Saturday, October 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

These 3 Philadelphia journalists will restore your faith in a free press

From the streets of Kensington to the CIA, Philadelphia Daily News journalists are changing the world

These 3 Philadelphia journalists will restore your faith in a free press

Have you ever said to yourself, "It's time the amazing journalists who work for the Philadelphia Daily News got some worldwide recognition, dammit!"

If so (and you probably have), today's your day. And it comes with an ironic twist.

This date had been marked on the Attytood calendar for a while -- the long-(and-I-mean-long)awaited released of the book by my Daily News friends and colleagues Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker: Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love. It's a great read -- fast-moving and fun -- that at its heart is a love story, for journalism and that fading idea that it's possible to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable with a pen, a notebook, a keyboard and a lot of gumption. I'm not quite done with it, and frankly it's better if you hear from a more unbiased source, so I'm outsourcing this to Rem Rieder, a Philadelphia Bulletin alum who today is media columnist for USA Today:

Like the authors, the book is engaging, down to earth and at times, very funny.

And it's an important testament to the power of journalism. With all the concern today about new economic models, viral content and Twitter followers, Busted reminds us that journalism also serves an important social function, that there's a reason for that First Amendment protection.

Regardless of platform, journalism's watchdog role remains critical.

Of course, Laker and Ruderman are fortunate. Many reporters today are tasked with feeding the beast, filing countless stories and blog posts and listicles and tweets. But while the Daily News only has about 16 reporters, the editors let the duo focus on what they do best.

Maybe there needs to be a new term for they do...I was thinking artisinal journalism, or maybe the Slow Journalism movement. The stories they do come from raw ingredients -- found on the rugged streets of Philadelphia -- and they take a lot of time to marinate and then cook at a low temperature. What they do is exactly not what they teach you do to in journalism school in 2014 -- they may disappear from the radar for weeks before they surface with a new work -- and yet somehow they're finding an audience (and winning the Pulitzer Prize), the old-fashion way...they earn it.

Please read Busted.

But what about the twist I promised? Turns out there's a third (sort of) Daily News journalist in the news today, and it's an even more encouraging saga about the future of journalism. Ali Watkins, who's still a senior at Temple, interned at the People Paper last spring and then headed for D.C. to do the same thing for the award-winning McClatchy News Service bureau down there. I didn't know her really well here at the paper, but I've followed her work via Twitter since she left and was amazed at this 22-year-old's tenacity and curiousity about national security issues.

Indeed, she kept up her reporting and her relationship with McClatchy even after returning to campus in North Philly -- and managed to break what for most people would be the story of an entire lifetime.

Ali Watkins, 22, of Fleetwood, Pa., co-wrote a March 4 article (“Probe: Did the CIA spy on the U.S. Senate?”) that details an apparent feud between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over a congressional report on the CIA’s “secret detention and interrogation program.” The article cites sources who say the CIA monitored computers Senate aides used to prepare the report.

The story (and several more yet to come) was the direct result of tips Watkins received through unnamed sources with whom she has developed trusting relationships since she began reporting for McClatchy’s Washington bureau as an intern in May 2013. Since December, Watkins has stayed on with McClatchy as a stringer and hopes to work as a reporter in the nation’s capital after graduating from Temple University’s School of Media and Communication in May.

The CIA spying on members of Congress? -- well, it's not like it's the next Watergate or anything...oh wait, actually it probably is the next Watergate. Wow! The best part of it is that we keep hearing about her generation of "Millennials" -- how they're vapid and uninterested in the world around them. That's what they always say about "the younger generation" and they're always full of baloney...so it's great to see Ali Watkins proving them wrong.

The only question is who gets to play Laker and Ruderman -- and now Ali Watkins -- in the inevitable movies about their exploits.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

PLEASE COMMENT WITH PASSION...

...but not with racial slurs, potentially libelous allegations, obscenities or other juvenile noise. Such comments will, at our discretion, be deleted in their entirety, and repeat offenders will be blocked from commenting. ALSO: Any commenter advocating killing any government official will be immediately banned.

Reach Will at bunchw@phillynews.com.

Will Bunch
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected