Chapter 5: America’s Best Newspaper Writing

I think this chapter was mostly really interesting because it was a lot of talk about stories that don’t really fit clear categories. I guess they explain “explanatory journalism” in the beginning as a story that breaks through technical jargon and simplifies ideas of business for people to understand without a background in any given field, but it seems that should happen in pretty much any story, so I’m not sure why these are different. The only thing that seems to jump out is that they’re in-depth looks at the fields they’re writing about, getting deep into discussion about what makes a cowboy or how to build an airplane.

More than anything, though, Michael Gartner’s editorial stuck out to me in reading this chapter. I’m a little confused how an editorial made its way into this chapter. Perhaps I tend to think of columns as being too separate from the regular ideas of journalism. But it seems to me that this, even though it’s well-researched and reported, and very well written, should go in a chapter about editorials.

With all that being said, these were excellent stories. They felt very much like features; I think this book keeps blurring the line between kinds of stories there are, but they work here. My favorite was the Boeing 757 story, mostly because it goes so in depth about a topic I’m interested in — I’ve always been fascinated by planes and how they work. But generally, the story’s just really well written and makes it one that anyone can enjoy, whether you like planes or not. All of the stuff about the door of the plane, which maybe went on a little bit too long, and the chickens, though, were great details. That’s what makes for a fantastic story.

As for the editorial included in this section, while it doesn’t quite make sense to me, it is an interesting story, too. I like the way Gartner places so much emphasis on lyrical writing, and I think that’s part of what makes it successful. It might be a little much in the beginning when he does the exact same thing three times — it gets to the point where you can pretty much just guess what he’s saying and you don’t need to actually read it. That’s usually a bit frustrating. But it is easy to digest and effective, because the point is hammered home. And that’s something you can see throughout Gartner’s article, which is backed up with a lot of effective information, so it checks out as a piece of journalism.

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