Friday, October 09, 2020

Two books out this year feature great rural journalism on the opioid epidemic and unsolved murders of the civil-rights era

As the days shorten, it's a good time to curl up with a book. Poynter's Kristen Hare reviews two for your consideration, both with lots of rural reporting.

Jerry Mitchell's Race Against Time chronicles how the Mississippi reporter's reporting years ago "helped revive civil-rights cold cases and put proud members of the KKK behind bars. The book deals with our country’s racist, murderous past, but also feels very relevant right now," Hare writes. After a long career at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting in 2018. He won a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in 2009.

From the editor's note: "For the past 30 years, Mitchell has devoted his career to reopening unsolved cold cases in from civil rights era. His work on multiple landmark cases — the assassination of Medgar Evers, the Mississippi Burning murders, the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and the firebombing of Vernon Dahmer — has helped put killers from the Ku Klux Klan behind bars for life, decades after they thought they had gotten away with murder."

In the second book, Death in Mud Lick, Pulitzer-Prize winning former Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter Eric Eyre takes a deep dive into the opioid epidemic in a small West Virginia town, detailing one woman's fight to seek accountability from major pharmaceutical companies after her brother's overdose death.

The same day his book came out, Eyre resigned from the paper to deal with his advancing Parkinson's disease. Nevertheless, he has waded back into the fray: He's one of the the co-founders of the new Mountain State Spotlight. In a recent newsletter to readers, Eyre wrote: "The story is far from over. (Looks as if I’ll be adding an epilogue to the epilogue by the time the paperback comes out next year.) A bellwether trial to hold giant companies accountable for the opioid crisis is scheduled to start Oct. 19 in Charleston. I’ll be covering the trial or potential settlement for Mountain State Spotlight, a new nonprofit investigative news outlet in WV."

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