Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.
We have reached the halfway point of 2015, which has brought about some strong journalism about riveting topics. With that in mind, the time is right for some “Best Of” editions of my 3 Great Stories segment.
I will post my three favorite audio/video stories of the year so far next week. This week, my three favorite written pieces from January through June, along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:
These are the families left to reclaim Garissa’s dead (4/9/15, Buzzfeed): Tucked away behind lists about animals and ‘NSYNC, Buzzfeed dedicates resources to a team that regularly produces long-form gems.
Here, global news correspondent Jina Moore presents one of the most heart-rending stories I have read in a long time.
A week earlier, gunmen stormed the campus of Garissa University in Kenya and killed 144 people, mostly students, in ways both horrifying and humiliating. Moore steps in the following week by describing, not the attack, but the search by parents to claim their dead children.
This is a devastating read, and Moore writes with such descriptive power that each sentence feels like a stomach punch. She puts a captivating spotlight on the aftermath of this incidence of international terrorism.
Anna Jarvis was sorry she ever invented Mother’s Day (5/8/15, BuzzFeed): Cinco de Mayo the classic example of a holiday “celebrated” by so many who know nothing of why it exists.
But what about that other May holiday?
I had little knowledge of the origins of Mother’s Day and was fascinated by this article, which explained them. But Joel Oliphint goes further. Writing for BuzzFeed, he examines the life of the holiday’s founder, Anna Jarvis, who crusaded to both make Mother’s Day a reality and then prevent its commercialization. She was portrayed in the media as a eccentric spinster, but was she?
Oliphint succeeds here by applying a modern-day lens to historical questions. He gives Jarvis a fair shake in every debate about her personality and tactics (she even went after non-profits for, she said, coopting Mother’s Day for their own causes), but he refrains from offering knee-jerk sympathy. Beyond that, he writes an article that is simply interesting from top to bottom.
A father’s initiative (5/16/15, Washington Post): I can tell when I have read a truly powerful story because of my physical response when it ends.
I get so absorbed in the world of the story that I must actually take a few seconds afterwards to re-acclimate to mine.
I had that reaction after completing “A father’s initiative”, Eli Saslow’s wrenching feature about a single dad taking President Obama’s 16-class fatherhood course. In many ways, this article is a Rorschach test for how one views poverty, race, and other matters. Mostly, though, it is a poignant tale of human struggle — and whether or not that struggle can be soothed through bureaucratic means. Each paragraph ripples with conflicting emotions, such as this one early in the piece:
Now it was his 15th class, nearing the end, and despite the hopeful language in a course guide — “End the cycle of intergenerational poverty!” “Help turn your child turn into a success story in 16 lessons.” — so much about his life remained unstable. He had moved nine times in seven months. He had been offered two jobs but failed the drug tests. It had been several days since he had seen the baby’s mother, a former longtime girlfriend who was no longer living with them. “Sapphire misses you. Are you coming over to see her??” he had texted once, and the silence that followed made him think Sapphire might become another black child whose long odds depended on a single parent, and that parent was him.
Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.