Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blog 20- Story critiques

I really liked the underlying theme of bandwagon fans. The description of the stampede of people trying to get in the stadium and crowd around you was vivid and contained many status details. A sports events becoming a social scene is a really interesting concept, the expensive drinks and skyscraper heels make it seem like a fancy nightclub.

“But his slim frame, wit and the way he tosses around curse words make me forget he could be my gradfather” – I like this sentence a lot!
“…his stature makes him seem like a tentative adolsceant, afraid of a chill”
You have some really great descriptions and I feel like a get to know the coach very well.

Great relevant topic -  You used a lot of great dialogue. I can see you reported this article thoroughly. There was a recent article down in time magazine about the changing trends of marriage. I thought the article in Time was super boring. If it had something like this, personal examples, it would have been much more interesting.

There was a lot of good status details and dialogue in this story. I like the development you showed from all the work that goes into the making of the food to the people enjoying them.   The story was well rounded, had a nice ending and lots of literary elements. Also, the story was heart-warming. And I like that you left yourself out of it. I don’t think it’s a story that’s meant to be “Gonzo”.

I really liked this article! The descriptions of the frigid lab really made me feel like I was there.  You did really good reporting, had many good status details.
“It is easy to forget that these are humans, but subtle reminders constantly bring Alyssa back to reality- a hand, a tattoo, painted fingernails” Great sentence! Good status details. I also like where you went with this – how to students become accustomed (and hungry) at the sight and smell. Also, the smelling salts were a great status detail. Overall, excellent, the only thing that could have improved it is a few more quotes, although I can imagine it’s hard to find people willing to talk about this experience. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blog 19- Tracy Kidder

Tracy Kidder uses literary techniques, extensive reporting and an adherence to facts to convey his stories.  We see in the excerpt from “The Soul of a New Machine,” Kidder structures his story in an interesting fashion. He first lets the scene set the tone. He talks about the highway and how in the 1960’s deer was a motorists biggest concern. He then goes to describe the non-ostentatious building of Data General. He mentions the orange carpet and the big brother cameras that make him scared to walk on the grass. “The lobby could belong to a motor inn,” he says. He sets the scene for a new industry to grow out the ruins of an old industry that lost itself to outsourcing.
The level of extensive research is apparent in his discussion of how Data General was formed. He discusses to emergence of IBM and their monopoly over the first computers. He even goes so far back as to discuss the invention of chips. He documents the general history of how mini computers were made and marketed and the atmosphere in the business at the time of a revolutionary trade that can make a ton of money without having to be flashy.
The story moved to de Castro, the outlaw that has been omitted from the history of Data General. He discusses the phenomenon of young computer engineers’ tendency to form small businesses producing personal computer outside of their larger firm, using their resources. Note: Steve Wozniak split from HP after they turned down his plans for a personal computer, started his own company and designed Apple-1 and then Apple-2 with Jobs out of his garage.  The story’s message is not a history of computers, but a journey into uncharted waters, the chance for new smart young men to make millions out of a beauty parlor or in Jobs case, a garage.
His story was interesting and I wouldn’t rule out “process” journalism. The little man, big picture approach is intriguing and I plan on using it in my non-fiction story. I feel that I could utilize this approach in my story. Since I am doing my story on a farm that has 127 retired, abused and malnourished horses, there is a lot of room for personal stories. The granddaughter horse to Secretariat (who won the Triple Crown in 1973) was a recent addition after being experimented on in a research facility for 16 years. I am considering that as a starting point.
In one of the descriptions, it portrays Kidder as “hanging around” to get his story. Kelly Benham French spoke to our class the other day and made the same point. She said if you give her a few people she could find a story, but if you send her out on foot in a large group of people she could not. This is the principle that stories are there if you scratch the surface or “hang around” long enough. In his book documenting genocide in Africa he starts off with the remarkable story of a man who fled his country and became a medical student. He takes the story further by telling the story of him going back to give medical attention to his country. He then ties the story into the main issue of genocide in those parts. Again we see little man big pictures threads.
Overall, I admire Kidder’s technique. With the combination of good writing, expensive reporting and strong facts his stories are solid and enjoyable. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blog 18

