—Samuel Adler-Bell focuses on labor, mass incarceration and culture.
“Immersion Journalism,” by Matthew Power. Harper’s Magazine, December 2005
Journalist Matt Power died in Uganda on March 10, apparently from heat stroke. Sixteen years ago he was an intern at Harper’s Magazine. At the time of his death, he was a contributing editor, having written eight of the best Harper’s pieces of the past decade. In this ‘Briefing’ from December 2005, Power exposed the national media’s shameless feeding frenzy in post-Katrina New Orleans. I have always been impressed by Power's precise and vivid prose (the writer’s grail of evocative concision). This time, I was even more struck by the strength of his commitment—sincere without being pietistic—to the trade of journalism. More than a blistering indictment of the national networks’ ratings vampirism, the piece conveys Power’s reverence for really good, humane, local reporting. If the villains in this story are the 24-hour networks—peddling disaster voyeurism, schadenfreude and racial hysteria—our heroes are the journalists at New Orleans’ own Times-Picayune, who stick around their battered city to do their jobs, sleeping on the couches and floors of one staffer’s salvaged Uptown home and filing their reports from a single dial-up modem. We lost a great journalist this week. And those who believe the news ought to serve a purpose higher than network ratings and corporate bottom-lines have lost a great ally. RIP.
—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.
"Paraguay Hit by Armed and Organized Mass Cattle Rustling," by Charles Parkinson. InSight Crime, March 12, 2014
It's very rare that the issue of cattle rustling (stealing cattle, for the unfamiliar) makes contemporary headlines in the United States. In the collective imagination of most Americans, cattle raids are associated with cowboys, the Wild West and Cormac McCarthy novels. However, the problem is very much a modern one: left-wing guerrillas in Colombia have used cattle theft to feed their troops; rural movements against social inequality have used it as a protest tactic, which is probably why the Paraguayan People's Army was blamed for this particular case; and the Honduran Rivera brothers, who head the Cachiros drug gang, used cattle rustling as a stepping stone into the world of drug trafficking. Cattle in general are a very real concern in Latin America, and not just around the issue of rustling. Cattle ranching is associated with climate change, social inequality and deforestation.