The Elusive Future of San Francisco’s Fog

Coastal fog has defined life in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s cold and can sometimes ruin your sunny day plans, sure, but it’s also beloved, and most residents can agree that the region wouldn’t be the same without it. But with the earth heating up, will it disappear? A New York Times team spent a few months chasing the fog in and around San Francisco, and the result is this visual, immersive, and beautifully presented (and written) feature.

Fog is a companion, part of the rhythm of summertime, flitting in and out of lives like a family member. But it does more than astonish ill-prepared tourists and dazzle photographers and poets. It nourishes the natural world. It enriches the area’s cultural identity. It might even be an untapped resource in California’s growing anxiety over water.

Published: Sep 14, 2022
Length: 20 minutes (5,218 words)

The Mystery Behind the Crime Wave at 312 Riverside Drive

It sounds like a whodunit, but it’s anything but: One man placing multiple 911 calls every day, reporting crimes in progress at a building that doesn’t exist. The question isn’t who, but why — and David Wilson masterfully unpacks the turmoil living inside the man responsible, and the difficulty of helping him find a lasting stability.

In the years since the pandemic began, a city reckoning with an increase in some types of crime has focused its attention on shocking acts of violence perpetrated by mentally ill people. But far more common is the individual whose behavior derails his own life, but is little more than a nuisance to anyone else — the Walter Reeds, who would not dream of pushing someone in front of a train or opening fire in a crowded subway car, but whose cases account for countless hours in court, counseling sessions, medical appointments and other city services.

Published: Sep 14, 2022
Length: 12 minutes (3,229 words)

In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Are Flush With Public Money

New York’s Hasidic Jewish religious schools have benefited from government funding but are unaccountable to outside oversight. A months-long investigation reveals that these schools are “failing by design”:

The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools to educate children in Jewish law, prayer and tradition — and to wall them off from the secular world. Offering little English and math, and virtually no science or history, they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.

The result, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.

Segregated by gender, the Hasidic system fails most starkly in its more than 100 schools for boys. Spread across Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, the schools turn out thousands of students each year who are unprepared to navigate the outside world, helping to push poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods to some of the highest in New York.

The schools appear to be operating in violation of state laws that guarantee children an adequate education. Even so, The Times found, the Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways of tapping into enormous sums of government money, collecting more than $1 billion in the past four years alone.

Published: Sep 11, 2022
Length: 22 minutes (5,573 words)

How I Became a Pathological Liar

A writer who grew up in poverty describes how lying, at first a means of survival, transformed into something deeper and darker:

I spun lies from truth with such skill that I sometimes lost track of which was which. Living with lies is much easier if you can manage to keep them simple. Selling them, on the other hand, requires an ability to conjure the details that make real experiences memorable: Even the most skeptical friend will believe you saw the hottest concert of the summer if your story focuses on the misery of spending the day crushed against a security barricade. No lie was too big or too small, so long as it helped me project an aura of ordinariness.

Lying as a means of coping with poverty had given way to something more pathological. Instead of easing my passage through reality, lying had become a way of denying it altogether. To the extent that lying can become a game, its goals have something in common with gambling: It escalates not because people are hard to fool but because they are so easily fooled that experienced liars grow bored with their habit. The stakes of the gamble, eventually, become life and death; once caught, the person you created evaporates, leaving behind a vapor trail to vex those who thought they knew you. The end game, and perhaps the impulse itself, is as much about self-destruction as self-delusion.

Published: Jul 13, 2022
Length: 8 minutes (2,100 words)

What the Racist Massacre in Buffalo Stole From One Family

An intimate portrait of the family of Celestine Chaney in the days after she and nine other Black people were shot and killed by a white supremacist at Tops Friendly Market. Chaney had just one child, a son named Wayne:

Wayne was dissatisfied by the answers the country offered. The stagnation of gun control efforts frustrated him, along with the idea that such killings are an inevitable facet of American life. The suggestion that the pandemic helped foment the violence seemed cruel, when his family had suffered so deeply these past two years.

Wayne’s grandmother was hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus, and in September 2020, she died. When Celestine was busy, his grandmother had filled in to help raise him.

Neither was around anymore.

Published: May 28, 2022
Length: 9 minutes (2,300 words)

American Nationalist

An epic three-part series documenting how Tucker Carlson became America’s most racist cable TV host, and the heir apparent to Trumpism:

Like Mr. Trump, he is a winking pugilist who rails against elites even as he shapes a movement. Mr. Carlson likes to address his audience directly: “You” are decent, generous, deserving. “They” — the pro-war, pro-China, anti-American “ruling class” — are out to get you. “They’d rather put your life in peril than appear insensitive,” Mr. Carlson says of this ruling class, adding, “They literally don’t care about you, and yet they are still in charge.” He delivers these grim sermons with peppy good cheer and shameless overstatement. On “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” events of the day are further evidence of truths already established; virtually any piece of news can be steered back to the themes of elite corruption, conspiracy and censorship, from gun control to marijuana legalization to paper drinking straws.

Published: Apr 30, 2022
Length: 72 minutes (18,000 words)

The Unseen Scars of Those Who Kill Via Remote Control

A devastating, well-reported story on the drone program of the U.S. Air Force and the lack of mental-health support for drone operators.

Because they were not deployed, they seldom got the same recovery periods or mental-health screenings as other fighters. Instead they were treated as office workers, expected to show up for endless shifts in a forever war.

We had to watch a target for days, weeks and even months. We saw him play with his kids. We saw him interact with his family. We watched his whole life unfold. You are remote but also very much connected. Then one day, when all parameters are met, you kill him.

People often think that this job is going to be like a video game, and I have to warn them, there is no reset button.

Published: Apr 15, 2022
Length: 16 minutes (4,099 words)

How Barnes & Noble Went From Villain to Hero

For many years, Barnes & Noble was the Walmart of bookstores, crushing independent sellers through economy of scale. Then a new big bad entered the arena. As it turns out, though, neither pandemic nor Bezos could crush B&N — and now, armed with renewed focus, it’s staging one hell of a comeback. (Still shop independent if you can, though!)

Barnes & Noble has also concentrated on selling books, instead of the vast assortment of items that it once carried and that were only tangentially — if at all — related to reading.

“We were selling a lot of fairly irrelevant things to a bookstore,” Mr. Daunt said. “Nobody thinks, ‘I need a Duracell battery — I’m going to go down to my bookshop.’”

Published: Apr 15, 2022
Length: 7 minutes (1,958 words)

He Was in Witness Protection in Maine. But His Harlem Life Kept Calling.

“Even in death, a coherent picture of Mr. Martinez’s double life — which was once the subject of a Hollywood movie — proves elusive. He was both a loyal confidant and one of the most infamous turncoats in New York lore. He was a kind friend and an admitted, ruthless killer; a selfless neighbor and a man so loathed in Harlem that former friends popped champagne in the streets to celebrate his violent end.”

Published: Jan 25, 2022
Length: 6 minutes (1,731 words)

Truth Is Elusive in Attack on a French Soccer Star

“The story, with its hints of sporting jealousy, its echoes of Tonya Harding and its links to Paris St.-Germain, the reigning French champion and one of the richest soccer clubs in the world, quickly spread far and wide. But as details emerge — about marital infidelity; about accusations implicating other members of the team; about reports of menacing phone calls to players disparaging the victim before she was attacked — that initial story has been turned on its head.

And now no one is sure what, or whom, to believe.”

Published: Dec 7, 2021
Length: 12 minutes (3,215 words)