Another installment in this month’s theme, “Searching for the Truth”
In thinking about this month’s theme, I immediately came back to a story I related in a post last year. When reporter Nellie Bly was 23 years old, she had herself committed to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island in
After 10 days at the asylum, Nellie secured her release with the help of her editors at the
Nellie Bly pioneered this sort of “stunt journalism,” where an investigative reporter injects herself into the story by going undercover and writing about her experiences. At a time when women were rarely assigned anything but society and fashion articles, Nellie regularly put herself at risk to uncover crimes, corruption, and other abuses. Though her story has been told before, I was anxious to take my own look at what drove this woman to search for and report the truth in such dramatic fashion. The more I learned about her, the more fascinated I became. My biography of Nellie Bly, Bylines, will be out from National Geographic in October.
Though technology has made it possible to spread news (and gossip) instantaneously today, it’s fortunate that there are still many journalists on newspapers, magazines, and even TV news shows and Internet sites who doggedly investigate stories to get at the truth. One such investigation that affected me deeply was accomplished not by a writer, but by a photographer. Patrick Farrell of The Miami Herald won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for his “provocative, impeccably composed images of despair after Hurricane Ike and other lethal storms caused a humanitarian disaster in