Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Frank Bodani on Rosey Grier and what really matters

Randy called this column by Frank Bodani to my attention, saying it was an example of great work by Frank. He's right.

I doubt Frank set out to write a column about how Rosey Grier is dealing with the recent death of his wife. But he didn't miss the chance when it presented itself.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wise (and brief) words on narrative writing, editing

Sharing this after discovering it via

Thursday, August 25, 2011

'Girl in the window,' three years later

This was an incredible story when it came out -- a seven-year-old girl neglected to the point that she could not connect with other human beings -- and three years later, it still is.

The follow-up is beautifully written and shows the girls signs of progress. The then-and-now photos are remarkable.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Do stories, do stories, do stories, get better

 Wow: This, from Ira Glass of This American Life, hits home.

 You have an idea. This could be a great story. You can see it, feel it, taste it. You report, write, revise. You finish and think: That's not what I wanted it to be. You deflate.

 But you can't stop. You have to keep trying to execute those ideas, because only in doing that, over and over and over, can you ever get closer to the actual vision you see in your head when you think, This could be a great story.

Glass puts it better here, and lets you know: You're not alone.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New stuff here. And it's good stuff.

 I did something long overdue: I've added several examples of excellent storytelling by YDR staffers to the blog.

 Under "YDR documentaries" (see link at left) you'll find Paul Kuehnel's video about a woman who, as a 3-year-old, witnessed her mother's murder and visits the scene 39 years later.

 Under "YDR success stories" you'll find Mike Argento's piece about that woman. You'll also find two other great pieces by Mike -- one about a medal of valor winner, and one about a couple whose health forced them to part after decades of marriage.

 There are other great reads there, too, including "Her wild life," Frank Bodani's piece about a legendary exotic animal rehabilitator who, with age, has had to give up most of her animals.

 Check 'em out.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How does one photographer capture all three outs of a triple play?

To visually tell the story of a major-league triple play with a video camera is no great feat; every game is televised and shot by multiple cameras. But to capture all three outs with stills takes anticipation and preparation, as Boston Globe photographer Jim Davis says. It's a lesson that can be applied by any photographer or reporter in almost any situation, be it breaking news, a sit-down interview or anything in between.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Killer lines (Gay Talese)

"My mother was betrothed to the dress business. As a young girl growing up in Brooklyn, she had outfitted her dolls with a varied wardrobe that she changed with the seasons, and she never permitted these pampered idols to be played with, or even touched, by any of her four sisters -- my aunts, who, in recalling this fact to me years later, conveyed the suggestion of a slight yet everlasting sense of resentment toward the unsharing, aloof little girl my mother perhaps once was."
 --Gay Talese, "Unto the Sons"

Monday, August 15, 2011

When people disappear in plain sight

 This story in The Washington Post is about an accomplished man who "served 10 presidents, but died alone in squalor."

I'm calling it to your attention for a couple of reasons.

One, it's an uncomplicated, straightforward story, but the writer chose the ending perfectly, and in so doing really elevated the piece, I think. The story details efforts to get this man help and how agencies declined, claiming they couldn't force help on someone ... and then shows how persistent an agency can get when it is owed money.

Two, journalists regularly deal with head-scratching responses from public officials. In this story, you have at least two agencies refusing to release information about a dead man. Privacy reasons, they say.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On editing and revising: When less is more, FEMA style

The federal government, or at least one office of it, sees the light. "We had letters that took three paragraphs to say four words: 'We need more information,'" a FEMA rep said.

 He was talking about some Alabama residents' complaints about a letter they got from FEMA about their desire for help after tornadoes scoured the state in April. Some letters to people in blown-away houses told them they had "insufficient damage" to qualify for certain kinds of aid. No good, FEMA realized.

So FEMA revised, and simplified, its letters.

Friday, August 12, 2011

In a narrative, how much info on sourcing should you provide?

Really interesting piece on Eric Schmidle's story in The New Yorker, "Getting Bin Laden," how it was sourced, and whether he/the magazine was clear enough with readers about how it was sourced.

Disclosure: I haven't read the story itself, only the story about the sourcing. If you've read Schmidle's story and read the Poynter piece linked to here, let me know what you think about how much information a reader deserves to know about how you sourced your narrative.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Inside the hospital at Kandahar Airfield

A former colleague of mine, Lauren King, who's now at the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, shared this series by a Pilot reporter & photographer. "A Chance in Hell" takes you inside the place that's supposed to save "the war's worst casualties."

I've only had time to read the first section of the first installment, but, um, this is going to be good.