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Early in my journalism career, a veteran investigative reporter gave me a piece of advice I have never forgotten: The hotter the story, the more you want a document of some kind that you can verify and then show readers. This will build trust.
You can see this principal at work in the blockbuster religion story of the weekend — that New York Times foreign desk report about ongoing and even expanding efforts to lock up and, if need be, brainwash or execute a million or more Uighur Muslims in what can only be called reeducation or concentration camps.
Double-decker - Headline - Nod - Document - Stash
The dramatic double-decker headline includes a nod to the document stash at the heart of it all:
More than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents provide an unprecedented inside look at the crackdown on ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
Readers - Sourcing - Trust - Thus
As always, it’s good to tell readers as much as you can tell them about the sourcing, to hang on to as much trust as possible; Thus:
Though it is unclear how the documents were gathered and selected, the leak suggests greater discontent inside the party apparatus over the crackdown than previously known. The papers were brought to light by a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity and expressed hope that their disclosure would prevent party leaders, including [President Xi Jinping], from escaping culpability for the mass detentions.
Story - Acclaim
This is a stunning, must-read story and it deserves the acclaim that it is getting.
However, I would like to note one religion-shaped hole. A theme running through the report is that Chinese officials are divided over whether or not they will be able to produce a safe, compromised, easy-to-control version of Islam — similar to their own state-sanctioned Christian churches.
Line - Line
The bottom line: It would have required only an extra line or two in...
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