Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shout-out to Andrew Astleford

News of this year's UWIRE 100 best college journalists went over Romenesko yesterday. Two of the 100 were Mizzou students. One of the two, Andrew Astleford, occasionally contributes sports stories to the Missourian that I love to read. I'm confident he'll be the kind of person the MU j-school will brag about churning out for years to come.

This is actually the second consecutive year Andrew made the cut for the UWIRE 100.

Andrew covered the MU Tiger football team last year and in 2007 with an understanding of what the real story was. He is what I might call a reliable narrator. When I read his stories, I don't look for quotes. I like to sit tight and listen to his narration.

- When the Tigers lost the 2008 Big 12 conference game to Oklahoma.
- When the '07 Tigers were so good, they called to mind the '69 Tigers.
- When hype surrounded Columbia, Mo., as the 2008 season began in the shadow of an amazing one in 2007.

UPDATE: Andrew has won this year's Atwater Writing Contest, which the MU j-school administers. On behalf of the contest committee, Columbia Missourian editor Liz Brixey writes:

With pleasure, we announce that Andrew Astleford has won this year's Atwater Writing Contest.

Submissions were exceptionally strong this year and made for some terrific reading, and we thank everyone who entered.

Andrew wins for three stories: "Seeking Relief, McHale's Life Took a Fatal Turn," about the late Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tom McHale, published in The Washington Post; "A Pitcher's Dual Dreams of Delivering at Sea, on Hill," about Atlanta Braves pitcher Mitch Harris, also in the Post; and "Daniel stayed true to his Tigers commitment," about the quarterback's loyalty to MU even when Texas came calling, in the Columbia Missourian.

The stories showed wonderful descriptive writing based on detailed reporting as well as strong use of dialogue. "He gets me in the beginning and takes me all the way to the end of every story," one judge said.

Andrew, who comes from Dodge City, Kan., is in the magazine sequence and plans to graduate in December. His summer schedule includes the Poynter Fellowship for College Journalists in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the Midwest Writers Workshop at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

Andrew spent two semesters at the Columbia Missourian under sports editor Greg Bowers and interned at the Orlando Sentinel and The Washington Post. Andrew placed 12th in 2008 and third in 2009 for sports writing in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program and third in 2008 for explanatory writing for the Associated Press Sports Editors. For the past two years, he has been named among the top 100 college journalists in America by uwire.com.

Andrew is now in Jacqui Banaszynski's intermediate writing class, and here is a link to a story from that class that appeared last week in the Missourian about former football Tigers Pig Brown, Darnell Terrell and Xzavie Jackson:


Andrew receives $600 and a copy of Eudora Welty's memoir "One Writer's Beginnings," which was a favorite of the late Jim Atwater, former dean and faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. This annual prize is given in memory of his love of writing, this J school and its students.

Please join us in congratulating Andrew.

Highlights from this Sunday's Times (4/26/09)

- Rod Nordland on Iraq's false spring
- David Gonzalez on a mixed-status family of Ecuadorian immigrants in Queens
- Deborah Sontag on Larry Fuller, a jazz pianist perennially on the side

Monday, April 27, 2009

Portuguese soup for the writer's soul

OK, so the title I chose for this post is horrendous, but I wanted to write something silly as the headline, so oh well. It's all I had time to think of during my break from this 10-page term paper. One the other hand, I love the headline of the story I'm posting.

I really like the Dan Barry's use of quotes and actions of the main character, Ines De Costa, to show her personality in this piece. It's a nice little narrative piece, so I figured I'd share it with you all.

Here's the article: In a City Under Strain, Ladling Out Fortification

Friday, April 24, 2009

Reporter-Centric Quiz

If you attended Narrative Round Table No. 2, which took place earlier this week, I talked about what I call a reporter-centric way of thinking. But I don't think I made myself clear.

So I prepared an informal quiz, to clarify what I mean, and to help you figure out if you too are reporter-centric.

I should note that I don't intend it to be insulting. If anything, it may be humorous. Actually, I hope you find it funny. And I hope you enjoy it. And so, without further ado, . . .

Please complete the following sentences to figure out how reporter-centric you are, and learn what that might mean for you.

1) When I read the newspaper, . . .
a. I glance at the pictures and scan the headlines.
b. I read each byline and if I recognize the name, I read as much of the article as possible.
c. Wait, wait. You mean that gray thing with words? I don't read that!

2) When researching a topic, the first thing I do is . . .
a. call a friend.
b. Google it.
c. search The New York Times archive.

3) After waking up, the first thing I do is . . .
a. comb my hair, brush my teeth, eat breakfast or go to wherever I need to be.
b. talk to someone and find out what's going on.
c. check nytimes.com, or go out and buy The Times.

4) If a crisis happens, I hope . . .
a. no one is hurt.
b. The Times unleashes one or a few of of its top reporters to tell a strong, interesting story for the next day's paper.
c. to find a TV and see what happened.

5) In the future, I'd like to . . .
a. do some good for the rest of the world.
b. do something I enjoy and get paid well for my work.
c. become a great reporter, just like the people I admire most.

6) The majority of the books on my bookshelf . . .
a. compile stories my favorite reporters wrote. The rest were mentioned in articles I read.
b. are about any old topic. Some are fiction, some are non-fiction. . . . The rest are necessary for my profession or classwork.
c. Um, I don't own books.

7) When someone famous dies, . . .
a. I mourn his or her death and keep him or her in my prayers. Maybe the person will come up in conversation.
b. I look forward to reading his or her obituary in the next day's Times. It'll probably be great. And if I'm lucky, it'll be written by Robert D. McFadden.
c. I don't always hear about it right away. It'll be news to me when people mention the death in conversation.

