This week’s 3 for 2 picks highlight recent work that incorporates elements of creative storytelling to examine complex issues, with standout journalism on national security, criminal justice and the environment. Plus, noses found in a sewer.
In a series of articles detailing lapses in security at the White House, the Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig broke open the scandal now engulfing the U.S. Secret Service, marked by the resignation Wednesday of director Julia Pierson. That’s just plain kick-ass, but her work is also notable for using narrative in what might otherwise be a traditional investigative story. Look at the opening paragraphs of her Sept. 27 story detailing a 2011 incident in which the Secret Service failed to respond for days after a man fired high-powered bullets into the White House:
The gunman parked his black Honda directly south of the White House, in the dark of a November night, in a closed lane of Constitution Avenue. He pointed his semiautomatic rifle out of the passenger window, aimed directly at the home of the president of the United States, and pulled the trigger.
A bullet smashed a window on the second floor, just steps from the first family’s formal living room. Another lodged in a window frame, and more pinged off the roof, sending bits of wood and concrete to the ground. At least seven bullets struck the upstairs residence of the White House, flying some 700 yards across the South Lawn.
President Obama and his wife were out of town on that evening of Nov. 11, 2011, but their younger daughter, Sasha, and Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, were inside, while older daughter Malia was expected back any moment from an outing with friends.
Following a federal investigation and a number of negative media reports (including this New Yorker article), the New York City Corrections Department announced this week it would stop putting juveniles in solitary confinement. One of the most striking approaches to covering this long-running story, which, as you can imagine, is difficult to portray visually, is a 5-minute, black-and-white animation, one element of a comprehensive, ongoing investigation of the solitary confinement issue by the Center for Investigative Reporting. Produced by Michael Schiller, with reporting by Trey Bundy and Daffodil Altan, the animation uses bold illustrations by Anna Vignet to accompany an audio interview with a former juvenile inmate.*
The loss of land in Louisiana has been the subject of several interesting projects, among them strong pieces by 2013 Nieman Fellow Brett Anderson in the online publication Matter and a collaboration by ProPublica and The Lens, a nonprofit newsroom in New Orleans. But for its lede alone, this New Republic story by Nathaniel Rich is worth your time:
“In response to complaints some years ago about blocked plumbing along New Orleans’ Claiborne Avenue, city workers opened up the sewer main and found a human nose. Following the line down the avenue, popping open manholes and looking inside, they discovered ears, fingers, fingernails, shriveled flaps of skin, viscera. Where had it all come from?”
How could you not want to keep reading that?
Storyboard welcomes suggestions for our 3 for 2 feature. Send stories you think we should read, watch or hear to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*(Full disclosure: I have done occasional consulting for CIR but did not work on this project; I just think it’s cool.)