Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wicker's Kennedy assassination story: Helped by dictation?

I believe I've read that Tom Wicker dictated this story, which would make sense, since it was 1963 and I don't think anyone in the field was using even the old Radio Shack "Trash 80s," on which you could see all of six lines of your story at a time.

Anyway, I wonder if that's why the piece is so unadorned and reads so much like he's talking to you. Of course, no one would dictate a story like this (or would want to) these days. But it's a great lesson on lean writing. As an exercise and to build writing muscle, try listening to yourself as you write, and try to go lean like this.

Kennedy Is Killed By Sniper As He Rides In Car In Dallas; Johnson Sworn In On Plane: |
Nov 1963

Tom Wicker was without a notebook on November 22, 1963. Instead, reported Gay Talese, he “scribbled his observations and facts across the back of a mimeographed itinerary of Kennedy’s two-day tour of Texas.”

Here’s the 3,700-word masterpiece he filed.

[full story]