February 2010 Archives

Orlean pulls off the story "on a whim"

"On a whim, I told my editor that I would do the piece if I could find a typical American ten-year-old man to profile instead-- someone who I thought was more deserving of that headline."

To her own dismay, Orlean didn't know where to start when her editor granted her the freedom to write about a boy other than Macauley Culkin.

She said, "obviously there is no such thing as a 'typical' boy or girl." This is funny to me because she put herself in the position to say that Macauley Culkin was NOT typical but there was really no such thing anyway. This tension set up her piece beautifully.

It seemed like she wrote about Colin Duffy with ease. He seemed to be exactly what Orlean would consider 'typical', that is, if there was such a thing. Part of me wanted to wait for something big to happen or a bigger story to emerge out of his life but I knew all along that that wasn't the point. It never happened and I wasn't disappointed.

One thing that's been sticking in my mind since the Weschler piece is that of journalists serving as record keepers. When it seems like a piece of journalism really has no "big picture" significance I think it serves as a record. What if someone were to look back 100 years from now and wonder what a boy was like in the 1990s? Or what if a art student 100 years from now wanted to find a information about Shapinsky's life? Weschler and Orlean almost become experts about what they write about. They are sources for answers to questions that might arise in the future. Do you agree?

Colin Duffy, Age Ten

For one thing, Susan Orlean's "The American Man, Age Ten" article is far shorter than Lawrence Weschler "Shapinsky's Karma" article.

Basically, Colin Duffy is typical of the ten-year-old boy that you would find anywhere in suburban America. I liked the way Susan Orlean on page 148 wrote that Colin Duffy would like to be called a "kid-up" a mixture of kid and grown-up. I liked the way Susan Orlean describes how Colin Duffy freely mixes horseplay and series subjects, "like finding a razor blade in a candy apple."

There was a well-described scene in Danny's Pizzeria on pages 150 to 153. Orlean created a nice link between her characters and the popular Street Fighter game. It appears as if the article is mostly about letting Colin Duffy just talk about the things that are important in his life. The article ends with Colin Duffy and his relationship with his own backyard.

I wonder how many times an editor would give a staff writer time to spend two weeks with an average American ten-year-old boy? I wonder how much information Orlean had to collect before she was able to write this article? I wonder by what method Orlean used to select these few topics out of many topics that boys like Colin Duffy talked about during his two-week interview? I'm sure that a typical American boy talked about many more subjects that the few that Orlean wrote about. I wonder if Susan Orlean will revisit Colin Duffy every ten years to see how things in his life such as his attitude, priorities, and outlook have changed for Mr. Duffy?

Kristen, Elayne, Veronica, April

Why, and how does dialogue give a story life? Give an example.

What are the benefits of having a source you know and don't know (aka contaminated access vs accelerated intimacy)

What does it mean to "evoke the soul of a place"

What are the different ways of handling time in a story

Possible Midterm Questions

Taylor Kraft, Molly Brown, Zach Hammer

1) on P.30 they have four writers talk about whether they use voice recorders or not. What are their arguments for and against and what is your argument?

2) Give an example of how someone writes their drafts. What is their structure in writing a draft.

3) What is the difference between art and storytelling.

4) How is pyschological interviewing helpful or harmful?

Post your suggested midterm questions here



The "To Begin the Beginning" section was one that rang most true to me. The writer's need to establish a strong voice right off the bat is initially important. The first couple paragraphs are when readers decide if it's going to be something they want to read or not. Beginning a story should feel like embarking on a journey, with a destination in mind. Structure is the organization behind writing. I think it's just as important as style or any other aspect of writing.

My question was brought up during the last class period, "Why/Is it ever okay to not directly quote someone, but get the gist of their idea, because isn't our interpretation of what they think relative to what we think they mean; rather then what they actually think?
Wow that sounds confusing...

Bittersweet Symphony

This reading made me think about Reporting and Writing II the entire time I was reading it. It seems that so many times in all of our journalism classes we are told to report report report and to some that might translate to "get as many quotes as you can and use them all so they can t hell their story". Kelly Benham made a great point however; her first rule about using quotes from subjects is to use them sparingly. She says it forces her to think harder as a job and therefor take control of HER story.

We have talked about editors taking over a story you may be writing, but it's probably harder to keep the subject from taking over the story, since it is about them. Using quotes, and using the right ones, sparingly can make for a more interesting read however. It DOES cause the writer to have to think more critically about what they are writing about and take that extra step to dig deeper into their subject.

I really liked the idea of story telling being symphonic. There definitely is a rhythm to how stories must be told. We can all remember being little and listening to someone tell us a story and perhaps it wasn't the best story, but how they were telling it that made us want to hear more. I think this has to do a lot with story structure and learning where and when to place certain aspects of a story. Thinking of a story as a symphony made sense to me, and makes me think that more often we should be reading our stories not only out loud, but to someone. There is a big difference.

My question and though that I had is exactly how you evoke the soul of place when you are writing...it's probably so obviously I am missing it but I think it is something many people struggle with and why we need to immerse ourselves into our writings in order to get the full meaning of it.

Crappy drafts and narrative writing

Right off the bat I was drawn into this reading. I really liked what Mark Kramer and Wendy Call stated in the introduction. "No one, not even the greatest writers, creates good first drafts. 'I have to write crap before I can write anything that is not crap,' says Walt Harrington" (97). I found that really interesting, because it was what I was going through writing our first story for Reporting and Writing II. I was struggling really hard and I was disappointed with my draft, but after reading this it actually encourages you. It kinda says that your first draft should be bad and it should help you work to a better final piece.

I also like how Jack Hart's piece on Summary vs. Narrative. I thought it was interesting to read the difference between the to and learn more about narrative writing. One question that I have is, is it better to write a story narratively? When we're writing just a normal news story, should be add that narrative aspect in it?

I liked this reading and I hope to take some aspects that I learned from it and apply it to my writing.


There are many new and interesting tools given to us in the chapter for today. I especially liked the section on endings by DeSilva: "Many editors still routinely cut from the bottom. If you are stuck with such an editor, keep writing good endings while you look for another job."
I thought the part describing the history of the inverted pyramid and how it is outdated was fascinating. It made me wonder if that is a factor in the current state of the newspaper.

While reading about structure and endings I was wondering about stories that don't particularly follow the structure of beginning, middle, and end. If it is an ongoing event what is the proper way to 'end' the story, even if it continues after?

Nora Ephron..fascinating

Some really interesting advice from this section caught my eye. In Nora Ephron's piece she says "I say to would-be screenwriters: 'Become journalists.' And I'll say to working journalists: 'Do not stay journalists. Become screenwriters.'" I loved that. As a movie-buff who studies journalism, but isn't sure about journalism as a career, that statement gives me hope. Just imagine it, Mark Warner penning a successful film based on his journalistic experiences in Duluth, Minnesota--whoa. I wonder, however, why does she make it sound so easy to accomplish this? I know of a lot of journalists, I know of a lot of screenwriters, but (off the top of my head) I don't think I know any journalist/screenwriters. It seems as though she makes the leap from one profession to the other seem shorter than it actually is. I like the idea and possibilities she presents here, I just wish she presented it realistically.

What am I even writing about?

"What is the story about," Brown said she asks herself before she starts writing. It seems like a simple question with even a simpler answer. But often times I find my self writing and not even knowing where my own story is going. If I don't know what direction my story is going in I certainly can't expect the reader to understand.

When editing stories from the Reporting and Writing II class I think this very same characteristic is what separated the good stories from the great stories. The writers that found and wrote about the deeper meanings to their stories are the ones that I remember and also the ones that people will care to read.

So how do we as writers go beyond the story idea given to us by our editors? How do we find the meaning in what we are writing?

I think in order to do this you have to look at what makes the story worth writing in the first place. What are the issues being faced in the story. Who are the people this story touches.

I obviously don't have the answers. But next time I sit down to write or edit a story the first question I will ask is, "What is it about".

blog entry due 2/25

I would have never put screenwriting and journalism in the same categories. But I guess it makes sense because it is similar to Video journalism, and writing scripts.

I also noticed throughout this chapter that they continue to talk about structure. My problem with that is that each writer has a different idea for which structure works for them. And they all make sense in a sort, but how do I decide which structure is going to work best for me? And which structure works best for what kind of story? kind of confused.

Stolen tool added to box

"That's my first rule about including a subject's exact words: Do it sparingly. Using fewer quotes make me a more disciplined and thoughtful writer."

Thank you Kelley Benham! I, too, think that using less quotations will make me take better control of the story. I've always thought that quotes are sacred, that it was VERY important for me to include my sources words. Now I know that it's very important for me to include them sparingly.

It's my job to tell the story. My sources allow me to do so. I also appreciate Benham's perspective on dialogue. I haven't experimented much with dialogue in my stories, yet I've done multiple interviews where I'm sitting with more than one person....my reader never knew.

In this section, Debra Dickerson also gave me some insight on using quotations. She made me laugh. "He printed what I had said as if I were judging her. Actually, I was empathizing with her." Okay. That definitely didn't help me as a journalist but this does. "When we publish a quote or a big of dialogue, we're telling the reader, 'This is exactly what the person said.' This is obvious but bear keeping in mind. Accuracy is essential."

She said that she gives the person many opportunities to repeat the offending behavior before she pegs someone. This tells me to draw warranted conclusions based on quotations. It also stuck out because of the supreme court case that we discussed during class. SCOTUS ruled that a quote just has to be what the source intended. Yikes! I think Dickerson implies that I can't be the judge of that, unless I give a person many opportunities to prove or show me what he/she meant.

I won't end by saying, "I like this. It was short."
Actually, I just did.

I enjoyed what the reading for today had to say about journalism and screenwriting and how they are related. I've never really put the two together until after reading this. It's always been an interest of mine to understand how screenwriters put their pieces together and I like thinking about it as a piece of reporting. What Ephron said really hit me, "we create stories by imposing narrative on the events that happen around us."

This quote brings me to my question for class, how is it possible to create stories by events that surround us when we have to worry about "contaminated sources?"

Ethical dilemmas in reporting

Debra Dickserson's piece "Hearing our Subjects' Voices: Keeping It Real and True" brought up many ethical deilemmas than can emerge when reporting. First, Dickerson focused on whether or not reporters should quote their sources verbatim or if they should correct their grammer to make them look better. Dickerson stated that one source that she interviewed was Vietnamese and she didn't correct the source's grammar because she tought it would change the effect of her story. Dickerson said, "Some of the things they said in English were more powerful as they actually said them. I don't regret my decision(108)." Many people within the Viatnamese community were angered by Dickerson's choice.Should reporters correct grammar in situations such as this? When is it appropriate for reporters to correct grammar errors within quotes? Secondly, Dickerson also stated that she purposefully angered one of her sources by playing devil's advocate in order to get him to open up more so she could gather more of an insight and get more quotes. According to Dickerson, "Making people angry is a good way to get the truth (109.)" Maybe making people angry is a good way to get the truth, but is it ethical?

Too much Karma

The edited version compared to the rough draft was so much better. I think about how sometime when I edit my stories all I change are grammatical things. Really, I should be changing a lot more then a missed comma here or a word spelt wrong there.

At first when I was reading the Karma story I liked the detail. Then as I continued to read for 60 pages I started to hate it. It took so much effort to read because what could have been said in one sentence was said in many. I like that the author is good at descriptive writing but I think this story exemplifies how there is a such thing as too many details.

The two Jeff Guerin stories

The first draft of Jeff Guerin's (I'm surprised that this spelling checker recognizes Jeff's last name) reads like my own first drafts. Too many details need to be rewritten so that they read as one paragraph. Too many details are left out, indicating that more research needs to be done. There are long sentences that could be broken into two individual sentences.

I was wondering if we could talk as a class about ways to tighten up our sentences, so fewer words tell a richer story?

I am not sure what bubble stickers are, so I looked it up.

"If you're relatively new to the world of scrapbooking, you may be wondering how to tell the difference between epoxy bubble stickers and regular scrapbooking stickers. While ordinary stickers are flat, epoxy bubble stickers have a shiny and dimensional appearance. The image on an epoxy sticker looks like it has been covered with a smooth plastic bubble and may appear to be slightly magnified."

The Weschler has no clothes

The changes that the editor(s) suggested to the Soldier article were very insightful. I am impressed by them. That being said, it is clear that the writers are very gifted storytellers, showing their skills in describing scenes and people. One of the tricks of a good storyteller is an abundance of details, but not details for details sake. That is a crucial point. Anyone can blubber on and on in a first-rate notebook dump. It takes the seasoned storyteller to give every detail that matters and only the details that matter. The changes made to the story help to do just that. There were many sentences where comments to the effect of "This is not needed. You already said that twice" or "What is this info supposed to do for the reader" change the story from a rambling flow of observations to a succinct picture painting.

Shapinsky was an intriguing read in that it was a rambling flow of observations, yet somehow manages to be supremely more famous than the Soldier story. There were many instances in the story where I expected certain details to come in to play later in the story, as they must have to (I assumed), for why else would the author note them? But it didn't happen. I felt that some of the track changes made to the Soldier article would have been of great assistance to the Shapinsky story.

Sure, I know Akumal like the back of my hand, but a more skilled writer could have done that in 60 well-placed words. Not 60 pages.

Question: Is Lawrence Weschler guilty of notebook dumping?

Rewriting and Karma

It was really interesting to compare the first draft of the Guerin story to the final version. Overall, I thought the final story was exponentially better than the rough one. It was tighter and more organized. I also thought it did more showing than telling. It let the reader figure out what was going on from the imagery and narrative, instead of spoon-feeding it. There were a couple of things I was sad to see go. I liked Jeff talking about the different injuries his buddies complained about to keep from being deployed. I thought that painted a picture of the dread those guys must have felt about the prospect of Afghanistan. I also loved the lizard part at the end. Maybe not the quippy first sentence about the 100 things to keep him busy. I loved the end, though. "He's got enough in him that I think he'll make it. I think he'll be OK." That really hit me in the gut. I wish that would have stayed in the story. The finished product was amazing, though, so I guess it worked. And the new ending was powerful. Moving on. It's encouraging to see how much rewriting went into it. You can end up with a pretty amazing story, even if you don't get it perfect the first time.

Shapinsky. I'm not sure what to say. It took me a while to get through it. I loved the story. What a fascinating journey this guy got to follow. I liked that it never really resolved the whole criticism against Shapinksy-- that he was just a shoddy imitator of De Koontz. By the time I finished it, though, I kind of had the feeling that De Koontz was probably peering into Shapinsky's dirty apartment window to copy him. Weschler's voice was a pretty significant part of the story. I did think he was an example of maybe a little TOO much voice. He poked so much fun at Akumal that I started getting sick of it. One thing I loved was how you could see Akumal rubbing off on him. In all the quotes, Akumal would pause and say something like "another good omen." About halfway into the story, Weschler is telling some narrative and HE points out something Akumal might have called a good omen. That's a fun way of showing the changing dynamics between the two. I've never seen a story with such long quotes. Paragraphs upon paragraphs of dialogue. Is that okay? I guess that would be my question of the day. I didn't really know you could do that. It was excessive and made the story drag a little in my opinion, but I'd be curious to know what others thought.

Lengthy story

Before reading "Shapinskys Karma" I took a peak to the end to see how many pages I needed to get through to complete this article. Well, I realized that this story was a bit longer than the average piece of writing that we have looked at over the semester and thought "wow, this is going to take awhile." I must admit, I was a little skeptical at first, but by about the 3rd page I was hooked. I was curious about Akumal and how he came to know of Mr. Shapinksy. I was curious to know what would result from his promoting of Mr. Shapinksy along with the purpose of Mr. Weschler being contacted in the first place. Overall, I enjoyed this piece of writing more than I anticipated, and cannot wait to hear of Akumal's next discovery.

Weschler 2.23

I don't think my entry is going to offer anything that hasn't already been said in the previous posts. I also thought Weschler's story dragged on far too long, and at times went into lengthy details when a simple description would have done fine. I didn't find anything particularly unique or interesting about the piece, except for Akumal's never-ending excitement and willingness to travel the world to get Shapinsky the exposure Akumal thought he deserved (which has nothing to do with the writing itself). It was very difficult for me to keep reading and make it to the end, but I think I would have struggled to make it to the finish regardless of how Weschel decided to write the piece. I'm not sure any story about art, art history or any form of painting could hold my interest to the tune of 60 pages. Of course that stance is beyond closed-minded, but I got through the whole story, and I probably wouldn't have before this semester began.

Editors...playing the part of the layman reader

The difference between the original Guerin story and the edited version illustrates an important hurdle in writing creative nonfiction professionally.
Because creative nonfiction is so much about the writer's "self" and experience, there is an inherent conflict between the writer and the editor. The writer was there, experiencing the story. The editor was not. The editor takes the place of the faceless "reader"; and in trying to make the piece of writing more comprehensible to "average Joe", forces the writer to remove some of the unneeded "personal" aspects.
It is the difference between having a story and knowing how to tell it.

Revision and Akumal

Reading through the original copy of the Guerin story showed me how much better revision can make a story even though I have never really been into the revision scene. The comments that were added really did help to put into perspective how a story can be changed for the better with an editor. The final story's organization flowed much better; the facts and anecdotes were more concise and held the reader's attention. I think that separating the story in to sections helped a lot. I am amazed that they are the same two stories.

Like many of my classmates, I found the Weschler story to be overly wordy and dropped names I have never heard. Aside from my art appreciation shortcomings, Weschler told a good story. I enjoyed his characters greatly - Akumal was hilarious. I have never met anyone like him, but after I read this story I felt that I knew him. The same goes for the Shapinskys'. I felt as though I was in the room with them; Harold and Kate were a great contrast. Though this may be high-brow New Yorker artsy reading anyone can enjoy Akumal's story.

Never just push something aside with out giving it a chance

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I am not sure how I feel about Lawrence Weschler's story, "Shapinsky's Karma." I liked the very beginning of it and it made me keep wanting to read it. I really liked how Akumal kept calling even though the author wouldn't listen and just pushed him off to the side. That made me think about my own area's of writing and it made me want to be aware of everybody I talk to and every detail I hear. You should never really push someone or an idea to the side, because you never know if it could be a big story or turning point. One thing that I didn't like about this story is that it went on and on and I feel like the author didn't choose what the focus of the story was. He would go to Akumal to Shapinksy and back and forth and I wasn't sure what the main focus was. I felt like I wanted to hear more of Shapinsky while reading it. I thought it was a cute ending how he talked about Akumal just wanting to do food for other people, but I was still curious more about how Shapinsky felt with the final outcome.

I thought that the final story of Jeff Guerin was a lot better then the first draft. I liked being able to read the first draft though and see what notes were in there and see how they were able to change it to make it even better. It made me want to think about my own drafts and think of ways that I need to revise my story to go that step further and really make it a good story. I enjoyed reading both the draft and the final story.

Well revised, bravo

I can't believe how much better the Jeff Guerin story became from the first draft to the second. The final copy read like professional journalism; the first version reminded me of a well-written reporting and writing 1 piece. My question: how much face-to-face dialogue was involved between editors and reporters here? Were the comments left on the page all the reporters had to work with, or was a plan mapped out between them and Editor Hatcher? If they took the comments and ran independently, I very, very impressed. Even if they didn't, it was a great job of revision. I like how the New York state Rep. (Craig?) was replaced in the spotlight by Jenn, the fiancee--she's so much more relevant and adds emotion that talking to some higher-up doesn't provide. Reading these articles is a good study on the reporter-editor relationship.

