What It Took to Pull Me Through

Marcus, David L.
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p67
This article presents a narrative of how the author dealt with journalism involving adolescents, particularly the troubled ones. When an editor at U.S. News & World Report asked the author to write about boarding schools for troubled teenagers, he did his best to avoid the assignment, and looked for something else to cover. Reluctantly however, he ran out of other thousand-word diversions and started the reporting. He found several dozen of these places, called therapeutic schools. All offered intense therapy and hour-by-hour structure. More important, the author learned that many of U.S. teenagers struggle with alcoholism, eating disorders, and a host of mental illnesses, from depression to schizophrenia. Visiting a therapeutic boarding school in western Massachusetts, the Academy at Swift River, the author met kids who did not fit his stereotype. They were funny, bright and, due to hours and hours of therapy, very open about what had gone wrong in their lives. Some were wealthy but others were from middle-class families that took out loans to pay for Swift River's fees. The experience has made the author cynical about newspaper and magazine features. He now distrusts drive-by reporting on welfare reform, on education, and especially on teens.


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