Updated May 3, 2019
You’re Entitled To Be Wrong (YETBW) realizes that sometimes it’s hard to find quality writing and reporting to read online. Below is a list of suggested articles, stories and reports that you should dive into when you are hankering to read some good online material . . . . besides this site of course!
‘New’ additions (old and/or new pieces YETBW has discovered online) will appear at the top of the list under the header ‘New Shortreads & Longreads’. Older article additions will be categorized by the following subjects: Business and Technology, Culture and History, Education, Entertainment, and News and Journalism.
Read, learn and enjoy.
The Making of Amazon Prime, the Internet’s Most Successful and Devastating Membership Program (Vox – May 3, 2019) The opening sentence: “It’s easy to forget now, but Amazon wasn’t always the king of online shopping. In the fall of 2004, Jeff Bezos’s company was still mostly selling just books and DVDs” appropriately sets the stage for what the article defines as “an oral history of the subscription service that changed online shopping forever.” Readers will learn “how the greatest retail innovation of the internet age was created, in the face of sound logic and reason that suggested it might very well be disastrous. It’s also a story of how a frankly bland idea — fast shipping — was powerful enough to alter consumer psychology forever” as told by “the rank-and-file employees and the top company executives who built Prime.” Whether you love, hate or love and hate the entity known as Amazon, you will find this article fascinating because you will learn insid-info on how this company became a multibillion-dollar consumer-convenience darling and business monstrosity.
It’s A New Day At the WWE (The Undefeated – August 28, 2016) You don’t have to be a pro wrestling fan to find this piece interesting and informative. The article’s subtitle ‘WWE’s hottest act is black, and not afraid to say it — and wrestling’s racial history is terrible, and complex, and black fans love it’ sums up things exactly. The writer, Martenzie Johnson, takes you on a historical and racial journey regarding the WWE while regaling you about the emergence of ‘New Day’ a trio of smart and entertaining WWE black wrestlers.
Mickey Rourke For A Day (Movieline – December 1, 1992) This is one of the funniest pieces I have ever read. Before entertainment magazines became beholden (again) to actors, actresses, publicists and movie studios ‘Movieline’ Magazine (deceased for several years) was there to put them in there place. No one did a better job of it than their in-house writer Joe Queenan who believed there was no such thing as sacred cows. His homage cum hilarious ridicule of Mickey Rourke (“Like most American males, my single most cherished fantasy has long been to spend an entire day in the shoes, in the skin, nay, in the psyche of Mickey Rourke”) is a must read because you won’t see anything else like it anywhere, which is truly a shame.
East of Palo Alto’s Eden: Race and the Formation of Silicon Valley (Techcrunch – January 10, 2015) This provocative and informative piece asks: What if Silicon Valley had emerged from a racially integrated community? Would the technology industry be different? Would we? And what can the technology industry do now to avoid repeating the mistakes in the past? Techcrunch’s reporters try to answer these questions by digging into the history of California’s Palo Alto and East Palo Alto areas and its problems such as high housing costs, gentrification, racism, redlining to prevent certain elements and ethnicities from crossing the Silicon Valley borders and the economic challenges of the poorer residents of Palo Alto. It’s a deep history lesson on the Palo Alto community and Silicon Valley.
The Mayor vs. The Mogul: Michael Bloomberg’s $9 Billion Identity Crisis (Politico – June 18, 2015) Even if you don’t normally read business news this article about Former New York Mayor Bloomberg’s uneven return to Bloomberg LP, his multibillionaire business, is illuminating. The article discusses how he’s stumbled in trying to figure out his new role and how his employees seem to be confused about why he’s become so heavily involved at this point of his life.
The Untold Story of the Silk Road: Part 1 and Part II (Wired – May 2015) “In October 2013 the FBI arrested a young entrepreneur named Ross Ulbricht at the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library. It was the culmination of a two-year investigation into a vast online drug market called Silk Road. The authorities charged that Ulbricht, an idealistic 29-year-old Eagle Scout from Austin, Texas, was the kingpin of the operation. They said he’d reaped millions from the site, all transacted anonymously with Bitcoin. They said he’d devolved into a cold-blooded criminal, hiring hit men to take out those who crossed him.” Writer Joshuah Bearman spent over a year reporting on the Silk Road, Ulbricht and his billion-dollar illegal operation before the federal law enforcement stopped Silk Road in its tracks. The series reads like a crime thriller riddled with techies, wannabe hippies, cops, underworld criminals, senior citizens and farmers whose anti-capitalism stance via the Silk Road was, contradictory, a very profitable one.
