Thursday, June 21, 2012

Profile captures link from movie director's roots to his latest film

A friend of mine passed along this L.A. Times feature on Adam Shankman, director of the film 'Rock of Ages.' The piece captures the nostalgia that's partly responsible for Shankman, who directed 'Hairspray,' taking on another rock musical.


Filmmaker Adam Shankman is posing for a photographer on the corner of San Vicente and Sunset at 10 a.m., trying to give his best rock 'n' roll face, though he readily admits his edge is as sharp as a butter knife. "Yeah, I'm so rock 'n' roll," says the man behind populist movies including "Hairspray" and "The Pacifier" but who's perhaps best known as a judge and choreographer on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance." "I'm a little Jew from Brentwood."
A moment later, a drug-addled homeless man puts his arm around Shankman. He wants to join the photo. Shankman brushes him off as gracefully as possible. "Dead cockroaches and a meth addict," he says. "What a great way to start the day."
Despite the bleak reality of the Strip, Shankman, 47, has a deep fondness for the boulevard. To him, it's not just the place that launched the Doors, made pink-Corvette driving Angelyne the first reality superstar and was home to the famed Tower Records — it's where he came of age in the late '70s and early '80s.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Finding an ending when the ending isn't obvious

Houston Schwartz watches as his father, Matt, gives him Tylenol.
This package by YDR staffers Leigh Zaleski and Chris Dunn is one of the best art/story packages we've published this year.

There's a compelling storyline, evocative photography and writing that deftly navigates that space between maudlin and clinical.

From the opening of the story:

Matt Schwartz sat in a mahogany rocking chair in his mother's basement in April, leafing through a 3-inch binder of medical papers.His son Houston, then 5 months old, lay next to him under bee-and-teddy-bear mobiles in a light wooden crib. A bag of formula hung beside the baby on a metal IV pole and fed him through a tube directly into his stomach. A scar on his chest marked where his ribs were cracked during two open-heart surgeries.
He weighed 8 pounds 4 ounces, half of what he should for an infant his age. Breathing tubes clung to his face. A glowing red light, taped to his left foot, monitored his pulse.
A poster on the wall detailed how to give an infant CPR.
Sunlight and signs of spring peeked through a small window, shining life on Houston in the dim room lit by two fluorescent bulbs.

One of the challenges of the story was how and where to end it. In many cases, a story like this ends when the child dies or is cured (even if temporarily). In this case, we knew neither of those were likely to happen during the time frame we had set for our story to run.

So, Leigh wrote an ending that showed Matt Schwartz pulled between his desire to do everything he can to keep his son alive and the knowledge that at some point, he will have to stop. Once Leigh had that ending, there was the question of: How do we give people the very latest information on Houston and Matt? We settled on the epilogue -- spare but, we hope, in keeping with the emotion of the piece.

IRE conference links, plus a new blog to check out

This post is a two-fer: You get links to resources from Investigative Reporters & Editors' recent national conference, and you get to check out former YDR staffer Melissa Nann Burke's Tumblr blog.

 Looks like she started it a couple weeks ago and already has a bunch of interesting stuff on there, a lot of it writing-related.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

'Dragged by the claws of civic duty ...'

Lauren Boyer and I started by wondering how people deal with being blindsided by victory when they find out they've been elected, by write-in votes, to a position they never intended to fill.

We ended with this probing look at this vexing political problem: