"We don’t disclose that."
January 24, 2017 2:20 PM   Subscribe

ISO low stakes, high detail, popcorn fodder investigative journalism.

I really REALLY like the Noka Chocolate takedown by Scott on the Dallas Food blog a decade ago. I've read it a few times over the years.

I love the (layperson accessible!) highly detailed, inside baseball knowledge about chocolate, I love the sleuthing, I love the (mild) scandal, I love that it had a tidy resolution. I love that lying liars got caught in a lie. LOVE IT. (And right now more than ever, I love that it's about not-politics.)

Are there other stories out there like this one? I'd like to read more of them. Internet preferred. Doesn't have to be food-related.

(I know about the Mast Brothers.)
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Did you read this story about Damon Baehrel's uh...restaurant? I don't want to say too much. It starts out being about one thing and turns into another story entirely. It's a delight.
posted by cakelite at 2:22 PM on January 24, 2017 [11 favorites]

A couple from the Blue that I enjoyed - What's up fellow kids? and (maybe a bit darker than you want, but riveting to me) Inside John McAfee's Heart of Darkness.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:34 PM on January 24, 2017

Best answer: OK, this is slightly higher stakes than the Noka takedown, but trust me, you'll love it. Possibly the greatest episode of This American Life ever produced:

The Incredible Case of the P.I. Moms.

There's also a magazine version of the story if you absolutely hate podcasts, but unless you do, skip the article and go in to the podcast blind, the podcast is better.
posted by phoenixy at 2:34 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you haven't read this one, you definitely should.
posted by Slinga at 2:46 PM on January 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This series from the Tampa Bay Times in which the reporter investigates restaurants' claims of farm-to-table is going to be right up your alley.
posted by General Malaise at 2:47 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Look back through the archives at Longform.org. There are so many great articles I've come across through them that I can't even list them all.

Off the top of my head, Skip Hollandsworth at Texas Monthly is really good at this sort of thing, and Shane Bauer has done a couple of interesting ones at Mother Jones recently. John McPhee is the king, although his work is more profiling and less detective work.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:52 PM on January 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Someone shared this maple syrup heist story with me recently.
posted by wym at 3:38 PM on January 24, 2017

The Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford Stoll. Was also a TV show, maybe Nova. About hunting down a computer hacker.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:18 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might like "Orchid Fever" or its book-length version, The Orchid Thief
posted by Mchelly at 5:47 PM on January 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

You've heard of the Cheese Heist Incident, right? Top-notch Mefite sleuthing, complete with scandal and resolution.
posted by danceswithlight at 6:23 PM on January 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

You should look into Tracy Kidder's excellent book The Soul Of A New Machine, one of the best creative non-fiction books I've ever read. Kidder spent a year with the team that created Data General's Eagle mini-computer in the late 1970s. Unlike Steven Levy's equally good Hackers, which covers an era in early computing history, Kidder's book is about one team, working on one project.
posted by lhauser at 7:17 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have so far only barely dipped my toe into one of these but I am very pleased. This list will keep me entertained for a while.

Thank you!!
posted by phunniemee at 7:27 PM on January 24, 2017

I'm seconding some things here with amplification:

The PI Moms story mentioned by phoenixy above is now a book as well, and the book covers a lot of later events including the fallout of the This American Life story (not to mention the process of recording it) and the fallout after the article's publication. Just more depth. It was a fast, enjoyable read.

SemiSalt is correct that Cliff Stoll's "Cuckoo's Egg" became the NOVA episode: "The KGB, the Computer, and Me," (YTL, 56m57s) which has many of the main participants playing themselves, including Stoll's daffy hippie self. (He describes himself as a hippie astronomer.) Good watching. I was really blown away by this book when I was about 15, and now I see it as a pretty great document of the Internet in the pre-web days.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:52 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

The story of the Texas Fruitcake Fraudster is right in the sweet spot for me.

Seconding Longform and the PI Moms stories.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 5:02 AM on January 25, 2017

It wasn't all that low-stakes for the families involved but you may want to read the LA Times feature, Framed. It was FASCINATING and kept me hooked until the end.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:58 AM on January 25, 2017

Holy crap, Slinga, that fruitcake story is BANANAS.
posted by uberchet at 8:12 AM on January 25, 2017

The Book on the Edge of Forever by Christopher Priest is an investigation of the non-publication of a short story anthology.

(Direct link to piece here -- don't be put off by the .txt format).

It's both meticulous -- spanning four decades! -- and well-written.

The clear icy disdain the author has for the 'villain' of the piece (Harlan Ellison) is hilarious in an arch sort of way.
posted by rollick at 8:34 AM on January 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's all presented in a nice documentary on Netflix called "Sour Grapes", but if you want the sleuthing and red herrings of a semi-low stakes detective story in the fine wine world, you can go right to the thread on an online wine forum where it was largely unearthed.
posted by wnissen at 8:54 AM on January 25, 2017

Mother Jones is fantastic, and Shane Bauer is awesome (he spent 2 years as a hostage in Iran).

My four months as a private prison guard.

I went undercover with a border militia. This is what I saw.
posted by porpoise at 11:40 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Marking best answers as I read them :)
posted by phunniemee at 7:48 AM on January 26, 2017

The most low-stakes, meticulously-detailed, absurd geek-wonk exposé of all time: 2006's notorious The Ms.Scribe Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography, an anonymous report that exposed a popular Harry Potter fanfiction writer as a serial liar and fraud.

To quote her Fanlore entry:
Beginning in late 2002, Msscribe developed a series of sockpuppets and Munchausen-y scenarios, including: fangirls, mean haters, life-threatening injury-complications requiring hospitalization and quasi-permanent disability, having her computer hacked, being stalked (sometimes by fundamentalist Christians), having a friend die, racist attacks, being the target of internet conspiracies, and generally becoming the most oppressed and harassed fan in the world. And that was just in 2003.
The Journalfen community where the story was originally serialized is now gone. But it's worth reading the archived pages for the THOUSANDS of comment threads in which media fandom alternates between imploring from betrayal and gleefully breaking out popcorn for the dumpster fire.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:45 AM on January 31, 2017

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