After reading this piece Tuesday night, I didn’t count on it becoming my favorite this week. I knew it belonged on our list because it seamlessly describes the tragic story of Doug Schifter, a New York City black-car driver who watched, helplessly, as Uber steamrolled the taxi industry while making his income practically disappear. But I initially saw the story as somewhat typical of a lot of stories these days that describe the personally devastating effects of the gig economy.
As the week wore on, I kept thinking about Jessica Bruder’s up-close portrait of Schifter’s fruitless social-media attempts to rally his fellow drivers to fight City Hall and Uber. A piece that embeds itself in your brain works on multiple levels. By week’s end, I felt certain this article ranks among the year’s best at portraying the heartbreaking consequences of America’s lopsided economy. The story’s power lies in the spare but affecting way Bruder writes about Schifter’s good-guy qualities, his stubborn work ethic in the face of despair and debilitating injuries and how, in his final act, he protested the market and political forces that upended his life and career outside a City Hall gate, all alone, in a rental car.
Seymour Hersh explains how he turned a cryptic tip from a young D.C. lawyer into a history-changing report on the My Lai massacre. In so doing, he points out all the ways the press (including himself) has its own sins to account for. Looking for Calley is an excerpt from Hersh's forthcoming memoir, Reporter.
(Also, good news: You can look for Sy Hersh on a future episode of our podcast!)
Whether or not you’re familiar with the vaporizer and nicotine pods sweeping schools, this is a worthy dive into the modern world of one of our most ancient drugs. Is cleaner smoking a cure for America’s biggest preventable killer—”I came to feel that I could have greater impact on public health here than at any place I had ever worked before,” one employee says—or is it just getting a whole new generation addicted?
A laugh-a-graf look back at the ’90s iconic “show about nothing,” including insiders’ nuggets about Seinfeld’s best episodes, including “The Contest” and “The Outing.” This nostalgic piece is packed with surprises because it draws on more than 70 hours of previously unreleased audio recordings of Q&As with Seinfeld’s cast, co-creators, producers and writers.
“Today, everyone wants to see things in the way that suits them,” Lionel Messi says. “I prefer not to play this game.” Sam Borden, my ESPN colleague, explains why Messi has decided to be the most private sports superstar in the world.
What are we to do with a phenom baseball prospect who admitted as a minor to molesting his six-year-old niece but now insists he didn’t do it? S.L. Price travelled to Oregon to find out, but returned without easy answers. (Price appeared on Episode 11 of The Sunday Long Read Podcast.)
Tom Wolfe was, as his friend and Esquire editor Byron Dobell puts it here, a "Puritan in Cavalier's clothing." This profile by Ed Caesar examines Wolfe's skill as creating and extending a brand identity for himself--the prose style, the clothes and manners, the intellectual pie-fights he instigated, all helped to seal him and his work in the commercial space. The piece's best anecdote: Wolfe and Gay Talese were both working for the New York Herald Tribune when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and both reporters were sent out on the streets of New York to gather the impressions and emotions of the man in the street. And you know what? Both struck out because New Yorkers pretty much took the killing in stride.
This was a heckuva week for podcasting, including the return of Malcolm Gladwell. I made sure to make time for Mike Pesca’s latest project, which is a podcast version of his new book (smart marketing strategy!) on speculative sports moments. The first episode is a breezy story about Richard Nixon and football from the makers of Slow Burn. I’m particularly excited that this series will take on different sorts of formats - narrative, interview, oral history - which I think more podcasts should do, frankly.
Also, two heads ups. First: The new season of 30 for 30 podcasts launches on Tuesday. We’ve been working on it for almost a year and a half. Two: it’s going to be my pick next week. So it goes.
Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.
Amy Chozick moved to New York after college with nothing but a set of clips from her college newspaper and now, 17 years later, is The New York Times bestselling author of the campaign memoir "Chasing Hillary." In this week's episode, Don (the co-author of a 2007 Clinton book with Jeff Gerth) chats with Amy, a Times reporter, about Hillary Clinton, and the pair trade war stories about the blowback the Clinton camp has dished out to journalists who write unauthorized books about Clinton. They also evaluate the media's approach to the 2016 election and talk about Hillary's press team, a notorious group Amy refers to as "The Guys."
“Look, Jose,” the cop said to the genial grandfather sitting across the desk. “The fact is, you’re being charged with murder.”
Tim McWhorter, the chief investigator for the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office in rural Alabama, was reaching. He had very little to tie Jose Manuel Martinez — a soft-spoken man with an easy smile who’d spent much of the last few months playing soccer and make-believe with his grandchildren — to the bloody body of a young man found in a nearby hayfield.
But Martinez seemed to make a decision. “You guys have been real respectful to me, and I appreciate that,” he said. “Do you want me to tell you the truth?”
“Yeah, I killed that son of a bitch.” Martinez’s eyes, which McWhorter had found so friendly moments before, were now black and cold. “He said some bad stuff about my daughter. I stand up for my family. I don’t let anyone talk about my family.”
McWhorter was still trying to make sense of that when Martinez delivered a much bigger revelation: “I’ve killed over 35 men in my life.”
Wolfe was a controversial figure—think of him as the conservative version of his buddy Hunter Thompson, debunking pretension and hypocricy with vigor and glee—as you’ll discover in anything written about him, like Christopher Hitchen’s acerbic 1983 profile for Mother Jones or James Woolcott’s review of The Purple Decades, an anthology of Wolfe’s magazine work. Going back, Richard Kluger covered Wolfe’s early days at the Herald Tribune in his great book, The Paper. It wasn’t easy profiling a master, just ask David Kamp, who did a fine job of it for Vanity Fair, as did his colleague Michael Lewis. Ed Caesar also delivered a winning portrait of Wolfe (this one for British GQ) but perhaps my favorite is Lisa Grunwald’s 1990 profile for Esquire. She dubbed Wolfe, “The Ice Cream Man. He wears a white suit and an amiable grin, and he stands by a truck filled with cold, cold comfort … American writers are supposed to ache, burn, hunger, punish, brood, and rail. Tom Wolfe watches, chuckles, cavorts, rebels, and pisses people off.”
This eye-opening short doc provides much needed context to the Gaza protests from The New York Times. A dispatch from the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief David M. Halbfinger, we peel back the curtains on life in an occupied territory: from a high school prom to a Hamas rally to protest camps set up along the border fence for a revealing look at this flashpoint for conflict. Visually rich— we are treated to just enough style to make this video compelling but not too much flair that there is a disconnect from the subject matter.
How the pre-eminent media organization of the 20th century ended up on the scrap heap.
THE SUNDAY STILL
To document residents of Hawaii's Big Island living with the recent and ongoing eruption of the Kilauea volcano, Getty Images photographer Mario Tama went to the Volcano Golf and Country Club to get an unobstructed view of volcanic activity. He found himself obstructing the game of two golfers as they tried to get a round in. Tama moved aside and the golfers and the photographer were all able to continue shooting. Tweeted by ESPN, the image snagged more than 26,000 likes and 6,000 retweets, while golf.com championed the golfers’ devotion to tee-time.
Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he has worked since 1987. He is currently a Distinguished Executive-in-Residence in Emerson College’s Department of Journalism.
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