Monday, October 7, 2013
But that doesn't mean narrative journalism has vanished. Newspapers and magazines release narratives online and offline every day. If you want proof, just check out curation services such as The Browser, The Feature, Longform or Longreads.
And happily, new websites have emerged to disseminate original narrative journalism or journalism that falls in the larger long-form bucket. More on that later; first comes the bad news.
The great email list WriterL has wound down after years of debates, discussions on stories and industry shop talk from respected reporters and writers.
Dispatches, a noble attempt at selling long-form stories in high-quality print format on a quarterly basis, appears to be defunct after a five-issue run.
The Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism was canceled back in 2009.
Signandsight.com has signed off after delivering stories of interest from the European perspective every week for more than seven years.
It's a good thing Gangrey, that blog showcasing narratives from Tampa Bay Times reporters and other writers, is still going strong. This year journalist and Ashland University professor Matt Tullis has been interviewing reporters of noteworthy stories in podcasts carrying the Gangrey name.
Nieman Storyboard continues to churn out interviews and other material on a regular basis, indicating that the Nieman Foundation at Harvard still sees value in narrative.
Premium sites The Atavist, Byliner and Matter are still operating. So are the New York Times' and the Boston Globe's compelling photo blogs, Lens and The Big Picture, respectively.
Grantland, it still goes. And Pat's Papers emails still land in email inboxes every weekday. Thanks, Pat!
Maintenance of valuable resources like these merits praise. But what's more exciting is the arrival of new sites focusing on narrative or long-form journalism.
Epic burst onto the scene this year. So did The Big Roundtable. Narratively showed up last year to tell long stories about people and stuff in New York, and Mission & State opened this year to roll out narratives on Santa Barbara, Calif.
Also relatively new are the travel-oriented Roads & Kingdoms, the aptly named Bitter Southerner and the thought-provoking Aeon.
BuzzFeed, a producer of content purpose-built for viral sharing, has established a special page for its long-form journalism, BuzzReads, to keep it from getting lost among all the listicles.
The Riveter now highlights long-form journalism by women.
Sports fans can celebrate SB Nation's push into long-form territory.
Political wonks can take heart in Politico's plans to launch a long-form-heavy print and online magazine this fall. And Business Insider has long-form ambitions of its own.
There are a few reasons to think this could be a new age of narrative journalism. Some companies charge readers by the story, hoping each and every one will sell well. Well-heeled outlets occasionally deploy teams of people to develop multimedia elements and web design that can enrich the experience of reading a long story and capture the attention of a larger audience ("Snow Fall" is a prominent example of this trend). Entrepreneurs can now run crowdfunding campaigns to launch long-form sites (Matter and Narratively chose this route).
If we have in fact entered a new age, then it should have its own batch of top writers, with their own voices and methods and quirks, whose work could one day be anthologized (online, obviously) in the style of "The New Journalism" or, more recently, "The New Kings of Nonfiction." So here is a question: Who ought to be considered for inclusion in this group?
Thursday, April 28, 2011
McGeveran writes that the term "is so distinctly Times-ian that it is used everywhere someone wants to project the gravitas of the Times." It strikes me as absolutely right. Many people outside that newspaper have borrowed the term, perhaps for the purpose McGeveran cites. Search Google News now and then for evidence of the term's popularity.
What other terms can reporters choose when summarizing research? Perhaps it is not a matter of alternatives or options, but what words can work in a given situation. Or, to take a step back, do reporters need to summarize in the first place?
Monday, March 7, 2011
As he has in the past, Marzorati mentioned that the longest pieces in the magazine during his tenure were often the most read and most e-mailed. It's a good sign—the statistics invalidate the idea that people just don't want to read the long stuff anymore.
An issue Marzorati did acknowledge is the falling number of outlets interested in publishing such work. "The problem," Marzorati told Danner, "is who’s going to pay to have these pieces reported. That’s the problem. That’s really the crisis. You have fewer and fewer news outlets, you have fewer and fewer magazines, willing to have a journalist report for five or six or eight months, or send them to the edge of the world—and then have the edifice in place to edit and fact-check these pieces. There is a feeling among these magazines that they don’t have to fund these pieces to create readership. It’s a really, really big problem."
Marzorati went on to share several ideas that could help draw attention to and funding for long-form journalism. For instance, he said, a publication could have a writer following a story tweet occasional updates on her progress and build suspense and interest in the final product.
Friday, February 4, 2011
· Pace is a reader’s urge to continue.
· Determinants of pace
o The emotional valence of the topic
§ Topic w/ highest emotional valence is: Kid In Danger. Don’t have to characterize anything for all of our alarms to go off.
§ If I am writing a story about a surgeon in the operating room, and suddenly—the scalpel slips! It cuts a major artery and the patient is bleeding to death. Then a pause. You can then go on for a while about the history scalpels, and the reader will still stay with you.
§ However, they won’t stick with you if you leave a Russian nobleman walking in a field to talk about the history of Russian plows.
o If you have high occurrences of the verb “to be”, your writing will suffer
§ But if your description is lucid and lively and vivid, then they might stick with Boris in the field, and they may even run away from the surgeon (TMI).
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Sometimes that perfect idea for the top of the story can come when you're not really hunting for it. At the wrong time, in other words. A sportswriter quoted in the article mentioned above, Mike Rushton of sportsnetwork.com, realized what the lead should be hours after he'd filed the story and left the stadium. It happened after he'd put himself to bed. So he pulled out his iPhone and wrote a new top. Eckelbecker, of the Telegram & Gazette, is quoted as saying her best leads occur to her when she alters her mind—sans drugs, mind you.
"This is kind of embarrassing, but I feel my best (leads) come to me when I'm almost in a trance," she tells Rogers. "If I'm struggling to come up with something, I take a deep breath and try to clear my mind. Then I think about what I want to convey. That usually helps me focus and come up with an anecdote, a scene or even an attitude that can be turned into (leads)."
Leads have come to me in the bathroom. Leads have murmured themselves out loud in my head while my body was busy walking, and I have had to stop and pull out a notebook and pen before the words disappear. If I'm without a writing implement, I pray the the words repeat inside, and when I return to my desk, I dutifully transcribe. Either way, I don't cross-examine, because I'm not smart enough for that. If it's a lucky day, a lead will pop up in my head when I'm driving back to the paper after reporting. But usually I feel I don't get adequate time to come up with a lead that does all the things I want it to do, and it ends up being second rate, because I like to spend more of my time reporting and writing the hard, nuanced parts. Maybe I need to change my behavior, or maybe I need a few good-luck charms, to get the miracle leads flowing. Then again, to quote an editor I have known, an article has a 24-hour shelf life; in other words, it doesn't have to be a masterpiece to stand the test of time. Usually the bigger stories allow for a little extra time to think about what the lead should be. In those cases, I have felt compelled to write one idea or another at the top, as if nothing else could go up there. It's not much of a creative experience, I guess. But at least I can go home satisfied.
How, when and where do you come up with leads?
Sunday, November 21, 2010
In "The Best I Can Do" (May 28, 2010), Crawford writes about her struggle to fulfill her sister's only request: to write her obituary.
Brett Ashley Kidd was born Nov. 16, 1960, at the height, obviously, of my father’s Hemingway obsession. She loved Motown music and classic R & B, the color pink, Bud’s Broiler’s hickory sauce, the Saints, anything on the Food Network that wasn’t Rachael Ray, North Carolina barbecue, the Democratic party, dancing, cooking and talking on the phone. She was loving. She had a great sense of humor. She had goals.Her posts reveal the odd combination of humor and sadness following a family death, such as in "Ashley, as Ashes":
And then … she wasn’t, and she didn’t. Alcoholism slowly took over her life, took away all of the good and bad parts of who she was until she was just 67 pounds of no one.
Ruby is obsessed with monsters lately. They’re under her bed, obviously, but they’re also in the car and in trees, and when she does something bad, it’s the monsters who are at fault.
When I got the phone call from my dad on Saturday and I told Ruby that Aunt Ashley had died, she said, very seriously, “Mama, I’m sorry that a monster came and made your sister dead.”
And I said, “No, baby. Monsters aren’t real. That’s not what happened. Aunt Ashley was very sick, and sometimes sick people die.”
But I can’t stop thinking about it. A monster did take her away. A long time ago.
This much is true: My sister died last weekend. She was 49.
But this is also true: My sister died years ago. A monster came and made her dead.
“The only thing I ever took comfort in about life after death,” my dad said, “was, ‘Today a man, tomorrow a worm, the next day a butterfly.’ I guess Ashley did it a bit different: ‘Today a woman, tomorrow an oyster, the next day …’?”In "A Fitting Goodbye," Crawford describes her sister's New Orleans sendoff, and most recently in "Beaujolais and Bittersweet," she recounts her last good memory with her sister — drinking wine:
And I finished up, “A po-boy?”
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, she’d like that.”
And she would.
Rest in peace, Ashley. See you in a sandwich.
