The Columbia Journalism Review had a wonderful article about the role journalism had on the budding career of Gabriel GarcíaMárquez. New Journalism has been gaining ground in recent decades, but even in the 1950's, newspapers saw readers' excitement with the story behind the facts.
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."
GarcíaMárquez 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.
As a kid, I remember playing basketball for hours in a day: shooting buckets until I couldn't see the hoop for the dark; ball-handling drills in my basement when it was too cold to go outside; shooting free throws even while my fingertips were dry, cracked and bleeding.
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.