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Dear Writers,
Here is our class blog. My hope is that this blog will include a great discussion of ideas about what great journalism looks like as well as examples of your own writing. Feel free to try out ideas, ask questions and create an open, inviting place to extend our discussion beyond the classroom.

Here is what I'm looking for before the start of each class:
1. Read the assigned readings for that day's class.
2. Take notes as you read and look for something or more than one thing that excites, surprises, motivates you. Find something, large or small, that you think is interesting and that you'd like to talk about.
3. Log on to the class blog.
4. Post your entry at least 5 minutes before the start of class in order to receive credit.
5. Be prepared to discuss that entry in class and to introduce your ideas and the issues you'd like to discuss.
6. I will grade these entries in this way (3 points for each entry)
- Entry includes a question for the class to discuss
- Entry includes discussion of reading, using examples, citations from certain pages and other details related to the focus of the blog entry
- Entry makes connections between other pieces of journalism either from the class or from outside of the class


Mark's Thoughts
First, I must say that both of these books' introductory sections proved to be more engaging than the "average" textbook, and that I gleaned useful information from each of them.
I especially enjoyed Ira Glass' views on the art of storytelling. For example, on page 12 he says, "Calling a piece of writing 'literary non-fiction' is like daring you to read it." I loved that, and I've always wondered why such nasty terms are attached to non-fiction, or literature in general. Reading doesn't have to be a chore, it just seems to be sometimes. This made me question why college courses are given ugly titles like "Intro. to early American literature" when a more inviting name like "Early American storytellers" would not only suffice, but be more inviting at the same time.
I also enjoyed when Glass said, on page 3, "There's a whole class of reporters--especially ones who went to journalism school, by the way--who have a strange religious conviction about this [not putting themselves into their stories]." That is a problem that I have personally encountered, but from the opposite perspective. I enjoy finding the entertaining subplot and digging deeper, but I sometimes feel as though I go too far with this and inject myself too far into a story. That is my question to the class: As journalism students, where does everyone feel that the proper boundary between forcing one's self into a story and simply presenting entertaining details start and end? I'd love to know, it seems as though more riveting storytelling and less drab reporting of more bad news could potentially revitalize the newspaper industry.
From the Telling True Stories reading, I felt an attachment to the words of Jacqui Banaszynski. Her quote on page 5, "I think stories are what make us human. Only by telling them do we stay so," is brilliant. Besides in The Lion King, there aren't many instances involving animals telling stories, but as humans SO SO MUCH can be accomplished or preserved through a simple fable or tale. I had never thought of storytelling in that way, but I'm glad that I now have.

I'm not sure how to make my own entry, so I am leaving a comment. "Stories are our soul... tell them as if they are all that matters (Telling True Stories, p 6)." Banaszynski's words here basically summarize why I am in school right now. I love the way he puts that. Stories matter. I don't think any of us would be pursuing journalism if we didn't believe stories mattered. I can easily live my life, looking at the state of the world today, and become cynical and jaded. But there is something resilient in my soul, something that believes there is still hope, and it says this: "Stories matter." It says that if we can look at the darkest and most oppressive of circumstances and somehow turn them into words, somehow even turn them into art, somehow channel them to the people sitting in their luxury cars and their suede couches, then we have done something important. I would pose a question to the class with which I have often wrestled: Does journalism make a difference? Are we actually effecting change, or are we only reporting on those who are doing the changing? For instance, when Bill Buford wrote "Among the Thugs," one could say he was merely reporting on a group of people that had an impact on society. As a writer, though, and perhaps an optimist, I would venture to say this: that by placing himself in the gap between his readers and this seemingly elite, untouchable gang, Buford gave the public a gift. He opened their eyes and their minds to something new. It could be argued that information is never neutral. It bring a change in its recipient, for good or for bad. So call me naive, but as I read the writings of our nonfiction "kings" yesterday, I felt a tremendous sense of hope. As a writer I really can effect change, though with something quieter and often more powerful than guns or laws. The difference I wish to make is with words.

