Bloodstains on the Cocaine Trail: A groundbreaking exploration of crime journalism

09 Nov 2023

Bloodstains on the Cocaine Trail: A groundbreaking exploration of crime journalism featured image

Well-known Canberra journalist and Churchill Fellow Peter Clack unveils his new book “Bloodstains on the Cocaine Trail – Crime reporting on Famous Newspaper” scheduled for release tomorrow by Austin Macauley Publishers in the UK, US, Europe, Canada and the Australasian region.​

With a career spanning 20 years at The Canberra Times, including stints as Police Reporter and City Reporter, Clack brings strong experience to the forefront in his new book. His previous work, Firestorm Trial by Fire, was launched at the National Press Club in Canberra in 2003, which was broadcast live on national television by the ABC.

Bloodstains on the Cocaine Trail is not just a book; it’s a meticulous study of crime reporting in major newspapers across the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, and the Republic of Ireland.

Peter delves into the significant decline of newspapers worldwide, attributing it to the loss of classified advertising revenue, resulting in a near collapse of editorial workforces, circulation, and journalistic standards.

In an unprecedented move, Clack highlights a crucial theme often overlooked in public discourse—the global fragmentation of newspapers and the erosion of their influence and trustworthiness. This perspective makes Bloodstains on the Cocaine Trail an essential read for those within the newspaper industry, police agencies, governments and beyond.

Stemming from a Churchill Fellowship awarded to Clack in 1995 to study police reporting on prominent international newspapers, the book is a testament to his dedication to investigative journalism. Peter has continued to develop content over the years, and the book’s release is timely, coinciding with a period when newspapers face criticism for shallowness and narrative-driven reporting.

A unique feature of his book is its exploration of crime reporting by major newspapers in collaboration with police agencies, but from a reporter’s standpoint. The manuscript weaves a narrative linking cocaine and drugs, gangs, and record homicides in the US, also giving an in-depth study of the inner workings of newspapers. Peter draws on quotes from editors, bureau chiefs, crime reporters, police chiefs, and serving officers in various jurisdictions.

The scale of Peter’s research is impressive, having visited 10 cities in four countries over several months, actively participating on news desks and news budget conferences, and going to crime scenes with police patrols and news teams. The manuscript sheds light on what is now seen as the last golden age of newspapers, with staggering statistics such as the Los Angeles Times producing a million copies a day, using enough newsprint each year to reach the moon 14 times.

Peter Clack is currently based near Bega.​

For nearly 60 years, the Winston Churchill Trust has flown talented Australians around the globe to pursue their passion and bring their knowledge home. Churchill Fellows are people from all walks of life and all sectors; the arts, science, health, agriculture, and beyond. The breadth of topics for Churchill Fellowships are limitless. Thinking about applying for a Churchill Fellowship? Applications open again 1 March 2024.

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