Fifth Estate: Sizing up last week’s stories

Our new columnist doesn’t like lazy beach reporting. But she does like babies.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: “D” List for being beach bums
This week, the Philadelphia Inquirer can’t stop covering trivial topics. Reid Frazier’s 1,000-word piece on “Guys Gone Topless” is entertaining at face value, but without a doubt, there is a level of disconnect between readers and the paper’s editorial content. It’s like the Inquirer published the article simply to attract the 18- to 25-year-old demographic. An article that asks if it’s acceptable for a man to take off his shirt in public is out of place, when put near hard-news pieces like the drowning death of a sex offender. Frazier’s article belongs on the front page of a gossip or teen magazine and not under the news section of a reputable publication. Even if the Inquirer’s sole purpose of this article is to appeal to a younger crowd, why not place it in a different section? To further reflect poorly on the Inquirer, this particular article is attached to an online survey that asks its readers if guys should, in fact, go shirtless. It’s disheartening that the Inquirer is lowering its standards just for an increase in readership.

Philadelphia Weekly: Honor Roll for baby talk
Liz Spikol doesn’t hold anything back. In her column, titled “In Due Time,” Spikol writes about her confusion over whether or not she should become a mother. Spikol tells it like it is — as a 40-year-old woman, she’s worried that being pregnant will be unhealthy. But time is running out, and the ticking biological clock allows no room for “maybe” in a couple of years. Spikol’s column is a delight for her unusual bluntness and honesty. With her personal anecdotes and witty humor, Spikol is a master at drawing in her readers. Notable excerpts from this week’s piece include lines like, “The problem is that people expect me to be expecting. I’m old, as breeders go” and “When I was 26, I had barely mastered changing the kitty litter.” Most columnists delve into their personal lives, but few share as much or as deeply as Spikol. One line in particular says “there were many years when I wanted to minimize my imprint on the world’s surface.” When examining Spikol’s column, I feel compassion and empathy for a woman who has made herself so open to public scrutiny. Bravo, Spikol.

CityPaper: Honor Roll for covering Philly’s drug wars

Isaiah Thompson’s investigative reporting gives readers in Philadelphia a reason to pick up an alternative weekly. Thompson’s “Khat in the Act” informed readers about khat, a Schedule 1 narcotic, which was found in a special mail facility in Philadelphia. His writing addresses the problems with khat — no one cares what happens to it or what people are trying to do with it. According to the article, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol confiscated more than 800 pounds this year. Whether khat is a serious drug or just an inconvenience for Philadelphia’s customs officials, Thompson’s article is a refreshing outlook on what’s happening right around your neighborhood corner store.

Stacy Lipson can be reached at

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