Literary Journalism in the History of America

In the article, Meyer defends news writing of literary standard. He points out in early America essayists were sometimes values above hard news. Addison states an idea that we often discuss in class and something that is still relevant, the notion of objectivity. He classified himself as a spectator of mankind. The article points out the literary nature of papers in America as early as 1690 with writers such as Benjamin Franklin and Defoe.
Meyer states that revolutionary pamphlets and papers from authors such as Paine, Hamilton, Jay and Madison has literary value and were often eloquently written. Post revolutionary paper in circulation such as the Minerva modeled themselves on truth and openness.
Meyer reflects on Bryant who in 1826 mirrors Wolfe’s “personal journalism” style. In the nineteen century Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman began writing for papers in New York which became journalism central. Whitman’s writing were accessible to the rich and poor alike.
As the West began to develop writers such as Twain continues the literary trend. Papers in the south such as the Atlanta Constitution emphasized an educated paper with writers such as Harris who pursued his own literary aspirations.
Back in New York in the late 1800’s writers such as Crane and Norris wrote of politics and happenings with “attention and detail.”
Literary journalists were continuing to be praised throughout the twentieth century. Writers such as Steinbeck continued the tradition they had been since early America.
Meyer’s point in the article is to show that literary journalism is something that is inherent in American history and has always been praised, something even above hard news. Many famous names wrote literary journalism and it has made American’s more educated and adept in literature throughout the centuries. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blog 17

                                                            The Traffic Jam

     Cars are at a standstill in all directions. I- 75 is in complete congestion. There is no movement whatsoever, not even a 5-mile-per-hour crawl. This is the definition of bumper-to-bumper. Drivers look around at each other with a face of half frustration, half bewilderment. The man in the silver Element punches his steering wheel and takes out his phone to try and figure out what disaster could cause such a build up.
The dogs wake up from their restless slumber in the backseat and go from window to window snorting and wagging their tails; antsy to see what destination they have arrived at. They spot an older brown dog with a white beard in the car next door and one of them lets out a whine. He shoves his big blocky head out the half open drivers side window and then snouts the driver of the car as if to ask to be let out to go say hello. She wipes her face and yells, “Marley! Calm Down back there.” She playfully laughs and retrieves her I Phone out of her purse.
Ten minutes go by and still no movement, twenty minutes-still stuck. The driver turns off the car, “We’re going to be here for awhile.” One by one people exit their vehicles and come together with a shared intent to get information, any tid-bit that may tell them why they are being held up in this mess.
“I’m gonna go see if anyone knows anything” the driver said.
A helicopter flies over. “They must be bay-flighting them to the hospital,” someone says. Everyone frowns in sympathy for the unidentified victims- they knew that meant that it was a bad accident. The dog in the backseat is in a staring competition with the old brown dog next door. He tail sticks out straight as it does when he is on guard when he walks in the woods, ready to react just in case this ancient beast decides to worm out of the window.
An old man hops up on the median divider and stares off into the distance to try and get a look. He squints and cups his hands over his face to block the sun.  He hobbled back down and shrugged his shoulders then folded his arms and joined the conversation again.
Two more join the circle of confusion A man in a green polo, jeans, and reef sandals, had his collar popped. His petite companion had blonde teased hair, skinny jeans and ballet flats. They were in their 50’s but could have passed for teenagers from a distance. A boy sections off from the group, sticks one finger over his ear to block the sound of the traffic barreling along in the other direction and sticks his phone in the other ear. He jabbers away and paces few feet forward and then back a few feet in the same direction. He hangs up and jogs back over to the group.
“My sister is towards the front of the jam and she said they cut two people out of the car and they still have to cut the third,” said the boy.
“The jaws of life man…that’s bad,” said the man with the popped collar.
A woman walks her dog by the car and both dogs fumble to get the best spot in the driver side window.  All three tails wag and the dog pulls the woman towards the car before she regains control and tugs back on the leash. She scolds the dog and continues walking.
“They opened up the right lane, so we should be movin’ pretty soon here. I’ve got some bottled water in the trunk if you girls are thirsty,” the man shouts from the car next door. His old brown dog stares blankly at him.
In the distance engines started and brake lights flashed like hundred of red starts in a sea of metal and asphalt. Everyone smiled, waved good-bye and hurried back to their vehicles. The driver hopped back in the car.
“Buckle up,” she said.
The cars crawled along for four or five miles. Only one lane was open and the two lanes were littered with glass, metal and plastic pieces. Cars courteously let each other over, keeping in mind their hour-long kinship with their other frustrated companions. Men in bright orange vests swept the road and picked up larger pieces of rubble. All fire trucks, ambulances and the helicopter were already gone. The victims were nowhere to be seen, but people slowed down and scanned the mess inquiringly as to see what the cause was of their delay.  A tow truck had just finished loading the wrecked vehicle. It was a gold pickup truck with its top smashed in to the point where it looked like one flat golden rectangle- it had definitely rolled. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blog 16

