We saw many outstanding examples of journalism last year, but the stories listed below were our favorites. They came from television, magazines, Web sites and newspapers big and small.
1. War in Iraq
The most important story of 2007 was the conflict in Iraq, and no one covered the fighting and its aftermath better than The Washington Post.
David Finkel’s “Unit’s Mission” portrayed 27 soldiers’ heroic effort to pay tribute to a fallen friend. Steve Fainaru’s “Private Armies” series shined a spotlight on the more than 20,000 security contractors who are supplementing U.S. troops in Iraq. In “The Other Walter Reed,” Dana Priest and Anne Hull exposed the deplorable conditions endured by injured soldiers at the Army’s top medical facility. Read these stories at www.washingtonpost.com.
2. Abusing young inmates
A jaw-dropping investigation by Doug J. Swanson and other reporters at The Dallas Morning News revealed that officials of the Texas youth detention system covered up widespread sexual abuse of young inmates by jail staff and cultivated a culture of institutionalized vengeance. Go to www.dallasnews.com and click on “Investigations” in the drop-down menu under the “Local/news” header to read “Faces of TYC.”
3. Ivory Wars
For “Ivory Wars” on the Media Storm Web site, conservationist J. Michael Fay and National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols traveled to Chad to record the struggle of 3,500 elephants for survival against poachers. The mix of photos, videos, maps, narration and music is stunning. www.mediastorm.org/0016.htm
4. Missing war funds
Investigative reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele proved their mettle in Vanity Fair’s “Billions over Baghdad.” This masterpiece detailed how at least $9 billion out of $12 billion dispensed by the Coalition Provisional Authority to help Iraq has gone missing. www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/10/iraq_billions200710
5. Sports masterpiece
J.R. Moehringer’s “23 Reasons Why a Profile of Pete Carroll Does Not Appear in this Space” was the most interesting — and unusual — feature story of the year. This Los Angeles magazine story depicted the life of the University of Southern California football coach by turning the usual profile structure inside out and upside down. Go to www.lamag.com and click on “Archives” in the drop-down menu under “The Magazine”; the story is in the December issue.
6. Teachers’ broken trust
Hundreds of Florida teachers have molested, physically attacked or harassed their students but been allowed to continue in the classroom, according to the “Broken Trust” investigation by Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporters Chris Davis, Matthew Doig and Tiffany Lankes. www.heraldtribune.com/indepth
7. In Woodruff’s words
In his series “To Iraq and Back,” Bob Woodruff of ABC News offered a first-hand account of what it’s like to come home injured from Iraq. Beyond his own struggles, Woodruff shared the tales of troops whose recoveries have been more difficult than his own and revealed how the government wasn’t ready to treat the growing ranks of veterans with brain injuries. www.abcnews.go.com/WNT/WoodruffReports
8. Perfect chemistry
“Always a blast with the Boom” by John M. Glionna of the Los Angeles Times was the zaniest story of the year. Glionna profiled Preston Q. Boomer, whose high school chemistry and physics classes are explosively interesting.
9. Mental hospital abuse
“A Hidden Shame” by Alan Judd and Andy Miller of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed that Georgia’s mental hospitals have been the scenes of more than 190 cases of physical or sexual abuse by staff and at least 115 suspicious deaths since January 2002. www.ajc.com/health/content/health/stories/hiddenshame.html
10. Faces of tragedy
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s “Not Forgotten” Web page matched every homicide in the city during 2007 with audio slideshows featuring photos of the victims and the voices of family and friends recalling their lives. The use of multimedia to humanize the stories was brilliantly done. www.democratandchronicle.com
11. Drug epidemic
The Detroit Free Press’ “Fatal Euphoria” by Jim Schaefer and Joe Swickard explored how the drug fentanyl swept the country, killing more than 1,000 people. They personalized the epidemic through the story of Lauren Jolly, a teen from Detroit who overdosed on the drug, and Debora Collins, the prostitute who tried to save Jolly’s life. www.freep.com/fentanyl