Less is more for Weschler...

When I first began reading this story I was very interested in it. Also the excessive use of details didn't bother me; he had talked about Akumal being overly descriptive as to give him in depth insight to his destiny. This made sense in the readings a bout Akuhmal and the way he talked. I felt I could even see the man talking. Over excited with breaks inbtetween thoughts made me get a sense of what it was like to not only talk to and about Akuhmal, but to try and write about him. Think about an 'interview' like that: someone who just rambles on and on and when you are trying to write about him you think of some other great quote he said and you put it in...right where you are writing. And its ok because that is what is was like talking to him. However, I felt like this style remained through the rest of the story. Details began to over power a man who was said to be "as reserved and measured and withdrawn as Akuhmal was vouble and extravegant and outgoing". It seemed contradictory to me to have such detail and make it seem like Shapinsky was as open as he came of. I think this story is a wonderful example as to how details can make or break a story; where they are needed and not needed and also what can happen when too many are shoved into small parts of a story.

I liked the final copy of Jeff's story to begin with and still hold that it is an extremely well written piece. It was interesting to see where a story can be and where it can go to. It makes readers, as well as writers, understand the importance of drafting and revising stories and where they can be taken when looked at more closely a second time....or third...or fourth...


This story was almost 60 pages! Tooooooo long, especially when the subject is art history. Is there a way he could've shortened it? Was the length proportional to the epicness of the story? I say no, but I'm sure some will disagree.

Despite it's length I still finished the piece, which I guess is a testament to the strength of the narrative. I wanted to know what happened to Shapinsky, and to Akumal. I thought Weschler focused too much on the Shapinsky story, which fell pretty flat. Old boring painter gets discovered, actually not that unique or good. Meh. The Akumal story seemed a little underserved to me. I feel like there was a lot that could've been said about the nature of 'making it' in the chaos of India's underclass.

I know the reason the piece was so long was because Weschler wanted to expound on both of those ideas, but I feel like a more focused piece would've been better. Maybe separate it into a two or three part series? Also the stuff about the mid-80s art scene was a complete waste of time. I really could care less and it just made me hate 'the art scene' even more.

Manifest Karma

Alternative title: Shapinsky's Akumal Ramachander, volunteer media agent.

Another alternative title: The media agent goes to the media, the media doesn't go to the media agent.

Key idea: "It was all built on the most precarious of coincidences. But, then again, it had to happen, because it was my karma to discover Harold Shapinsky, and it was Shapinsky's karma to be discovered by me."

Random thoughts I had while reading Shapinsky's Karma.

First of all, I would love to have someone as dedicated as Akumal Ramachander to advertise my creative works.

Second, it was a great insight to associate Shapinsky's abstract expressionist paintings with colorful butterflies and classical Indian dance.

Third, it appears to me that you don't need any special training or education to become a literary agent. The article could be read as a how to guide to be an art agent, information which could be very useful if I resume my job as a freelance writer and photographer.

I did like the two postscript additions (1988 and 1998) and wonder when a third update would be written?

"Bill" Guerin shoots and scores in revising.

Jeff's story's first draft is very fun to read to see where the writer and anyone working on it with him did to make the story better. There are some dramatic changes to the time line we talked about in class or many details, and the formulation and structure is different. The beginning of the story is way more spread out with a lot of different people and places, in my opinion the final draft is a bit better in that reguard. The same basic narrative was incorporated in the first draft with a lot of quotes and dialogue while Jeff is on duty. I will say the final draft is much more clean then the first, halfway through I still didn't hit that point where I was interested, although I had read it previously. As I mentioned the time line we talked about last class was much better in the final draft and seemed to tell a better story then the first, which seemed out of place and akward at times. Like when they spend so much time at the beginning with his mom and more of a family voice rather then in the second one talking the Jeff specifically about his injuries and war stories. The ending was to me better in the draft. There is a short piece where they end the conversation with Jeff about being a soldier for a few more weeks; "I don't give a rat's ass," then he concluded by refraining Jeff will never be able to do what he wants ever again blah blah blah. THEN he is still moving on and moving in with his wife and the plan to marry. The editor says he doesn't want any of it and that his wife vanishes and then reappears at the end, which I sort of like, since she is not intrigul to the story.

So I was just wondering what anyone thought of how the editor did with his notes on the first draft, did he make the story better? There are a lot of ones that could go both ways too.


Shapinsky- intriguing at first, then not so much...

In the beginning of Weschler's story I was anxious to see if the "wonderful destiny" that Akumal kept referring to would pan out. Weschler didn't have much interest in pursuing Shapinsky, but because of Akumal's persistence and daily phone calls, finally realized that there was something significant this artist. The way that Akumal compared Shapinsky's paintings to butterflies in Calcutta was really beautiful. I liked the proverb on page 95: "The thirsty man goes to the well, the well doesn't go to the thirsty man," showing that without persistence, luck and good fortune aren't enough to bring you what you want. You have to actively pursue it. Sounds like the life of a journalist chasing down stories...

Onto what I didn't like. After the first 20 or 30 pages, I got lost in a series of names and seemingly insignificant details that make me unmotivated to read the rest of the story. It's one thing to go into detail, but quality over quantity is something I think Weschler should have considered while writing this.

Blog Entry due 2/23

I think it is amazing how the same facts of a story in different orders can make such a difference in the story. I really like the final version of Jeff Guerin's story better than his first draft. I start to think about that in my own stories and writings, and sometimes I have a good topic but can never write it right. How do you take a story, switch it around a lot, and still make it the same story? (basically) because I have looked at stories before and try switching things around and have never became sucessful with it. Is there a technique?

The Kings story, in my opinion, sucked. I was so confused and I got lost in the story more than once. I have a short attention span and will admit, that I didn't even read the whole thing. It was too hard to. I kept getting characters mixed up and having to read back over what I just read because I was lost/confused. I feel the story, though interesting, could have been written better and more concise.

Enough with the name dropping, Lawrence!

After reading the epic Weschler story, I am wondering how he went in to the story in the first place. To me it read like a narrative on writing the story itself, and took the reader along for the entire process. I doubt he went in to the project knowing he would take that approach, and am curious as to why he chose it. And wow was it long. At the point where they were walking around the neighborhood I was wondering if anything would ever happen, and couldn't help but not care. I think this was the result of Weschler being so detailed in his approach. He obviously spent a lot of time with Shapinsky, but it ended up sounding like a chronological list of names Akumal had contacted.

It is always interesting to examine a first and final draft to look at how a piece has evolved, and it was proven in looking at the Syracuse journalism piece. The structure was completely different, and it was cool to see how they incorporated the comments into their final copy.

Lawrence Weschler got too personal.

I thought Lawrence Weschler's article "Shapinsky's Karma" was well-written but was too wordy. I found myself having to re-read paragraphs because I was reading without really comprehending. There were so many twisted details, it was hard to focus. Structurally, I liked the story, it flowed nicely, among all of the inner stories and details.

One thing I found myself thinking is what could have happened if Weschler wrote his story on Akumal, rather than Shapinsky. I think he could have found an interesting story in that, aside from the background information he provides.

"Writing is thinking." - Walt Harrington

The introduction to "Constructing a Structure," quotes Walt Harrington, "Writing is thinking. It is an extension of the reporting process." That statement is so true, as constructing nonfiction narrative requires much thinking. Instead of just retelling you what is written in the book, I'll share with you how I constructed my Endion depot article, written for Railroad Model Craftsman (RMC), a model railroad hobby magazine.

RMC's audience is people who are interested in building model railroads. But, few readers will actually build a model of Endion depot. Therefore, only three paragraphs are about building a model of the station. The rest of my text is about historical background information about the history of the area where the depot would be constructed, the people who created the structure, the structure itself, and how it was moved to its current location. Here are the first three paragraphs of my article.

In 1865, Captain T. A. Markland, along with M. P. Neil and C. E. Martin, chose the name Endion for their new lakeshore townsite, less than two miles northeast from what is now downtown Duluth. Endion, like many Minnesota locations, derived its name from a Native American word. In the Chippewa language it means, my, your, or his home. The three men platted Endion to become suburban lots "for capitalists doing business in (the city of) Superior."

In 1870, the Minnesota state government ordered that the townsite of Endion, along with many other underdeveloped communities, be incorporated into the city of Duluth. Over the following years, Endion came to be called East End.

In December 1886, a rail link was completed between Duluth and Two Harbors, Minnesota, by the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad or D&IR. In 1899, D&IR President J. H. McLean contacted architects Gearhard A. Tenbusch and I. Vernon Hill to draw up blueprints for a new station at 15th Avenue East and 1504 South Street. At this place was the division point between the D&IR and the many railroads that serviced downtown Duluth's Bridge Yard. Mr. McLean publicly stated that an impressive station would present a good first impression to both D&IR passengers and potential investors. Tenbusch and Hill designed a modified Romanesque structure that cost $10,000 to construct from sandstone quarried from Minnesota's Kettle River, pressed bricks from the Twin Cities, and local wood.

I began my manuscript's time line in 1856, about 43 years before Endion depot was constructed. In fact, I only started talked about the depot itself in the third paragraph. I had collected more information than what I used. But, I just included what facts I thought would be most informative to my readers. Did the first two paragraphs really add anything useful to Endion depot's story? I could have started my article with the third paragraph and still could have sold my article. Yet, I wanted my readers to know the background story of the area that the depot was first constructed upon and the background information of the name Endion.

My last paragraph is titled "Thanks" and is a list of the people who helped me write my article.

Transformation of Jeff Geurin story

It was interesting to compare the final copy of the story about Jeff Geurin to the initial draft. The first draft contains mostly the same content that is in the final copy, but it is structured much differently. I liked the intro in the final copy much better. It got straight to the point and the description of Jeff's injuries caught my attention and made me want to keep reading. In the first draft, the author starts out by describing the cut on Jeff's hand which was supposed to be his only war wound. Although, I like the content describing the scrapbook Jeff's mother put together as well her feelings in regards to the "war wound photo," I think they are placed in a more appropriate location in the final draft of the story. This lead delays the story of Jeff's injuries and it didn't grab my attention. Although the intro of the story didn't intrigue me much, I enjoyed the concluding paragraphs. I don't remember reading about Jeff's lizards in the final draft of the story, but I like how the authors incorporated it into the initial draft. I like how the authors turned the lizard into a metaphor representing Jeff's injuries. When the authors describe the lizard's condition they say, "It is difficult for the animal to eat or move about, and now the lizard is blind, as well." This statement clearly compares the Lizard's condition to Jeff's injuries without explicitly stating so. When Jeff is quoted saying, "I think he'll be OK," referring to the lizard, the authors are insinuating that Jeff thinks he himself will be okay as well. I like this ending because it is metaphorical and optimistic. It seems as though the authors put time into creating this metaphorical imagery and it added a nice touch to the conclusion of the story. I also noticed that there were a lot more direct quotes from Jeff in the first draft of the story. I like the narrative from Jeff, but I feel like some of his narrative took away from the narrative of other characters. The whole time I was reading the story, I kept wondering how Jeff's injuries and the situation he was put through affected his relationship with Jenn. I'm glad that the authors included more about Jenn and Jeff's relationship in the final draft of the story. It is evident that the authors put a great amount of time into developing this story and a great transformation was made between the initial draft and the final copy. Both the initial draft and the final copy have their pros and cons, but overall I liked the final copy better.

If I wrote like this, would you want to read it?

What I love about Lawrence Weschler's article is that it is so obvious Weschler spent A LOT of time wtih Shapinsky. So much in fact, that it became overwhelming to know so much about Shapinsky's daily activites, relationships, and career promotions. I got a little lost in the descriptions sometimes. So much, that I had to stop, put down my book, and look up Shapinsky's story on Wikepedia before continuing to read.

Since structure analysis is so fresh in my mind, I was paying close attention in this story. I thought individuals scenes were set up well-- easily done when a story, for the most part, follows a chronological order.

A question I'd like to ask the class is how you would describe the significance of both Weschler and Akumal in Shapinsky's life? By that I mean, how do the men's roles differ?

I very much enjoyed reading the first draft of the Jeff Guerin story. Editing is one of my areas of interest. It's hard for me to think I own any of these comments since most of them were eluded to in Dr. Hatcher's comments.

It's quite obvious that these writers were trying hard to experiment with narrative voices. There are so many scenes that are set up in the first two pages. It's too hard to follow. The scenes get jumbled and the writers try to make cross references from one scene to the other in the beginning.

There aren't drastic changes from the first two the second drafts in the graphs about his medical treatment overseas. I still like the colorful quotes. Seeing them in the first draft makes me confident that the reporters recognized those as vital parts of the story.

Overall I feel like the story, though buried a bit in the first draft, remains the same from the first to the final draft. I like it a lot. These writers did a great job.

structure definitely can make or break an article.

Well, It is hard for me to say what my real feelings are about the Shapinsky's story. I felt that his structure was good. I really liked how he explained how the story came into his life and it was entertaining. Akumal definitely made the story. He seems very eclectic and is very passionate. I thought that it was hard to keep track of the characters in the story and I think that was mainly because the paragraphs and sentences would go on to long. I had a hard time reading through his paragraphs that were describing certain events. I just think there were many details that weren't needed and they seemed to drag on. I think Akumal is the focal point of the story. He was an interesting character with a story to tell. Shapinsky was also a major contributor to the story, but I don't think he had a huge significance to why Weschler wrote this story. I think that if any other unknown artist was used, Akumal would still have the same effect on my reaction to this narrative. Compared to Gladwell I thought that this story had way better structure and I was able to identify it better. Not sure if that is good or bad? I enjoyed Gladwell's narrative for the very reason that he kept you thinking and on your toes. Even though the structure made no sense to me, it did make sense to the writer and I think that was Gladwell's purpose.

The army guy story draft was completely different than the final narrative. I thought the final article was structured so much better then the first draft. When I was reading the draft I just felt as if it took a long time to get to the meat of the story. I liked in the final how they started talking about his current status and then went back in time. I didn't like how they started the draft in the perspective of the mother. I think it was much more of an impact having the soldier's voice heard first. I didn't think it was necessary to write his story in chronological order from entering the army, to meeting his future wife etc. I think there were many details that took away from the main idea of the story.

Long and Windy

I didn't really enjoy reading Lawrence Weschler's article Shapinsky's Karma. I felt the sentence and paragraph structure was too long and windy for my own taste. I got lost in the information trying to figure out who was speaking when about what. It reminded me of the last piece we read in this book by Gladwell actually. In Gladwell's piece structure was a big influence, or should I say lack of structure. I felt like Weschler's piece has good structure as a whole but didn't like how each individual paragraph was structured. Whole paragraphs were a page or more long which I feel is unnecessary and can get boring.

One question I have for class discussion after reading this article is how important was Weschler's role in creating Shapinsky's fame? If he hadn't wrote this article about him, would Akumal have as much success in representing him?

Query Letter

As I pull into the driveway, I have a hard time believing that someone actually lives at the end of this road. The pine trees grow so close to the road that if a vehicle came from the opposite direction, we both wouldn't fit. It was a sunny day but the trees are so thick on both sides of my car that you couldn't tell. It was dim and dark. It looked like a place that a criminal would take their victims to bury them or hold them hostage while doing odd experiments on them. I was starting to doubt if I really wanted to go through with this or if I should just slowly back out of the driveway, seeing as there was nowhere to turn around. Oddly enough, my foot never moved from the gas pedal and onward I went, nervous and excited at the same time.

I reached a clearing and I see a house that can only be described as a shack. There is fire pit and a few folding chairs in the front yard, covered in snow. The house is made of multiple colors of wood. There are a few windows but there is so much dirt and grime on them that I doubt anyone can see through them. A single tube sticks out of the back of the building, where smoke is lazily blowing out. On the one side of the house is two neatly stacked rows of logs.

As I parked my car, I took a big sigh and opened the door. At the same time a mountain of a man comes walking out with a smile, making me feel a little more at ease. When I say mountain of a man, I mean he looks like he could live in the mountains, he can't even be six feet tall. He appears as if the words scissors and a razor left his vocabulary when he left the world behind him. I am up here to find out why this man, with a full beard and a warm smile, lives up here with no running water, no electricity, no phones, and no indoor plumbing.

I feel that this is a story worth writing about because I read this to a few people, and they both want to know more after reading these first three paragraphs. It is a human interest piece, as you put it, an ordinary person living in extraordinary circumstances. This guy, Richard Berglund, Dick for short, has had an interesting life.

He used to live out in Arizona with his wife, Barb. They had three kids together and then decided to move back to Pine City, MN where they both were originally from. They wanted to raise their family around their families. When they moved back to Minnesota, Barb became very ill. They found out that she had brain cancer, tumors. But this wasn't any ordinary cancer, where Dick and Barb lived in Arizona, was under large telephone lines. The radiation from the lines actually gave Barb the tumors, it was environmental. What had happened was the radiation from the lines destroyed a gene in her DNA that created immunities for the body and in the process the gene actually started working against her, creating the cancer.

She passed away in //DATE// and left Dick with three young children. His kids Jade, Holly, and Beau were unaware at the time, but this cancer was also their fate as well. Though this cancer was rare, it was also genetic and she passed this gene deficiency down to all three of her kids. Dick was a single dad, widowed and with three children that someday would get the same cancer that took his wife.

I wish that Dick would have stepped up to the plate, put his head down and just got through it, but he didn't. He crumbled and his world crumbled around him. He started drinking, a lot. He forgot about his kids, and Jade who is the oldest, started taking care of his younger sister and brother. Dick started doing more than drinking, and in //DATE// he was arrested for using and producing Meth. He went to Prison for //Length// and when he got out, he sold his place in Pine City and moved to where he is now. In August of this year, his youngest son, Beau, passed away from Brain Cancer at the age of 25. His Daughter Holly is doing another round of chemo, coming out of remission after 3 years. And his oldest son Jade, just had surgery in December because the cancer had spread to his kidney and they had to remove it. Jade also has two children, their daughter Maddie (5 yrs old) doesn't have the Gene deficiency but there 2 year old son Brady does.

I met with Dick once, so I don't have all the information, such as the dates and stuff. But He was REALLY a nice guy and he was really open to talking to me and telling me his story. He doesn't work so he will be willing to have me come up and visit whenever I want to. He gave me contact information to his Son Jade and to his daughter Holly and said that they would both be willing to talk to me as well, so I will have more sources. One obstacle that I might find hard is talking to him about his drug use, he seemed to skip over those details. I am hoping that through my visits this semester that he will open up and share more personal information. He didn't say that the reason why he moved up here and secluded himself was because he is ashamed of what he has done (meth.)

I don't know where I would want this published, but I think it is a really interesting story. As the story develops I will think about it more. I think people in Pine City should read it, because Dick is a really nice guy, as I can tell so far. And he has clearly had a rough life and people need to try and understand. The only connection I have with Dick is that I knew his youngest son Beau, he was two years older than me in High School. I don't really know his dad though. And how I got a hold of Dick was my mom's friend is friends with Dick's girlfriend. So I don't feel that this is contaminated access.

