OK, this is disappointing. Just a few days ago, I mentioned an article about the people of the Abdulgan region of Afghanistan, written by Michael Finkel. The story was well written, and the story itself was really too powerful for anybody to screw up. Now, I’m forced to wonder if it was true at all. Finkel has been exposed for basing a story about a teenaged slave laborer in the Ivory Coast on a “composite” character — in other words, a person that exists in his imagination. Rather than reporting on the people he actually interviewed, he munged all of their stories together, and made up something more interesting.
When I read the Abdulgan story and remembered that Finkel had also written the Taliban pen pal story, I checked out the archive of his work at the NYT site. I was frankly amazed that this guy kept digging up such powerful and interesting stories, and was duly impressed. So I Googled Finkel, I discovered that his background is not in investigative journalism, but in travel/extreme sports writing. That, of course, mystified me even more.
Now the mystery is solved, but not in the way I’d hoped. I feel like writing a nasty email to Finkel, but frankly I don’t have the energy.