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ISIS and the lonely Sunday School teacher

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Alma, Jun 28, 2015.

  1. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    This is a jaw-dropping story.

    It's good journalism, too. Good storytelling; I like how the past of a primary character in the story is revealed far later to the reader than usual, as it would be to Alex herself. And the end of the story...well, it hasn't ended.

    Couple things I noted:

    >>The Foley beheading coverage - on Twitter - drove Alex toward ISIS, not away, because of a horrified curiosity.

    >>The pastor at Alex's church is clueless. No other way to put that. He ushers her out when she starts asking questions, but she's still teaching Sunday school. As she's considering ISIS.

    >>Gifts, money, friendship.

    Fascinating stuff. I would have liked to see the ending - when the grandmother confronts Faisal - drawn out a little more than it was. And I felt like the story wasn't as observant of Alex as it could have been; the video helps to understand her personality.
    Rusty Shackleford likes this.
  2. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    It is.

    It's also scary in its simplicity, its subtlety and its understated recruiting, which relies on the weak-minded-, disaffected- and undirected-, or misdirected-ness of its targets to succeed. And is the reason that it often does.

    This story illustrates, clearly, the dangers of the ease and anonymity and lack of accountability of social media. It is so easy to hide behind, get attached to, become dependent upon, and simply to reach out to, that the positive of its community may in fact become a frightening negative.

    I agree with you in that more time could have and should have been spent in the story on Alex herself, and what/who made her who she was before she reached out to ISIS supporters. You get a sense of that from the video, but it really needed some deep description and explanation.

    I ached for Alex as she seemed to come close to realizing some things, herself, that might have helped her extricate herself a couple of times, like when she said she wasn't sure she knew the truth about ISIS, only to feel the need to and give in and fall, enthralled, into her dangerous online community again.

    Let's hope the community remains just an online thing only for her.
  3. Rusty Shackleford

    Rusty Shackleford Active Member

    Wow, powerful stuff.

    She seems like any of thousands of disaffected loaners in the US. Fertile ground for recruitment I'm sure.
  4. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member


    I felt the same as you did...wanted more from the ending. It's my only critique. The writer wants to throw us a curveball -- and does. But the context of that curveball is lacking. Does this mean she's still communicating? Does the family know? Thought there was more to be shared.
  5. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I almost felt like the writer is a strong, connected reporters with some limits as a storyteller. Which is OK - I want the reporting, when it's this interesting. But I think, at the end, slow it down, explain the setting, take an extra 300 words.
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