So I’m 19 as of today, and there few birthday presents as good as really, really high-quality reportage. Thankfully, there’s been a lot of that over the past few days.
First off, you owe it to yourself to read Radley Balko’s devastating piece on “medical experts” Michael West and Steven Hayne, who have testified as a bite-mark examiners in the state of Mississippi for the better part of twenty years now. Their methodology has always been questionable, and Balko has long been key in demonstrating just how unreliable it is. But as great as his previous work is, it’s nothing compared to what he’s found now: video documentation of West forcing a suspect’s bite marks onto the corpse of his alleged victim. The suspect, Jimmie Duncan, is now on death row thanks to West and Hayne’s evidence tampering. Hopefully, Balko’s reporting will get that conviction erased, and perhaps get West and Hayne to move into Duncan’s old cell.
I’m sometimes skeptical of journalists’ ability to have a real impact on policy, but stuff like this gives me hope. Balko’s piece could very well save a man’s life, and possibly those of others. At the very least, it should thoroughly discredit Hayne and West and prevent them from ruining any others’ lives. That’s incredibly noble, and it’s the sort of the role that journalism should play in our society. So read the piece, and stand in awe of Radley Balko.
Closer to my age range, Charlie Eisenwood has been doing some incredible work for NYU Local. He didn’t just cover Take Back NYU’s occupation of a campus building, he embedded with the occupiers. As in, he sat in on TBNYU meetings, talked to the radicals, and liveblogged the entire thing. All of his material is great, but the late-night thread is particularly worth reading, for its account of the negotiations and sheer madness surrounding the NYU campus police’s 1AM deadline to the occupiers. This is like Burke’s Reflections, writ small and in real-time. Charlie documents the ideological incoherence, hypocrisy, myopia, and at times cowardice of the occupiers, while holding no brief for the NYU administration they’re resisting. I hope he’s sleeping now after covering the story for 29 hours straight hours, but in any case, everyone should check out his pieces.