Morris Markey's "The Drift"- a very literary piece

Blog 16
Morris Markey paints a bleak look at what happens to the unidentified dead in “Drift.” He takes the reader through the identification process, to the overcrowded morgue, a dark boat ride to the burial grounds and finally the sardine-cane burials that the lower class receives.
Word choice is very prevalent throughout the piece. For example when the detective and the superintendent are discussing the body almost being matched to a pickpocket by fingerprints, the superintendent responds, “Did you ever here of a pickpocket turning on the gas?” This gives the reader a little more visual than if the writer was to just come and say it was a suicide. Markey uses “Number 48,227” throughout the piece to refer to the unidentified body. This word choice accentuates the notion that he is simply just a number, an unidentified question mark, whose identity will soon be buried. “There was no marking stone over the grave where Number 48,227 lay now. But in the office was a long slip of paper. It bore the number of the grave, and the names of all its occupants. Except, of course, that in one space it bore a numeral instead of a name.” The word choice again implied that vague and non-personal burial in which the man received. He also described the trip to the burial plot with many words associated with death, describing the “shimmer on the water that hid the eternal filth of oil and refuse” and the “immortal and even a little more benign” building. 
Status detail functions in the piece to establish tone.  For example, “In the vast room, there were more than a hundred who lay beside him in long ranks. None other of these, however, were touched with the air of mystery that lay upon him.”  Markey describes that feeling associated with the unidentified body. Markey mentions the flag being flown at half-mast, which is typically associated with death. This sets the tone for the slow, dark death ride to the mass grave. “His motionless companions were lifted down to lie beside him, as close as the attendants could contrive, as soon men were working with shovels to cover them from the bright day.” He uses status detail to imply the close and impersonal burial setting of all of the dead which no one claims.
Markey uses scene-by-scene construction to move the story along in a linear fashion. He starts with a day-in-the-life of a detective assigned to the morgue, describing the building in detail. He then goes on tell the anecdote of the unidentified man, which he threads throughout the piece as it grows into a larger story telling the reader about the mass grave.
Morris Markey wrote for the New Yorker as a “reporter at large” and in this case is searching for the process of unidentified bodies, and also the concept of mass graves for the have-nots of society. His task at the New Yorker was to “roam the city and write down what you see” which caused him to stumble upon many published stories. His stories set the intellectual yet light tone of the New Yorker. He uses the “I am the camera technique” in his piece and other conventional reporting techniques such as personal presence. His pieced gave readers a look into New York society.
Story Ideas:
1.) I am thinking of documenting the personalities that inhabit Lillian's Bar, my place of employment. A few of the bartenders have worked there and had local customers for over 20 years. Lillian's prides itself with its history, live music and strong drinks, creating an atmosphere that attracts people from all walks of life, students, professionals, and long-time regulars. Many expressive personalities inhabit Lillian's, and since I have become friendly with many of them, I am sure they would let me interview them.
2.) Since I love animals, and volunteer at the Humane Society, I was considering a piece on the process a dog goes through from being rescued off the street an a bad situation, training and wellness, possible fostering and being placed in a better home.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blog 15- Undercover Reporting