8) In my free time, . . .
a. Woah, woah—I don't have free time.
b. I talk with other people, write, draw, browse the Internet. . . .
c. I read up on reporters I heard about recently, borrow a book of theirs from the library, or read the day's paper or check the news online.

9) I think most reporters are . . .
a. the most noble people alive.
b. I don't know; I've never met one, or even thought about that. . . .
c. scumbags.

10) Altogether, I think about the world . . .
a. when other people talk about it.
b. now and then.
c. in terms of the reporters who would write about aspects of it.

Now, add up the points you scored for your answers, using this key:

1) a = 1, b = 2, c = 0
2) a = 1, b = 0, c = 2
3) a = 0, b = 1, c = 2
4) a = 0, b = 2, c = 1
5) a = 1, b = 0, c = 2
6) a = 2, b = 1, c = 0
7) a = 1, b = 2, c = 0
8) a = 0, b = 1, c = 2
9) a = 2, b = 0, c = 1
10) a = 1, b = 0, c = 2

If you scored between 0 and 5, you're probably not reporter-centric in the least, and you have nothing to worry about. You probably don't like to read much, and certainly not anything a reporter wrote. You might prefer a scholarly work, or a best-seller, or something a friend or a few websites recommended. You rarely, if ever, pay for a newspaper.

If you scored between 6 and 10, you're not very reporter-centric. You might think now and then about journalism, stories, and things of that nature, but you're not obsessed with them. You may know a reporter or two, and their thinking may have rubbed off on you. You may pick up a newspaper for the experience.

If you scored between 11 and 15, you may be on your way to becoming reporter-centric, or you were in the past and you realized how unusual is to be always thinking about reporters. You might subscribe to a newspaper, or you could be in the habit of picking one up on Sundays. You may know reporters. You might even be a reporter.

If you scored between 16 and 20, you're probably a reporter, and you may know several reporters. You may love reading. You're definitely reporter-centric. Which makes for a lonely but satisfying existence. You learn about reporters and look for their bylines for pleasure. You're in your own little world, and you may care little about the real one. You may wish to seek help.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pulitzer thoughts

I read two of the Pulitzer prize winning stories from this year and wrote a bit about what I noticed.

One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex

By David Barstow of the New York Times

Read the story


my thoughts as a journalist

There is very thorough reporting strung together by consistent chronology in the piece. As a journalist, the question that first arrives in my mind is “how in the world did he get such transparent access with all of these top figures?”

There is a good story arch within that chronology as well. First of course the story shows McCaffrey’s credentials and why he was such a hot commodity. But then it dives into what he did, what it led up to,

I wonder what his notes looked like. How did he interview these high profile people and get information out of them? How did he organize his transcripts and turn into the story I read today?

This story arch is important in showing the complexity of the problems investigated in this piece. If it were just a list of facts, it wouldn’t be at all apparent to how deep the story goes or how much one man’s actions dangerously pervades the system.

As a reader:

It’s interesting: earlier today I was cynically thinking to myself “I wonder how much good ideas or readings actually do. Do they actually incite emotion or promote change of some sort?” But then I read this story and realized how as a citizen it makes me angry to see this going on and how much tax dollars are being wasted by bribes and greed. It’s not like I can do something about it right now, but maybe someone can as legal actions take place and people

It also raises the questions of how do consumers interpret and trust media outlets? Sure, a news organization might be credible, but if it’s unsure how their analysts are benefiting or not benefiting from a particular viewpoint, part of the credibility is stripped away.

Extra note:

I noticed that the winner of investigative reporting category had two corrections on the Times’ Web site, two days apart. It is interesting that a piece of journalism with two corrections was still at such a high caliber to win the most prestigious of journalism awards.

Girl in the Window

By Lane Degregory of the St. Petersburg Times


The alliteration and word usage at the beginning works powerfully. Often the perception of cops entering a house is one of authority, not stumbling back to the sunlight and vomiting in the yard. The words, too, that the “rookie renched” somehow gives the words more power than just simply saying “the cop threw up.” We were learning about word usage yesterday in intermediate writing, so I’m pleased that I noticed this so quickly and was able to observe the power it had to the beginning.

Detail, detail, detail infiltrates this story creating haunting imagery of what the little girl was forced to endure. I cringed and grimaced at my table in kaldi’s as I read of the conditions. Now THAT'S good writing then.

The reporting in this also was wonderful with the storytelling archetype of Danielle seeming to be a “rising from the ashes” figure.

I thought it’s interesting with how Degregory decided to end with info about the mother’s whereabouts and her background. I’m glad they included that and it seems to fit well at the end.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I've got a draft of a story I'm working on up on my blog that still needs work. I'd love to hear comments from any of you folks about it.

Since I'm spending a month in St. Petersburg, it has been on the brain. This story, "The girl in the window," won a Pulitzer for feature writing this year.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Highlights from this Sunday's Times (4/19/09)

I suppose I will take responsibility for reading each Sunday's New York Times and then posting links to articles of note — and providing commentary where warranted. And so the fun begins.

- Chip McGrath on the rising average of the "late" period among writers
- Bruce Weber on a visit to the fancy new Yankee stadium
- Michael Wilson on the cop shack, in which those crazy old New York police reporters work

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beginning the blog

Hello, and welcome to the Narrative Roundtable. Here is a virtual place to begin or continue discussions, link to articles and other things on the Web, and get to know the people in this community.