Nathan Deuel shows us things few readers will have seen or guessed at. His stories take us places that are familiar yet unknown.
Last weekend's This American Life included a great Planet Money segment about GiveDirectly, a charity that gives poor Kenyans not food or equipment or livestock or training but cash. The idea is that, whatever risks or downsides exist in just giving people money, these are outweighed by a) extremely low overhead, and b) the fact that the poor actually know best what they need.
As I've said before, the objectivity-fetishizing conventions of straight news reporting make me crazy. It's not just the odd philosophical throwback of implying that reporters can somehow avoid writing as particular people situated in particular contexts. It's also the convoluted copy, in which even plain facts can't be stated plainly if they happen to be unpopular. So I was glad when NPR released its new ethics handbook, in which among other things the network states that it favors "truth" over "the appearance of balance" and adds that "if the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports."
Some of the best coverage of the firing of National Public Radio news analyst Juan Williams has been NPR's own. But the broader conversation has quickly become a chorus of ridiculousness.