3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Ferguson, Alabama, & Edward Snowden

Every week, I 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.

The front lines of Ferguson (8/15/14, Grantland): The startling and tragic events in Ferguson, Mo. have brought about some truly powerful reporting. I have read numerous pieces this week that have brought to light the pain, shock, and tension of the situation.

This one, from Grantland’s Rembert Browne, stuck with me the most.

I normally enjoy Browne’s more frivolous work, like when he hilariously recapped episodes of 24 this summer. But he can pack an emotional punch, and he does so here by intertwining his personal reflections with the front-line events in Ferguson. Browne describes himself early on as a “black boy turned black man who finds it increasingly miraculous that I made it to 27”. That point of view shines through throughout his descriptions of the protests and police response.

The Internet provides a variety of voices and perspectives for anyone willing to hear them. This week was a major example.

The new racism (8/10/14, The New Republic): Speaking of matters of race, Jason Zengerle puts the spotlight on an issue far less visceral but every bit as relevant.

He profiles Hank Sanders, the former majority leader in the Alabama state Senate, whose work of several decades has been undone, he says, by a Republican-dominated state government that has led “a total disempowering of African Americans”.

Zengerle provides everything one could want in a long-form think-piece: historical perspective, modern-day relevance, powerful characters, and an important message. He sums it up by describing a depressing state of affairs:

Today, the South, where 55 percent of America’s black population lives, is increasingly looking like a different country. Fewer children can read; more adults have HIV; its residents suffer from the shortest life expectancies of any in the United States. Earlier this year, when the Social Science Research Council released its latest “Measure of America” report—which ranks each state on its quality of health, income, and education measures—six of the eleven states that made up the former Confederacy were in the bottom quintile. What’s more, that deprivation tends to be concentrated in the parts of these states with disproportionately large African American populations.

The most wanted man in the world (8/14/14, Wired): On top of all the news from a emotionally disturbing and tragic week on many fronts, here comes Wired magazine with an exclusive interview with Edward Snowden.

James Bamford, a self-proclaimed whistleblower himself who has spent three as an investigative reporter, secures a powerful and mysterious interview with the elusive Snowden, who remains in Russia after releasing classified NSA material.

The interview uncovers some previously unheard nuggets, but it mostly shines thanks to Snowden’s persona and Bamford’s chronicling of his own experience. The writer shows the difficulty and secrecy involved in even meeting Snowden, let alone learning about his exploits. It is a long, strong, and insightful read.

Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com.

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