We knew the visit was a risk. A boat captain had been arrested a few nights earlier, and the guards outside the camp were armed.
We went anyway because we felt there was no other way to fully show the world what was happening without going inside. (We also believed the worst-case scenarios were unlikely, based on previous trips we’d been told about by men in the camp.)
The result was an interactive article in which we tried to sew together words and photographs to deepen the experience of the story. More than 200,000 people read it, from all over the world, but the Australian response was especially striking, for both the outrage and sincere curiosity of many local readers, and the lack of interest from government. I rounded up some of my thoughts about the response on Twitter.
But with a project like this, there are always things that drop out, that diverge from the main point of the piece, or that would simply make it too long.
For example, there were men like Imran Mohammed, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar, who I wished I could have introduced in the article — to tell readers about the 1,200-page autobiography he has written, by hand, in English, which he learned while detained.
There were locals helping the asylum seekers as well, whom I could not identify for fear they would be targeted by Papua New Guinea or Australian authorities.
And there were moments of tension, too.
One sweltering afternoon, while I was waiting for an interview, I saw a Pakistani asylum seeker stumbling, drunk and swearing, toward one of the guards at a detention facility closer to Lorengau. I did what I could to de-escalate the situation, but I left wondering when that might happen again — and when the tension settling all over the island as a result of Australia’s extended detention might erupt into violence.
Some of these experiences and characters may find their way into future articles. Reporting, and over-reporting, is always valuable in one way or another — and just this morning, some of the asylum seekers inside were telling us that Papua New Guinea authorities were in the camp and trying to force them to move.
While we look into that, here are a few visual outtakes from Adam, powerful photos that also did not make it into the original piece.
Tell us what you think by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join our NYT Australia Facebook group for more discussion — and of course, share this newsletter with those who might enjoy it.
And I have one thing to add. It’s Thanksgiving today for Americans like me and since most of this newsletter’s readers (and our staff) are Australian, I feel compelled to explain our simple tradition: We all share at least one thing we’re thankful for.
So this year, I’m thankful for …
• The smell of the ocean, which seems to rise up all over Sydney whenever a touch of calm is needed.
• Sausage sizzles, avo toast and Four Pillars gin. Not necessarily all together.
• Our Australia team: Smart, curious and collegial, they’ve embraced this experiment with gusto.
• My wife and kids, adventurers all.
• And finally, our readers and guides.
There are so many Australians who have generously shared their experiences and insight about this country, from novelists to Uber drivers to the sources who will not be named — to the readers of this newsletter, who overwhelm me every week with thoughtful responses.
Seriously, Australia, thanks for having us and supporting what we do.
Now, here’s my roundup of all our Australia stories this week, some other work we love, and a recommendation.
Australia This Week
It’s been a busy week. Australia lost two important cultural figures, memorialized in New York Times obituaries: AC/DC’s Malcolm Young; and Shannon Michael Cane, a book aficionado who took New York by storm.
We also wrote about:
A book criticizing China’s influence in Australia that was canceled by its publisher.
A study showing that temporary foreign workers in Australia make less than minimum wage but feel they can’t complain.
A Turkish-Mexican restaurant in Sydney called Pazar — Besha Rodell’s latest savory review.
Where Brexit Hurts
Our continuing coverage of Brexit includes a major feature this week that looks at all the doctors and nurses, European immigrants, who are voting with their feet and leaving London. England’s beloved National Health Service may never be the same.
You may also check out previous stories in the series, including this immersive look at London’s multicultural vibe and how Brexit is changing the city.
Opinion | Selections
• Lisa Pryor writes that Australia’s refugee policy “is to Australians what gun policy is to Americans, our unshakable madness.”
• Frank Bruni tells our own Tacey Rychter that toxic masculinity has slowed Australia’s march to same-sex marriage.
• Can Facebook regulate itself? One former employee says no way.
• What’s behind France’s butter shortage? You guessed it, climate change.
… And We Recommend
It’s gift guide time! The New York Times provides suggestions every year, and each year there seems to be more great ideas, presented in an even more useful design.
Dig in. Spend wisely. Let the holiday craziness begin.
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