By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A horrifying and important piece of journalism

Jenifer McKim discusses her story. Click on image to view video.

The most horrifying and important piece of journalism I’ve seen in quite a while is Jenifer McKim’s front-page story in Sunday’s Boston Globe on an international child-pornography ring — a story that took McKim from Milford to the Netherlands. I have no stomach for describing what McKim found, but you should read it if you haven’t already.

The point is so obvious that it scarcely needs to be made, but journalism like this isn’t possible without resources. In the video, McKim says she worked on the story for a year. The Globe has money (if not as much as it used to), lawyers and institutional muscle. Without those assets, it’s hard to imagine this story ever would have been fully told.

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  1. Dan, You are right. Horrifying and important piece of journalism. For all there is to criticize about the Globe, and there is much, this kind of reporting is where they really shine.

  2. A revolting and vital read for any right-minded citizen, let alone parent. Every third graf will turn your stomach, but it really should be required reading.

  3. Mark Pothier

    Thanks for calling more attention to this story. I was fortunate to be able to work with Jenifer McKim as her editor on the project. I especially appreciate your mention of the Globe being willing to spend time and money on something like this. Jen’s a business reporter and I’m deputy business editor, so we could easily have been told child pornography was beyond our coverage area. But that didn’t happen — we were supported from the moment the story was proposed.

  4. Aaron Read

    Also worth noting, and no disrespect to my fellow public radio colleagues, but this is not a story that can told in broadcast (radio, TV) with the same devastating impact that it has in the printed word.

    My thoughts turn to the recent WWNO/New Orleans newsroom grant that clearly was spurred by the Times-Picayune’s decision to cut back to a thrice-weekly instead of a daily. But broadcast lives too much in the moment. The turnaround time on stories is too fast for a story like this. As you said, it took over a year to research and report…very, very few broadcast outlets would spend that much time on a story.

    And not without good reason, either. If you’re gonna do a story that big, it deserves serious space. It’s hard for any broadcast outlet to spend more than an hour on a given topic. And of that hour, only 45 to 50 minutes…max…is really discussing the meat of the issue. And that’s only for certain public broadcasting shows, too…mostly weekend shows. The daily newsmagazines like ME and ATC are known for giving more time than their commercial brethren, but we’re still only talking 7 to 12 minutes at most. You couldn’t cover all the ground McKim did in just 12 minutes.

    I think public broadcasting is doing an admirable job of trying to step up and replace some of what’s being lost as newspapers sink lower and lower in the country. But I hope people realize that just like how TV does not work as “radio with pictures”, neither does “news on the radio” work as a total substitute for a good local newspaper.

  5. Rhea Becker

    I was thrilled to see this lengthy, multi-part piece in the Boston Globe. This kind of piece proves why journalism is so important. This is an issue I happen to be familiar with as a longtime activist against pornography. Praise to McKim and her editors.

  6. James Harvey

    I guess I’m going to be the contrarian here.

    This was a horrifying story. And the reporting was well-done. Kudos to McKim and her team for doing a great job.

    But I’m not really seeing how this is important news for the Globe to throw resources at, and the kind of story we just wouldn’t get without professional journalists working on it full-time. ICE issues press releases related to child pornography investigations or prosecutions on a near-daily basis. With the globe’s resources, McKim did a good job on this story and got a lot of details that wouldn’t otherwise be available, which made the piece come to life. But the most important parts of the story — the crime, the investigation, the process were available without significant resources.

  7. Mike Benedict

    @James: Don’t you think the local angle coupled with the fact that few Globe subscribers likely read ICE press releases make this reporting significant and important?

    After all, most details about most investigations are available in some shape or form on the web. Isn’t one role of the Globe to distill that information and make it personal to their readers?

  8. Rhea Becker

    The story was a stellar piece of work. This is why we need journalism.

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