The New New Journalism
Robert S. Boynton
Ted Conover
Richard Ben Cramer
Leon Dash
William Finnegan
Jonathan Harr
Alex Kotlowitz
Jon Krakauer
Jane Kramer
William Langewiesche
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Michael Lewis
Susan Orlean
Richard Preston
Ron Rosenbaum
Eric Schlosser
Gay Talese
Calvin Trillin
Lawrence Weschler
Lawrence Wright
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by Robert S. Boynton

           April 18, 1995, was a bittersweet day for Washington Post reporter Leon Dash. At four a.m., Rosa Lee Cunningham, the principle subject of his eight-part series "Rosa Lee: Poverty and Survival in Washington," entered the hospital where she would die from AIDS three months later. That morning, Dash attended the funeral of her fifteen-year-old grandson, Rico, who had been murdered in drug-related violence. When he returned to the Post offices, he learned that the series had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
           Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on March 16, 1944, Dash was raised in New York City, living in Harlem and the Bronx. His parents were middle-class civil servants: his father a postal clerk (and eventually a supervisor) and his mother an administrator for New York City's Health Department.
           Dash's interest in journalism began while he was the editor of the school newspaper at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he studied for two and a half years before transferring to Howard University. While at Howard, Dash worked the "lobster shift" as a copy aide at The Washington Post, leaving the paper at 2:30 a.m. He was promoted to reporter in 1966 and received his BA in history from Howard in 1968. After two years in the Peace Corps, he returned to the Post in 1971, where he coauthored The Shame of the Prisons (1972) with Ben Bagdikian, contributing a section on intergenerational family crime. In 1975, Dash was one of forty-four journalists who founded the National Association of Black Journalists.
           From the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, Dash was primarily a foreign correspondent, running the Post's West African bureau chief, based in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.
           When Dash returned to Washington, D.C in 1984 his first project was a series on teenage pregnancy, which was later published as When Children Want Children. For his next project, Dash wanted to write about the explosion in the population of Washington's "underclass," as defined by the Urban Institute (female-headed, chronically unemployed, marginally educated, criminally recidivist families) Rosa Lee, a heroin addict, mother of eight, who was doing time in prison for selling heroin to feed two of her grandchildren, proved to be the perfect subject, and Dash interviewed Rosa and her children from 1990 to 1994.
           The eight part series elicited heated responses from thousands of readers, and Dash made a point of calling every reader who left a critical comment, explaining that he had no particular ideological agenda in writing the series. "There is something in her life story to confirm any political viewpoint—liberal, moderate or conservative," Dash writes in Rosa Lee." The series won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism (with photographer Lucian Perkins).
           In 1998, Dash left the Post to take a professorship in Journalism and Afro-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was later awarded the first Swanlund chair in 2000


Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America, Basic Books, 1996
When Children Want Children: The Urban Crisis of Teenage Adolescent Childbearing, William Morrow, 1989
The Shame of the Prison, (with Ben Bagdikian), Simon & Schuster, 1972


Unless otherwise noted, all were published in The Washington Post.

"Justice System Catches Up With Brothers in Crime", (with Susan Sheehan), November 30, 1998

"D.C. Brothers Grow Up on the Edge", (with Susan Sheehan), November 29, 1998

"Two Lives in the Fast Lane Sped to Premature Graves", October 22, 1996

"Rosa Lee and Me: What One Family Told Me—and America—About the Urban Crisis", October 2, 1994

"Rosa Lee’s Story: Poverty and Survival in Washington—A Life Comes Full Circle, and Rosa Lee Faces Loss", September 25, 1994

"Rosa Lee’s Story: Poverty and Survival in Washington—Daughter Travels the Same Troubled Path as Rosa Lee", September 23, 1994

"Rosa Lee’s Story: Poverty and Survival in Washington—Two Sons Surmounted the Hurdles", September 22, 1994

"Rosa Lee’s Story: Poverty and Survival in Washington—She Wrestles With Recovery in a Changing Drug Culture", September 21, 1994

"Rosa Lee’s Story: Poverty and Survival in Washington—Rosa Lee Pays a Heavy Toll for Illiteracy", September 20, 1994

"Rosa Lee’s Story: Poverty and Survival in Washington—Stealing Became a Way of Life for Rosa Lee", September 19, 1994

"Rosa Lee’s Story: Poverty and Survival in Washington—A Difficult Journey: From Rural Hardship to Urban Adversity", September 18, 1994

"Blood and Fire: Savimbi’s War Against His UNITA Rivals", September 30, 1990

"Drugs in the Ranks: Confrontation and Recovery—A Counselor Who Crossed the Line", June 14, 1990

"Drugs in the Ranks: Confrontation and Recovery—Officer’s Addiction Was No Secret", June 13, 1990

"Drugs in the Ranks: Confrontation and Recovery—Busy Investigators Often Forced to Rely on Honesty of Applicants", June 13, 1990

"Drugs in the Ranks: Confrontation and Recovery—Contraband in a Box of Chicken", June 12, 1990

"Drugs in the Ranks: Getting High in D.C. Jail—Jail Officer Traded Inside Information for a Discount on Drugs", June 11, 1990

"Drugs in the Ranks: Getting High in D.C. Jail—Officer Smoked Crack on the Job", June 11, 1990

"Drugs in the Ranks: Getting High in D.C. Jail—A System Beset from Within", June 10, 1990

"At Risk: Chronicles of Teen-Age Pregnancy—Breaking the Hold of a ‘Choke Chain", January 31, 1986