I am not sure if I will be writing this in first person.

Abel - Pitch



I have two ideas in the works, both of which have their respective pros and cons. As often happens if one is willing to let it, I would not be surprised if these stories change direction dramatically.

Pitch 1
If I had a dollar for every time I sped right past a car stranded on the side of the highway, without even a single glance in the rearview mirror or second thoughts of guilt, I would probably have enough dollars to pay for their tow truck. In feigned ignorance, we often avoid eye contact and assuage our conscience by entrusting their fate to a motorist following somewhere in our wake who is surely not encumbered by the chains of a schedule as tight as ours.
But does this Good Samaritan exist in other places than the rationales of "too busy" passersby? If yes, then why do they stop? What is it like to be in the position of the stranded driver? To find out these answers, I propose a story in which I will park my vehicle on the side of the highway, feigning car trouble. Anyone who stops to help (if indeed, anyone does) will be interviewed about their reason for stopping to lend assistance. A peace officer or two is bound to stop, and they can provide expert testimony and real-life examples about stranded cars.
One of my biggest questions about this experiment was whether or not this is actually legal. Could I get in trouble for being parked on the side of the highway when my car is, in fact, fully functional? I researched this by digging up all of the related traffic laws for the State of Minnesota, particularly Section 169.32 and169.34. In summary, it is only illegal if I am parked on the pavement or within 200 feet of a vision-obstructing curve in the road. If I was driving a bus or other vehicle of mass-transport that seats 40 or more people, then I could park on the pavement. Regardless of the legality of my parking space, if any peace office asks me to leave, I must do so promptly. Any violation of these regulations is a petty misdemeanor. So as long as I choose my parking spot carefully and obey any mandates from the cops, I should be able to pull this off.
This would be an interesting piece for the Duluth News Tribune or the Duluth Budgeteer, as well as the illustrious Voix du Lac. It is an interesting story because it appeals to everyone who drives or rides in cars. Plus, it being Northern Minnesota, cars get stranded on the side of the road with great frequency, making this story relevant to everyone's life experiences.
My lead would start with a description of my surroundings as I sit "stranded" on the road. Obviously, I cannot describe it until I have been there. After the scene description, I will explain with a nut graf that backtracks to the reason that I am there on the side of the road.
The problem I have with this article is that it may not end up to be long enough or in-depth enough to fit the description of this class. That is my biggest concern. It would make a great 1,000-word article. But it might be hard to go beyond that. But who knows, stories morph and grow as you write them, so the final product could very well turn out to be an analysis of the effects that apple butter sales have on the frequency of beer bongs given to students by professors.

Pitch 2
Spring break journal. I am going on a road trip to south Texas with some of my buddies. It will be a week of mayhem and questionable legality. Yes I have access, but it is contaminated access. A self-journal is a very attractive idea to me. It would be quite the story to tell. But, again, my concern is that I am writing about my friends, which raises credibility issues. Your thoughts?

We have read a lot of stories about people spending 6 months following a single person more closely than their shadow. They get into their head, into their life, and into the lives of everyone around them. Neither of my ideas have that. Is that a problem?

Druggies to Gospel Singers


Professor Hatcher,
There's a drab brick building on East second street where meth heads are turning into gospel singers. Intriguing, right? I think readers will think so. I want to write a story about Teen Challenge. It's a faith-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation program here in Duluth. I recently attended a concert put on by the Teen Challenge choir. I saw former drug addicts and dealers of all ages and ethnicities singing gospel songs. Most of them had tattoos, many of which said things like "s*** f***ing" and "deuce." All of them were dressed in crisp white collared shirts and ties. Are these guys for real? I want to do a story on Teen Challenge, what they do, and how they do it. I also want to take a hard look at if it's working or not. What's the success rate? Are these guys heading back to the streets as soon as they finish their 13 to 15-month program? I'd like to see this story in the Statesman and maybe the Deeper Waters online paper that the Editing II class is putting together. I think people will read it for a simple reason. We all love the story of redemption. Of people coming back from the proverbial dead. Of the drug addict getting clean and singing in a gospel choir. I'm meeting with one of the chemical dependency counselors, Rachel Wickstrom, on Friday. I also have contacts with the local director, a couple of guys who work there, a former TC security guard, and a handful of guys that went through or are currently going through the program. I hope you're as excited about this story as I am. Thanks so much for your time.
Emily Haavik

The Life of a Rounder?


I was in high school when the poker took the country and most of the world by storm. After the World Series of Poker Main Event was won by Chris Moneymaker - an amateur playing in his first live tournament - millions of people wanted to get it on the game of no limit Texas hold 'em. I remember becoming very involved in the "poker craze" and playing several nights a week with other high school-aged kids. I look back at that time now and realize that most of us were not very good at poker, and had a very limited knowledge of the ins and outs of the game.
Glancing ahead in the New Kings of Nonfiction book for class, I read bits and pieces from a story about a guy who played in the WSOP main event and made a very impressive run. This story gave me the urge to try and write something similar. I went out last weekend searching for ways to tie what happens in the poker world to a feature story. I'm not sure exactly where I want to go with it, but my first inclination is to try and get an in depth look at people whose main source of income is playing cards (such people are widely known as "rounders".) Since poker is widely perceived to be a game of luck, how are there people able to make ends meet via gambling? How does their lack of certainty about their level of income affect the way they live their lives? There are a couple other directions I could go, such as looking into the state of the economy and its affect on poker's popularity at casinos. I also wonder if any rounders would be able to offer some perspective as to whether general playing styles or attitudes have been altered since the economic downturn. Another, and perhaps more interesting story I could pursue is the underground poker games that take place. I've already been able to find out about multiple home games that are regularly hosted by students in the area. I also talked to someone about a high-stakes game that is hosted in the Minneapolis area, but it would take more than a little creativity on my part to get myself in a position to witness this game taking place. I also think the players may be hesitant to let me do a story on their game, which makes access a potential hurdle.

Ideally my story would be published in Minnesota Poker Magazine, which circulates monthly. If I were to look into the underground poker world, the fact that unregulated games are illegal makes me wonder where I would want such a story published.

A prospective lead I could start with would be: "Here's the thing, if you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker. That is the one rule to live by for (name main source), who has made his living at card tables around the state for the past X amount of years."

A loan with your life as collateral.


It feels like a hospital waiting room. There are people in white lab coats who look like doctors, but aren't. Dingy looking people who have probably been wearing the same clothes for a few days or maybe a few weeks sit around waiting for their turn to sell a bottle of what keeps them alive for a lousy twenty dollars.
Many college students and people who are strapped for cash often head down to the local plasma donation center to get a few bucks for their plasma. If you weigh as much as I do, they take 880 ml per donation. They claim your body reproduces it in two days and that there is nothing unhealthy about it.
I find this very hard to believe. I have been giving plasma for a couple years now and have never experienced any kind of negative side effect, but I am only 21.
I would like to find out long term effects this may cause on the human body. I also want to find out how many donators are aware of this and whether or not they care. Is it worth the money?
To this day, "Big Asbestos" is still shelling out millions of dollars per year from lawsuits brought by money hungry people whose loved ones were supposedly killed by the product. The man who invented asbestos did not see this coming, nor is he directly liable because he is dead.
For a side focus, there is definitely a "plasma culture". Sit in that room for an hour and you will know exactly what I mean. I could investigate how down and out you have to be before deciding this is your last resort.

Contaminated access?

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Its 2:43 on Thursday and im going to be honest, I am not going to any crazy spring break destination or going to study abroad, so we wont have to hear another such story. Quite honestly, I don't know what I want to write about, which I understand is the assignment. So I started thinking, what would be the most interesting story I could tell about anyone, myself, or a group of people alike. The first thing that came to my mind was lacrosse. Since I wont be able to travel, get rather drunk and write a story about that, I decided I would like to share aspects of UMD athletics that virtually no one would know about, or appreciate very much for that matter. I am going to take the reader through a season of ups and downs, highs and lows, and alot of gatorade. We will be traveling to various places around the country in our quest to win a national championship. That's not the heart of the story however, the bulk of the story in going to include things that no one would think of. Like going to superior and practicing until 1 A.M. Like the 2,500 dollars we pay out of pocket to play here. The tradition and winning ways behind the UMD lacrosse program. Most of all I am going to show you what it takes. It;s going to be a journey over almost a full semester. I think it could be neat to get it published in the Statesmen or the Lake Voice (great name).

Thank you editior,

Not your typical free from parents party Spring Break...

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Dear Editor,

Many people tend to do college Spring Break trips in Mexico or Florida with a huge group of their friends, but I am going with my 24-year-old sister, my 27- year-old brother and my parents. I think that the fact that everyone is getting together for a family trip at these ages makes a part of why it would be interesting. We are all at different spots in our lives, but are brought together through a family trip.

We will be going to Disneyland Amusement Park, which already will be a great place to observe and talk to people, maybe even get some interviews from some of the workers, since they are from all over the world. It would be kind of fun to talk about the experience going at these ages. We used to go all the time when we were younger, but now when we're older it adds a new level of experience.

We are also going to be going to LA and Santa Barbara. I think it would be interesting to notice the different cultures and the different lifestyle's that vary across the different places that I will be going to in California.

I could also compare the attitudes and the cultural differences between Minnesota and California.

I think that this piece would be interesting in the Statesmen or on the Statesmen web site if they did a section on Spring Break and people's travels.

I have been there before so I already know that California is very different then Minnesota. I know that this is kind of a broad idea, but I think if I can find some good information and can pull together everything I observe and experience it can make for a very interesting travel piece.

Thank you!

Adderall and College - Cheaper Than Cocaine


It is my opinion that ADD medicine is overprescribed. From talking to people with prescriptions they mostly say that they just asked their doctor for the prescription and received it. I am going to test this by trying to get a prescription myself. If I do get a prescription I can understand the inner workings of the drug and the system more fully. Not only that, it would prove my point perfectly that it is not difficult to get a prescription.
I know that Adderall is a prescription drug used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder. However, recent reports from NPR and a UW - Eau Claire study, say that college students are choosing to use these 'smart drugs' illegally to help them study. The study, published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, also remarks on the adverse effects of the drug: addiction, depression, turning users into 'zombies'. Prescribing ADD medicine is on the rise - "Between 1992 and 2002, the number of prescriptions for ADHD medications in the U.S. increased 369% to 23.4 million a year, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse report." (Twohey)
It seems to me that most of the prescriptions are occurring at a younger age, without much knowledge about the drug by the family or the child. I want to get to know the families that choose to give their child this drug that is in the same family as meth and cocaine. An example from my brothers' high school (my alma mater): two freshmen in high school (14-15 years old) got suspended for selling the drug - I want to meet these people.
Buying and selling of prescription drugs is a felony, and I know that it is prevalent at UMD from initial observations. However, my goal in this story is not to bust drug users. I want to get to know the people that have prescriptions as well as the people that choose to use it illicitly. I want to find out what it is like to be diagnosed with ADD - I want to get inside their head. I also want to know what steps a doctor must go through to prescribe this drug. I also want to understand why a drug only a short step away from cocaine is being prescribed so freely.
I plan to talk to doctors, pharmacists, users, buyers, sellers, UMD Health Services, UMDPD, Duluth PD, and families of users. However, two of my roommates are prescribed, which may be considered contaminated access. I think the best lead I have is the kids that got suspended back home. That is where I will start. I am hoping that the story will take on a life of its own. I want to be proven wrong.

Dear Professor Hatcher,

Sin City. Not really the most enduring name for a destination. Definitely not the name of the place my mom wanted me to spend any spring break. Since I am traveling with my boyfriend, the prospect of the horrid "Mom I went to Vegas and got married" speech. My self proclaimed 'cool' aunt has sent messages after messages about places I am allowed to go and at what times. Apparently my family is slightly uncomfortable with this upcoming trip I have planned.

Why though? What makes Vegas so worrisome for parents of college students? Where did it get this reputation for being a dark and troublesome place? Is everywhere you go in Vegas littered with drug, sex, and rock and roll?

I want to write about my trip to Vegas and find out these and more questions about what makes Vegas, Vegas. People who work at the world famous hotels and the many restaurants tourists visit. Those who perform night after night for the entertainment of those who flock to see them; what makes them do this and how did they get into the job they are in. The building blocks of Vegas are what make people trek out to the middle of a dessert to blow money on machines and games that rarely allow them to win.

Obviously none of the sources in the story would be contaminated as they would be met along the way. I plan on doing some research on the history of Vegas before I go to get an understanding of the place I am visiting. I think this would be an interesting story on a place people think they already know about. This type of work could be published in the Statesmen as a informational piece about one particular spring break that might turn into something much more.

Superior Bar Scene

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Dear Editor,

I am doing a piece on the Superior, WI bar scene. Most adults in the Twin Ports have been to one (or many) of the dozens of hole-in-the-wall bars in Superior. You know the type of establishments I'm talking about: Dingy, poorly lit, tons of antique shop relics decorating the walls, 32 oz. Leinenkeugels on tap for $3.00, crusty old regulars that look and sound like they've smoked 700 cigarettes on their stool since noon.

All I know about the Superior bar scene are the stereotypes described above. In my limited experience I've found them to be remarkably accurate - but also remarkably entertaining. There's something inherently compelling in people living stereotypes like that. As a relative newcomer to 'the northland' I often find myself finding people who live as 'northlanders': Icefishing, snowmobiling, hockey, cheese, and beer seem to be dominant factors in this culture. Maybe I'm right. Maybe I'm wrong. But it would be fascinating to delve deeper into this culture.

I see this being published in Lake Superior Magazine, maybe the Transistor, maybe the DNT or Budgeteer. I'm sure the Statesman would like it.


Brighton could have been brighter


Dear Editor,
I am one of the 250,000 students who studied abroad last year. While the majority of these students returned home with life-changing anecdotes, I have a different story to tell.

It didn't work out for me.

I left my study abroad experience in Brighton, England six weeks into the 15 week program. This was mid-semester for all of my peers. While they were mid-semester in their respective colleges, I was living at my parents' home in Rice Lake, WI. I've been racking my brain every since I returned home, trying to figure out "what went wrong." There very well might not be an answer to that question but I owe myself the time to think critically and write about what happened.

I thought it would be the experience of a life-time. I thought I would travel throughout all of Europe. Above all else, I thought I could do it.

I'll start by examining my travel documents, bank statements, e-mails, journals and Facebook messages from the six weeks that I lived in England. Equally important, I will look at these artifacts from the time I spent at home when the rest of my peers were away at school.

For example,

Today I got an e-mail from easyJet, a cheap European airline. I've tried several times to unsubscribe from the spam mail but it seems that in more than one way I can't escape. Last spring I booked a flight from London, England to Barcelona, Spain--a flight I never boarded. This makes me feel like shit. Why?

Are you interested in reading my account?

Kristen Krebs

Spring Break in Key West, DON'T DISREGARD JUST YET

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Before I bore you with yet another Spring Break story pitch, I have been thinking about what angle I would take i I did do a travel piece about my all girl, first time with no parental figure, spring break/ best friend's 21st birthday in Key West.

It would be very easy and overdone to talk about the massive amounts of alcohol to be consumed throughout the trip. However, I think that journaling interesting accounts of what I learned about the relationship dynamic between four 21-year-old girls spending a week together in a foreign city would be much more interesting.

Being that all of us girls in the group are very close, it would be interesting to keep track of the petty squabbles we have with each other we are sure to have along the way. I could even diagram the groups dynamic throughout the progression of the trip, showing which days and parts of the days we were amicable and which days we wanted to strangle each other. I'll journal dialogue between us all in the daily encounters we have making it more of a data based, relationship study rather then an account of the time we will spend sun tanning, and drinking pina coladas.

Road Trip

Dear Editor,

In three weeks I am traveling to to Florida by car. I know what your thinking. "Not another travel log of a spring break trip". However, my story will not be about where I am going and what I do while I am there. It will be about the people I meet.

I really believe that everyone has a story worth telling, as we have discussed in a number of classes. So I plan on doing just that.

Maybe everyone I write about won't have some amazing life story, but everyone has something to say. I think the people you meet and the friends you make on a trip is what traveling is all about.

Of course in all of this will be scattered details of the trip itself. But as a whole I would like my journal to tell the stories of the people I meet.

Sex in the City: Chicago.

For Spring Break this year my friend Elise and I are going to Chicago during St. Patrick's day and staying on Michigan Avenue. The important thing to remember here is that we are 21 years old and will being doing this by ourselves, which may not seem like there's much to write about, but that's before you consider all things. We are taking the train, something neither of us have done before, staying in a ridiculously nice hotel, and partaking in the holiday festivities in whatever way we choose. There's a definite story here, especially given the fact that the two of us get lost in our home town and will be navigating Chicago on our own for five days.
I'll write about the people we meet, the places we go, all the messy aspects of the two of us traveling alone for the first time. This will be complete with dialogue, as Elise has some awesomely-bad one liners that will embarrass anyone.

Fighting for yourself

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Journalists of Jour 4001,
American patriotism has been abundant throughout history; brave men and women serving their country all for the betterment of mankind. Recently I have gotten a firsthand look at this dedication from my "it's complicated" boyfriend. This winter he decided to join the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps Marine Option (NROTC) on the U of M Twin Cities campus, where he was encouraged to remove himself from all his relationships, friends and family, and put his whole focus on becoming a marine. He began this by ending our relationship, stopped calling his friends on weekends and spent all of his time in the library or the gym. If the military could have such an effect on him this leads me to believe that they do on the majority of their recruits.
This topic leads me to propose to write a story on how the military influences its members and how that influence affects their relationships and school work in and out of the military. I plan interviewing current AFROTC members on the Duluth campus, as well as veterans returning to school now. My initial reporting was through my own experience with my boyfriend, as well as speaking with people who have had similar experiences to me when their loved one joined the military.
I believe I can accomplish this task because of the location of the AFROTC on campus. Some might argue that I have too close a relationship to the subject matter but I believe that if I interview others within the ROTC program I will get a different perspective. I think this is an important issue that needs to be talked about because of the current state of the military and American's position with the war. It's not a typical story about the war and I want to bring to the attention of the readers that those who are fighting have, or at least had, relationships and things to do back home. I would plan on publishing this piece on the online Duluth publication.
Here's an example of the lead I could have for the beginning of this story.
Dedication. This is what the United States military expects from its members. Without it, the entire system would be flawed. However, is there a cost? Time, sweat and brain power are all handed over to Uncle Sam, so where does one draw the line to stop giving this dedication before it overwhelms them into dropping everything they loved without a glance back? After joining the military Jake Sandkamp was excited to fight for his country but after struggling in school and friendships, he questions whether he was dedicating himself or simply signing a death sentence.

College student drug addiction

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Dear Professor Hatcher,

Jesse Mitzel's addiction turned his life upside down. At first, he partied, drank and engaged in social drug usage a few times a week with his friends. But the social drug usage rapidly turned into an addiction. Jesse began smoking marijuana multiple times each day. He carried his bongs and pipes with him in his pocket and he always had his marijuana near him in a zip block bag. Jesse's addiction got out of control and he ended up getting in trouble with the law.

