the detour is the story


This week, we’re bringing you something a little different. 

We asked one of our favorite writers to return to a reporting experience that haunted him—and to take us behind the scenes. That journalist is Pulitzer Prize finalist Ted Conover; the Vanity Fair assignment he chose to revisit, set inside the barbed wire of Guantánamo Bay.

Ted's "Behind the Feature" story is an exposé of an exposé. It's a tale of censorship—of what happens when one of the world’s great immersion journalists finds himself in the midst of one of the world's most carefully-controlled public relations operations. How do you tell the story of a prison whose prisoners are always out of sight?

Our experiment doesn't end there. In Ted's story, he mentions a fiery-spirited photojournalist he met on the press tour of Gitmo: René Clement. So we reached out to René to see if he, too, would go "off assignment," and tell the fuller, more candid story behind his photos from the trip. 

We're thrilled by how these two journalists took up our OA challenge—by how much they illuminated, but also by the humanity each brought to his subject. You'll feel it: empathy pulses through both pieces. And you can hear it, too, in this week's audio supplement: an intimate talk with Ted, in which he brings us all the way up to the present, to questions of Gitmo's unsettled future.

Here's to one with emptier prisons and fuller stories.