Freelance journalist Becky Oberg wanted to expand her reportage for NUVO, an Indianapolis alt-weekly, into a book. Carlo DeVito, publisher of Chamberlain Bros., a Penguin imprint, was looking for new projects. Despite the fact that Oberg was, in her words, "an unknown, unagented, first-time author," DeVito called her and asked if she'd turn her story about an Army private's desertion to Canada via an "underground railroad" into a book. Why was a publisher scouring alt-weeklies for book ideas? Says DeVito: "We're always looking for a good story and a new point of view, and that's what a lot of these papers express."
A series staff writer Jennifer Gonnerman wrote for the Village Voice in 2000 laid the groundwork for her new book, "Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett." The book, which was featured on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review March 21, describes Bartlett's life post-release. After serving 16 years for a drug offense, she tries to reconnect with the children accustomed to seeing her in a prison visiting room. "What jumps out at you from 'Life on the Outside' is the extent to which imprisonment has been normalized," reviewer Brent Staples writes.
Jennifer Gonnerman and J.A. Lobbia of The Village Voice win awards in the newspaper category of the 2001 Front Page Awards by the Newswomen's Club of New York. Gonnerman's award is for in-depth reporting on prison murder, while Lobbia's is for beat reporting on housing.