Based on my initial reporting, Jesse was addicted to marijuana for about four months before he got help. He couldn't get through the day without getting high multiple times. He smoked when he woke up, during the day, and before he went to bed. This past January police caught him with drug paraphernalia and he was fined $135. At this point Jesse knew his smoking habits had gone too far and he needed to stop. Jesse didn't go to drug rehab and he didn't end up in jail; Jesse got through his addiction not with professional help, but with the help of his girlfriend. Torrie was his motivation to stop smoking. With her help and support Jesse was able to overcome his addiction and he and Torrie are now engaged.

I think it's worth writing a profile about Jesse because it spreads a personal story about addiction. It will provide insight on what it is like to be addicted to drugs and what it's like trying to overcome the addiction. I would include facts and statistics about drug usage in my story as well. This story would be worth reading because it could give readers who are in similar situations encouragement to get through their addiction.

I think this story would interest the audience of the UMD Statesman or the UMD journalism Website. Many college students engage in the activities that Jesse took part in and I think this particular audience would be interested in reading about what can happen when social drug using goes too far. I know I will be able to craft this story because I have talked to Jesse and he approved of me writing about him.

Thank you,
Jessica Peterson

The Road Trip

The road trip. Synonymous with boring, sleeping, carsickness, gas station bathrooms, and The License Plate Game to some, to us it meant adventure. We just got out of class Friday afternoon, and would drive through the night until we got to Fort Myers. As we jammed the last piece of luggage into the last possible spot, it struck me that we had a 24 hours of driving between us and sunny Florida. With music blaring and stomachs growling, we were off.

Based on what I know so far, travel journals can be many different things. I plan on focusing mine on the food that I eat as a way to bring the reader with me on the trip, and also to tie the story together with a common theme.

I think this idea is worth writing about because I have always been interested in travel writing and logs, but have never done anything with them after my trips. During the trip I'll be immersed in many cultures that are not my own, and will be interesting to write about. I think that the road trip will provide good framework for the ultimate vision of the story, people coming together through food. I want the reader to feel like they are along with for the trip.

Ultimately, I'd like to have my work published in something like the Statesman's online site, or something like Slate, the online publication that often has a somewhat informal tone.

I know that I can craft this story because I am actually going on the trip. I will be the main voice of the piece but plan on interviewing many restaurant workers, customers, and anyone else I see fit when I'm there. The sources won't be contaminated because I will not have met anyone along the way.

Dan Rather on Journalism

"Be careful. Journalism is more addictive than crack cocaine. Your life can get out of balance."
- Dan Rather

Could we spend a few minutes talking about how fun Journalism is?

"Watch out for those Italian boys!"

Dear Professor Hatcher,

Last summer I took a trip to Europe. A 30-day journal was my companion when I visited 8 countries and 12 cities. My idea for this piece is to use my travel journal and unique experiences I had to create a travel reflection. I want this piece to be both informative and entertaining with anecdotes from my own personal experience.

However, I don't just want this to be a reflection of my trip because that is what I have already done in my journal. I want to research information on college students study abroad opportunities. I want this piece to be an informative read for college students, so they can have a glimpse into the opportunity of traveling abroad. I want to interview other student travelers who have been to the places I have been and compare their experiences with my own. My hope would be that when someone reads my article they could have a better understanding of what to expect when traveling abroad as a student. I want to include certain recommendations and experiences I had and compare them to other student travelers.

I have already spoken to two college students I traveled with and wanted to get their insight on our trip. I also contacted the study abroad office at UMD and will be speaking with a representative from there to get background information on the process of traveling abroad. My hope is to get this published in the Statesman or another Duluth publication, so that college students can read about my experiences and want to make their own. Below I have written a rough lead/paragraph that may be included in my article.

I sit down anxiously clasping my hands together on to my lap, which has already formed a pool of water in my palms. I watch as a man furiously shoves his bag to the flight attendant asking him to check his bag. A young lady glances at my seat number and embarrassing enough, I had sat in the wrong seat. I hurriedly scurry to the next aisle and quickly inhabit my new seat, which is right in the middle. I let out a sigh knowing my legs will be cramped for a few hours. I grasped the book I had bought in the terminal; Rick Steves' Postcards from Europe. Before I have a chance to read the acknowledgements an enormous, bald, burley man tapped me on the shoulder and kindly asked in his Italian accent if his seat was next to mine. I nervously checked his ticket, but the giant Italian was already making his way to the window seat. Sitting on the plan that was about to fly 35,000 feet in the air from the Chicago O'Hare airport, I realized that my first travel adventure had already started with this Italian storyteller who had no filter, but his insights on travel and his stories about his family in Rome made me feel less anxious and more excited. Stephan Sontoro 067-021-037 gave me his number and he officially became the first contact I made in the European world and I had only been away from home for a couple of hours.

Thanks, April Hansen

You've Got Bike Trails!

Dear Professor John Hatcher and the rest of my fellow Journalism 4001 students:

My query letter's topic is about two area bike trails, the Willard Munger Trail and Duluth's Lakewalk. The Willard Munger Trail is a railbanked trail. The team railbank means that an entire railroad line's corridor is bought and reincarnated into recreational and non-motorized transit, while preserving it for future motorized use sometime in the future. Duluth's Lakewalk is a "Rail with Trail" design, meaning that an active railroad and a trail share the same corridor.

You may ask me why I focus my class article on Duluth's bike trails? First, these are recreational and non-motorized transit trails that everyone in our class can use. Second, unlike the proposed Northern Lights Express and Downtown Duluth's Multi-Modal Transit Station, these trails are tangible objects that we can have directly experience using today. Third, I could include photographs of both trails and show you what cool objects you can see from the trail. For example, on the Munger Trail there is an attack helicopter used as a gateway monument to a rural airport. Fourth, imagine someday being able to ride your bike all the way from Grand Maris to Hinckley on a paved bike trail. (1) Lastly, I could interview people who use, maintain, and build these trails. If you have your own questions about my topic, please post your questions and I'll make an attempt to answer these.

On the other hand, would you be more interested in a general article about bike trails like the Munger Trail? My article's big question could be what are these bicycling and walking trails, sometimes referred to as liner parks or greenways, have to do with John and Jane Q. Public in general and college students in particular? I could break this question into three parts: What railbanking is, who supports it, as well as who benefits from it.

For example, abandoned railroad corridors are being saved under the 1983 Railbanking law, while other corridors have become city, county, or state parks. Railbanking is a national law, enacted by congress in 1983, which saves or "banks" abandoned railroad corridors in the present by utilizing them as trails, while saving them for future motorized transportation use.

This law was challenged by a formidable group composed of Vermont developers, backed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Realtors, the American Cattlemen's Association, and the Pacific Legal Foundation. This case was decided in February 21, 1990; as the United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld that Congress has the power to preserve railroad rights-of-ways for present recreational and non-motorized transit trails, while saving these for future motorized transportation use. The Court ruled that, "Congress . . . Believed that every line is a potentially valuable national asset that merits preservation," and supported their ruling by adding, ". . . that is a judgment that Congress is entitled to make."

Or, should I just focus my article on one specific topic, such as the proposals to expand these two Duluth trails? I could discuss how current and future bike trails improve quality of life for both residents and tourists. Then again, asking an unemployed construction worker or someone who works at a bike shop if the city of Duluth should build more trails is like asking a hair stylist if you need a haircut.

I'm also thinking of using quotes about walking and bicycling to transition from one topic to another topic.

"It is solved by walking."- St. Augustine.

"Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live." - Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle"

Warmest regards,

James Buchanan

(1) Using words such as imagine are powerful tools in the writer's toolkit. These words ask your readers to think about the topics you have written about. Using words, such as imagine, turns your passive readers into active thinkers.

A rewrite Gladwell's article?

I know that this is off my topic, but some of us said that they didn't like the structure of Malcolm Gladwell's "Six degrees of Lois Weisberg" article. Therefore, I was thinking that it would be interesting if one of my fellow students would rewrite Gladwell's "Six degrees of Lois Weisberg" into an inverted pyramid just to see if we would like that structure better or not.

Mark's query letter

My Proposed topic-Love

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Topic lead: Most everyone in their life will experience what we all call "love". Love for and from their friends, family or husband/wife; all different kinds of love, but love all the same. What we may not realize is that we have more control over who we choose to love and "fall" in love with than we think.

What do I know?--- I have a few documents talking about love. Other than that, I have my own life experiences. I have talked with many people about their opinions on love.

Why write this?--- Because we all have our preconceived notions about love; in my opinion, we have not really looked at why or how we love from a more practical standpoint. We accept love as an inevitable feeling that we get, when in fact we have more conscious input than we think. I would like to give a different look at love, one that invokes the reader to challenge the way they think about love.

Where would I like to have it published?---Any sort of magazine, I don't know if a typical newspaper would pick this up.

Where's my proof that I can do this?--- I have a Linguistics professor that has spent a few years looking at the word love, and what it really means. I can interview him on his findings and his opinions. I can read his research. I had a Woman's Studies professor who teaches about love and other social aspects. I can interview regular students on their opinion on love. I can talk to a priest about love. I can also talk to a philosophy professor. I can interview a psychology professor. I believe there is a lot of people out there who have useful information about love. I can interview author's that have talked about love.

Structural Similarities between Gladwell's article and LOST?

While I was riding on the bus back to my home, I was wondering if I would attend the "Mardi (Gras) Party!" or watch the new LOST episode? Then, I thought about the similarities of the structure of an episode of LOST is much like the structure of Malcolm Gladwell's Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg. Is there anyone else who noticed these similarities or is this just in my head?

To answer the question of summer or winter Olympic games, I love for the summer games.

Olympic Women's Beach Volleyball!


I am Glad,well, sort of, to have read this.

Gladwell represents a juxtaposition to the journalistic methods used by Pepitone and Baker. I say that mostly because I have always wanted to use the word "juxtaposition." I am not sure that I used it right. But I digress.

In all seriousness, Gladwell spends little time with the subject and gobs of time with the subject's cirlce of acquaintances. The Soldier story spends most of the time with the subject, with a little accompanying info from friends and family.

Gladwell is kind of going out on a limb here, because even within narrative non-fiction (which prides itself in departure from journalistic norms), there are journalistic norms. These include getting very in-depth and down-n-dirty with your subject. This is normally done by spending lots of time with them. Gladwell says no. But then again, it is Malcolm Gladwell.

My question for the day is: Would this work all the time or just in this instance?

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

After reading Malcolm Gladwell's piece on Lois Weisberg, and how she is a part of so many different little worlds, I wonder how on earth his writing is able to keep my attention when he wanders off into topics like 'six degrees of Kevin Bacon.' I'm then reminded of how I took a communication class where we watched a video on the TedTalks website that was delivered by Gladwell. The speech was about spaghetti sauce. I don't remember much about his speech, other than that he made it interesting. How is he able to make everything he writes about so interesting? I keep trying to analyze his writing and figure out what the 'it' factor he has is, and what makes his writing and perspective so intriguing and come up empty. Is there something obvious that I am missing?

As for the structure of Gladwell's story, I think the numbering system he puts in play enables him to jump around between seemingly unrelated stories. It would be hard to make use of effective transitions when skipping around so freely, so I think the numbering system works perfectly.

Gladwell is THE storyteller

I am currently reading "Outliers" by mister Malcolm Gladwell and am entranced by his storytelling and attention to detail. I am full of jealousy of his ability to illustrate a person with key stories and important yet subtle details. I enjoyed the story about Lois Weisberg, I loved the back story he brought in about the scientific study about "Six Degrees of Separation" and how he explained the Kevin Bacon theory and how many other actors have a better "degree number" than him. He helped describe Lois through other people's stories and other people's opinions. He also brought in his own friendships for analysis and found that he too has a "Lois". He transitioned so well that you barely even noticed. If I could be half the writer that Malcolm Gladwell is, I may have a decent shot at making it as a professional writer.

Profiles and Transitions

Since for today's readings we were supposed to look more at structure, I was very critical of each author's use of transitions. Both stories were compelling and held my interest, but I though Gladwell's transitions were way too choppy. He stuck with the overall theme of social connections, more so how Lois was socially connected, but each new section started out with a completely different idea and then eventually came back to the main idea. I didn't really like that style.

I preferred the soldier story, which was still a profile, but read more like one fluid story. i was never confused about how one section fit with the one before it, as I was occasionally with Gladwell's story.

While I generally think of transitions as easy to write and use in academic and news writing, reading these two stories showed me that they are just as important and can be harder to insert in personal profiles. I understand why Gladwell wrote the way he did, but I liked Pepitone and Bakers' style much better.

Relationship chains...

I really enjoyed reading both of the readings we were assigned for class today. I actually really like Malcolm Gladwell's, "Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg." It got me thinking about my relationships with people and who I know, because of other people or who I know that are all linked back to one person. I enjoyed hearing about her and her life and I thought the author did a great job describing Lois and they way she talked and acted. I liked how he would out a pause in between quotes to try and represent how she would speak and take a puff of her cigarette. I also liked the quote on page 70, "It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those few." I found that to be interesting, because you never really sit back and think about all the people who have crossed your path throughout your life and the quote makes you think about those people that you are linked to and how small the world really is. I liked the order of the article in the beginning, but then I felt like in the middle of it I wanted to keep hearing more about her life and the lives of people who she crossed, but then again I guess they did a good job in each section putting her in there, because someone knew someone that knew her or could remember someone who knew of someone... It just really got me thinking about people in my classes to and people that I wouldn't expect to really have our lives cross. How many people do we really know through our "chains" of people?

I also liked the second reading about the soldier to. I thought that the students did a very good job describing the emotion of the mom and the parents and through the quotes that they chose to use you could really get a good picture.

I am glad that Malcolm did so well.

When I saw the title of the Gladwell piece, I couldn't imagine it being that interesting. I was thinking, 'did this guy seriously write 20 pages on that six degree social experiment?' As soon as I started reading, though, I was hooked. I love his prose. I love his conversational voice. I love the kindness with which he treats his sources. I think Gladwell has a great skill for linking a lot of separate ideas and making them all make sense. He's talking about Lois, he's talking about her social life, he's talking about how human beings are connected and what it means, he's talking about Lois's art projects, he's talking about Burgess Meredith. Kind of broad and a little scattered, but he brings it all together.

On the whole structure thing. I like the little numbered 'chapters' and the way he uses them to organize, but I did wonder if he was cheating a little bit. Some of the transitions between these sections would have worked without the break, but a couple of them would have been hard to do. Example-- here's the end of 6 and the beginning of 7, without the chapter break thing. "That's why he's poor. Poverty is not deprivation. It's isolation. I once met a man named Roger Horchow." Kind of random, especially since he's using Roger to illustrate a completely new idea. I'm sure if he'd done it differently he could have figured out a transition, and probably would have thrown in a paragraph break anyways, but I just wondered if the number thing was kind of a crutch? Either way, I guess I can't really see it as a fault, because I thought the story was amazing. I liked the soldier story too but I've written a lot already and I think I'm going to stop now.

Gladwell & Style

Malcomb Gladwell has a very unique voice. It's subdued and concise, almost like a history professor, but his curiosity and thought-provoking research gives it life. He strikes me as a guy who spends a lot of time ruminating.

I tried to think about who I know like Lois Weisberg, but couldn't really come up with anyone. Too bad for me. Then I thought maybe I'm like Lois. That would be a cool role to play, pairing people up, having a little role in everything.

As for Gladwell's structure, the only thing that really stood out to me was how he used characters to introduce ideas. He introduces you to a character, tells you about the character, parlays that character's traits into an idea, and then explains his idea, often using scientific research to fortify his argument. Gladwell is very clever like that.

Louis is my mom

After reading the profile of Louis Weisburg, I couldn't help but to be semi jelous of someone like that. I would like to have a short chain length. It didn't seem apparent to me at first that the writer Malcom Gladwell knew the subject. After one-hundered chain lengths later, it turns out everyone in the damn story is connected somehow. Gladwell did an amazing job in providing context for everything she later connected Louis too. Anyone reading this story can not only get a visual in what she is like, but also how she is getting this story written about her, she is special, in some way. He has cited specific examples of positive differences she has made in the city of Chicago, my birth place. I think my aunt, who ran a very small hair salon in Schamburg, about 20 minutes out of the city, knew a Louis hmm...

I did however have a slight problem with a couple of the paragraphs in the story. After the first couple I wanted to know about her. Not about past studies by pychologists or sociologists. I just wanted to hear more about her.

The soldier story is similar. Providing context of why we were appriciate a certain person in a circumstance, that none of us can possible imagine. The description of not only the soldier but people around him, which we can learn more about him, was useful. It didn't just tell you who he is, but how he has gotten there and reason for it. he is always thinking about his future and someone else. He opened up and you can see him who he is, besides a soldier serving our country. The whole piece is fluent and easy to read, it's not just a piece about a soldier, its about Jeff.

oh yeah and pardon my French but apparently "fuck is universal"


Both were very well-written profiles of interesting people. The piece by Gladwell was thought provoking and provided an insight into a 'type' of people I had rarely thought of. Likewise, the Pepitone and Baker story gave me a touchable idea of a person that I don't want to think about. I enjoyed that both gave their stories personality without demeaning the characters in their stories. The student paper on war is likely an anti-war publication but were able to make me sympathize with a 'type' of people, soldiers, that I normally don't sympathize with.

Gladwell really made me like Lois Weisberg. There wasn't anything special about her, but the way he told her story it made it seem as if there was. Her descriptions of her, such as the way he integrated her constant cigarette smoking into her dialogue, or her big glasses and little frame, made me picture this wonderfully interesting woman. Not only did he give a great profile of her, he also made us think about a deeper issue - the connectivity of the human race and particularly the people that connect us.

These two stories highlight the fact that transitions are very tough to do correctly. They are by no means necessary, but good use of them can make a story. Bad use can completely ruin one.
Writers that try to be artsy and appealing are a dime a dozen. If you want to use time and setting transitions for anything other than providing context, you had better make sure you're already a famous writer.
The story about the soldier had good use of transition. The Malcolm Gladwell...not so much. Gladwell seemed to use transitions in an attempt at scatter-brained humor that could only be appreciated by women the same age or older than the main character.
If you jump around too much you are bound to lose the reader...and your career is DOOMED.

Soldier vs Degrees...Soldier wins

I really enjoyed both of the stories we read for class today. As always though one will stnad out brighter than the other, and for me, the soldier story did just that. While Galdwell's Six Degrees story was very interesting and a fun read, it seemed very choppy and cut up to me.

It seemed that as soon as I was introduced to Lois, someone else became the subject of the story for a while. The transitions in between sections were less than desirable and distracted from my experience I thought. That being said, what was in the sections was a very enjoyable read. Galdwell did a wonderful job of using description in order to tell the story instead of simply 'telling' story. I felt I could clearly picture Lois and understand her persona much clearer by the way she was described.

The Soldier story, I thought was an incredible use of story telling style. Starting off just where he is and then explaining how he became to be this way and how all he wants is for him and everyone else to be able to more on. I really like the beginning of the story with the use of repetition in the paragraphs of what everyone knows. I thought this just reiterated the fact that people know what he is now but they don't know how he got to be the way he is. I though it was a great way to transition into the 'looking back' part of the story.

Contaminated access??

