1. In the investigation of the shipbreaking industry, it becomes apparent that most of the workers are very poor, uneducated Latinos, who are not in this country legally. Tell your students to assume they are highly educated, middle- to upper-middle-income American journalists who cannot speak a word of Spanish.
Instruct them to make a list of the problems they might confront in trying to interview the scrapyard workers and suggest ways they would try to overcome those problems.
In using interpreters as Englund and Cohn did, what are some ways you ensure that the interpreter is accurately conveying your questions and the interviewee"s answers?
The Targets" Responses
Ask the students to go to the Pulitzer.org website and read the main stories for days one and two in this series.
1. In what ways do the stories make the shipbreakers look like "the bad guys?"
2. Scan the two stories and underline where the targeted shipbreakers are allowed to speak. At the same time, tell the students to put stars beside those portions in which the targets are defending themselves.
3. What questions—not already answered in the stories—would you ask the shipbreakers if you had an opportunity to interview them?
4. Read the Raul Mendoza anecdote from the day one story and identify unanswered questions. Read other excerpts about conditions in the scrapyards and list several more unanswered questions.
5. Tell your students to assume they are reporters on this case. In answer to one of their questions about workers not wearing harnesses, or safety goggles and other equipment, a shipbreaker said he had safety rules posted at entrance. What is a good follow-up?
6. In answer to a question about allowing violations of environmental regulations on handling and disposing of asbestos, PCBs, fuel and oil, a shipbreaker launches into an attack on the government saying the Navy never disclosed to him that the ships were floating hazardous waste sites. What would be a good follow-up question?
Use of Anecdotes
1. What is the value of anecdotal material?
2. How does the evidence in "The Shipbreakers" succeed or fail in showing that the anecdote is a representative illustration of a common problem?
Go over the Lessons Learned section on objectivity, giving particular interest to Corbett"s description of the questions that run through her mind. If you were an editor, what other "devil"s advocate" questions would you ask in evaluating information your reporters gather when investigating a story to make sure they are trying to be objective?