For journalists, it's pretty simple. We want our work to make a difference.  

Sometimes fortune smiles on us. At the Chicago Tribune I co-wrote a five-part series that helped convince the Illinois governor to suspend executions and then empty death row. ( This led to this and this .)

At the Seattle Times I worked with Michael Berens on a couple of healthcare investigations. A series on the MRSA epidemic changed laws ( this >>
this ), and a series on methadone overdoses changed policy ( this >> this and this ).

Another Seattle Times series exposed the illegal sealing of court files. Once we began publishing, the judges stopped sealing. ( This / this / this / this / this / this / this >> this ; plus, this >> this / this .)

Sometimes, fortune dawdles. A 2004 series detailed the shoddy work of public defenders with crazy high workloads. In 2012 the Washington State Supreme Court, citing our work, imposed caseload standards. ( This [and this / this ] + 8 years >> this ).

A story's impact can be immediately evident -- for example, a police chief gets fired,  or a watchdog piece on landslide risks leads to a federal campground being closed . But often, fortune is inscrutable. We'll write a story and see nothing change in the way of law or policy. ( This >> ???).

But those can be my favorite stories.  I love a cautionary tale that reaches back in time and moves readers to contemplate and maybe even reconsider. I wrote a series with Nick Perry on the twisted priorities attached to college sports, and how Seattle looked away when members of a celebrated football team did serious harm off the field.

The stories (parts 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ) got lots of comments, as you can imagine. Here's the one that sticks with me most:

Sometimes, a reader's reflection can be the greatest reward.