Thursday, October 1, 2009

Barlett and Steele: Still busy after all these years

Writer Larry Atkins update of the investigative reporting team of Don Barlett and James Steele appears in the current Philadelphia Weekly, available online, and it's an inspiring tale.

Barlett and Steele -- 73 and 66 years old, respectively -- wrote the 1992 Philadephia Inquirer series America: What Went Wrong?, which was rewritten as a book that became a New York Times bestseller mentioned by President Clinton in his 2000 State of the Union Address. The Washington Journalism Review called Barlett and Steele “almost certainly the best team in the history of investigative reporting."

Since leaving the Inquirer, the pair have done substantial reporting for Time and Vanity Fair magazines and written book-length journalism such as 2004's Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business-and Bad Medicine, which described the flawed health care system and urged reform.

“One of the questions we try to answer when researching a subject -- whether it be bankruptcy, health care, illegal immigration or taxes -- is this: Are people treated equally?" Barlett says. "Is there one rule for everyone, or do government and the big and powerful institutions of society favor one group of individuals over another, one business over another? The function of government in a democratic society should be to level the playing field rather than tilt it so that it favors a few over the many. Yet that’s exactly what happens -- over and over.”