The Case for Reparations (The Atlantic – June 2014) Columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates presents a ten-part, heartbreaking magnum opus of an essay about why African-Americans should receive reparations from the United States. Coates argument is not based on slavery (which he doesn’t discuss as much given the article’s title) nor on how much money is ‘owed’ to Black Americans (which isn’t mentioned) but the long, cumulative effect of discrimination on generations of African-Americans. The article makes it case by interweaving the generational story of African-Americans and the obstacles they’ve faced (white supremacy, inequality, governmental discrimination) by way of Clyde Ross, a sharecropper’s son who escaped the Jim Crow South who ended up in Chicago fighting for black homeowners. Coates 15,000 word piece is dense in that you might find yourself having to revisit it after the first read, because there is so much interesting information, history and emotion in the piece. Whether you’re an opponent or proponent of reparations this article will give you a better and more complete understanding of the reparations argument.
Fatal Distraction: Forgetting A Child in the Backseat of a Car Is A Horrifying Mistake. Is It A Crime (Washington Post – March 8, 2009) Gene Weingarten deservedly won a Pulitzer-Prize for this piece because he doesn’t prejudge. He lets the story take care of itself; allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. How he was able to get these parents to publicly open up about the worse day in their lives is truly amazing. This story has continued to stay with me – not because I’m a parent but because it’s some damn good journalism.
Failure Factories (Tampa Bay Times – August through December 2015) The Columbia Journalism Review describes ‘Failure Factories’ as an “ongoing series on five underperforming elementary schools tells a story that national media is less likely to cover. Part one dissects how the local school board’s dysfunctional management has perpetuated systemic racism and turned these schools into academic embarrassments. Subsequent installments analyzed violence, teaching, and discipline at the institutions, among other angles. The project, framed with slick visuals and interactive graphics, is stunning in its totality. The work provides yet more proof of the continued value of beat reporting in an era of cutbacks at local news organizations.”
Why Poor Schools Can’t Win At Standardized Testing (The Atlantic – July 15, 2014) It’s kind of disquieting to read that students could probably do better on standardized tests if only their school districts could afford the textbooks (which are published by the companies that draft the standardized tests) that contain many of the answers. Author Melissa Broussard, a data-journalism professor, writes about the problems with standardized tests via an overwhelmed and underfunded Philadelphia school district
My Four Months As A Private Prison Guard (MotherJones – July/August 2016) In Winter 2014, Mother Jones senior reporter Shane Bauer worked for four months, undercover, as a corrections officer at a Louisiana prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the country’s second largest private-prison company. Bauer doesn’t concentrate on what it’s like to be a prisoner, but more on his experiences and observations being a prison guard. It is a sad, yet enlightening read into the world of for-profit prisons.
Nothing Protects Black Women From Dying in Pregnancy and Childbirth (Pro Publica – December 27, 2017) “According to the [Centers for Disease Control], black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health.” This data is at the heart of Pro Publica’s article about how black mothers in the US no matter the class, income or education, they’re being ill-served not only by social inequities (e.g. access to healthy food, decent jobs, etc.) but also the “unconscious biases that are embedded throughout the medical system.” The stories of these mothers’ thoughts, questions and fears about their bodies and unborn child being overlooked or dismissed by healthcare professionals (which led to serious complications and sometimes death) will shock, sadden and make you angry. This is an illuminating investigation about how racism has played a role in the less-than-stellar treatment of Black women and other mothers of color. Note: Pro Publica and NPR are publishing ongoing stories about “maternal care and preventable health” via their ‘Lost Mothers‘ news series.
September 11: The Falling Man (Esquire Magazine – September 2003) The beginning of this piece by Tom Jonod sets the tone for one of the most famous 9/11 images: “In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity’s divine suction or by what awaits him.” Jonod’s piece tells the story of the photographer who had taken the picture and of the man who leaped to his death from the burning World Trade Center Towers on 9/11. It’s also the story of an image that was printed everywhere the day after 9/11 and then basically disappeared from American newspapers because it was just too painful and too real for too many people.
A Surgeon So Bad It Was Criminal (Pro Publica – October 2, 2018) “Christopher Duntsch’s surgical outcomes were so outlandishly poor that Texas prosecuted him for harming patients. Why did it take so long for the systems that are supposed to police problem doctors to stop him from operating?” Pro Publica investigates how an incompetent physician was allowed to continue to practice medicine for years without repercussions though he had a known track record for harming and sometimes killing his patients. “In the roughly two years that Duntsch — a blue-eyed, smooth-talking former college football player — had practiced medicine in Dallas, he had operated on 37 patients. Almost all, 33 to be exact, had been injured during or after these procedures, suffering almost unheard-of complications. Some had permanent nerve damage. Several woke up from surgery unable to move from the neck down or feel one side of their bodies. Two died in the hospital, including a 55-year-old schoolteacher undergoing what was supposed to be a straightforward day surgery.” A strong article, but also a sad indictment of the Texas medical community in its abdication of its role to heal and protect from harm potential and current patients.
