How China Plans to Feed 1.4 Billion Growing Appetites

National Geographic magazine • February 2018

Watching Jiang Wannian and Ping Cuixiang harvest a sixth of an acre of daikon seed in the north-central province of Gansu feels a little like traveling back in time.

In a dry valley ringed by dusky mountains, on a brick-paved lot, Jiang drives a rusted tractor over a hip-deep mound of dried plants. As they crush down, Ping, Jiang’s wife, plunges a homemade pitchfork into the straw and arranges it for another pass. Eventually Jiang and Ping work side by side, wiry figures with tawny skin. It’s hot, but they are swaddled in clothes to protect themselves from the dust and the sun. They have handsome faces, taut and lined from years of laboring outdoors, and they turn them skyward as they throw fine chaff up and watch ruddy seed rain down. This rhythm continues for hours. In a singsong voice Ping encourages the wind, murmuring, “Blow, blow!” Machines can do this work in minutes, but they are too expensive for Jiang and Ping. Instead they still thresh the daikon by hand, just as farmers did centuries ago.

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Restaurant Workers Say #MeToo

Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott writes up our discussion of sexual harassment and #MeToo in America’s restaurant industry

When the Kitchen Isn’t Safe for Women

New York Times
October 30, 2017

In 2010, I took a job at a New York City Applebee’s. I said I was considering culinary school and wanted to get some experience in a real kitchen, but I was actually there to write about the experience for a book. I had grand plans to take a genre steeped in machismo and tell a woman’s story instead.

I got what I was after, though not in the way I had hoped. My kitchen stint included sexual harassment so common that it became background noise, and a sexual assault, which did not.

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Who Do We Think Of as Poor?

New York Times Sunday Review • July 9, 2017

Several years ago, during a harsh Detroit winter, I swallowed my pride and applied for food stamps. I wasn’t sure I’d qualify, but I knew three things. I had little money in the bank, little chance of quickly earning more and I needed to eat. So I tried my luck with the government.

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Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting 2017

It was a huge honor to be included on a panel on undercover reporting last week at the Center for Investigative Reporting’s annual Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting. Post-panel, I had a lot of (strong!) thoughts about race and gender when it comes to that kind of work, which I shared on Twitter — and … Read more

Semi-Rant RE: Race, Gender and the Problem with “Undercover” Reporting

via Twitter • May 2, 2017

  1. Thrilled to have been in conversation w/ @UCBerkeleyIRP @Shane_Bauer @sukisworld @ailsachang @jamesjonestv at #LoganSymposium2017. But…
  2. Also wish we dug deeper about complexities re: race/gender w/ @UCBerkeleyIRP. Tagging some thoughts with #LoganSymposium2017.
    • Typically, “undercover” = swashbuckling white dude (SWD) doing something dangerous. Is there a role for this kind of work? Sure.
    • But SWD-as-default makes it seem like SWD=“authentic” truthteller. Both “white” and “dude” parts are crucial.

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Undercover Reporting: Behind the Scenes

Logan Symposium • April 28, 2017 It was a real honor to share the stage with Ailsa Chang (“Planet Money”), Suki Kim (Without You, There is No Us), Shane Bauer (Mother Jones), and James Jones (Frontline) to discuss the complexities of undercover reporting at the Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting hosted by the Investigative Reporting … Read more

White Resentment on the Night Shift at Walmart

New York Times Sunday Review • Dec. 18, 2016

Seven years ago, I joined the night shift at a Walmart in rural Michigan. For $8.10 an hour, I spent four or five nights a week filling shelves with the flour and sugar and marshmallow fluff that residents of the local county, which in 2008 voted for Barack Obama, needed to get through the holidays. Four years ago, the county went with President Obama a second time, though by a thinner margin. But this past November, the county, like the state, turned red.

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