Slate’s Managing Editor on the Best Reads of a Bad Week 

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Sept. 5 2014 8:57 AM

What Happened at Slate This Week?

Slate’s managing editor on the good news, bad news week.   


Illustration by Charlie Powell

Hello! My name is Rachael Larimore, and I’ve been asked to share some of the best Slate stories from the past week. I’m afraid I have some bad news. Literally. It was a rough week in the world. But bear with me.

As Slate’s managing editor, part of my job is keeping track of what articles we have coming in, from whom, and when they are going to be published. One lesson I’ve learned is that some weeks are dominated by politics and world events. Some weeks we get to linger over thoughtful book reviews or gossip about an awards show. Slate rises to whatever challenge or opportunity we are confronted with. This week, it’s been a lot of serious business. But don’t worry—I’ll try to end on something uplifting.

Perhaps the biggest problem for global leaders right now is ISIS. The Islamist group released its second video in as many weeks depicting the beheading of a journalist; this time, it was of Steven Sotloff. There is no easy way to take on a group that has also killed thousands of Syrians and Iraqis, but William Saletan says the “best way to honor [James] Foley and Sotloff is to face those murders, and to stop ISIS from committing thousands more.” In related coverage, Joshua Keating analyzes both President Obama’s statement that we must “destroy” ISIS as well as ISIS’s motives in releasing another videotaped beheading.

Rachael Larimore Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore is a Slate senior editor.

One of the most undercovered global conflicts is the civil war in the Central African Republic. Until a Muslim insurgent group called Séléka took over the country last year, it had largely avoided the turmoil that plagued its neighbors Sudan, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But James Verini tells the heartbreaking story of how the war has pitted poverty-stricken family members against one another.

This week offered a few bleak glimpses into our nation’s legal system. Dahlia Lithwick wrote about the exonerations of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, two mentally disabled half-brothers from North Carolina who had been on death row for decades.  And Josh Voorhees explores the troubling problem of sexual abuse at juvenile detention centers

In comparison, the travails of celebrities having nude photos stolen and published on the Web might seem trivial. But Emily Bazelon uses this week’s big story to make the case that if sites can be required to remove pirated videos, then publishing stolen photos should be illegal, too.

In less serious business, Willa Paskin used the airing of the disappointing Lifetime movie The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story to revisit the classic sitcom that inspired it. If, like me, you watched each Saturday morning with an unauthorized hangover, you might not have been the target demographic. But Paskin does a fantastic job of explaining how the show gave rise to the “tween”: “It was about a group of smart-aleck kids testing boundaries but never actually getting near the intimidating issues of sex and drugs.”

The news was even bad in the world of comedy, as Joan Rivers passed away on Thursday. Don’t miss this great scene she had on Louie, and read a moving obituary from Hanna Rosin.

And are you ready for some football? I am, and I’m grateful, as a Cleveland fan, that Kevin Craft gives me a reason to remember the 1994 season—the last time the original Cleveland Browns made the playoffs. Craft reminds readers how 20 years ago, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the rules committee introduced rules to protect the quarterback and open up wide receivers.

Before I sign off, I’d like to indulge in a moment of personal melancholy. We learned this week that two beloved colleagues are leaving Slate to tackle exciting new challenges. Senior editor Emily Bazelon, who has covered the courts, crime, bullying, family, women’s issues, and more, is going to the New York Times Magazine. To get an idea of the way Emily confronts conventional wisdom and gets to the bottom of whatever she covers, please revisit her 2010 series on Phoebe Prince and the six students who were arrested in the aftermath of her suicide. And also check out her project on the Nazi anatomists whose experiments still haunt modern medicine. Happily, you can still hear her on the weekly Political Gabfest with David Plotz and John Dickerson.

And political writer David Weigel is going to Bloomberg Politics. There is a rumor around the Slate offices that Weigel is secretly twins. It’s otherwise hard to believe that one person could write so much in the course of a day or a week. Weigel has a knack for cutting through the mountains of BS that spill out of Congress. But you should also catch his longform piece on prog rock—that way you’ll be in the know when his book comes out.

So, here’s the promised uplifting note to end on: As Phil Plait reminds us, the planet really is beautiful.  

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