April 3, 2011

On Investigative Journalism

I was listening to some dam fine journalism the other day.

Don't see the player? Try their website. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/430/very-tough-love

Ira Glass of This American Life spent a few weeks in Glynn County, Georgia investigating a "drug court" that seems to have the power to legally imprison people without oversight, for indefinite amounts of time and relatively small charges. In the show's two acts he touched on two points I found very pertinent.

  1. The judge behind the injustices, Amanda Williams, has enough power as not to be challenged by anyone in her county.
  2. What she is doing is legal and the victims have no recourse. They can't appeal once they enter the Drug Court program.

There will always be people who overstep their power, make mistakes, make bad judgments, etc. It's why we have checks and balances. No one can rule absolutely. What makes me angry is that there is no checks on Judge Amanda Williams. She has overstepped her bounds (on the record) on multiple occasions, and it takes an out of state reporter to come in and show what's happening.

Since this is the kind of journalism and programming I want to encourage I've donated $10 to the "This American Life" show. If this is the kind of thing you want to encourage too, please donate at least a dollar, either via paypal or by buying the episode on the iTunes Store.

Listen to the episode or read the transcript (pdf).

Next up; (missing embed)

This Developers Life did an interview with Remon Zakaria, an Egyptian programmer who runs a successful business working on projects with American companies. Remon was an active participant in the recent revolution, against his family's wishes and with a company to run.

His turning point was when they shut off the internet and phones. He discovered that most phones still had data connections; they were limited to the networks they were on. To keep his team busy he had them develop a Twitter-like program that could run on every phone they could find (Nokia, Android, and weird java implementations on feature phones), but instead of requiring the internet they would scan the phone's subnet for other phones. They would connect with them, transferring messages and information about other phones. This led to a localized Twitter that could connect people in an area.

He talks about why older people trusted the TV more then any social media. That led to a great disagreement in what was actually going on in the streets and if his family should be involved. He also covers how life has changed since the revolution ended. It's worth a listen.

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