"Made in the Shade" A package on Southern writers: profiles, interviews and an 11-state directory of writers you may never have heard of but are worth your time. Appeared in Creative Loafing chain.
"Mass Appeal" A day-in-the-life profile of a telegenic parish priest in Miami. Published in Catholic Digest, reprinted in the St. Petersburg Times
"The Liberation of Tam Minh Pham" How the first West Point graduate from South Vietnam disappears after the fall of Saigon, only to be rescued by his classmates two decades later. A cover story in The Washington Post Magazine
Anybody else find themselves thinking of Spiro Agnew as VP Cheney targets the NYTimes and other newspapers for going with the story exposing the Bush administration's database mining of international banking records?
Required reading: A 1996 Online News Hour refresher on Agnew's role in the Nixon Administration and NYT's Bill Keller on why they ran the banking story.
The other day, when I posted about an interview with Adrian Holovaty, a programming journalist, I checked out, on his recommendation, Ibiseye, a new online weather tracking application at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.
I looked at it more closely today as skies like dingy sheets harken the possible arrival of what may be the first tropical named storm of the 2006 hurricane season.
Ibiseye, a beta version of a new hurricane tracking service It's a perfect example of what Holovaty calls "journalism through computer programming."
The latest issue of the Nieman Narrative Digest focuses on the most vulnerable of subjects: children in trouble.
"Many newspaper narratives focus in some way on children we worry about," notes the Digest's editor, Nell Lake. "Portray children in trouble, editors know, and readers will care. The question is, how to write well about such emotionally weighty subjects?"
The issue features a new essay by Barry Siegel, director of the literary journalism program at UC Irvine, who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Pulitzer jurors called his story, "A Father's Pain, a Judge's Duty and a Justice Beyond Their Reach," a "humane and haunting portrait of a man tried for negligence in the death of his son, and the judge who heard the case." You can read it, as well as Siegel's wise advice to writers focusing on endangered children. His bottom line:
" 'Endangered kids' pieces? Most certainly recognize them as such -- then try to write them as something else, as something more -- as something that gets at all the reasons for why we're feeling so emotional."
Think of the way children usually appear in the news: as victims or valedictorians. We owe them more: stories told with sensitivity, nuance and respect for their developing, and all too often, endangered lives. This issue of the Nieman Narrative Digest helps show us how.
OJR editor Robert Niles opens the interview by asking Holovaty, "how does one "do journalism" through computer programming?"
Holovaty begins by describing a triad of basic tasks performed by journalists:
"1. Gathering information. This involves talking to sources, examining documents, taking photographs, etc. It's reporting.
2. Distilling information. This involves applying editorial judgment to decide what parts of the gathered information are important and relevant.
3. Presenting information. This involves shaping the distilled information into a format that is accessible to the readership. Some examples: writing style (inverted pyramid, etc.), photo color-correction, newspaper page design."
He then envisions a new way of performing these tasks by using one of the key attributes of computer programming:
"Doing journalism through computer programming" is just a different way of accomplishing these goals. Namely, the technique favors automation wherever possible."
What's especially interesting is the way Holovaty sees "reporting" as an activity--"gathering"--carried out by journalists with a range of skill sets, from interviews to taking photographs. Implicit is a rejection of the silo approach that hinders newsroom collaboration. Explicit is his mutual respect for the craft of journalism and the science of programming and the possibilities such a partnership holds out for those willing to embrace both.
Whether you're a programmer, a journalist, an educator or a news manager, the interview is well worth your time. And a bonus is a list of new online news sites that Holovaty admires.
This war was in North Africa, the date 1943, the combatants Great Britain and the United States versus Germany. Covering the war for The New Yorker was theinestimable A. J. Liebling. Read "The Foamy Fields," set on a vulnerable American airfield in Tunisia; the piece is available free of charge from the magazine's online archives.
A master at work.
Best of all, you can get this piece and Liebling's other war reportage, collected in "Mollie and other War Pieces," at a reasonable price, at Amazon.com.
(Photo Credits: E Grove via tournamenthouse.com; Amazon.com)