While reading Gladwell's article, I couldn't help but question how he found his source. Isn't using Lois Weisberg, the mother of one of Gladwell's best pals, utilizing what the other book would call "contaminated access"? Perhaps Lois is an exception since she apparently knows everyone in Chicago, but it seems to me that Gladwell wouldn't know her unless she was the mom of a friend, which she is. Did anyone else question this? Is it even a problem here or am I misinterpreting the concept of contaminated access? Or should I just shut up and appreciate Lois' social skills?..

The Syracuse article really caught me off guard. I just wasn't expecting such a personal article to come from a college project. The article's seriousness would turn me off from writing one similar to it, but I have great respect for the writer who did. It couldn't have been easy. Poor soldier.

Blog Due 2/16

I really enjoyed the story about the soldier. It was interesting to see how he didn't really open up in the beginning but he started to as the story went on. I really like how descriptive it is, it really paints a picture. The first paragraph how he looks like an owl with is glasses. There is a picture of him a few pages down and it didn't really matter, I already knew how someone looks like an owl with glasses. I really paid attention to the transitions and I feel they were really smooth and had a really nice flow/pace. I feel that I seem to always have a hard time with transitions if they don't work for me, it can ruin the entire story. I never had to jump back to figure out what was being said.

In the "New Kings" story about Lois (written by Malcolm Gladwell) the transitions were much more abrupt but because there were sections/chapters in them, I felt that it didn't bounce around too much. I do feel that there were a few times within one section that it did ramble around/bounce around a little bit too much though. I feel that the story was placed/organized correctly. I like how it is not until chapter 3 until he starts to explain what type of person she is. Not just describe her life. But I have to wonder, would this be more effective as the first chapter? Would it be more clear what the story is?

Nice to meet you, Lois and Jeff

Young soldier puts broken life back together
This story is unbelievably well written. The reporter in this story didn't try to make it into anything that it wasn't. It's simply the story of Jeff. I am noticing more and more what it really means to write narrative. The following passage is something I wouldn't be able to write in a hard news story. I'd ask a reporter. Who told you that? Did he actually say that or did you make it up. But in this story, it works. Those are definitely the reporters words but they're true.

Every time someone wants to talk about his past,
Jeff is doing something for his future. He's thinking
about moving the boxes lying around the new TV in
his new home. He's thinking about his wedding to his
fiancée, Jenn Toteda, 28, an animated blonde studying
to become a nurse. He's thinking about if he can
walk his new English bulldog, Sarge.
For Jeff one thing's clear: Others haven't been
where he's been -- and they aren't going where he's

I think this reporter may have struggled with getting the source to speak, like Michael Lewis with Jonathan Lebed. I can tell that this challenge was all the more reason for the reporter to tell the story in a narrative fashion.

Below is a quotation used in the story. It doesn't come from Jeff but from his mother. I think this is such an essential detail. Since the main source was a little quieter I think details like this are essential for character building. You get the idea that if he's not going to talk about it, his mom will. You can see the support.

"I said, 'I want somebody fucking in here right
now,'" she said. "They went, 'Oooh!' They understood
'fuck.' Fuck is universal."

The organization of this story works so well. The organization is different from the Gladwell reading but both read similarly. Both reporters insert background information (statistics, numbers, etc.) so fittingly. The placement of each detail seems perfect in each of the stories. As a reader, each detail provided provoked a thought in my head about what was coming next and whether or not the "point" of the story was changing. Which, I think it did over time in the Gladwell story.

We're first introduced to Lois. I think this is a risky introduction. The reporter pulls it off with ease- I wouldnt be able to.

Some people might not want to read about an old, skinny, chain-smoking women. But the story really isn't about her at all.

I think we're first introduced to the main idea on page 71
"Jacob may be the capstone of my pyramid, but Lois is the capstone of lots and lots of people's pyramids, an dthat makes her social role different."

YET, the story still isn't about Lois. How do I know that? This reporter is SO good (or maybe, MAYBE I'm a smart reader).

Further, on page 73 we realize the main point (still not about Lois)
"It is not merely that she knows lots of people. It is that she belonds to lots of different worlds."
I love this idea! I feel like I've thought about it before. I brought this up with Hatcher already, he told me that much of Gladwell's writing seems that way.

The background that begins at the bottom of 68 is, I think, essential to the story. It's throught-provoking and placed perfectly where it won't be distracting. By the time I got to the bottom of 68 I was ready to take a break from Lois and read this background regarding the Harvard study.

The story ends with a scene about Lois. I think this ties the story to the beginning. We start wtih Lois, we end with Lois but the idea is bigger and it's slightly buried in the middle of the story. Lois introduces us to it- how fitting!

Differing Structures

I enjoyed the "Young Soldier" story much more than the Gladwell piece. While the Syracuse journalism story had a natural flow, I felt that the New Kings story went back and forth in a distracting way, drawing the reader away from the actual project the writer had in mind. By the time things got back to Lois, I had almost completely forgotten the story was actually about her. The Syracuse piece unfolded in a way that both gave me background on Guerin and drew me into present times. They both had interesting approaches to structure, but I thought the "Young Soldier" was more effective.

Details that make a story

I really enjoyed reading both of the stories for today. One thing I took away from both of them is how little added details can make a story.

In "Young soldier puts broken life back together" the first paragraph gives me enough detail to picture what he looks like, "Inch thick glasses magnify his blue eyes" and also gives detail to tell me that he is hurt, "The green glow of a golf tournament reflects on the small bluish spots that pepper his face". I think it is cool that after reading the first paragraph I have a feel of who he is and what he looks like. I can see an image of him.

The quote of him saying that he is not good at talking about what happened is also a good quote that shows who he is. He doesn't like to talk about what happened and that says something about the type of person he is, he doesn't need praise or recognition.

I did however think it was weird that the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th, paragraphs all started off the same way. They start by saying "his fiancee knows", "his family knows", "doctors know", and "other soldiers know". I know the reporter was probably doing this on purpose but I didn't like the way it read. Probably one of those things that some love and others hate. It read a little cheesy for me. What do you think?

One part of Gladwell I liked was, "Nor is Lois charismatic -- at least, not in the way that we think of extroverts and public figures as being charismatic. She doesn't fill a room; eyes don't swivel toward her as she makes her entrance. Lois has frizzy blonde hair, and when she's thinking between her coffee and her cigarette..." This is a good example of not just telling us that she isn't charismatic but showing us.

Similarities between a soldier and a social connector

The soldier piece that Pepitone and Baker wrote on Jeff Guerin was one that had a different angle that most journalists don't necessarily take. Most story's main focus is telling a long play by play with colorful quotes that sum up the character. This story articulated the fact that Guerin was scarred mentally and physically, and didn't really care to elaborate or give the authors exactly what they wanted to hear. Rather than going on and on about his tramatic near death encounter, Jeff's quote's remained short and relatively uninterested in "fluffing up" the story. He didn't care to portray himself as some alpha-male hero figure, but rather a man with a duty to serve his country, and return home to his family.

The structure of this story set up each of the beginning paragraphs explaining how "too many people knew the answer... his fiance knew. His family knew. His doctors knew." This small detail added interest into the flow of the piece, making it not only about Jeff but his loved ones as well.

Both readings were similar in that they contained people who had some extraordinary quality, but neither were aware of it, or didn't directly see this shining quality themselves. Guerin was a courageous survivor, whose family saw him as a miracle. Louis Weisberg has some unspoken x-factor that left her with connections to everyone and their mothers. The stories involve other people telling Guerin's and Westberg's stories, almost memoirs to them.

"The Louis Weisberg type. Why do select people seem to know everyone and the rest of us don't? How important are the people who know everything?" I liked how Gladwell described Weisberg as not traditionally charismatic. It made you wonder what was it about this woman that made her such a social connector? She harbored some special quality: "a spontaneous, entirely voluntary affinity for people." She didn't seek people, they sought her out. I think we all know a Louis Weisberg.

Effective techniques used in soldier story

I really enjoyed reading Young soldier puts life back together. The story contained really interesting information and it gave a good insight into Jeff's situation and his family life. The author used interesting techniques to effectively tell this story. It seems as though Jeff is one of the least quoted characters in the story. At the beginning of the story, the author stated that the family no longer speaks to reporters and when Jeff is asked by others what he wants to tell people about his story and the war he responds by saying, "I'm not too good with stuff like that." It is evident that Jeff does not frequently enjoy talking about his war experience. Although Jeff is the main subject of the story, Jeff's mom is quoted more than he is throughout the story. Although, Jeff is not often quoted directly, the author depicts Jeff's emotions in other ways. The author states that, "Jeff cannot tell his mother about the people pictured with him in the more than 700 photos he sent home from Afghanistan." This statement makes it clear that it is hard for Jeff to speak about his experience in Iraq. Jeff's frustration with the result of his injuries was also portrayed when the author said, "Jeff can no longer do everything he wants... 'Everyone was moving all these boxes around, and I was sitting here watching the TV." This quote tells the readers that Jeff is not happy about the fact that he can no longer help out around the house. He gets frustrated with the way his life has changed. I think that the author used effective techniques when telling reader's about Jeff's emotions.

In regards to the structure of the story, I like how the author began and ended the story in the same place - in front of the T.V. I like how the author answers the question "what does [Jeff] see" from the perspective of his family and friends, but he seems to leave room for speculation in regards to what Jeff actually sees. Structure seems very important in this type of story and it is evident that the author strategically chose this type of structure. But why did he choose this structure? How does one know what type of structure will be most effective for their story?

Flowing structure

After reading Young Soldier Puts Broken Life Back Together it's apparent that structure is a major effort that the authors used to emphasize their story. The use of headings within the story gives it more dimensions and allows the readers to follow the story easier. I liked how they put the mother's opinion of her son enlisting in the middle of the story of how he got hurt. It added some suspense and needed background to the story, as well as gave it more depth when the event was described in more detail. I liked how these authors structured their piece compared to Malcolm Gladwell in Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg.

I felt that the numbers in the Gladwell piece completed the job but it could've been done with better flow. I felt like the whole story was about Lois and then randomly in the middle they bring in how anyone can network, which is relevant, but I felt like it was put in the story haphazardly.

A question I have for discussion would be when do you need to consider structure? Do you have to be conscious of it when you are beginning the story, or can you write a rough draft and then manipulate it into a structure that works for the story?

Six degrees of separation is real

I found both profiles that we needed to read today very different when considering the context of the individual's stories, but both authors goal of telling the story through multiple perspectives was achieved. Since 2003, there has been so many stories about soldiers and the tragic events they deal with everyday. This story had those aspects but instead of only observing the soldiers' few, the writer considered the feelings of his family and made them apart of the story. In Malcolm Gladwell's story, I had a definite picture of Lois in my head the entire time I was reading the story. Gladwell was lucky to have such a colorful character to work with. Her simple quotes and her casual way she told her stories painted a picture of her personality. I really enjoyed how the concept of "six degrees of separation" was a main topic of this story and I think might have been the basis to why Gladwell wrote this piece. He could have just written an informative piece on this concept and had a few quotes from people, but instead he investigated and found someone who is a real-life example. At times I did get confused with the structure of story and he bounced around a lot. I got certain characters confused but all together it was interesting and I wanted to read more. I also looked at the structure and in Gladwell's story, he structured the story around Lois but also effectively observed other individuals while adding in the bigger picture of the six degrees of separation idea. He could have told Lois's story then gave background on this phenomenon, but I don't think it would have had the same impact. He used examples from Lois's life and others that applied to evidence towards the separation idea. In the soldier's story, I liked how he began with the current life of the soldier then began to tell the background information. The story was structured around his current life while having flash backs throughout the piece of his accident and experience in the military.

What is the best subgenre to tell your story?

While I was reading the "Name your Subgenre" chapter, I kept thinking about how to use this advice to unite my stories with the type of subgenre that would best tell my stories. If I were to travel to the Minnesota State Fair, I could write my journey as a travel narrative. But, I would write a very different piece if I wrote my manuscript around the character profiles of the people who run the fair events and those who visit the fair. If I wrote a history of the fair, I would write up a third and very different manuscript. In fact, if you gather enough background material, one trip to the state fair could help you write-up two or three articles for two or three different publications.

The most useful knowledge that I've learned in this class up until now is the Ladder of Abstraction. Roy Peter Clark says that all language falls on a Ladder of Abstraction. Mr. Clark would say that we need to write our reports at the bottom of the abstraction ladder, "where the goats can eat it, to use an old Alabama expression." Mr. Clark says that "Writing at the top of the ladder is telling, presenting a summary. Writing at the bottom of the ladder is showing."

At the bottom of the abstraction ladder is where you find the "most concrete, specific words" and describes things such as describing what it is like to watch a Minnesota Twins baseball game in the Target Field home baseball park. At the top of the abstraction ladder is where you find the "abstract language and ideas" such as the Latin phrases "Annuit cœptis" and "Novus ordo seclorum" that are found on the one-dollar bill.

Adam Hochschild describes the unreliable electricity in India. You could take this idea and use it for your own report, "How reliable is electricity in Duluth?" It is always fun when I'm just about to finish up a report and the power disappears in my apartment.

I've written three articles that included historical information about Duluth. For example, I wrote about Minnesota pioneer John Carey at the suggestion of my father. John Carey was born in Bangor, Maine in 1830 and died in Duluth, Minnesota in 1905. In 1855, John Carey moved to Superior, Wisconsin where he opened his own boot and shoe store. The depression of 1857 forced Mr. Carey to close his store and move to Oneota, Minnesota where he worked as a farmer during summer and cut timber during winter. In 1859, Mr. Carey was elected to the post of probate judge.

Here is what I think is the most interesting one idea in my article. "But, even with the income from being a judge, an innkeeper, and a mail carrier Mr. Carey still had difficulty supporting his family. We know this as we can still read the many letters he wrote to his family." For a reason still unknown to me, the last sentence was cut from the published text by the magazine editors.

For Narrative Investigate Writing, here is a link to a video of a television or Internet news broadcast that explains how a Swedish dance song named Caramelldansen (Swedish for Caramel Dance) became a Japanese dance craze. This video report used an interesting mix of street reporting, interviews, and stock film.

The reporter used his boombox to play the Caramel Dance song and get responses from the people he interviewed. With careful editing it appeared that everyone the reporter interviewed knew about both the song and the dance. The colorful, on screen titles and animated graphics added to the lighthearted mood of the report.


Even Imperial Stormtroopers dance the Caramel Dance!


In case you don't speak Japanese, here is the story of the Caramel Dance in English.


Who is, or could be, the social connector in your life?

My first main point is that I found it interesting that Gladwell based his essay around the focal or key idea that Lois Weisberg is a social connector. But, Gladwell only used the term "connector" once in his entire essay, "Lois is a connector" at the end of the top paragraph on page 66.

It was nice that Gladwell stayed at the bottom of the abstraction ladder. Gladwell does not use an abstract, top of the ladder explanation to tell his readers what the meaning of a social connector is. Instead, time after time, Gladwell shows his readers who, what, when, where, and how of Weisberg's social connections. Using nonfiction narrative, Gladwell didn't need to use a top of the ladder explanation like I found in Wikipedia.

To illustrate my point, let's take a look at how the Wikipedia pages for Lois Weisberg and the term connector read differently than Gladwell's essay. Speaking for myself, I found Gladwell's essay is much more fun to read and remember the key points that the Wikipedia pages.


"Renowned for the breadth of her acquaintanceship as well as for an ability to make keen and canny introductions, Weisberg was declared a connector by journalist Malcolm Gladwell in a January 11, 1999 New Yorker article titled 'Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg.' The article is included in Ira Glass' compilation The New Kings of Nonfiction."


"Connectors are people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub. Connectors usually know people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles."

"Although connectors are rare -- only one in several thousand people might be thought of as a true connector -- they are, like mavens (a trusted expert in a particular field) and salesmen, very important in the healthy function of civil society and business. Connectors are also important in trendsetting."

"Author Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term connector in his 2000 book 'The Tipping Point.' Paul Revere, Roger Horchow, Ahmed Ibrahim, and Lois Weisberg are notable connectors. Gladwell also suggests that mavens may act most effectively when in collaboration with connectors -, i.e., those people who have a wide network of casual acquaintances by whom they are trusted, often a network that crosses many social boundaries and groups. Connectors can thus easily and widely distribute the advice or insights of a maven." Gladwell popularized the term connector, but didn't use this term in a way that shouted to his readers, "Look how smart I am!"

My second main point is that I started thinking who is, or could be, the Louis Weisberg in my life? Who could be the Louis Weisberg in your life?

Just imagine who are the connected people in your life that you haven't thought about asking for support? Who are the people who have the same social connections as Lois Weisberg? Who are the people that might lead me or you to my or your first job in journalism and to start my or your career as a journalist?

Brainstorming answers


As fast as you can, answer the questions I'm going to ask you. I'll use this to help give you feedback.

at the mall...

Next time you are at the mall, go to the food court and sit and observe. It is busy, loud and highly entertaining. The people behind the counter are scurrying about. The Sbarro's dude is sporadically looking in the oven to check on pizza's, Taco John's is stocking up on their taco sauces (mild, medium, and hot) while the man working at Dairy Queen holds a blizzard upside for two middle aged women.

There are two women sitting to my left making faces at a little boy sitting with a lady who is clearly his grandma. The boy would pop is head up over his grandma's shoulder and then dodge back down when the women would look at him. When the two women making faces left, the boy focused his attention back to his grandma and the two other ladies at his table. He becomes restless within a few minutes.

A younger girl, who looks like she should be at school rather than working at the mall, is walking around with a broom and a scooper. The look on her face shows how she feels about this job; dull, easy and gloomy. She diligently scoops up garbage and food that has been dropped on the floor from the shoppers of the day. As she gets closer to me I notice she is missing "junk" on the floor. It shows how much she really gives a damn about her job.

No one is in line at Sbarro's and the guy behind the counter leans on the glass that covers the pizza just waiting... waiting for another customer, serving another slice, just waiting...

The Poet

It's Wednesday afternoon and the kids in playwriting class go around in a circle, sharing their most recent writing assignments with one another. It's a small class and pretty personal, with everyone packed into a makeshift circle of uncomfortable wooden chairs. Almost everyone in the class is a theater major, so it's a lively group. Most of the writing people have done for today is smart and quippy, falling somewhere in the category of comedy. The last person to go is that one guy that doesn't quite seem to fit here. He's kind of got an attitude and wears old jeans, flannel shirts, and those huge yellowish sunglasses. He kind of looks like he stepped out of the 70s. Everyone seems to expect him to deliver some sort of clever satire. He picks up his paper. I am two chairs down and am surprised to see his hands shaking. He begins to read and everyone gets quiet. He's written two pages of unsettling prose about the human condition, the desire to be free of the prison of self, and the hope in unity. His voice is a little shaky but his message gets across. When he's done he puts his paper in his lap and looks intently at the floor, pretending not to wait for anyone's reaction. The class is silent for a minute because it was beautiful and unexpected. We finally begin to raise our hands shyly and tell him we liked it, and then the class ends and the air fills with the screeching of chair-and-table-rearranging. The students leave one by one, all thinking that maybe people are more than they first appear to be. The poet leaves last.

