Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pinpoint characterization in 2 grafs

In 79 words -- the first two paragraphs of today's 1a story -- Doreen Carvajal and Caroline Brothers of the New York Times nailed the guy suspected of causing a $7 billion banking loss in France:

"PARIS — Jérôme Kerviel was too middling to be considered a loser. Until he was charged by Société Générale with perpetrating the biggest fraud of its kind in banking history, there was nothing superlative about him.

He failed in a bid for town council in his 20s; he never rose higher than a green belt, a midlevel rank, after years of judo training — because of his bad knees; and he attended an average college where he earned respectable but unremarkable grades."

Is that great or what? As an exercise, deconstruct those two grafs. You know the reporters backgrounded the guy, and what they have seems to come from basic backgrounding. But they made it sing. How? What decisions do you think they made about what details to use, and how to frame those details, that reflected the unusual (and perhaps even stunning) nature of this story?