Paying for good press and Pakistani journos in peril: The must-read stories from our ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism.

Journalism in the public interest.
Sept. 16 2011 2:29 PM

Paying for Good Press and Pakistani Journos in Peril

This week's top MuckReads from ProPublica.

Click to launch propublica.org.

Here are this week's top must-read stories from  #MuckReads, ProPublica's ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism. Anyone can contribute by tweeting a link to a story and just including the hashtag #MuckReads or by sending an email to MuckReads@ProPublica.org. The best submissions are selected by ProPublica's editors and reporters and then  featured on our site  and  @ProPublica.

The Journalist and the Spies, The New Yorker
Earlier this year, Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad was found dead shortly after publishing an article asserting that members of Pakistan's Navy had ties to Al Qaeda. Dexter Filkins had spoken with Shahzad just nine days before he went missing. Here, Filkins recounts how Shahzad told him he was being threatened by Pakistan's intelligence service, and talks to other journalists who say they've been intimidated by the authorities. 
Contributed by @AzmatZahra

Escherichia coli. Click image to expand.
E. coli

America's Dangerous Food-Safety System, Daily Beast
Food inspectors across the country say that budget cuts and short staffing have made it difficult for them to inspect all the factories they're assigned to. The Daily Beast reviews the holes in our food safety system, and talks to two mothers who lost their children after eating food tainted with E. coli. Contributed by @stepshep

Water District Taps Google For Good Coverage, Los Angeles Times
A California state agency has been using taxpayer money to buy good press. A company that Google listed as a news organization has received nearly $200,000 to write positive stories about the Central Basin Municipal Water District.   
Contributed by @shelbygrad

Exposed After Eight Years: A Private Eye's Dirty Work For Fleet Street, Independent
Newly reviewed evidence from a 2003 investigation shows that News International journalists weren't the only ones who paid private investigators to obtain information through illegal means. Files seized from one investigator's home include thousands of phone hacking requests from other media companies.
See all Muckreads on the UK's phone hacking scandal.

Promises, Promises: Food Anti-Terror Programs Costly, Associated Press
After 9/11, the Bush administration set up programs to protect the nation's food supply from a potential terror attack. Since then, the government has spent $3.4 billion on the programs, which are so mired in bureaucracy that it's hard to gauge what, if anything, they've accomplished.
Contributed by @joannalin

The Knock at the Door, New York Magazine
This is the story of an overworked, well-liked child welfare supervisor who went to prison for the murder of a girl she'd never met. Her case sheds light on the way that short staffing and mountains of paperwork can get in the way of the most important part of a social worker's job: checking up on the families they're trying to help.
Contributed by @KYWeise

Cosmetic Surgery Gets Cheaper, Faster, Scarier, USA Today
Under pressure to increase profits, plastic surgery clinics are increasingly cutting corners. USA Today talks to patients who have been left disfigured, and reviews other cases where patients have died. Contributed by @LukeKerrDineen

Water Testing in Chicago Raises Concerns About Screening Process for Lead, Chicago Tribune
Tests of Chicago water suggest that the nationwide technique for gauging lead levels in drinking water may not be getting accurate results.
Contributed by @egabler

These stories and many more can be found at  ProPublica. You can also  subscribe to a daily #MuckReads email, or follow  ProPublica on Twitter. Reader submissions are key to making #MuckReads a success—please contribute!

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

It’s Fine to Use Facebook to Serve People With Legal Papers, Court Rules

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?