On the one hand, it felt awful to drink with her, like I was signing her death certificate in my own hand. On the other, this was probably the closest I’d ever felt to her, the most typical “sister” thing we’d done in years.Crawford's posts about her sister seem uncharacteristic for a blog celebrating the New Orleans culture. After all, she's usually writing about being a mom, wearing searsucker or hosting Carnival guests, and she does so in a refreshing way. But somehow, she's also struck a balance in writing about her public personal life and private personal life. Occasionally revealing private details breaks down barriers between her and the reader as well as touches on universal emotions. When reading this blog, you don't just get a stereotypical dose of Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and great eats; you also pick up the nuances of the Louisiana spirit — the passion, grit and perseverance of the people who live there. Perhaps that's really why I'm hooked.
Please check out "Joie d'Eve" and share your favorite blogs.
Monday, November 15, 2010
One of the luxuries of working for Mizzou is getting to attend interesting campus lectures, including the Missouri Honor Medal master classes on Oct. 28. Below, I've posted my notes from the presentation given by Sandy Rowe, retired Oregonian editor and currently a Knight fellow at Harvard.
Rowe said her perfect newspaper would only have three types of stories:
- Kick-ass, original exclusives/investigative stories
- Stories on humanity built on character and details, the stories that make you want to laugh or cry
- Useful stories of high interest, such as explanatory pieces or news you can use
She said it's foolish to think that more money will come into media outlets to fund investigative reporting, and most bloggers don't have the resources or a wide distribution. So, what could keep investigative stories going? Rowe suggests that media have to stop serving their newsrooms rather than their communities first and form partnerships with nonjournalistic organizations, universities, public radio stations and nonjournalistic experts. Northeastern has an investigative seminar in which student stories are funneled to the Boston Globe. So far 16 student-reported stories have appeared on Page 1. Another newspaper formed a partnership with a librarian and three retired lawyers who were willing to do research. Even Facebook could help newsrooms find experts in their communities whom they could network with.
As an editor, she employed "prosecutorial editing" when her staff worked on high-risk stories that made the reporters feel both thrills and pure fear. In editing, she asked herself and the reporter:
- Could the opposite of what we're writing be true?
- Is there another explanation for this?
- What don't I know that might change things?
- Breaking news: In "Confusion hampered search for Kims," which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news, a team of Oregonian reporters pieced together details that not only provided a harrowing narrative of a family of four stranded and freezing in the Oregon woods but also evidence that rescue agencies failed terribly:
"In the end, the family was found by a volunteer pilot, one of several key breakthroughs achieved by people not connected to the official search. The confirmation that the family was south of Roseburg came from a citizen tipster; and the cell phone evidence narrowing the search was provided by amateur detectives at an Oregon wireless carrier.
Many of the key missteps came in Josephine County. The search-and-rescue coordinator now acknowledges she was overwhelmed by the demands of the search. She failed to call for help from the National Guard, which meant that heat-detecting helicopters stayed on the ground in the crucial two nights James Kim slept in the forest.
Her direct supervisor, an undersheriff in his last week on the job, said he ignored a late-night call from her about the case because he was watching an Oregon State football game on television."
- Profiles: Oregon's governor and several members of Congress called for the resignation of David Beebe, district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, after complaints of high numbers of Asians being rejected at the airport. The next day, Julie Sullivan convinced Beebe that there was more to his story than what had been reported, and she wrote "I have to be who I am," explaining Beebe's character and motivations.
"Last year, 94,000 "customers" approached the counter of the Portland INS. The line of immigrants, refugees, adoptive parents and newlyweds forms outside the stained stone walls of the unmarked federal building on Northwest Broadway as early as 7 a.m.
But Beebe is always there first.
Neighbors can set their watches by the 55-year-old civil servant: up at 3:45 a.m. for calisthenics, out the garage door by 6 a.m., in the office 14 minutes later in a dark suit and silk tie. Beebe is 6-foot-2, 170 pounds of self-discipline who controls high blood pressure through habit. He takes the stairs, never elevators. He takes walks, not lunch. He never has more than a single glass of wine. He trims his lawn Tuesdays and Thursdays, like clockwork."
- Editorials: "All the lonely people" won the 2006 Pultizer Prize for editorial writing. It uncovered the shortcomings of Oregon State Hospital, including a room with 5,000 unclaimed remains, and called for the legislature to fund improvements to mental health care services.
Friday, November 5, 2010
- "Memory Cues," about the nursing home room of a woman with dementia: "The view from her bed falls on a patchwork of photos of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The names of the youngest are written carefully in Magic Marker on white slips of paper tacked above their pictures: Jacob, Connor, Addie, Ryann and Caiden."
- "Room of Dreams," about the bedroom of an imaginative 3-year-old: "It is miles high, vibrantly green and covered in beans — the magic kind, of course. 'It's a beanstalk!' the boy says with a smile as bright as the sun. He grips the vines tightly and begins to climb. Is he Jack? 'No, shh,' he whispers just loud enough to hear. 'I'm not Jack. We're pretending.'