Over Armour

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This morning marked the first time I made my way to the weight room at the Sports and Health Center here on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth. It used to be a semi-daily routine of mine, but I made the mistake of getting myself into a lazy habit or five over the month-long semester break. Walking back into the gym gave me an uncomfortable feeling like I was Bill Buckner walking back into Shea. While eying the main rack of weights up and down trying to figure out how much I could handle and just how shot my confidence was, I was more than relieved to see the most entertaining lifter int he history of fitness centers had made an appearance. He's not always the same person, but he's in the weight room almost every day without fail. You know who he is. The guy with the iPod slotted in his trendy iPod arm holder. Baggy silk shorts. He never goes to the gym without the most important element of his wardobe: over armour. Over armour, of course, being the air-tight compression clothing designed to wear underneath a typical t-shirt or tank top. Cardio is not in this guy's dictionary. I watched this guy perform several sets of exercises. Between his bicep curl, shoulder press, dumbbell row and butterflies, a couple remained constant. Consistently awful form and consistently audible breathing. For a guy so zoned in on the mirror in front of him, he certainly was not concerned with utilizing said mirrors as they were intended. I always love watching this guy work out and wondering to myself, "How much of a bear would he be if he tried to lift properly, rather than tossing as much weight around as possible with no consideration for how a lift is supposed to be performed and why?" Now I'm not who has a problem with people making noise while working out, but why is this guy always the loudest person in the gym? It must be the over amour. The over armour is what gets him to come back almost every day. He wants everyone present to notice his creatine-enhanced biceps, deltoids and pectorals. The muscles he built doing nearly everything the wrong way. How much time would this guy save in his effort to 'get big' if he toned it down a notch and focused on doing things the right way? Does he eat food, or is he on a supplements-only diet. I can never ask this guy about it, because he enjoys watching himself butcher every lift int he mirror. He knows he's the toughest guy in the weight room, I'm sure he'd tell anyone who asks. Plus he could potentially be juiced out of his mind, and 'roid rage could be a factor. I left the gym chuckling to myself about how 'that guy' is always there, and wondering what everyone else thinks, if anything about 'that guy.'

My opinion letter for Ken Buehler

A few weeks ago, I had written an opinion letter about the Northern Lights Express (NLX) that was published in the Duluth News Tribune on February Third under the title, "Pessimism hinders chance to build rail transit." I wondered if Ken Buehler, Depot Executive Director, had seen my opinion letter? To hand him my letter and get in a good walk at the same time, I decided to walk from my downtown Duluth apartment to his office in the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center.

It was the first time I had visited Ken's new and slightly larger office. This space had been set aside for costume storage for the Duluth Playhouse. Ken was wearing a black suit that framed a classic white shirt and red tie. Ken's short black hair was nicely combed. Ken greeted me with a smile and a firm handshake while saying, "Good Morning, James. What can I do for you?"

While I searched my backpack, I told Ken about my opinion letter. Ken told me that he had not seen it in the newspaper. But, Ken added that he would like to have a copy for his files and to show his board of directors. I handed Ken a photocopy of my opinion letter. Ken quickly turned around and filed my letter in an office organizer on a bookshelf behind his office chair.

Ken's body was relaxed and his voice was strong with confidence as we talked about NLX and my next opinion letter. As we both had much to do that day, I then thanked Ken for his time, wished him well on building NLX, and walked out of his office, slowing down just long enough to help myself to a free granola bar on the way out.

Crunch time

He enters the computer lab like a one-man SWAT team. The door is burst wide open by his swinging book bag. His first and only pause is brief, as he flings a frantic gaze across the room, searching for a vacant seat. T-minus 10 minutes and counting until class starts and homework is due.

In one fluid motion, an epic display of multi-tasking, he pulls out the chair, sets down his backpack, logs in to the computer, and plugs in his flash drive. He taps his foot and fingers impatiently as the computer takes its own sweet time to load up.

9 minutes later, he is finished. With a satisfied smirk of victory, he hits print and collects his homework, ready to turn it in hot off the presses.

Stimulating Conversation

"You two sisters?" A elderly man curiously asked my room mate and I while walking into his old and shoddily constructed Two Harbors shop. Having fallen into a puddle of slush, and woken up on the very wrong side of the bed, conversation was the last thing on my mind. Her and I exchanged glances and laughed knowing the only similarities her and I shared were female and brunette. He truely looked at home in his rustic shop filled with various homemade jellies and bagged soup mixes. An old fireplace in the corner lit up the room and made it seem like this shop was it's own cozy comfortable world where time or stress didn't exist. The polar opposite of the stereotypical grumpy and spiteful old man, he was genuinely interested in conversation. When we told him that we were instead best friends and roommates, a smile spread across his wrinkly face and he looked at us thinking for a long time. My mood had gone from cranky and basically hating the world, to suddenly more content just by being in this old man's company. Finally he explained that he had heard once, that people who live together tend to grow into similar tendencies, and even sometimes begin to look alike. I politely agreed that I had heard this before as well. The man laughed and responded, "Well, I sure hope it's true because I've lived with my wife for 52 years and I think she's the beautiful woman there is." This adorable old man melted my heart. Married over 50 years and still madly in love. Images of the couple in black and white photographs throughout the years flashed across my mind. I wondered if his wife was just as wonderful as was. Probably. We sat and talked with his man for an hour or so, never finding out his name. However, I can say that little did he know, this man made my day, lifted my mood, and provided the best conversation I've had in a while.

My lunch date with John

He walked over to the table and sat down. It was the first table you see when you walk into the restaurant. Most customers wait to be sat until the host seats them, but not John. He took off his fedora hat exposing his grey hair and put it on the chair at the table behind him He then wrapped his coat around the chair as if the empty table behind him was not expected to be sat. Before I even went up to greet him I had a preconceived notion about him. He had already done so many restaurant "no's". Boy was I wrong. Before I could even introduce myself John reached out his hand, still in its leather glove, and shook my hand. "Hi. My name is John and I look forward to spending my lunch with you," he said. We spent the next hour chatting. I knew I had other tables I should be waiting on but there was something about John that touched my heart. His wife died from cancer 5 years ago and his kids live in California. His favorite food is baked beans. His favorite color is green. How can you know so much about a person that you just met? I like John. I will probably never see him again, but it was nice getting to know him for that hour.

There's always an entertaining moment...

For the most part, it was another typical Wednesday night at our household. Most of us were locked in our own rooms pretending to be doing the important assignment that we have due the next day, with good intentions of actually getting our work done tonight with zero distractions. Obviously we end up breaking our intentions multiple times and just end up pathetically facebook chatting each other, because we are to lazy and non-motivated to actually get up out of our swiveling desk chairs and leave the dent that we have made after sitting in the same spot for the last three hours, to actually go talk to one another. With six girls in a house there is always something going on so we will all cross paths during the night whether its in the kitchen while we get our tenth snack of the night, or if its just popping in one another's room as we dance our way to the bathroom.

Our night began to change a little. We were all in our rooms attempting to study when we heard loud thuds and quick jumping coming from downstairs in our living room. We all one at a time finally got out of our stationary positions and popped our heads out of the door and quickly filed down the stairs, low and be hold, finding one of our roommates doing the new "Insanity" work out video. We all took a spot on the stairs and began to watch our roommate dive left and right, up and down and we were exhausted just watching her. We all were interested and would jump in for a few seconds and then huff and puff our way to the kitchen to grab a snack and act like we were busy doing something. For some reason we all found this interesting and it brought us together at the end of the day. With six girls you all have different schedules and friends, so it is fun when at the end of the night something as little as a crazy work out video could bring you all together. All I have to say is there really is never a dull moment with six girls living in a house. You can always find a story or entertainment out of something.

A Doodler's Dilemma

As I was conversing with my girlfriend about her day, it dawned on me that I had just found my short story for class. And it goes something like this...

As Kari walked into her second class of the day, coaching philosophy, she was in no mood for learning. It was one of those days where your attention span is that of a squirrel. As she sat in class, chin in hand, eyes drooping, she decided it would be rude to fall asleep in class. So she pulled out her notebook and began to doodle.
Throughout this Picasso like drawing of nothing, she noticed that one loop resembled that of a cursive capital "L".
So, out of curiosity and sheer boredom, she decided to try and write the entire alphabet in cursive. She got every stinking letter but "J" and "S".
She thought "I remember in elementary school when this stuff was as important as division."
What a bunch of hoop-la.
Truth be told, Kari had not used cursive since about the 6th grade.
Cursive sits on the proverbial shelf, next to a wristwatch and a typewriter, all three waiting for this new technology to leave so they can, again, be needed.
After the realization and frustration of being taught a useless skill, Kari decided it may wiser to just doodle away her class period and not think about the wasted hours spent trying to draw a cursive "S".
Heck, at least she still can use all those formulas she learned in Calculus. What were those again...

The dangers of jumping rope

My roommate Mike is not the calmest of people, those of you who know him would certainly agree. So when Mike came home one day with his fingernail black and falling off, some questions arose. When Mike started his story as "so I was jumping rope this morning at the gym..." myself and our other two roommates started laughing uncontrollably. This is not the story I thought was going to come out of his mouth at all. Not realizing he didn't finish the story, I laughed my way right out of the living room and totally forgot about it.
It wasn't until about a week ago that his blackened fingernail was brought to my attention yet again when another friend asked me, "what the hell happened to your roommate's finger?!" Later that night when Mike and I were both at home, I ask him again, "hey Mike, did you shut your finger in the door or what?" So, again, Mike starts the story "I tried to tell you all and you just laughed at me! I was jumping rope at the gym..." I laughed my way right out of the kitchen during this story.
Finally, I sat through the story. Mike was jumping rope and some how the hard plastic part of the handle smashed him in the fingernail. It's been almost a month since this happened and I just finally heard the story and the nail still hasn't fallen off. But he does have a stimulated nail bed. What that means, is for you to decide.

We all just need a little extra boost...

At last the line had calmed down. The girls behind the counter at the coffee shop on campus looked at each other and let out a sigh. Another break between classes had just accosted them and now they breathed. A girl juggle in one hand the carrots and dip she had chosen and rapped her debit card on the counter. Everyone was waiting.

The girl at the end of the counter quickly bent down to put her purse back in her back pack, only to stand up to wait some more for her drink. The girls behind the counter, still trying to recover, were split between taking orders and making the orders. The ominous music from the soap operas on the TV seemed to be a sound track to the feeling the workers displayed on their faces. The girl at the end of the counter grabbed her drink before it was set on the counter and almost sprinted out of the coffee shop.

The distinct grind of the coffee machines over powered the TV, once again. Out of now where the line had grown from one girl waiting for her drink to four. "Iced Chai Tea!" yelled one of the girls as she punched the machine to make the orders move. Her face looked like she was threatening the machine I swear to god if you don't go, I will break you.

The hallway outside the shop began to fill with students going to and from classes, meetings, or whatever they were going to or from. The girls behind the counter yelled phrases like "extra foam!" and "no whip on that one!" at each other. The two are the espresso machine helped each other with their orders. "Can you pour me an extra shot?!" one asked the other as she stirred the tea in her hand. "Do you want it for your drink, or just for you?" joked the other as she smiled slightly.

"Don't tempt me." responded the tea girl as she put the tea on the counter and once again hit the button to make things move.

All About Business

As I walked in my house last night, I walked into a situation that was quite amusing. I was out at my friend's class working on a two-minute newscast for Julin's Digital Storytelling class. When i got back, I walked through our side door into our kitchen. Right away I noticed something was off, the humongous 100 pound oak-wood table that our landlord had left for our dining room wasn't there. I turned into the living room and saw all five of my roommates sitting in five perfectly aligned chairs. My obvious question, "Whats going on guys". There are papers, notebooks, laptops, a few beers, some tobacco products, and calculators on the huge table. "Test tomorrow", replied Nick. "*explicit*" "*explicit*", remarked my roommate Matt. "All of you" I asked. Brandon, Alex, and "Catch" confirmed yes. For about the first time ever, I hit a level of boredom unlike no other. All of my roommates were going to studying all night and I had nothing to do. Damn, i was bored. It's 9:15 pm when I sit down to observe these gorilla like creatures in their habitat under duress. Constant chatter about percentages and trust factors? Mixed in with some language you probably wouldn't want to hear, let alone your mother. I knew I was going to write about this, so I just sat down on the only couch that hadn't been moved. Turned on the TV, with volume off so they could study, but the Wild game on so they could watch. The next half hour might have well been a circus. I swear, one of them would get up to go number 1 or 2 every 1 or 2 minutes. Which sucks because its Matt's turn to get toilet paper, and he is behind. I really had no clue what they were talking about besides some basic terms I used in high school accounting and marketing. Other talk consisted of, what else, Girls. Another thing I cant really talk about in appropriate language either. The study session lasted for about three hours. Snooze fest.

The story is not really that cool but really interesting to me because I never really take a look at them studying for their business classes for LSBE. This is because they are all usually in their respected rooms. It was constant chatter and I couldn't tell how much studying really got done for the test. So many numbers and equations were exchanged, it was all fuzzy to me. We all have class at 3:30. The story begs a couple of questions. Why did these man-beasts I live with come out of their caves to study for the test together in the living room? Did they have to leave huge streaks across the hardwood floor? Did they successfully study for the first big test of the semester? I have known all these guys for at least three years now, a couple more, and I know no matter what that crazy thing I witnessed last night called a "study session bro" was, they will all do well on this test and we shall have a adventurous Thursday night. Amen, because I am still bored.

Table for One

A man came into the restaurant I work at yesterday. He was a big guy, over 6 feet, a scraggly grey beard and hair to match, with the overall look of a retired lumberjack. He sauntered behind the host as she sat him down at a small table for one. I walked up to the table and greeted him. He was eager to get a drink, but seemed like a friendly guy. After ordering a 25 ounce Mich Lite, I noticed that he was looking at the drink menu again before I could get him his first beer.
"I'll take one of these too," he said as he pointed to a somewhat fruity drink not usually ordered by men in the first place, now that I think about it. I got him the drink and went back to the table. I am always intrigued by people who are eating by themselves, and began to make some small-talk to find out the story behind this drinker. He explained that he is here to visit his daughter, but is here eating to kill time before she gets off of work. He smiled when talking about her, and told me about her job across the street at the gas station. Then, he slurped up the rest of his sugar-rimmed drink and ordered another, along with some lasagna. "Don't worry, she's picking me up," he said with a belly laugh.
He ate Old Chicago's sub-par lasagna almost as feverishly as he was drinking. He got another beer. I got him a water to go with it. At this point, while most people would be making lasagna mockeries, he was completely keeping his composure. We continued to talk, and he told me about what they were going to do tonight.
"She rented 3 movies and wants to watch them all!" Another belly laugh. After wolfing down the lasagna, he posed what he made seem a question of extreme importance. He leaned in. "Got any cheesecake?"
I couldn't help but wonder if his daughter is used to this, because he clearly was. This jolly drinker clearly made me think, and for that (and this story idea) I can thank him. As he paid his bill he told me I had done a great job, shook my hand. I took his $10 tip and went about my night. Everyone has a story, even people sitting at a table for one.

Another hipster

I couldn't tell you if he was enjoying that cigarette or if he was just bored and needed something to do. He MAY have been one of those long time smokers doing the dance of the addicted, but I doubt it. Most smoker's minds wander when they puff; but this dude was conscious of his cancer stick. The way he kept looking at it was like he was daring it to go out so he could show the butt how fast he could light up another one. He wanted me and the rest of the world to see him smoking. You could tell he was freezing but had no real desire to get back to what he was doing. If it was summer he probably would have stood there and smoked all night, or at least until his pack was gone.
He was one of those guys trying to find his identity in his beard. He would probably have a heart attack at the thought of shaving it. Getting rid of that facial hair wouldn't make him LOOK different; it would make him BE different.
Clean cut, this guy probably could have gotten a job on Wall Street; but I'm sure he would rather die first. So instead, he put on a beanie and a bunch of other clothes that were either from Ragstock or a previous century, grew a beard, and attended nightly concerts by bands that no one had ever heard of. All the while, trapping himself in endless packs of cigarettes which he probably didn't even want. It's like hating yourself because you're too scared to give a shit for fear that your sincerest efforts will take you nowhere.

The Chef

Chelsie and I sit at our dining room table, computers open, books out, music playing. Just like any other typical week night. Chelsie is surrounded by different patterns and pictures, focusing intently on the Photoshop project in front of her. I, on the other hand, and busy procrastinating by texting my brother and doing a crossword puzzle, rather than the mountain of homework I should be working on. We are both still dressed in our school-day attire; Chelsie in her yoga outfit, me in my less-cute shorts and T-shirt, still slightly red-faced and sweaty from that evening's run. The only thing atypical about this Tuesday night is our friend Ellen. While she is often found at our house, this night, she is in the kitchen. Rather than us throwing together whatever we have in our college-debt-ridden cabinets, Ellen has come over and offered to cook for us.

As Chelsie and I sit at the table, Ellen whirls around the kitchen, still in her ballet class garb, which made it totally okay for her to throw in an occasional leap or plie. She cooks with ease, and moves around our kitchen without any trouble, regardless of the fact that she doesn't live there. She refuses our help and uncharacteristically avoids conversation; all we can here is the boiling water, the occasional chopping and the sizzling of whatever is cooking in the oven. She serves us and my other roommate a beautiful meal of strawberry salad, boiled potatoes and tilapia, which turned out well in the oven, even after being exposed to whatever I set on fire in there the night before. When questioned of her motives, Ellen says, "I didn't want to waste a meal like this for just myself." Gotta love good friends.

Emma knows when she's right

I know I didn't get the whole story. I was there for the whole thing but I knew she was leaving parts out.

As she spoke, she nodded her head as if to say no, slightly less dramatically than a baby in a high chair who wants to be finished eating.

With each breath to start next vignette, more nodding. She was telling a story but her nodding told me that she was really saying, "you could never understand this completely."

Those of us who were listening were scattered around the office in swivel chairs. Soon we were nodding too, not our heads but our bodies in our chairs.

Were we nodding to comfort her? Probably.

The sub-leaser agreement had gone all wrong. Already, it has cost her 600 dollars. The institution that she rents from is taking her to court. She thinks, no, she knows, they don't have a case.

I believe her. I told you I didn't get the whole story but I believe her. A baby knows when he/she is finished eating. Emma knows when she's right.

The Weightlifter.

He approached the mirror, equipped with a 70 pound dumbbell in each hand. Just gripping the weight already had his biceps pulsating. Judging by the giant's inability to tear his eyes from the reflection before him, he obviously liked the man looking back at him. The back of his shirt read "Barnes II" and its sleeves had long ago been discarded. The front said "Eau Claire North Weightlifting '07;" clearly "Barnes II" has been at this for a while. Sitting there with my 30 pounders in hand (for the same type of lift) I couldn't help but feel like a toddler in his presence. Suddenly, a roar erupted from his side of the room. Blast off. As strong as his biceps were, his vocal chords seemed exponentially more forceful. With each painful repetition, another growl was unleashed upon the weightroom. This continued nine more times on each arm, until he apparently reached his limit. He stepped back, admired his work, and moved on. I wish I knew more about "Barnes II." Did "Barnes I" share his passion for personal fitness? Was it necessary that his music be loud enough for both of us to enjoy? Is he really as vain as my seven-minute exposure caused me to believe? And who listens to country to get in the zone? Sadly, I may never know. After putting my people-watching aside to do some actual lifting of my own, he vanished. Judging by his bronze complexion and chiseled everything, he is probably in the room quite often. Perhaps I will see him again someday and continue this cultural study. Until then I'll just have to assume that "Barnes II" could easily twist me into a pretzel if he ever desired--hopefully I never give him just cause to do so.


