Friday, June 27, 2008

Use of first person in a story

A friend of mine sent me the link to this ESPN story about Len Bias' death. It's a good read with lots of different story lines intertwined.

The writer uses both "I" and "we" to tell the story, and I couldn't decide if I really liked or really hated his use of the first person.

I'd be curious to see what anyone else thinks about it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Video storytelling from NewsTrain

So a bunch of us went to this NewsTrain seminar at PNA Wednesday and Thursday where we were learning the basics of telling stories with video and about other online tools at our disposal. Part of our assignment/duties on Wednesday was to shoot and edit a B-roll to share with the rest of the workshop.

Here's a link to the videos we shot (including an existential visual essay on PennDOT by ex-YDR staffer and sweater-vest supporter Ted Sickler):

We'll admit, our efforts are probably a bit... elementary, compared with some of the stuff our photogs and reporters are doing, but in our defense we only had a lunch break to shoot the video.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A mania for meaning

I've been meaning to share these two passages from a book I just finished reading that I'd recommend to all of you, "The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block and the Creative Brain," by Alice W. Flaherty:

"The need for narrative, the need to place events in stories, shapes much of our writing and speech. Linking facts into cause-and-effect chains makes them easier for our brains to absorb, making them more memorable for readers and even for the writer. Creating narrative links gives a sense that there are casual chains that will allow us to predict and control events in the future, a sense that is not always true."

"In the end, using writing to give cognitive meaning to events may parallel an equally deep human need, the need to give emotional meaning to an existence that is opaque. The universal desire to feel that life has some purpose is perhaps stronger in writers, whose occupation instills in them a mania for meaning."

(I especially relate to that last line. Weird, huh?)


I was putting together some thoughts for YDRU and came across the following quotes. I just like 'em, plus, each of which touch on stuff we've focused on in the last 18 months of writing talk:

"Don't say the old lady screamed -- bring her on and let her scream." -- Mark Twain.

"Don't write about Man, write about a man." -- E.B. White.

"The more personal you are, the more universal you become." -- Donald Murray

"The effort of writing never sucks." -- Ken Fuson

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Losing the war

So I'm reading "The New Kings of Nonfiction", an anthology of nonfiction pieces compiled by Ira Glass (yeah, yeah, I know I'm always talking about "This American Life") and I really enjoyed this piece by Lee Sandlin called "Losing the War".

I recently interviewed a World War II veteran about his experiences in the war, and found it hard to extract any sort of really gripping or poignant memories from him. Now, that could be just because I'm an out-of-practice reporter, but Plotkin was with me and he tried getting this man to elaborate a little bit more about his feelings and ... nothing.

I wish I had read Sandlin's piece before going into the interview, because I feel like I would've had a better understanding about where this veteran were coming from. In "Losing the War" Sandlin talks about how later generations will never be able to fully understand the terrible experience of World War II, and that the veterans who understand the experience, still, years later, are really just trying to forget. If you're at all interested in writing about the military or war (which I imagine many of us are because of Iraq and Afghanistan) I think this piece is worth checking out. If nothing else, it will give you a bit more insight into the minds' of our vets.

If you're not interested in writing about the military or about wartime, well read it anyway. These are trying times, as journalists we should all be seeking a better understanding for what moves men and nations. And how can you not be engaged with such solid writing? War ends at the moment peace permenantly wins out. Not when the articles of surrender are signed or the last shot is fired, but when the last shout of the sidewalk battle fades, when the next generation starts to wonder whether the whole thing ever really happened.