- "On the Inside Looking Out," about a pastor's office where she writes sermons: "On the other side of the window is the real world: a dumpster, a parking lot, a playground and a stretch of Locust Street. The window shows her kids playing, students walking by and a homeless man crawling around in the dumpster."
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
You may have heard -- on Oprah or some other way -- about a February 2009 attack involving a domesticated chimpanzee and a Stamford, Conn., woman. Travis (the Chimp) was a former TV star who was fed human food, drank wine with his 71-year-old owner and was even fed Xanax.
The monkey -- perhaps in a drug-induced rage -- brutally attacked Charla Nash in the driveway of his owner, tearing off Nash's fingers and pummeling her face almost beyond recognition as a human being.
New York Times reporter Michael Wilson wrote in a February 2010 New York Times article that the officer who first arrived at the scene "pulled up to the house and saw a lump of clothing in the driveway. 'Then I realized it’s a human being,' (the officer) said. 'It was all ripped apart.'”
The reason Wilson's reporting is worth mentioning -- other than the story's novelty and its almost sickening descriptions -- is that its told in a unique way. As a follow-up story, Wilson uses the point of view of Frank Chiafari to portray the extremely traumatic episode.
- Disgust, both in the brutality of the attack and the fact that a highly sophisticated primate like a chimpanzee would be so mistreated that he'd lash out in this way; and
- Sympathy, for Chiafari, who, surprisingly was racked with guilt because of the attack. He'd been criticized by animal rights activists for killing the animal, and it seems that he had a lot of remorse himself for having to do so.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
- Cathy Horyn on possible causes of Alexander McQueen's suicide
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
- Dan Barry on the history of a building on the Bowery
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Astleford's story shows the human side of dreams not-yet dropped, and how a player's success is more meaningful to him than just the momentary glory of the 100-yard stage.
After graduating in December, Astleford moved to New Orleans, La., and now freelances for publications such as ESPN.com and New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
The renowned author wrote a fourteen-part series for the Columbian newspaper, El Espectador, where he worked when he was 27. During the course of the series, the publication's circulation "almost doubled."
García Márquez had only been toying with some small fiction pieces at the time, but worked mostly as a journalist. This series, about the personal account of a shipwreck survivor gave him the liberty to repeat the tale is telling detail. Here's one sentence from the series:
“'Soon the sky turned red, and I continued to search the horizon,' recalls Velasco (or at least Velasco being channeled by the young reporter). 'Then it turned a deep violet as I kept watching. To one side of the life raft, like a yellow diamond in a wine-colored sky, the first star appeared, immobile and perfect.'"
Another thing to take from this story into the present is that audiences want to be entertained, but I don't think that has to be achieved by forsaking fact for gossip or by producing additional soft news. I think it comes through superb writing, as it should. And the fact that the newspaper doubled its readership through just this series alone really says that if the audience is enjoying itself, it's willing to buy whatever gives it the satisfaction worth an hour or so. Publications should stop trying to just get people to buy the facts from them, but convince them through good storytelling that the facts are worth the time and money they put forth to read a story.
Even aside from journalism, I think it's an important point to make note of another narrative journalist of last century who turned later to fiction: Ernest Hemingway, who wrote for Missouri's own Kansas City Star. Check out some stories of his stories from the newspaper here.
I'd say it at least has something to do with narrative journalist's ability to grasp real life events in a telling way, since all good fiction at least resonates with some part of reality.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
I cannot claim to know exactly what life is like in Larned or Chanute, but this story by Kent Babb in Sunday's Kansas City Star is still incredibly emotive for me. As a Kansan, a history major and a lover of college basketball, I still didn't know how rich my home state's heritage is where this sport is concerned.
Even if you don't love basketball — or have never visited a town of less than 20,000 — I'm sure you can enjoy this piece. With just the first graph, how could you not?
"They say the soul of basketball is out there in a place where grain elevators are
skyscrapers and barbed wire gives an order to things."
Some may find it saccharine, but I assure you it's real. There's a lot of truth in this thing.
PLEASE read it HERE.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
- Shaila Dewan, Stephanie Saul and Katie Zezima on Dr. Amy Bishop's quickly changing behavior, which manifested itself finally in the killing of three of her colleagues at the University of Alabama at Huntsville
Sunday, February 14, 2010
- Alex Witchel on the director David Cromer
Saturday, February 13, 2010
The freestyle skier Jeret (Speedy) Peterson. (Ryan McGinley)
Friday, February 5, 2010
Here's the link.