Saturday night’s launch of The Marshall Project is good news for criminal-justice-news junkies, and not just because of the marquee feature stories we can expect from the impressive team that editor Bill Keller has hired. Another key attraction: “Opening Statement,” the daily newsletter compiled by the scarily well-read Andrew Cohen. If Twitter isn’t your thing — and Cohen’s and Marshall Project’s feeds do much of the same curating work, albeit in < 140 characters — then the newsletter is a must-read for people keen on following news of our criminal-justice system.
Curiously, the newsletter does not seem to be linkable on the web — just the signup page (UPDATE: now there’s a link to the newsletters, archived) — and my respect for our nation’s copyright laws precludes me from republishing the whole thing to show what it looks like. But here’s a summary of the first edition, which arrived in my inbox before 9 a.m. EST:
- Pick of the News: longish blurbs on stories by both Marshall Project reporters and outside publications.
- N/S/E/W: more news stories from a variety of sources, blurbed more succinctly.
- Commentary from well-known pundits and editorialists.
- Etc., featuring a profile, review, indictment, photo, and decision of the day.
Each category features five items. So, for the math-challenged, that means a curated list of 20 news and opinion pieces expertly picked and helpfully summarized. Free.
I expect these collections will overlap a lot with the always-excellent Crime and Justice News email from The Crime Report. Produced by Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, this five-days-a-week newsletter arrives reliably just before noon Eastern time with a similar mix of stories, heavy on reform-minded investigative stories. Much of The Crime Report is free, including a weekly newsletter. But the daily feed and full access to the site costs a reasonable $5 per month (or $50 a year).
Now that The Marshall Project has added to the glut of quality crime news (as distinct from mindless fear-mongering reporting like this, for example), where does that leave me?
For almost three years, I’ve used this blog to critique criminal-justice journalism, comment on criminal-justice policy, and provide updates on my work. Last April, I added a feature called Criminal-Justice Nightstand Reading, summarizing and linking to notable news in the criminal-justice world. It’s essentially a repeat of my social-media feeds, with longer summaries of the stories.
The volume and focus of this curated list has varied depending on my whims and other distractions. To be transparent about it, I started it to add value to the blog once Keller asked me to move my blog to The Marshall Project. When he later canceled that plan — mine was among a handful of independent blogs that they decided not to host after all — I decided to keep producing the blog and Nightstand Reading but focus them more tightly on deeply reported long-form narratives by journalists about crime, crime victims, and criminal-justice policy. It’s a niche I care about and that lacks others’ focus, as best I can tell.
As for other posts on the blog, I will still critique crime journalism now and then, when a story teaches a lesson about journalism or crime that I feel the need to comment on. But my focus will be on my own work: updates on projects in the works, added details about works just published, and thoughts on issues relevant to that work.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the relentless flow of this news. A reader could spend all day every day reading only what I link to from my blogroll (on the left rail) and from the glut of blogs and Twitter feeds on these topics (some of which I listed here). But that’s all the more reason to value the curators who selectively identify and summarize the good stuff. I hope my modest efforts in my chosen niche prove valuable to my readers.