At its best, the practice of reporting is far more than the mere gathering of fact. It is the purposeful and systematic scavenging of data, perspective, and anecdote to the point that the activity becomes difficult to distinguish from obsession. It alone can’t produce great journalism, any more than the accumulation of ingredients, no matter how amazing, can make a terrific meal. But it’s safe to say that great journalism very rarely happens without dogged and tireless reporting.

Freelance writer and editor Trudy E. Bell [photo] does this kind of reportingï»'. A former senior editor at IEEE Spectrum, Bell wowed the staff in 1985 when, reporting on the recent divestiture of AT&T, she secured an interview with the famously reclusive Judge Harold H. Greene, who had presided over the trial. Bell had flown to Washington, D.C., to attend an annual softball game between the lawyers in the case, for the sole purpose of handing Greene a copy of her draft manuscript. He was so impressed with it that he called her a few days later, in a very rare exception to his policy of never speaking to the press. The issue in which her story appeared won a National Magazine Award, the United States’ highest honor for magazine journalism.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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