Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gettysburg 150th coverage theme song: "I ride at dawn"

Such a major coverage effort for Gettysburg 150th deserves a little fun, a little storytelling, a theme, a vibe. We've christened our workspace "The Redoubt," after a defensive position built by the Iron Brigade on Day 1, according to Marc Charisse.

And I offer this as our theme song, from Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite (lyrics below). It evokes the occasion in words and tone:

Like my father
And his father, and his father before
Watch the soil burn in the fire
War after war
Done things I didn't know I could
For the common good
Tomorrow I ride at dawn

Give a man a hundred years
And he'll want a hundred more
Give him a hundred choices
And he still chooses war
From Salem Poor to Genghis Khan
Tomorrow I ride at dawn

I was born for battle
I was born to bleed
I was born to help those who have dreams of being free
Brother stop your crying, sister dry your eyes
You'll hear my medals ringing from Shreveport to Shabagan
Tomorrow I ride at dawn

At first light, I march to battle
Not my own life, but brothers' I must save
And when you hear those pipes and drummers
You'll know I marched to glory or proudly to my grave
Tell my loved ones they must carry on
For tomorrow I ride at dawn

Tomorrow I ride at dawn
Tomorrow I ride at dawn
Tell my loved ones they must carry on
For tomorrow I ride at dawn

Friday, May 24, 2013

FDR self-edits FTW

Not that this isn't a well-known story, but: I was at the Smithsonian American history museum today and saw FDR's revisions to his Pearl Harbor speech.

I think revisions, generally speaking, are where stories are made. And I love self-edits -- when a writer takes a second (or third, or fourth, or ...) look at what he or she has written, and sees it more clearly or in a different light. That new look often results in revisions that make the story, or, in this case, speech, better. (I'm distinguishing here from writers who pick away at their stories for no reason other than they can't bear to let it go).

In FDR's speech, the original line was, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in world history, the United States of America was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by Naval and air forces of the empire of Japan."

I don't even know what "simultaneously" was ever doing in that sentence. But when FDR changed that to "suddenly" and changed "world history" to "infamy," he gave us the speech's most memorable line.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hey, do you have the notes for that class I missed...?

Roy Peter Clark does.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Jason Plotkin and I discuss "Finding their way out" at Dart Center panel on journalism and trauma

The York Daily Record/Sunday News' project about lasting trauma after the 2003 Red Lion School shooting was awarded an honorable mention in the Dart Center's annual awards for coverage of trauma. Visual journalist Jason Plotkin and I represented the YDR's team -- which included reporter Bill Landauer, graphic artist Sam Dellinger and assistant managing editor for visuals Brad Jennings -- at the ceremony.

Dart Center executive director Bruce Shapiro said there were 100 entries, of which 12 were named finalists. Judges awarded three honorable mentions and named two winners. At around the 12-minute mark, Shapiro had generous words for the winners and those who received honorable mentions.

"The distinctions between winners and honorable mentions are of no consequence in this room," he said. "All of the winners here today are all extraordinary journalists at the highest professional caliber, delving deeply with innovative techniques into the aftermath and impact of violence in ways that no journalist has really done before."

Stick with the video to hear him talk about our project. At about the 51-minute mark, Jason and I are part of a panel in which we answer questions from Shapiro about our project. We're on the panel with two members of the L.A. Times team that put together a great piece on a teen victim of a gang shooting; later, team members from the other honored projects spoke about their pieces. They are all well worth listening to and learning from.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

All kinds of storytelling goodness ... this piece by Poynter's Roy Peter Clark that breaks down The Boston Globe's narrative of the man who was carjacked by the accused marathon bombers.

Most importantly it shows why narrative-as-newswriting can work, but also what you need to make it work. For me, it reinforces that you can't impose narrative on a news event simply because you want to write it that way; but if you know what you need to do that and are ready to recognize those elements when you see them, you can jump on the chance to do a story like this.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A fine list of things never to write, courtesy of The Washington Post

What would you add? For me, it'd be any derivative of an ad campaign slogan like "Got milk?" or "Just do it." But you probably already knew that.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

About getting the story just right

If you have a few minutes this weekend, sit down and read these stories. Though each isn't terribly long, the series is more than a quick read -- but I think you'll come away glad you spent the time.

As an editor, it was a pleasure working with Frank Bodani, who is committed to getting each story just right, so it reflects what each family is going through -- so the families will recognize themselves in the story, but also so anyone reading the stories can get to know them and relate.

As Frank wrote the stories, we talked about that each seemed to have its own theme as an undercurrent: one was about endurance, one about hope, one about a blessing. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

'I am trying to learn something about sound when the eyes were not meant to hear'

What a great piece of personal writing this is. A deaf woman explains how she reads lips ... and how sometimes she can't ... and ponders what it all means.

An excerpt:

SOMETIMES I FEEL GUILTY that I lipread at all. I fear that I am betraying myself by accepting the conventions of the hearing world. I fear that I lack balance—that I am abandoning the communication tactics that work for me, in order to throw myself headlong at a system that does not care about my needs. When I attempt to function like a hearing person, am I not sacrificing my integrity to a game that I lack the tools to tackle, a game that in the end makes me look slow or stupid?
Deaf people—meaning Deaf people who live solely in the Deaf community, and hold on to an inherent pride in their Deafness—often speak of communicating as they please and letting the hearing world "deal with it." They believe in the beauty and, dare I say it, the superiority of sign language. Spoken language, compared with the visual nuances of signing, might as well be caveman guttural grunts.
When I lipread, I leave the clarity of sign language behind. I attempt to communicate with hearing people on their terms, with no expectation that they will return the favor. The standards I am striving for seem ridiculous: I am trying singlehandedly to cross the chasm of disability. Might not my stubbornness be of more harm than good?
I struggle with this. Some days I wonder what it would be like if I refused to speak. I could roll out of bed one morning, decide to take control of my communication on my terms, and make everyone write it down or sign, as other Deaf people do. Some days I resent myself. I wonder if I am weak, ashamed or overly anxious to please.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Who's your story's narrator? (Does it have one?)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How to become a better reporter, writer? Start here

If you read this -- Roy Peter Clark has brought back around his 1979 assessment of why Richard Ben Cramer was so damn good -- you will see, in Clark's list of Cramer's qualities, everything you need to be good at and be better at in order to become the best reporter and writer you can be.

You could write a book about this, as many people have. And there are a lot of good ones out there. But sometimes it helps to see it broken down like this, succinctly. After that it's up to you and me.