Ben Torgerson

In Telling True Stories I really liked Banasynki’s way of showing us how as a journalist we can be thrown into situations we don’t necessarily understand or grasp. He then connects the imaginary reporter and the tribe they are visiting through storytelling, and I believe that it is effective in relating the two incredibly different backgrounds to one another. I was very interested in the way that the author showed just how vital storytelling is for the tribe, and how it made him reflect on storytelling in his own culture.

“It was their version of school. It was how they carried their history and culture and law with them. It may have been my first conscious awareness of the power, history, and universality of storytelling. We all grew up with stories, but do we ever stop to think of how much they connect us and how powerful they are? (4)”

Towards the end of the reading, I found Boo to be entertaining and thought-provoking. She said that interviews should be done in the person’s own environment, which I really think is good advice. She had a quote that I liked as well:
“The hardest thing is to keep the reader from throwing it down and getting a beer instead (16).”

The New Kings of Nonfiction relates to the other reading in some interesting ways. Glass speaks about nonfiction, and addresses the storytelling aspect of it. He gives some great examples of storytelling through nonfiction writers. This to me was showing just how creative Glass is telling us we can be in nonfiction writing. He goes as far as calling his work “fables” at one point, further proving his creative intentions. Glass’ work reads somewhat like a magazine for me; it’s entertaining, fast-paced, and flows in a way that made it easy to read. Do you think Glass portrayed the ideas discussed in the introduction in his own writing? I’d say he does a great job with it.

They were read to us when we were little, and now we tell our own. Stories. Jacqui Banaszynski made three comments that more or less slapped me across the face in Telling True Stories (pg 6); "Stories are our prayers, stories are our parables, stories are our history, stories are our music, and stories are our soul." How true these statements are. "Our history" and "soul" were the two that slapped the hardest and made me think about where our stories come from. Experience was the first word that popped into my head. How else does one tell someone's story, or their own without experiencing it. It happens. It's told. It becomes a story. Having it happen gives us history, while the experience of it impacts our soul and drives us to tell the story.

In The New Kings of New Fiction Ira Glass, on pg 3, talks about the practice of putting the author in a story is considered taboo by many journalism professors and institutions. Most of the time I tend to agree. Journalists are telling stories and to put themselves into the story takes away from the focus of the story, which tends to be something or someone else. However, Banaszynski made me think differently when describing her experience in Sudan in the beginning of Telling True Stories. It worked beautifully.

After talking about it in class, I think I have an even more broad view of what can lead to a story. When I thought about it, I really do believe that anything can be a successful story with a good author. Everyday life is full of stories, it's just a matter of how observant you are.

I like where this class is going, beyond the every day grind of the dreaded INVERTED PYRAMID. As for my question, I still wonder where the line is drawn, but today's discussion helped.
A few stories that might be fun:
1) The demise of men's fast-pitch softball. I wrote a short story on this in the summer and discovered that men's fast-pitch used to be quite popular here and across the nation. Why did this change so drastically and why is the game now dying?
2) The man that figure skates by himself on the RSOP rink (when it was open). How did he get into figure skating? Did he ever skate competitively? How many years has he been at this?

I'd like to do a story on the sex trade in Duluth. I've heard rumors that they used to run prostitution out of the old family sauna. Also, I'd like to dig into the Norshor and the Saratoga. I've been working with an anti-trafficking organization in Kansas City for the past year, and if there's one thing I've learned, is that sex trafficking is going on everywhere, especially in our own backyards. The seemingly legit strip clubs are often places where girls are held against their will. I know some people working with the trafficking issue in Duluth, so I have a couple of contacts I could use if I pursue this. Okay I think I'm going to go now.

I would love to read your article on Duluth's sex trade.

Your could start out by telling us how you get involved in an anti-trafficking organization in Kansas City.

Is there a similar anti-trafficking organization in Duluth?

If you write this article, please explain your investigative journalism techniques you used to find people that are willing to talk about prostitution, sex slavery, and organizations that help women get out of the sex trade. I have no idea where my journalism career will take me and these investigative journalism techniques may be useful to help me write future articles. These are hard topics to collect hard data on and I would have no idea where to start searching.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by John Hatcher published on January 20, 2010 12:53 PM.

"New Kings" intro and "Telling True Stories" part 1- Callie Good is the next entry in this blog.

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