Mother Jones reports: This June, we published a big story — Shane Bauer’s account of his four-month stint as a guard in a private prison. That’s “big,” as in XXL: 35,000 words long, or 5 to 10 times the length of a typical feature, plus charts, graphs, and companion pieces, not to mention six videos and a radio documentary.
It was also big in impact. More than a million people read it, defying everything we’re told about the attention span of online audiences; tens of thousands shared it on social media. The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR’s Weekend Edition picked it up. Montel Williams went on a Twitter tear that ended with him nominating Shane for a Pulitzer Prize (though that’s not quite how it works). People got in touch to tell us about their loved ones’ time in prison or their own experience working as guards. Lawmakers and regulators reached out. (UPDATE: And on August 18, the Justice Department announced that it will no longer contract with private prisons, which currently hold thousands of federal inmates — a massive policy shift.)
In the wake of our investigation, lots of people offered thoughts similar to this, from New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum:
— emily nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) June 23, 2016
That’s a great sentiment, and we agree! But it also takes us to a deeper story about journalism and today’s media landscape. It starts with this: The most important ingredient in investigative reporting is not brilliance, writing flair, or deep familiarity with the subject (though those all help). It’s something much simpler — time. [Continue reading…]