"At Risk: Chronicles of Teen-Age Pregnancy—‘Mario, I Want a Baby'", January 30, 1986

"At Risk: Chronicles of Teen-Age Pregnancy—When Outcomes Collide with Desires", January 29, 1986

"At Risk: Chronicles of Teen-Age Pregnancy—Painful Patterns of Three Generations", January 28, 1986

"At Risk: Chronicles of Teen-Age Pregnancy—Motherhood the Hard Way", January 27, 1986

"At Risk: Chronicles of Teen-Age Pregnancy—Children’s Children: The Crisis Up Close", January 26, 1986

"Return to Kilibwoni—Pet Cats Signal Affluence of Some", November 18, 1982

"Return to Kilibwoni—Falling Prices for Farm Exports are Threat to Village’s Progress", November 18, 1982

"Return to Kilibwoni—Despite Progress, African Villagers Don’t Prosper Equally", November 17, 1982

"Return to Kilibwoni— ‘The Road’ Paves Way to Better Life for Remote Kenyan Village", November 16, 1982

"Return to Kilibwoni—Decline in Infant Deaths Moves Kenyans to Birth Control", November 15, 1982

"Return to Kilibwoni— ‘Education is Future’ in Villages", November 14, 1982

"Zaire—Mobutu Mortgages Nation’s Future", January 1, 1980

"Zaire—U.S. Businessman Plays a Key Role as Aide to Mobutu", December 31, 1979

"Zaire—Copper, Cobalt Lodes Hold Economic Help for Zaire", December 31, 1979

"Zaire—Want Grips Once-Rich African Nation", December 30, 1979

"Zaire—Mobutu’s Staying Power Is Attributed to His Political Skill and Raw Force", December 30, 1979

"A Long March—UNITA: Self-Criticism Deep in a Hidden Forest", August 13, 1977

"A Long March—Savimbi, Lifeblood of UNITA, Is a Man of Many Labels", August 12, 1977

"A Long March—Three Supporters of UNITA; Three Shades of Opinion", August 12, 1977

"A Long March—Colonialism Gone, Racism Remains", August 12, 1977

"A Long March—Politics Taught by Fable", August 11, 1977

"A Long March—A Warrior Sits in Judgment of Women Held for Witchcraft", August 11, 1977

"A Long March—Captives Walk a Rocky Road", August 10, 1977

"A Long March—A Chameleon of Civil War Is Captive of Ex-Comrades", August 10, 1977

"A Long March—What Leads Guerrillas to Fight On?", August 9, 1977

"A Long March—Families Share a Diet of War, Hardship", August 9, 1977

"A Long March—War Without Frontiers, Battle Lines", August 8, 1977

"A Long March—Guerrillas Take Revenge on Zambian Soccer Team", August 8, 1977

"A Long March—Ambushing an Unwary Enemy", August 7, 1977

"Addicted Babies Suffer Agony of Drug Withdrawal", September 9, 1976

"New Heroin Raises Death Toll", September 8, 1976

"A Hub of Drugs and Crime", September 7, 1976

"Seven Major Drug Marketplaces Thrive in City", September 6, 1976

"Hooked at Age 13, D.C. Man Broke Habit", September 5, 1976

"Deaths, Addiction on Increase as Heroin Use Spreads in City", September 5, 1976

"Tracing D.C. Drug Route", May 24, 1976

"Heroin Trail: From Mexico to Streets of D.C.", April 18, 1976

"Angola Group Rejects CORE’s Recruits", March 14, 1976

"Angola: A Lesson From Vietnam", February 10, 1976

"High Zaire: Official Seeks Coalition of Angola Rivals", February 4, 1976

"Angola Clashes Belie Portuguese Claim of Racial Harmony", August 6, 1974

"After 13 Years, Angola War Remains a Stalemate", August 5, 1974

"After Lisbon Coup—Fear", August 4, 1974

"Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars", March 24, 1974

"Parolee Hasn’t Held a Job Long Enough To Be Checked", March 19, 1974

"Parole Officers Carry Heavy Loads", March 18, 1974

"A Parole Officer Makes His Rounds", March 17, 1974

"Black Roots in Angola", December 26, 1973

"Rebels Plot Tactics in Forest Meeting", December 25, 1973

"Angola: War Could Last Generations", December 24, 1973

"Rebel Bands Roam at Will in Portuguese Territory", December 23, 1973

"Rehabilitation: A Frayed Hope", February 4, 1972

"Forest Haven Opens Unit for Retarded", July 2, 1971

"Forest Haven: 200 Wait Mindlessly for Death", May 26, 1971

"Children’s Center at Laurel Called Filthy", May 7, 1971

"Portrait of a Prison Compound: Hunger, Cold, Illness, Marriage", (with Paul G. Edwards), May 4, 1971

"Graduation Is No Commencement for Kenya’s Youth", March 28, 1971

Interviews and Reviews

Review of Rosa Lee, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, January 1, 2000

Ohannessian, Mary, “Beyond Myths—Teen Childbearing and the Importance of Early Education: An Intervi The Advocate’s Forum, Autumn 1997

Harold, Chris, “What If There Are No Bootstraps?: An Interview With Leon Dash About His Book, Rosa Lee,” Cornerstone, Volume 26, Issue 111

“The Confessions of Rosa Lee,” Frontline, May 23, 1995

The Pulitzer’s “Rosa Lee” Page,

The Washington Post’s “Rosa Lee” Page,

An Interview with Leon Dash Scholar Practitioner Q+A . . . , Literary Journalism Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring 2017

© Robert S. Boynton