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Story pick: Appleseeders, shooting for America

Anger, frustration and a sense that things have gone deeply wrong are once again rising in the land. The unhappiness is a good thing, of course--anytime people in a democracy come together to conclude that the powerful have steered events in a bum direction, the best result is the people's collective decision to reengage, to become part of the civic conversation.

Alas, all of this tends to get reduced to labels and stereotypes, as lazy reporters latch onto the easiest, wildest stories about the dumbest, most extreme elements of the unhappiness.

But then there are those writers who take the time to report, who look to understand who people are and why they behave as they do. Dan Zak of The Washington Post does that in today's keenly observed piece on the Appleseed Project, which invites people to learn to shoot their guns better--perhaps to use them on that mythic day when someone will seek to steal democracy from the people.

Zak's story is one of observation and good, open listening--the kind of reporting that is fast slipping away in this faux-ideological era of journalism in which opinion, shouting and phony confrontation take the place of rigorous reporting, not because anyone believes the punditry is better, but strictly because it's a whole lot cheaper for the businesses that produce it.

Here's Zak from a story best read in full:

The youngest shooters are 10-year-old twins with shaggy black hair and the oldest is a 71-year-old with a gold earring. There are two doctors, retirees with bad backs and teenagers with acne, lone wolves in denim and wives in mom jeans, three friendly guys from the Virginia Citizen Militia, active and former military men, lifelong shooters and recent converts, all white and conservative but diverse in skill and class. They have given up their weekend to become better shots and, therefore, they think, better Americans.

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By Marc Fisher  | April 23, 2010; 8:29 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  | Tags:  Appleseed Project, Dan Zak, Democracy, Journalism, Washington Post, tea parties, tea party  
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Next: John Hartsock on the lasting power of narrative journalism

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