Testilying’ by Police: A Stubborn Problem (New York Times – March 18, 2018) “Police lying persists, even amid an explosion of video evidence that has allowed the public to test officers’ credibility.” For many readers the aforementioned statement seems incredulous given their steadfast beliefs that the police are honor-bound to do the right thing. However, in this devastating Times investigative article, readers will learn that numerous members of the New York City Police Department have given false testimony (e.g. lied about the whereabouts of guns, putting them in suspects’ hands or waistbands when they were actually hidden out of sight; barged into apartments and conducted searches, only to testify otherwise later, etc.) that has led to false charges, arrests and sometimes imprisonment. The article’s author, Joseph Goldstein, doesn’t take a pro, anti or ambivalent stance about the police. He lets the facts speak for themselves, which makes for a sad indictment on the New York City Police, but also other police departments that practice such unacceptable and harmful behavior.
Til Death Do Us Part (Post & Courier – August 2014) – Charleston, South Carolina’s Post & Courier won a 2015 Pulitzer Prize Public Service Award for its “riveting series that probed why the state is among the deadliest states in the union for women and put the issue of what to do about it on the state’s agenda.” The seven-part series starts off with this powerful opener “[m]ore than 300 women were shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death over the past decade by men in South Carolina, dying at a rate of one every 12 days while the state does little to stem the carnage from domestic abuse” and builds upon this information with interviews with those who have suffered the abuse, their families, their advocates, the police and judges. It is a series that is a definite must read and very deserving of its prize for journalism excellence.
Why Are There No Staff Black Cartoonists At A Time When We Need Them Most? (Washington Post – December 29, 2015) Illuminating article about why Black cartoonists “need to be a prominent part of our ongoing national conversation” yet most editors (e.g., newspapers, books, graphic novels, etc.) don’t seem to recognize the need for these voices. You’ll hear from black cartoonists (known and those under the radar) about their work and what they’re doing to increase the presence of of current and future black cartoonists across all mediums.
The Supreme Court is Headed Back to the 19th Century (The Atlantic – September 4, 2018) This article by Adam Serwer seems even more prescient given the latest (and controversial) addition to the United States Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Pre and post-Kavanaugh’s confirmation, alarms were expressed about the future legitimacy of the Supreme Court and that conservative jurists (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) would and now out-number the less-conservative and so-called liberal wing (Breyer, Sotamayer, Kagan, Bader-Ginsburg) of the United States Supreme Court, which might impact the rights of women, people of color and American democracy. Serwer lets us know that the idealism that people have about the U.S. Supreme Court has never been the reality: “The supreme court’s moments of majesty, such as Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed segregated schools; and Loving v. Virginia, which struck down antimiscegenation laws; and even Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, are few and far between. For most of its existence, the high court has been committed less to upholding the rule of law or the Constitution than to preserving its own legitimacy, unwilling to shield the powerless from the mob unless convinced that it has the political cover to do so. Like many things in America, the ideal rarely resembles the execution.” The article is informative and disheartening, yet also serves as a historical reminder to some and a wake-up call to others.
James McClean’s Refusal to Wear the Poppy Has Made Him the Most Hated Man in Soccer (Deadspin – November 7, 2018) It’s not often you get a thorough history lesson while reading an article about a sports figure, especially as well-written and on-point as this one by Odrán Waldron. It’s about English Soccer Player and Northern Ireland-born James McClean and his ongoing refusal to wear the poppy (flower/symbol to remember those who have given their lives in battle); the combative political and military history between Ireland & England and the nationalism/ethnocentrism amongst soccer fans. Waldron also ties-in how McLean’s stance and its fall-out is similar to that of NFL Player and Activist Colin Kaepernick‘s ‘Take a Knee‘ protest against police brutality/killing of Black Americans: “Underlying the howls of those who can’t handle Kaepernick’s or McClean’s statements is the idea of the ungrateful savage who should be happy to have a place in the empire: When a millionaire black man in America or a millionaire Irishman in Britain speak of the routine slaughter their people have suffered over generations, they are told to be happy that they are not among them. The thinking goes that Kaepernick should be appreciative that he was never enslaved or killed by a cop and McClean should feel indebted that he did not join the ghosts of the Creggan estate, and they should both shut up and smile.” Many writers would not be able to handle all the moving parts of this piece, let alone pull it all-together into a stellar one. However, Waldron knocks this one out of the park and then some, to use a non-soccer sports metaphor.