STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

We're good reporters, but your stories are still more powerful than ours.

Evolution of a Criminal

I have been reading a lot of juvenile justice reports and data for the last two months. After finishing some stories and our recent hour-long special on that topic, I was ready to take a break from it. 

Then, Evolution of a Criminal sucked me in.

It's a documentary about Darius Clark Monroe. He robbed a bank at the age of 16. When he was 17 he went to prison, where he stayed for 3 years.

Monroe is also a film maker, and in Evolution of a Criminal he tells his own story: How he made the choices he did, what the fallout has been for him, his family and for all the people in the bank that day. 

His story is gripping. It's a perfect example of  why no matter how well reporters do their jobs, our work can't be as powerful as when people tell their own story well. 

Not everyone will agree with me, but I think stories crafted and told by the people involved are often more powerful and more interesting than those filtered through somebody else. Journalists can be more objective, and we have fact-checking and editing processes so our work is vetted. 

But our work is also filtered through our own assumptions about what's interesting, powerful and important. We are also less likely to get the full story from a source because we may not know them very well.

But Monroe is so honest in his exploration of what got him to that bank. How a robbery of his own home changed the way he thought and acted in such an extreme way that he went from honor student to prison. How those irrational and teenage-logic filled decisions look so different now when he meets some of those people who were in the bank and scared for their lives during his robbery.

Watch this film. Right now you can see it online at PBS, and think about the stories you want to hear straight from the source and let us know so we can try to find these individuals and help them to tell their own stories.