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Best of Slow Journalism: The baby in the plastic bag

Photo: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

On the morning of 8th October 1991, Tor Schou Nilsen was tending the grave of his in-laws at the Vestre Aker churchyard in Oslo, Norway, when he heard something that sounded like a whimper. Following the sound, he found a bloody plastic bag and made a terrible discovery: inside the bag was a newborn baby boy on the brink of death.

Twenty-five years later, Norwegian journalist Bernt J Oksnes went back to the scene of the discovery to give an in-depth account of what happened in the days after the baby was found – and what has happened since.

Oksnes describes the struggle to save the boy’s life and to find out where he came from in extraordinary detail. He speaks with the people who first responded to Nilsen’s find, the doctors who looked after him and the law enforcers who investigated the case. He even travels to Manila, the capital of the Philippines, in hopes of finding out how the boy is doing now and how much he knows about what happened on the day he was born.

Oksnes’s story, The baby in the plastic bag, is a riveting piece of Slow Journalism. Presented in nine chapters, the piece starts off with a minute-by-minute account of the day of the find, before moving on to the present day. Throughout, the long-read is enhanced with archive photography and newscasts from 1991 as well as recent photos and video interviews.

Written for the magazine section of the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, the original version of the piece was widely read in Norway and has now been translated into English. You can find it here.



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