Anniversary stories, as the saying goes, come up every year. Journalists of all experience levels look for fresh angles on these old stories. If the anniversary is of a newsworthy event, like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon Bombing, it’s even harder to find something that hasn’t already been said. Olivia Deng reported on the anniversary itself and the anxiety it brings. Her well-reported story looks not at the past, but at how we live with it.
Disappointment feels so much bigger when you’re young because you haven’t lived long enough to know that there’s always something else on the other side. In his story about a former football prospect who seeks a new identity on a baseball field, Jesse Dougherty elicits emotion from a normally taciturn type – the young male athlete – and conveys those feelings without tripping over purple prose.
Northwestern University’s Greek-life population resembles what you see at most other private schools: white and well-off. So when a fraternity and a sorority planned a philanthropy event making light of imprisoned women last year, campus critics raged. Public apologies and calls to action followed, like it always does. In a wide-ranging story with several introspective interviews, reporter Katherine Mirani followed up to find out if a system based on private membership can ever really be inclusive.
A late-night encounter with a drunken classmate is at the beginning of many college sexual assault stories. But in the one Gracie Ryan tells, the woman—a third-degree taekwondo black belt—feels uncomfortable, gets up, and leaves. “Even if a girl is scared to death,” she tells Ryan, “if she walks into a room tall and confident, it’s like, don’t fuck with me.” Ryan’s article checks in on the progress of various sexual assault prevention programs offered at the University of Montana following federal investigations into mishandling of reports of sexual violence in 2012. Students formed self-defense classes. The university requires students living in dorms to undergo bystander-intervention training. Ryan checks in on each program and pairs text and photos to chronicle a university and its students trying lots of different ways, with varying success, to solve a problem that plagues too many campuses.
A recent act of vandalism at UC San Diego prompted student Teiko Yakobson to wonder about the rest of a significant collection of sculpture and monumental art that dots the campus. What does it mean to have a great art collection if students don’t understand it to be great art? Yakobson’s story considers many of the same issues confronting the art world today: class, diversity, and accessibility. Her article doesn’t presuppose that all art must be complex to be good, nor does it dismiss the virtue of challenging pieces. Instead, like the best art, it starts a conversation.
A lot of people make a university run, but many of those people are invisible to the students they serve. The janitors, maintenance workers, and food-service employees who keep dorms clean, buildings open, and dining halls operating can be so behind-the-scenes that students don’t think about them. (Of course, the self-absorption of youth contributes to that problem, too.) In her story about a labor dispute between food-service employees and Georgetown University, Manuela Tobias interviews representatives from both sides and conveys the workers’ frustration and management’s reasoning. Through thorough research and reporting, Tobias contextualizes workers’ dissatisfaction with the university and even their union while explaining the costs and contracts from the university’s point of view. It’s a labor story with a heart.
There are lots of stories these days (as there should be) about sex trafficking. The bulk of these stories focus on victims: mostly women, mostly poor, who are taken away from families and familiarities and sold for sex. In the third story in his series about human trafficking, Travis Loose turned to the law enforcement officers trying to stop this scourge. Working a sex trafficking case, he found, is not like To Catch a Predator. “I love puzzles, figuring things out, solving problems,” one detective told Loose. “And there’s nothing that makes a puzzle like human interaction.”
When three students at the University of North Caroline were shot and killed earlier this month, The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s student newspaper, covered and covered and covered the story. The paper’s reporters were on the scene shortly after the shooting on February 10 and went on to explore every aspect of the story from the victims’ stories to the investigation to larger cultural conversations about the crime. To date, the Daily Tar Heel’s staff has published 20 stories about the shooting. They compiled them all in a topic page, a smart editorial decision that helps their audience, both local and a growing national one, to follow the story. Students run the paper, but they’re running it like a professional should.
Journalists write about things they don’t have prior knowledge of all the time, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging—especially when what you’re covering seems so odd and obsolete. But through reporting, research, and a lot of listening, Spencer Hall writes convincingly of the appeal of cassette tapes, a media format that predates even his parents’ dusty old CD collection. To write such a story takes not only journalism skills, but also a pure love of music and its various subcultures. Good journalists can write about anything, but great journalists usually love what they write about.
After Rap Genius cofounder Mahbod Moghadam was forced out of the company for writing horrible Tweets about a spree killer’s manifesto, the public’s interest shifted to the next misuse of social media. Not so for Yale Herald writer Kohler Bruno, who wondered what Moghadam’s life was like sans free Whole Foods and away from Genius, now with a valuation just shy of $1 billion. Moghadam lives in LA and doesn’t care for New York, so many of the conversations between reporter and subject were conduced over the phone or via email or text. It is a 21st-century way to profile someone who lived life online. Throughout the story, Bruno seems as confused as anyone what to make of Moghadam, whose “jokes” are difficult to parse. The piece itself is annotated, a comment not only on Genius’s gimmick, but on the nature of the reporting itself.