists trying to recall how it all worked a few decades ago. A college paper makes an issue the old-fashioned way. [more inside]
Should a Wash Post writer take one toke over the line to build trust to get the story? The Washington Post has a strict policy that its reporters not engage in anything illegal to get a story. Does that include taking a hit on a joint or pipe if it will get the subject of the story to open up? Not surprisingly, the reader poll had over 70% say, I'd hit that.
Joseph Mitchell was a reporter. It's tempting to say his beat was the waterfront, but though he's certainly the poet laureate of the Fulton Fish Market, this would be too literal-minded and geographically limiting. His beat was the margins, including the metaphysical margin of life itself. Mitchell invented a temporal dimension for his stories, a strange and twilit place—Mitchell Time—where a density of historical fact and the feeling of whole eras fading from view are sharply juxtaposed with scenes of cinematic immediacy related in the present tense. A cozy aura of death pervades his work, which often features oldsters experiencing the chilling fear of its approach while gleefully playing hide-and-seek with the reaper. - The Village Voice [more inside]
"There are no national standards or regulations regarding forensic pathology and practices vary widely from place to place."
The Hardest Cases: When Children Die, Justice Can Be Elusive A joint investigation by PBS Frontline, ProPublica and NPR has found that medical examiners and coroners have repeatedly mishandled cases of infant and child deaths, helping to put innocent people behind bars. (Via. (Article contains descriptions of children that have been killed by abuse. May be disturbing / triggering to some readers.) [more inside]
“I have to admit, I admired her style,” . . . “the most awesome robbery ever.” . . . “twisted, intellectually bright, dysfunctional individuals who outsmarted themselves” . . . "from threats to farce to violence" . . . "He smelled really good." . . . Slate and Longform.org team up to being you the tales of five remarkable bank heists.
The poor in Ethiopia are often unable to buy newspapers, so they 'rent' papers for 20-30 minutes at a time from local entrepreneurs.
Covering Tohoku The Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan (FCCJ) has posted a special edition of its No. 1 Shimbun covering the Tohoku Earthquake: FCCJ members, many of them freelancers, were the first on the scene after the quake and have led coverage since. Weeks after the global media pack left, they're still here. There's articles by veteran Japan reporters such as Charles Pomeroy who recently retired to Otsuchi after covering Japan for 50 years, to newer stringers such as Gavin Blair who worked as a "fixer" for foreign prima-donna journos dashing in and out of the disaster zone. There is a photo by photographer Rob Gilhooly who recently made a heartbreaking trip into the exclusion zone near the plants. Although not included in No 1 Shimbun, freelancer Yas Idei provides a Japanese perspective (in English) about the multiple disasters. Idei's piece about Rokkashomura is pretty enlightening, frightening, and depressing.
MSNBC reports: Msnbc TV host Keith Olbermann was suspended indefinitely on Friday for making campaign donations to three Democratic congressional candidates, apparently in violation of NBC News ethics policy. [more inside]
Kevin Kelly has posted a list of what he believes are the best magazine articles ever.
Restoring Journalism Maureen Tkacik talks about her life as a journalist, the nothing-based economy, and the future of journalism. She suggests abandoning authority and productively channeling narcissism. (via 2p & dd) [more inside]
"We are two reporters living with a family from Mexico, now in MacArthur Park, to learn a foreign language so that we may better report on our own city and country. We are living in their America."
The Google/China hacking case, or "How many news outlets do the original reporting on a big story?"
"The symbiotic relationship between the press and the power elite worked for nearly a century. It worked as long as our power elite, no matter how ruthless or insensitive, was competent. But once our power elite became incompetent and morally bankrupt, the press, along with the power elite, lost its final vestige of credibility." "The Creed of Objectivity Killed the News" by Chris Hedges.
Is there something you wish would be reported comprehensively by mainstream news media, even though they won't likely touch the topic? Try open-source reporting. From the 2006 experiment NewAssignment, professional journalists, non-profits seeking crowdfunding, and the Internet public have collaborated to do in-depth investigation and reportage of whatever people were interested in. Jay Rosen, founder of ExplainThis, the newest site in crowdsourced journalism, wants a way to answer questions that are too complicated for a Google search. Will these things deliver well-researched thoughtful analysis, or will they be no match for the Green?
Having previously put together a post with links to stories from the 2009 edition of Best of American Crime Reporting, I decided to go to earlier editions to gather together what is available on the web. Starting in 2007 with The Tainted Kidney: Charles Graeber, New York. A serial killer who chooses to donate his kidney has his motives questioned. [more inside]
John McPhee writes about basketball, headmasters, oranges, tennis, hybrid airships, nuclear weapons, bark canoes, Alaska, the Swiss Army, the merchant marines, dissident Soviet artists, shad, long-distance trucking, and - Pulitzer Prize-winningly - geology (282kb PDF). He discusses his work here. [more inside]
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