It's the Culture, Stupid

Character is fate, the Romans learned, and biography is history. They’re also the essence of today’s headlines. As serious journalists tackle our Great Crash, they should begin by digging deep beneath the perfunctory clip-file profiles of the major players — from White House, Treasury and Fed to Congress to counting-house suites — to connect the dots of lives lived Read More

Railroading Good Government

The panic over government getting directly involved in running companies that can’t survive without federal support may be misguided. New York Times business reporter Louis Uchitelle makes this point, noting that As General Motors and Chrysler struggle to remain solvent, the railroad bailout of a generation ago could offer a template to the Obama administration Read More

By What Name Shall Ye Know Them?

Journalists tend to lean on simplified words and phrases to explain complex topics to a general audience.  Too often, though, they don’t consider whether their language is ideologically loaded or favors certain interests over others. Consider, for example, the ways used to describe the mortgage-backed securities at the root of the financial crisis.  The most Read More

Preventive Reporting

Because I spend most of my waking hours reporting and writing about wrongful convictions across the United States, I am acutely aware when another one becomes public knowledge. Almost every day, I learn about yet another instance of an individual convicted of a crime he or she did not commit, and an eventual exoneration. Frequently, Read More

A News Drought

USA Today reports that The first two months of 2009 are the driest start of any year since the USA began keeping records over a century ago, leading to severe drought in Texas, dipping reservoir levels in Florida and a surge in wildfires across the nation. With the risk to human survival that climate change Read More

Autocritique?

I was reading a profile in the New York Times arts pages, about the novelist Zoe Heller: The idea for the novel came from a news article about scientists who thought they had found a gene that might be responsible for people’s beliefs, Ms. Heller explained. Regardless of whether it exists, she saw “the belief Read More

Where Did the Money Go?

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has resisted calls from Congress that he release the names of the banks that were recipients of the bailout money the Fed gave to AIG to prevent it from collapsing. AIG insured its counterparties against losses from mortgage backed derivatives. The Fed poured $85 billion into AIG, which paid out $37.3 Read More

Windows on Morality

What makes good people do bad things? That is the topic of a New York Times article about trials of former officials of the savage Cambodian regime, the Khmer Rouge. “We were victims, too,” said Him Huy, the head of the guard detail at the Tuol Sleng torture house, who took part in the executions Read More

Eyewitness News

An article in the New York Times about unrest in Tibet and a Chinese crackdown, features an atypical self-reference by a journalist: This reporter got a rare look at the clampdown because he was recently driven through the Tibetan areas of arid Gansu Province while being detained by the police for 20 hours. I was Read More