            Undercover journalism his mixed reviews in my book. On one end, stories such as “Ten Days in a Mad-House” by Nelly Bly are interesting and solve real-world social issues. By posing as a crazy person, Bly was able to uncover to precarious conditions that the mentally insane were subject to. Bly uncovered the truths and changes were made, people were helped. However, things could have gone bad and Bly could have been abused or worse.
            Bob Steele discusses the ethics of undercover reporting and situations where it may be appropriate. He says that if it will have a great social impact and help society then it may be appropriate. I concur, but think that social impact is arbitrary to ones own interests.
            For example, Pam Zekman went undercover to expose dodgy dance studio cheating money from seniors. What cares? This is of no particular importance and probably made for a boring read. She also went undercover to expose an abortion clinic giving fake abortions.  That not only makes for an interesting read but also will spare many women from having to go through the emotional turmoil and unnecessary expense of the fake abortions.
            In the case of Mirage Tavern, I do not see any problem there. Although the bars purpose was to record code violations and such from official, it was still a bar, and patrons came on their own accord. Many establishments have surveillance systems and no one was being deceived in this situation.
            There are many other ways to formulate a good story without having to breach the line of honesty. Interviews from past employees, documented offences, etc could provide a similar effect.
            To conclude I would say that undercover reporting is appropriate if it serves to alleviate an undesirable circumstance or situation that is important to the writer. If it makes you sleep better at night to know that solved a major issue, benefited society or helped people, then it’s worth it. If you spent weeks of research lying to expose a dodgy dance studio, then you might want to evaluate your morals. I would probably do minor undercover reporting if it did not endanger my well-being and there was reason to believe that it could significantly help something I am passionate about in some way. For example, if I could single-handedly take down the circus and its animal cruelty by employing myself with them for a short period of time, I would do it because the ends would justify the means in my opinion. 

Blog 14-Jimmy Cannon

            One of the most well-known sports writers, Jimmy Cannon, began his career at age 15 when he dropped out of school to be a copy boy. Cannon wrote for the Daily News and the Journal American. He was known as the voice of New York City itself, with the ability to rouse emotion in his readers. He is also credited with founding a new type of journalism in the 1940’s. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame and also awarded the Red Smith Award for his sports writing. Cannon’s writing is descriptive and at times poetic which we see in “Lethal Lightning.”
            “Lethal Lightning” documents the 1945 boxing fight between Joe Louis and Billy Conn. He uses literary techniques and a unique style of writing to make the story different.
            Cannon starts out with a description of a morphine-induced hallucination about the black night creeping into his brain. He then goes on to incorporate this into the knockout of Conn. He tells the reader in the second paragraph,
            “I remember the last night in the Yankee Stadium when Joe Louis knocked out Billy Conn in the eighth round of a fight that had been tautly dull.”
            He then goes to incorporate the blackness motif into the situation,
            “I felt the old dream coming from a long way off and finding not me, but Billy Conn, who lay in the spurious day of the ring lights and had the aching blackness all to himself.”
            Cannon then goes to tell the story of the fight and thread the darkness motif throughout the story.
            He never comes up front and tells the reader that Louis was much bigger and more intimidating than Conn, but through his descriptions, the reader gets the idea. He describes Conn in a “green-bordered satin bathrobe” entering the ring with his manager who “layed his flabby white arm along the rope and looked into Conn’s face as though he were trying to remember the features before they were destroyed.” He then describes Louis as “big in his flashy red-edged blue robe of silk…moving in the wind of the night.” This is a much more intimidating description. Louis was almost 40 pounds heavier than Conn at the time of the fight, which Cannon never tells us and doesn’t have to.
            He uses status detail to report the fighters and also the observers. For example he points out the “thick cord of fat hanging off his belly when he moved” of Conn which accentuates his weaknesses. The details he used made Conn seem weaker, older and softer than Louis.
            He contrasts the two fighters as the “agile scientist” and the “ignoramus of the ring with nothing but strength.” And later in the story as “big man” and “little man.” Conn being the smaller man who had to strategically place punches and use his moves to try and outsmart the slower but stronger Louis.
            Cannon uses interesting metaphors other than the darkness throughout the piece such as Louis catching punches like snowballs thrown by a child.
            Cannon uses dialogue to present the personalities of the fighters in the end. For example he records Conn saying “I should re-enlist in the army I was so lousy tonight.”
            I think the purpose of this piece is to entertain, not simply just report. Cannon creates a more descriptive piece for readers, which was not common in 1940’s sports writing.
            My question for the class is: What are your opinions on NFL games being “blacked out” for increase ticket revenue and does this create the need for a more literary and descriptive type of sports writing?