Tag Archives: investigative journalism

How the ACLU Came to Publish a Powerful Piece of Investigative Journalism

“Out of the Darkness” is not an easy story to read. It chronicles how two psychologists who had previously devoted their careers to training US troops to resist abusive interrogation tactics teamed up with the CIA to devise a torture program and experiment on human beings. The story is a torrent of information artfully webbed into a fluid narrative, fleshed out with specific, vivid details. It has all the elements we’ve come to expect from strong investigative longform journalism, albeit from an unlikely outlet: The American Civil Liberties Union.

One doesn’t typically think of the ACLU as a journalism outlet, so I reached out to the story’s author, Noa Yachot, to hear more about how the piece came about, and the ACLU’s role as publisher (the story was also syndicated on Medium). Yachot is a communications strategist at the ACLU, and she spoke to Longreads via email. Read more…

Pseudonyms, Sources, and Jon Krakauer’s ‘Missoula’

Only one of the rape victims in Krakauer’s book, “Cecilia Washburn,” is identified with a pseudonym. “And I didn’t interview her,” Krakauer said. (Krakauer says he discussed the possibility of an interview with Washburn’s attorney multiple times, but she replied each time that her client likely would not consent to an interview.) The rest of the victims identified in Missoula spoke with him and consented to having their names used. Krakauer offered each victim he interviewed an opportunity before publication to review each chapter in which she appeared. If a victim changed her mind about participating, then Krakauer promised to remove all mentions of her from the book—a way of giving victims the control over their stories that judicial systems sometimes deny.

Krakauer also described for each victim he interviewed some of his own reporting practices and boundaries. “I told each of them, very explicitly, that except for withdrawal or correcting errors that clearly needed to be corrected, they would have absolutely no right to determine what I wrote about them,” Krakauer wrote during a follow-up. “I explicitly told each of them that if I discovered they had not been truthful, I would report it in the book. I also made it explicitly clear that I would try to get each of their alleged assailants to tell me his side of the story, and I would be including both sides in the book.”

Brendan Fitzgerald writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the scrutiny of reporters who cover rape and Jon Krakauer’s new book “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.”

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‘Herr Blatter, Have You Ever Taken a Bribe?’

In a recent piece for the Washington PostMichael E. Miller profiled Andrew Jennings— a doggedly obsessed, “curmudgeonly” investigative reporter who helped expose the FIFA scandal that brought down Sepp Blatter. According to Miller’s piece, if Blatter’s downfall can be traced to a single moment it was when Jennings grabbed the microphone at a Zurich press conference after Blatter’s 2002 reelection. After the FIFA President was done speaking, Jennings asked a “deliberately outrageous question,” hoping to attract a source within the secretive soccer association: 

“I’m surrounded by all these terribly posh reporters in suits and silk ties and buttoned up shirts, for God’s sake,” he remembered. “And here’s me in me hiking gear. I get the mike and I said, ‘Herr Blatter, have you ever taken a bribe?’”

“Talk about crashing the party,” Jennings recalled Tuesday. “Reporters are moving away from me as if I’ve just let out the biggest smell since bad food. Well, that’s what I wanted. Thank you, idiot reporters. The radar dish on top of my head is spinning around to all these blazers against the wall, saying, ‘Here I am. I’m your boy. I’m not impressed by these tossers. I know what they are. I’ve done it to the IOC, and I’ll do it to them.’”

The outcome was doubly golden. Blatter denied ever taking a bribe, which gave Jennings a great headline. But he also got the goods. “Six weeks later I’m in the dark at about midnight down where the river in Zurich widens out into the lake, standing by a very impressive looking 19th-century office block, wondering why I’ve been asked to go there by somebody I don’t know when the door opens and I’m dragged in,” Jennings recalls. “I’m taken into a very posh set of offices … and within half an hour a senior FIFA official arrived carrying a wonderful armful of documents. And it ran from there. And it still does.”

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