"Shouldn't have to worry about a shift change," says Trey cautiously as we pull up behind the West Duluth SuperOne in plain view of the I-35 N exit ramp. The time is 9:18.

His eyes dart around quickly, as if surveying for enemy snipers. He is cautious, but confident. Once he is sure we aren't being watched, "all right, let's do it."

Two gangly, bundled hoodlums jump out of the car. A broke-in Mercury Sable is the getaway car. Our target is in plain sight, we're locked in: a big green dumpster labeled 'Organics Recovery'.

As we flip over the two black flaps I hear Trey whisper under his breath, "jackpot." Staring back at me are more doughnuts than I've ever seen in one place. We both grab a garbage bag full of day-old doughnuts - at least 50 pastries preserved by Duluth's weather in each bag. The time is 9:19.

In one swoop Trey hits the trunk latch with one hand and throws me his bag with the other. I slam both bags in the trunk, close it, and hurry back to the passenger seat. We drive away by 9:20, as if it were a hostage situation executed with military precision.

"That should cover breakfast for a while," remarks a smart-ass Trey as we drive off.

Inside joke explains valentine

Eight circular tables were spread amongst the Kirby Rafters. Forty eight girls filled the chairs at the tables. The girls were reaching around each other to fight for glitter, stickers, ribbon and paper decorated with various designs.
"There are a limited number of supplies, so only use one piece of paper," the student in charge of Late Night Kirby events shouted.
Valentine's Day is four days away and it was craft night in Kirby. My roommates, Erica Anderson and Kristina Borich, and I were making cards for our significant others. One would expect that a girl would decorate her valentine card with hearts and Xs and Os and cheesy valentine phrases such as "Be mine" and "I'm yours." But Kristina's card did not look like that at all.
"Does this look like a fish," Kristina said.
Erica and I dropped our scissors and paper and looked over to Kristina with our eyebrows raised, confused as to why Kristina drew a fish with glue and sprinkled glitter over it.
Once Kristina saw the looks on our faces she began to tell us the story behind why she drew a fish on the card.
"The first week me and my boyfriend were officially dating we went to a house party and we were super drunk and one of my good friends pushed us in the attic," Kristina said.
As soon as she brought up the attic, my mind started racing with how many different things can happen when teenagers are alone in an attic. I was a little nervous that the story was going to get a little dirty.
Kristina continued her story.
"We started making out....but it was totally PG," Kristina said. That cleared up my worries.
"When we were done making out I was still laying on the floor in my drunken happiness and Dan was on the other side of the room finding his shoe," Kristina said. "Then he slowly started going down and down and then a big bright light shined through the floor."
Kristina explained that at that time she screamed in shock as she realized that Dan fell through the floor and landed on a fish tank.
Fortunately, Dan was ok and all of the fish survived.
"I called him "fish tank" for about two months after that," Kristina said.
Although I thought it was weird that Kristina drew a fish on the valentine card she made for her boyfriend, once I understood the story behind it, I thought it was cute that she incorporated their inside joke in her card.

Typical Girls

Walking into Mel's room this evening one would expect some typical girls hanging out. My roommates Mel Grams and Claire Cordier are lounging in her room procrastinating their schoolwork talking about their weekend. Both are on her queen bed with MTV's latest on the TV, wearing sweatpants and drinking iced tea.
"My phone is sooo broken" said Mel.
"Oh that's no good" said Claire, "what happened?"
"I think someone peed on my phone"
Now I'm curious. It would seem to be pretty hard for someone to urinate one someone else's phone, especially seeing as it's usually attached to her hand. With the weekend's events behind them they were trying to recall what actually happened in the blur of the past two days. Thinking about where they went, who they talked to and what they even did Mel comes to the conclusion that no one actually peed on her phone. This of course happened after an hour conversation talking about fish, the TV, landlords and iPhones; all with never even making eye contact with each other.
"I dropped it in the toilet" said Mel laughing.
"Wow that's not so bad I guess" said Claire, "still sucks though."
So, after walking into what would seem like a typical conversation from some typical girls hanging out, you might be surprised with what is actually being said.

bodybuilding is not just for men.

She stomped her feet through the gold colored platform, hitting the eyes of the UMD bulldog. She threw the metal weighted bar above her head and held a warrior pose.
Christyn May, the volleyball assistant coach at UMD, is training for a body-building contest this summer. Her husband Justin May is the head strength and conditioning coach for UMD athletes and also is an award-winning body-builder. Justin has been training Christyn for two months. She is a 39-year-old in a 20-year-old body. As she curls a 30-pound weight, her biceps literally emerge grabbing tightly around her ipod strapped to her arm. She explains that she has been training for almost two months and has her body fat down to 15 percent. For the past two months, she has been on a complete protein diet, consisting of a protein at every meal with shakes throughout the day. As she speaks, her abs line her white t-shirt that reads Nebraska-Omaha volleyball. She played volleyball at the University of Nebraska-Omaha for four years and has always been conscious of her health and body image. She decided to enter into a body building competition for the experience, but isn't looking forward to the outfit she has to wear. A very tight fitting and showy bikini with four inch heels. Very unusual dress compared to her workout clothes and jeans she is used to wearing. Her tan skin and dark features model the outlines of a woman bodybuilder, but as she sets down the dumb bells she says she a lot more muscle to gain in a short amount of time. As she finishes her workout, or what I thought, she grabs a drink of her water bottle and heads over to the green turf to finish her last part of her daily training... an ab workout.

Lecture in Labovitz

"Damn this is nice," I remarked to my friend as we traveled up the new, white stone staircase.

"Yeah that's because the business school alumni are the only people that make any money after they graduate," my friend retorted as we strode past the wall-mounted flat-screen monitors on our way into room 118 of the Labovitz School of Business and Economics.

We took our places towards the back of the lecture hall, sliding into our black computer chairs while simultaneously grabbing our laptops out of our backpacks.
The room was bustling with people performing the same procedure: Backpack on table, coat on back of chair, remove and stow iPod, settle into chair, remove laptop, start laptop, throw backpack under table, check text messages, make small-talk with neighbor.

As a Poly Sci major, I found the number of laptops (and other miscellaneous electronics) in use during class surprising. 80-90% of the class had laptops open during lecture and
80-90% of those laptops were on Facebook.

The fashionably dressed brunette in front of me already had three facebook chat windows open, which she was rapidly typing in between checking her email and downloading and opening notes off of a class website. A true businesswoman.

Class started with a YouTube video on Business Ethics that played on two huge screens mounted above the blackboard. The identical screens each measured 6-8 feet in height and the video quality was surprisingly good.

After the video the professor attempted to start a discussion as most of the class returned to Facebook. My attention returned to the brunette's Facebook. In addition to her business-like multitasking skills she was a world class stalker, rifling through friends' (or enemy's?) pictures with an admirable speed and efficiency. Girls sure do like taking pictures of themselves. One profile had over 1,500 picture tagged. Ridiculous. She now had four chat windows open. Her class notes were long gone.

Just for kicks I tried to search for her profile. No dice, although my feeble effort drew a chuckle and condescending head shake from my friend. I put away my laptop and resigned myself to a notebook and pen. Doodling would have to do for now.

My own two person Japanese animation club!

Let me clarify and expand on my original story with some background information. These events all happened in Duluth.

About ten years ago, my father had knee replacement surgery and was recovering at Bayshore Heath Center. As I didn't have access to a car at that time, my father asked me to ask my neighbor Kathy (she does not want me to use her last name) to give me rides to and from Bayshore so I could visit with my Dad. Kathy spent her time with my father and me, the three of us talking about our past and present lives.

About the same time, I was an active member of our University Anime Club. A fellow student named Amy (I don't remember her last name) had decided to move down to the Twin Cities to finish her degree at the main campus. Amy was moving into a smaller apartment and therefore gave away some of her extra copies from her animation video collection.

Amy gave me two video tapes containing the first seven episodes of "To Heart" a romantic comedy set in a Japanese high school. To Heart's leading man, Hiroyuki Fujita, has a number of adventures with his childhood friend Akari as well as a number of other female students in their high school.

To Heart's story was adapted and cleaned up from an adult visual novel. This anime version of the story therefore had none of those potentially offspring producing gyrations found in the original PC game. In fact, Hiroyuki and Akari don't even kiss each other. They just hold hands at the last act of the last episode. Here is a link to the opening animation and opening theme song that some of my fellow classmates might enjoy.


Previously, Kathy had given my father a TV set with a built in VCR. As something to pass the time, I suggested that the three of us watch my To Heart tapes. At first, both Kathy and my father were somewhat skeptical about watching a "cartoon," on videotape. However, as we watched the episodes they told me that they liked this series and wanted to see more.

So, for the next five years we had movie night one day each week. We saw many other titles from the fantasy series "The Twelve Kingdoms (TV)" to the action series "Read or Die (OVA)" that is described as James Bond meets the X-Men. Kathy and I are currently watching InuYasha (TV).

Kathy and I watch Anime for the character development and stories. An InuYasha story reminded Kathy of her first husband, while the stories of To Heart reminded me of my high school days.

Once, I asked Kathy what surprised her the most about Japanese animation. Kathy replied, "The nudity." Kathy often spoke the words, "Oh for Pete!" whenever she saw a flash of (mostly female) nudity.

Even after my father passed away, Kathy and I continued our tradition of watching Anime once an evening every week or every other week. The number of days we watch Japanese animation depends upon how much free time Kathy has.

Kathy knows little about Japanese animation. Thus, I pick all the titles that we watch. That power to decide what we will watch put me in the position of being the President of my own Anime club and Kathy is my only active member. I just realized that our club has no official name, but I could name it the Jim and Kathy Animation Club. So that is the story about my two person Japanese animation club.

A Contrast of Two Styles

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Personally I liked Hitt's story much more than Kalman's. I loved how Hitt's story began as a tale about the horrid toxic waste dump, but ended up becoming a story on the ridiculousness and insane complexity of tort law. I was really cool to read how Hitt slowly shifted the focus of the story. It was two seemingly unrelated stories melded together against the context of a broken community. It was awesome.

Kalman's piece felt more like yuppie propaganda than journalism. Like Able said below me, there's nothing wrong with that, but it does raise the question of where journalism ends and promotional literature begins. Although I liked the pictures in Kalman's piece, I felt the font was distracting and hard to read.

I hear you, Jack and Maira... loud and clear.

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I appreciated what Kalman was trying to do with "And the Pursuit of Happiness," but I'm not sure she achieved it. I was kind of put off by the childish writing and the crappy pictures. I realize she was trying to be artsy, and it may have been appropriate to the topic, but is it appropriate to the New York Times? Something about it felt a little patronizing. Like it was so focused on this cute little package that we would all find so fascinating, but it failed to deliver a quality story. Sorry if that's harsh, those are just my thoughts. And to idealize our founding fathers as these strong healthy organic men, when really an agrarian society was a function of the time they lived in and had many flaws of its own, as did they, seemed a little unprofessional. I did like the picture of the cow. And the line about the kids being "Pessimists, but happy ones." Other than that, I was not impressed. As for Hitt's story, I thought it was brilliant writing, but way too slanted and sarcastic. He nailed those corporations to the wall, and though it was entertaining, that's a job for the courts and not for a reporter. I did like his imagery on page 49 about the evidence room. "Usually all that's needed for the evidence in a case is just a box on a shelf. Stringfellow has its own room." Besides that, I heard Hitt's voice loud and clear... but maybe too clear. I guess the question I'm leaving with is, how much is too much when it comes to a reporter's own voice and opinion?

Kalman and Hitt

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I thoroughly enjoyed both articles. Both of them were very creative ways of dealing with the topics that were discussed in each of them. If i had to pick a favorite of the stories it would be And the Pursuit of Happiness. It might have been the story. It might have been the style it was written in. It might have been the pictures. It might have been the combination of all three. I tend to think it was the last one. The way Maira told the story made it much more enjoyable to read; not just because it had pretty pictures and cool fonts either. Starting off with what the founders of this country wanted compared to what we have become, and then turning it around to show ways we can overcome the non agrarian way of life in our country; loved it.

Toxic Dreams was an interesting read as well. I remember reading excerpts from this story either at the beginning of this book or in our other one for this class as well. The thing that took my by surprise in this story was the colorful quotes from the people he interviewed that were included in the story. Obviously if these had not been included the story would not have been the same. This makes the point even more prevalent that the people that you meet along the way to discovering a story, are the ones that make your story.

And the Pursuit of Happiness...Food Inc...?

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As I read the piece by Maira Kalman I couldn't help but think of a recent documentary that I saw. It was called "Food Inc. and it was about how we need to get back to our roots or true farming, and real local organic foods. She seemed to reflect the ideas of the movie in her article, and did it effectively. I loved her photos, especially the attractive McDonald's picture... I also thought she had a nice poetic ring to her story; using repetition with "I walked across the country, in my head". I do believe that we are what we eat, and if I can read a story about how humans are eating locally, cooking an egg with a spoon or growing their lunch at recess, then I'm a happy man. All in all, I believe a good article does one of two things: 1. Opens your eyes to a new experience or truth. Or 2. Encourages you to try and make a change. With the creative use of pictures and writing, this article has the ability to do both.

The different approaches of writing...

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I really enjoyed the article, "And the Pursuit of Happiness," by Maira Kalman. I thought it was a really interesting way of how she got the story and point across. She added pictures and wrote part of the story on them and it made it really simple to read and understand. I like how she talked about the schools that work in the gardens and then learn how to cook, prepare and clean up after themselves. It gives them a chance to experience a family lifestyle, especially for the children who don't get to experience that in their everyday life.

I liked the article by Jack Hitt to, but it was more confusing to me and a lot harder to understand. I wasn't sure exactly what happened to Stringfellow? I know that it was said to be making people sick, but did they actually figure out if it was the pit that was making them sick? I feel like he portrayed some of the people that he interviewed in a bad way. He made it sound like Newman was trying to hide the fact that they weren't really injured . Also some of the quotes that he included were kind of intense.

I thought that both of these were very different reads, but they also showed different ways to write and I found that very interesting. I never read pieces of journalism like this before I was in this class. It is interesting to see all the different approaches that people take on writing stories.

Refreshing Simplicity

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"And the pursuit of Happiness"...The simplicity of it stunned me. It is something I totally do not expect in the world of professional journalism...and its brilliant.
The fact that it is not black text on a white page makes all the difference in the world. The large scribbly text, the pictures, the simplistic language and subtle humor create an almost childlike element of common sense. It seems like free writing, or stream of consciousness, much like what we did at the end of class the other day.
I noticed it had a New York Times tag, but did this story really run in the paper or just online? To run it in the paper would be to ruin it.
That brings me to something else I have been wondering about. When studying this particular breed of journalism, I think it is important that we discuss WHERE every piece that we read RAN in order to further touch on where in BELONGS.

Nice pics, sub-par story

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"And the pursuit of happiness" fascinated me. I hadn't previously considered the possibility of using photographs as "literature," but it works here--kind of. It certainly did tell a story and utilized some great photos (the Eat Local hippymobile and the egg in a spoon were my favorites) but I couldn't help feeling confused. Did the writer ever "walk across the country" or is that some cute term used to describe travel? And why, when there are so many other great photos, does it only show a pair of nasty old boots on a sidewalk when she's "walking across the country." I'd have preferred her to use another term.

I like the unexpectedness of using photographs to tell a long story, but I can't help but feel the story would have captured better in a traditional writing format. I give props to Maira Kalman for taking a lot of nice pictures (I KNOW I couldn't take that many good snapshots) but she misses the Mark as far as storytelling is concerned.

A defense of Hitt, a critique of Kalman

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Some people seem a bit annoyed by Jack's style. I think that he comes across as a "hot shot reporter" to some people because of the time he spends on detailing his actions, process, methods, his own quotations, etc. But I believe that the whole purpose of the piece is more a story about reporting a story, than it is about the story of Stringfellow Acid Pits.

Yes, he addresses about this contemporary issue of toxic waste dumping, but really the story is about how a story can be the complete opposite of what it appears to be. It appeared to be a class-action lawsuit against irresponsible corporate giants. By the end of the story, we find that the citizens of Glen Avon had been up in arms for 30 years about the "toxic waste," paranoid and hypochondratic to the max, when in reality almost none of them experienced any real side effects. This journey to the odd truth that a community has been affected and defined for 30 years by a non-existant threat is the point of the story. In detailing this point, Jack is compelled to detail his methods and actions.

I, for one, loved the story. I especially loved how the truth didn't come out til the end. Just like a good mystery novel. He did a good job of disguising the truth until the last possible moment, giving us the same feeling of surprise that he experienced in real life.

The "And the pursuit.." was interesting. The cliche about pictures and 1000s of words has never been more vividly illustrated (literally). It was a very long story with very few words.

That being said, it was more of a rhetorical appeal for a return to agrarianism, not necessarily news reporting (not that it has to be, but i'm just sayin..). There is nothing wrong with telling a story that has a bit of persuasion in it, but in this case, the agenda was given much greater weight than the storytelling. And that is always a bit disappointing.

My question for the day deals with that. Where should the line be drawn with regards to storytelling and persuasion? All good stories have a message, but does that mean the message overrides the story? hmm.

I have studies the Greek philosopher Cicero in great length. One of his most famous quotes was, "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." Simple yes, but somewhat brilliant? I think so. Cicero dedicated his entire life and studies to finding out what was good. What gave life meaning and significance? He stressed the importance of education and relationships. In our culture that is newly defined by expediting every activity, especially our own nutrition, it was refreshing to read about Kalman's experience. I like how she explained our founding fathers and how they envisioned an agrarian society. If they could only see us now. The one question that the reading asked itself was, "Is there some inherant value to that life that we have lost?" I would argue yes. We, as a society have placed new value on efficiency and less value on the simple life: growing and cooking our own healthy food. I absolutely loved this piece. I think the photos incorporated into the reading captured real-life experience showing that maybe one day, society will realize that faster and more efficient isn't better. Maybe one day we will revert back to the good old days when little things mattered. It's an ambitious goal, but Kalman breathes new life into the topic with "And the Pursuit of Happiness."

Hitt's reading on the other hand was dry and lack-luster to me. While It was shocking to hear about the 13 pages of chemicals that were dumped into Stringfellow, I found the reading genuinely depressing because it didn't seem to have the same motivational message that Kalman's did.

Kalman:1 Hitt:0

Jack Hitt was a miss for me

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For today's readings, I liked Maria Kalman's significantly better. Even though I thought her ideas of the world somehow transforming to become more in touch with the earth are unrealistic, I liked her tone much better than Jack Hitt's. He reminded me of Lewis from last weeks readings and came across to me as a stereotypical arrogant journalist. Kalman's story was much more interesting to me and I like that as wishful-thinking-based as it was, it had an optimistic outlook, rather than Hitt's article about a toxic dump.

Neither story would have struck me as journalism before taking this class' approach, which I did like from both of them; they were original. But Kalman's was much easier and more interesting for me to read.

Two very different topics..

