Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Two-part series and the use of photo and graphics

Wil Haygood at the Washington Post just did this great two-part series on Randall Smith and the murders he committed on the Appalachian Trail. Haygood uses a lot of the elements we've been talking about in the baggers -- dialogue, understatement, word choice, etc. In the live chat (see more about that below) he addressed how important graphics, photos, etc. were in telling the story. If you have some time check out part one and two of the story and the interactive timeline.

He also did a live chat on washingtonpost.com this morning. I was skimming through it and thought some of the questions and his answers were interesting. You can read the whole thing here.

Lincoln, Neb.: As a fellow narrative journalist, I just want to commend you for this brilliantly constructed series. They way you played with time, set the scene, described the players, etc was fantastic. Can you talk a bit about your process... did you interview Scott and Sean multiple times, or did you manage to craft these articles based on straight forward one-shot interviews?

Wil Haygood: Well, thank you. I spent a lot of time with both Scott and Sean, wonderful individuals, particularly in the sense that they allowed me to take them into this saga again. A writer is blessed if he or she has a brilliant editor. I do. Steve Reiss wanted me to explore certain themes in the piece and that, I think, more than anything, helped with pacing.

LaGrange, Ga.: This was an excellently written piece. The descriptions are amazing, and the quotes are just right for the mood Smith set himself and you set in words. As a journalist myself who could only pray for something like this, how did you come upon a story of such amazing depth with some caution involved, yet still have seemingly comfortable interviews with everyone involved?

Wil Haygood: Scott's mother and father were just great, and I think their presence during a portion of the interviews helped relax Scott. I say the same about Sean's mother.