13 St. Petersburg Times: Interactive Special Report
Love. Identity. Secrets. Loyalty. Sex. Betrayal. Power. Grades. Rivalry.  Glory. Parents. Subterfuge. Divorce. God. Guitars. Life at the edge of everything.
 
 HAPPYTRAILS
 
 PERSPECTIVE: A COLUMN BY TOM FRENCH
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How this story was reported

Thomas French talks about working with Monique Fields, Dong-Phuong Nguyen and Krystal Kinnunen on the series.
Krystal Kinnunen on teamwork.

With the permission of school officials, students and parents, three reporters and a photographer shadowed the kids off and on for several months in 2002. They rode their school buses, went to their slumber parties, hung out at their homes.

The reporters took care not to become part of the events unfolding before them. Often, they interviewed the students after a specific event to find out more about what had occurred and about their subjects’ thoughts and motivations. Several of their parents were interviewed at length, providing more context.

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Nearly all the events described in this series were witnessed by a Times reporter. By necessity, a few moments have been reconstructed. The reporters did not witness the Pink Dinos’ first concert, for instance, because they had not yet chosen Booker T for this project. To describe the concert, they watched a videotape of it and interviewed more than a dozen people who attended.

The personal writings of the students, including notes, e-mails and instant messages, were voluntarily shared with the reporters. Any computer screen names cited have since been changed.

Moments recounted from the past, such as day one’s depiction of Carlo Ottanelli’s visit to an Amsterdam museum, were based on interviews with the students and their parents.

Whenever possible, details provided by one person’s memory were checked against other people’s recollections. The incident with the spare change was recounted by Danielle and her mother.

 
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