James Ridgeway, Hard-Hitting Investigative Journalist, Dies at 84Breaking News
tags: obituaries, journalism, environmentalism, prisons, investigative journalism
James Ridgeway, an investigative reporter who exposed corporate dirty tricks, the secrets of environmental polluters and the horrors of solitary confinement in the nation’s prison systems, died on Saturday in Washington. He was 84.
His death was confirmed by his longtime collaborator Jean Casella, who did not specify the cause.
In a career that spanned six decades, Mr. Ridgeway wrote for The New Republic as a staff member and as a contributor to The New York Times, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Ramparts, Hard Times and Mother Jones. He was the Washington correspondent of The Village Voice for 30 years; wrote, co-wrote or edited 20 books on national or foreign affairs; and wrote, produced and directed several documentaries.
His targets were legion: Detroit automakers concealing unsafe car designs, the strutting Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, universities profiteering from government weapons research, unanswered questions on the Sept. 11 attacks, the shabbiness of the sex industry, and 1992 presidential candidates who were caught on film preening when they thought nobody was watching.
In the tradition of Lincoln Steffens, who revealed municipal corruption in a muckraking book, “The Shame of the Cities” (1904), Mr. Ridgeway attacked malfeasance and skulduggery in American life with a passion, as one critic put it, “so earnest and straightforward that he can make a lengthy explanation of sewage interesting.”
His longest and most fervent crusade was his last: a decade-long effort, in what might otherwise have been his retirement years, against solitary confinement.
Since 2010, when he and Ms. Casella established the website Solitary Watch, Mr. Ridgeway, who was based in Washington, had received thousands of messages from inmates in solitary confinement. He wrote to many of them, and with Ms. Casella and Sarah Shourd as editors, compiled their stories in “Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices From Solitary Confinement” (2016).
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