I read a lot. On my phone, on my laptop, in print newspapers, paper magazines, books, Kindle, whatever ya got. I've been a journalist ever since 1989, and one of the J-school classes that stuck with me was Journalism as Literature, where we studied and learned from stories that went beyond the work that can be done on a daily deadline, and focused on the most stunning, novelistic works from writers who go above and beyond in their chosen profession.
Here, then, are my completely opinionated picks for the top 3 journalistic pieces of the year. I can promise you that they will all stay with you, floating around in your mind and surfacing at the oddest times.
1. "The Life and Times of Strider Wolf"
No story touched me this year like Sarah Schweitzer's piece on young Strider Wolf that ran in the Boston Globe. A kindergartner named after a Tolkien character and a T-shirt, born to a couple that was in no way prepared to be parents, beaten nearly to death by his mother's boyfriend and now being raised by his troubled father's impoverished parents -- poor Strider and his brother just never had a chance. His situation has always been out of his tiny little hands, and it about broke my heart when he successfully won a bet with his grandmother's husband to get "all smiley faces" from his teacher, and then the family couldn't even afford to get him the ice-cream cone he won fair and square. There are a number of web pages out there raising money for Strider and his family now. I hope he gets his ice-cream cone, and more.
2. "After a Mass Shooting, a Survivor's Life"
Everything Eli Saslow writes is better than 90% of anything any other journalist writes. It just is. He's a rare gem. This Washington Post piece tells about what happens to those who survive a mass shooting, after the headlines fade and the press all chases after the next horrible event. It's about Oregon college student Cheyeanne Fitzgerald, 16, and her mother's desperate attempts to help her regain her life. It was only her fourth day of college.
3. "Biography of a Face"
Steve Fishman writes for New York Magazine about a fireman whose own burned-off face was replaced by that of a Brooklyn bike mechanic. It sounds like a Vincent Price movie from the 1960s, but it will touch you. Fishman weaves together the lives of both men and the way they come together beautifully. The photos of Patrick Hardison after his burns and before his transplant are tough to look at, but the story of his new face is amazing and how it came to be is amazing--and not as straightforward as you might think