America’s Best Newspaper Writing: Chapter 2

I guess what’s most interesting about this chapter is that it’s pulling stories from the daily grind. These aren’t stories you typically expect to come out of beats, which are more ofter associated with boring town meetings or time-consuming police work or off the record conversations with sources you’ve come to know well. Typically, these beats aren’t particularly interesting areas that breed serious in-depth stories; they’re really just places where news happens regularly where a reporter needs to be.

So it’s impressive that all these writers were able to pull out these incredible stories from the every day job. Of course, when you’re in a situation like Jonathan Bor, it makes complete sense because a major heart transplant surgery is an important part of the medical beat. Especially when it’s the first resident to have one in your readership area.

The one I liked the best, though, was probably Rick Bragg’s story about the woman donating her money to the college. I’ve never read a beat story with so much detail. And I love that Bragg incorporates all that information to really show the issues and to place the reader pretty much right in this woman’s home. You can all but hear her accent.

I guess in this way it does act slightly like a feature story, but I think that’s good. Some elements of features in the news occasionally can be good. It keeps the personality of the paper and the writing and the subject alive; and in a scenario like this, a bland Miss McCarty doesn’t work. But the aspects like dresses she’ll never wore, and the Bible she keeps her money in — these made the story, and it’s a shame these don’t fit into more news articles.


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