We talk a lot about bad writing and the decline of journalism–and that’s important. But sometimes it’s nice to highlight good journalism. In fact, it’s more than nice, it’s imperative. There are lots of great writers around and we should share their stories. I think it helps to read a lot of good writing that way you know shitty writing when you see it.
Those “better” writers weave the details of stories together seamlessly. They find and get solid sources and excel at choosing when to use a direct quote and when to paraphrase. They choose good stories and present them in an organized manner successfully playing with chronology and expertly using even the trickiest writing techniques (for example, flashback). And most of all, those better writers make you wish the story would never end. And, in many cases, when the story does end it can leave the reader with a sense of longing.
There were four stories that I read over the past year that immediately came to mind when I decided to write this post. Just to note, I do a lot of reading, so there are definitely other stories besides the following four that impressed me. But again, I remembered the four below right away.
I read a lot of sports stories, and the first two articles I want to highlight are from the world of basketball and football. Yahoo sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski’s account of how the Miami Heat came to sign then Cleveland Cavaliers Forward Lebron James is very compelling. Wojnarowski manages to cover and explain the perspective of almost every party involved with the James trade. And, for ESPN, Tom Friend writes an exciting piece on former football defensive lineman William “Refrigerator Perry.” This piece was so heart-wrenching and smartly written I had to take two breaks before completion.
The other two pieces also share a common link–both are stories about con men. For the NY Times David Segal profiled Vitaly Borker a Russian owner of an online eyewear store. Not only was Borker selling faux products, he bullied and threatened customers who complained. This piece starts out as a simple profile of a bad businessman, but Segal builds the story slowly and by the time he arrives at Borker’s house you are on pins and needles wondering how the conversation will go, or if Segal should even be there. (I should mention that Borker was eventually arrested as a result of this profile.)
The final story is an old one that I just read about three days ago in The Atlanta Magazine. Its title is “The Debtor” and it profiles a man whose murder may go unsolved due to the amount of enemies he made conning an array of people out of money–including the daughter of late soul singer James Brown, a woman he actually married.
If you read any or all of the stories, be sure to let me know what you think. And do not hesitate to share other well-written pieces and why you loved them.