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These two readings were obvious extremely different, and I have to say, I really didn't like the Jack Hitt story. I felt concerned at the beginning and a little disgusted when he says that the chemicals that were dumped fills up 13 pages. Hitt didn't really keep my interest I guess, and he seemed a little arrogant in a journalistic way. I really enjoyed, and took a lot more away from the Maira Kalman article.
"Maybe there is a generic explanation for happiness, and all we need to do is take a pill that puts it into action. I asked him. He could not tell me because no one really knows. And anyway, everyone has to be sad part of the time; otherwise you would be insane." That was my favorite line throughout Kalman's article, and I like the way that it was written, physically written. I think that was a really cool way to do this type of an article, as opposed to just typing it out on a page.

stringfellow vs ???

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No amount of fatafat pills will help you? This is the most interesting piece of journalism I have ever seen. It is a new interesting spin on a topic that has held fire over the last half decade or so. The way we as Americans consume different kinds of foods and different levels of health. Kalman knows how to manipulate the reader. The font and pictures ever intrigue you to scroll down and keep reading. The pictures at times made me chuckle aloud, as I see a run down excuse for a backyard farm, and pessimistic kids who cook thier own food at school. The story just wouldnt have had any ethos just in a plain black and white newspaper feel. It brought to light the problem facing us American's and our eating habits. The problems I had with the story were the same things I enjoyed. The overly large font and seeming endless amount of photos. Is it hiding or shadowing what is trying to be told? Does the story jump around too much with many different thoughts ending in ..."in my head"? Fast walker in a fast city that eats fast food. Every city does, and every suburb.

Hilt's story on the other hand, was a little dry to me. Probably becuase I went into reading it thinking I was going to want to be flipping pages faster then my mind could read, due to my reaction of the last reading by Lewis, this was not the case. Maybe its becuase the subject matter although interesting, wasn't appealing to me? I dont know, I just did not enjoy it. He writes a good story here with small twists and turns of a small California town decimated by this "tragedy". I believe that if willing, this story could be turned into a good novel, which is kinda what I thought I was reading a chapter of when I read the story. I thought wow ok, here we have this problem and the financial aspect of it, but isnt there alot more to it? I want to see the little girl with a mis-shaped head. Or was it as he described, just a big scare? I think a few other people already stated that the best part was Hilts last interview with Randy Kelly, after all the swear words on page 54 is when I actually learned something about this toxic site. It is probably not as big of a deal as the 234 trials indicated. But hey, at least the town benifitted from the whole thing...to a tune of over 100 million dollars. Must be tough living the toxic dream...

Problems and Solutions

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Both articles were very interesting and not the kind of writing that the word journalism brings to mind. Maira Kalman's article was very innovative. From the font set to the imagery to the narrative; all made this story unique. Jack Hitt's character development in telling the Stringfellow story was also unique. He used his characters to tell what seems more like a creative short story than a narrative nonfiction.

The font of Kalman's story was great. It really helped to form the kind of story she was trying to write. The images were truly heartwarming at times, such as the elementary school kids who said they are "pessimists, but happy ones," or Bob Cannard's farm. I don't believe that the story would have the same impact on me without the photos. It made a difference to be able to see the people behind the food compared to the impersonal McDonald's sandwich. Both techniques made light of our obsession with fast food and poor diet.

I though Jack Hitt's story was also very good. His article read like a creative story with a plot line, character development, and even a twist. It was definitely something I would not think of as journalism before taking this class. He did a very good job telling the story and his thinking process through his eyes as he met the different characters. The characters are what made the story for me. I loved Randy Kelly, the last lawyer standing, with all of his "sumbitch's" and muthafucka's" (p. 53). With that description, I was able to generate a clear picture of this hotshot. Hilarious. My next favorite character was Rich Bailey, who was free of all the bureaucracy and trial complexities. His straightforwardness was a great change of pace for me, and it seems for Hitt too.

Even though everyone else has touched on the contrast between the two articles I think it is worth mentioning. And the Pursuit of Happiness was a very optimistic story. Even though it pointed out a problem in our culture this story was able to show how people are trying to change it. Toxic Dreams, on the other hand, was very pessimistic. It offered a problem, ..."low grade fear and vague anxiety that characterize our century," but it didn't offer a solution (p. 56). It offered a more nihilist, though humorous, conclusion.

Blog for Tuesday Feb. 9th

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These two stories were great! and Very different!! The story in the New Kings book reminded me a lot of the movie Erin Brokovich. Was this where the movie came from? The story was cool, really interesting, way intense!! I was so excited to hear what happened next I don't think I could have read any faster without skipping a sentence or two. I thought that it was crazy how they had that equation (p. 58) for figuring out what the defendant is going to do. The only thing that I didn't really like about the story is that the journalist put it into first person. In some areas, I can see how it works better for him to be in first person, but I also feel that it almost makes him appear arrogant of all the research he has done. Like he is super reporter or something.

The other story "the pursuit of happiness" was a little confusing to me. How does the title fit into the story? and I also felt that it jumped around too much. There wasn't a good flow to the story. I did enjoy the unique font and how it seemed more personable with pictures and stuff though. I feel that it does add to the story. Can we use pictures in our nonfiction story??

I don't know whether or not the intriguing juxtaposition of these two stories was intentional but I couldn't help but try to read "Toxic Dreams" the way it would read in a new media form similar to "And the Pursuit of Happiness."

In this new media form the reader is forced to interact with the words by scrolling down the page. The interruption of pictures between text keep the story unpredictable, especially because there's no way to see what's next unless you continue (to scroll) through the document.

This sentence in the Hitt reading was enough for me to close my book: "It became, in my mind, a diorama of the twentieth century and all its plagues: complexity, chaos, existential fear, tedium, colossal wads of money, and a neo-medieval contion that the objective truth is attainable if only one can spend enough money and take enough depositions."

If I came across it in the newspaper, I would never read a story about a chemical dumping into large stone cavities left by Stringfellow's excavations. Maybe, in short hard news articles. This article seems fit for a science magazine of sorts. That audience might eat their hearts out with content like this. Me? No.

I realize that that is harsh. But, seriously, read my headline.

These two readings taught me to try to incorporate new media whenever I can. I've recently taken on a larger role and the Statesman. I've realized now that if I take more initiative to secure art for my own stories, they will be more appealing to my audience. We have photographers at our fingertips but in addition to those resources I should be using my own skills.

With what I learned in Digital Storytelling and New Media Writing fresh in my head, now is a perfect time for me to experiment with new media.

Polar Opposites

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The two assigned readings for today were completely different, both in form, media, and prose. I have to say I liked the "Pursuit of Happiness" much more than Jack Hitt's article. To me, he came across as the hot-shot journalist type we were talking about last week with Lewis' chapter, only he pulled it off in a much more annoying, and seemingly unnatural way. His commentary had me rolling my eyes throughout the chapter. "Down a side street I passed Dumpsters crammed with ruined sofas and flaccid mattresses. A murder of cows, fat and shiny, tried to stare me down," he says on page 51. For some reason, these little additions seemed forced to me, and took away from his research.

I feel like he is doing another kind of journalism here, where his story is dry and he turns it into more of a profile of all the characters IN the story. I found it funny that he described ordering a beer with Robert Kelly, after our text last week used that very situation as an example of what not to do. I was still unintrested.

The online reading was more interesting to me, but I wonder what makes it journalism, if it is? I think that digital media has a new and interesting role in presenting news and information, but I'm not sure if I consider this journalism.

And the pursuit of happiness, by Maira Kalman

John Hatcher has this amazing ability to find the coolest articles! These essays are a strange mix of American history that I was not aware of, intertwined with Kalman's own family history and simple observations about life.

I read all the individual essays and liked the "Time Wastes Too Fast" essay to be my favorite one. I really love the Thomas Jefferson quotes, "Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing."

I wonder how many days it took Kalman to research her topics and edit them down into her final draft? When seen as a whole, this type of writing may at first appear to be hard work. But, each part of individual research, writing, or editing segment does not take that much time and I find it to be not hard work but fun. She tends to repeat important words and make comments about living in a FAST city, with FAST walkers, who eat FAST food.

Kalman used an interesting mix of photography and painting that was more emotionally moving to me that if she had used just photography or just paintings. Kalman also used words in all caps for emphasis. Kalman also uses her illustrations and words to reinforce each other, such as showing a picture of yellow leaves, with the White House behind them, and under it a caption that describes "and yellow leaf." Kalman has a habit of placing art into her paragraphs, sometimes making them harder to read. I love how she puts little questions like "Where does courage come from?" into her essays.

Maira Kalman nicely tries her "By George" article together by starting out with "George. George. He is everywhere." Kalman then concludes that article with "BY GEORGE! That's it. Savor the moment."

Perhaps, we should savor the moment of attending this class and being about to read and write reports about articles that most of us have never read before?

It would be an interesting project to create an essay that lists some of the place names that have George Washington's image or has his name on them. I wonder if some people have a hobby of collecting George Washington souvenirs? I wonder what it would be like to make a living as one of the 150 Lincoln presenters?

Quite honestly, it was hard for me to remain interested in Jack Hitt's Toxic Dreams, compared to Maira Kalman's piece. Kalman uses a simple writing technique that I find refreshing and I appreciated her use of photography to illustrate the story. I think this is a example of the "new journalism" and how it is evolving from the inverted pyramid style. Jack Hitt's narrative was revealing and and I would definitely give him the prize for best investigative reporting, but what it lacked for me was a passion that was apparent in Kalman's. I had two different feelings after reading both of them. They both touch on environmental issues that I believe are of interest to many people today, but I think Kalman did a better job at grabbing attention and making people pay attention. One thing I did like about Hitt's writing is that it flowed very well and I caught myself asking questions along the way that he answered immediately.

I appreciated Hitt's story when he said that the case was "pursuing him." I think this is any journalists dream. He followed his instincts and uncovered some hard truths about the toxic dumping in Glen Avon, California.

Kalman's piece sometimes came off as her being slightly naive, especially dealing with the idea that America needs to slow down and to not be a fast society. I totally agree with the ideas she had about the organic farming and to make it more affordable to low income families. The uniqueness of story made me want to read more and it was so easy to read and relate to.

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I really enjoyed reading "And the Pursuit of Happiness" by Maira Kalman. The chalkboard style background and font seemed to fit the piece nicely since Kahlam wrote an educational piece that incorporated travelling to two different schoolyards. The photos in the article all added to the story as well. Although a photo of a pair of old brown shoes on a sidewalk isn't very visually appealing, it made me want to actually put myself in those shoes and read the story with an open mind, considering the author's point of view.

Aside from the visual style of the story, I thought this article was very touching. It enabled me to think about our society in a new way. Kalman says, "Do the wealthy have access to the really healthy food while the less affluent do not? When you look at it that way, it does not feel at all like a democracy." I never considered before that our society could be seen as less of a democracy because less affluent people are unable to afford organic healthy foods. I think that this story was inspiring because society could change greatly if they actually took part in the activities stated by Kalman. Kalman also says in her article, "Can the elitism of a farmer's market shift so that the organic farms can be subsidized and that prices are reasonable for all people? That would be a democracy of healthy eating." This story makes me want to do something about the food supply and help make a difference. I thought it was touching that the students cooked their meals and sat down and eat together. Overall, I thought Kalman's article was influential and inspiring and I really enjoyed reading her style of writing.

Toxic Dreams

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After reading, Toxic Dreams: A California Town Finds Meaning in an Acid Pit by Jack Hitt, I realized that I really enjoy Hitt's writing style compared to Kalman's in the And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman. I liked how Hitt didn't just list what happened in the court cases but instead took a close up angle of the story from a point of view that no one had looked at yet for this dilemma. In Kalman's article I felt like it was formatted too much like a list of events and while they did relate to each other, I had a harder time understanding why compared to the Hitt story.

For example, in Toxic Dreams, some of the people who he interviewed advised him not to write a story about this saying that it's already been done before and that he's beating a dead horse by writing it. I am proud of Hitt for continuing with the story because he believed this side needed to be told. This is something I think reporters need to do more often; write stories from the angle they see best rather then what everyone expects you to write.

A question I leave for the class discussion would be when are you able to decide what angle you want to write from? Is it after you have a lot of experience and gain the trust of your editor? Or can you write freely whenever you please?

Toxic Dreams, by Jack Hitt

In the first paragraph, Jack Hitt wrote that Riverside County, California officials had a dream of "enticing industries" to their impoverished county by opening a toxic waste dumping site in a local granite quarry operated by J. B. Stringfellow. However, the article never answers my question if any industries that needed such a toxic waste dump ever did relocate to Riverside County or not. Riverside County officials dreamed about increasing industrial jobs and increasing their tax base. But, the result of poor planning and even worse operational supervision was that all Riverside County created was one of California's worst environmental hazards.

I wondered what a "just the facts" description of the Stringfellow acid pits would read like compared with Mr. Hitt's narrative nonfiction style of writing? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated Stringfellow as a "Superfund Site" and posted a detailed Internet page about this site.

http://yosemite.epa.gov/r9/sfund/r9sfdocw.nsf/3dec8ba3252368428825742600743733/0c1b8f98 9b2c080288257007005e9440!opendocument

This EPA site has more detailed information about what happened at Stringfellow. On the other hand, Jack Hitt's article contained more human drama and thus I would be predisposed to read Mr. Hitt's entire article than all the individual entries on the entire EPA page about the Stringfellow acid pits.

I noticed that Mr. Hitt labeled the county's Board of Trade officers as "small-bore" that apparently knew nothing about handling toxic waste. I have to wonder why these officers never sought help from geologists that could have prevented this tragedy from happening. For example, county officers could have lined the evaporation ponds before filling these with toxic wastes.

Moreover, I noticed that Jack Hitt's article was first published in the July 1995 issue of Harper's Magazine. I wondered what could have happened to the dump in the last fifteen years? Thus, I found an Internet site that has satellite maps of the Stringfellow Acid Pits. It was interesting to see that there seems to be additional work being done to dig up the toxic waste at the site when the image was taken. The photos show heavy machines and excavations at the work area.

For some reason, I had imagined that the Stringfellow Acid Pits was located in the middle of uninhabited pasture lands and forests. I imagined that the country's Board of Trade would have some common sense to have chosen a site for their toxic wastes dump that would be miles away from homes and businesses. I imagined that the only things I would see around their open air toxic waste dump would be cows, wild animals, and a few family farmsteads.

Imagine my surprise that instead I saw the toxic waste dump was actually so close to the Pomona Freeway, a major highway and beyond that hundreds of homes. In fact, the acid pits appear to be now surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

Of course, I don't know how many of these housing developments were there while the Stringfellow site was an active dump. I did see some abandoned home sites near the cleanup site.


Another Google map labels one nearby building as a "Popeyes Chicken." I don't know about you, but that's one restaurant I'm never going to have a meal at.

In conclusion, I wonder how we student journalists should use Internet services such as Google Maps to see what is around the point of interest of our articles?

A short lesson about naming daughters

Last night, my friend Kathy and I were watching my DVD set of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. This is a second season of the animated Nanoha series that was first aired in Japan.

One of the main characters of this series is a girl named Hayate, a name that could be read in written Japanese as "hurricane."

I asked Kathy why any parent would name their daughter hurricane. Kathy replied, "There are many reasons why a parent would name their daughter hurricane." I think that being a parent of a young adult daughter would make Kathy high qualified to know that it would be the correct thing to name a daughter hurricane.

Tell me a story


Do it. Just start writing. Tell me a story. Don't worry about grammar or how rough it is. Tell me a story. Concentrate on detail and place.

Adding to our writing toolboxes


From Telling True Stories, Part II, groups went through each entry and tried to parse out the writing tools that they found most useful from each entry. Here is a summary of those findings...

Telling True Stories: Part II

There seems to be a redundant drumbeat in the readings for this class. But it is a refreshing beat that I wouldn't mind marching to. Essentially it is that to write narrative journalism, you need to a) write with passion and emotion not found in traditional newsprint and b) invest the entirity of your soul into the story. These non-traditional methods are a breath of fresh air that inspire a new interest in journalism.

On page 26, Kramer gives the specific instruction that you should not have coffee with your subject on Thursday afternoon when he is not busy. You should tag along on Wednesday morning when he IS busy. That is the essence of true story telling. If you don't want the same PR press release that everyone else is getting, you need to climb into the skin of those you are writing about.

Looking back on the stories I have written, it dawns on me that this could not be more true. My best stories are a result of many intimate conversations with Mugs McGillis about her childhood mentor and local legend Mira Southworth. Instead of interviewing a mailman by phone, I followed him around town, walking behind him in the snow. When writing about the Duluth Rowing Club, I got in the boat and went for a row. "Eureka," the proverbial light bulb comes on.

It makes sense, really. Good story-telling is all about details. How can you expect to dig up the details if you don't get down and dirty and shed some sweat with a good ol fashioned shovel?

My question for this class is: Does this inspirational method of reporting have a place in every piece of journalism? Or is it relegated to those fortunate enough to get 10 months per story?


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I often have trouble with textbooks on these types of subjects. You know, textbooks on things like creative writing or photography. These things are arts; which to me is something you either have or you don't. Reading a book to have someone else TELL you how to release your creativity seems to defeat the purpose. It almost seems too "academic". I find it hard to really get anything out of these.
For example, I highly doubt Hunter S. Thompson ever picked up a book on gonzo journalism and said, "Okay, how I can I improve myself via another persons opinion?'

This sounds hard

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After reading section II of our book, I can't help but feel a little intimidated by narrative journalism. There's so much to do and remember: Find a story, make sure it's a worthwhile one, research it, gain access, interview, take notes, observe, do more research, organize notes, write several drafts, etc. And while I'm doing all of this there's all sorts of tips I have to remember: Be assertive but not intrusive, put yourself in the subject's shoes, write down both my thoughts and what I think the subject is thinking, record sensory details, etc.

The bottom line is that it seems like a complex, difficult process and the authors in this chapter made no attempt to make it seem easy. I guess that the payoff from doing this type of journalism is worth it, but color me scared.

PART II should just be called "You will have no time"

After reading part II it kind of hit home that in order to produce a successful and well written, and reported narrative you MUST invest all sorts of time. On page 21 Lane Degregory talks about a ten month story he did on a transgendered that, didn't come full circle until the end of the ten month period. It was only then that the author was able to see the subject interact with people and get a story. The author talks about the story idea going from a ten month trailing of the subject, to a two hour visit to the driver's license office. After I read that the first thing I thought was Wow, I might be kind of upset if I spent so much time following this person and got a story at the end that only took two hours to observe. Then I realized that in order to get what was probably an amazing story you MUST invest this sort of time and be prepared to find a story in the most unlikely place.

Another aspect of the reading that helped me were the questions that some writers ask themselves when coming up with story ideas. To me, this is the most challenging part of writing stories. I just feel that unless something slaps me in the face as a 'good idea' I will miss it; not a good thing when that's what you want to do for a living. These questions made me realize that ideas aren't always going to blatantly show themselves. On page 24 Jan Winburn asks the question Is there an untold background tale? This kind of question is the one that eludes me all the time. I think if it's not in front of me happening at that very moment; it's not important. I have GOT to change this way of thinking and the other questions presented in this section are helpful starters in changing this way of thinking.

Finding researching reporting

I found the section in Telling True Stories on finding, researching and reporting topics to be very informative. While a lot of the advice presented seemed pretty obvious, there were several pieces of advice that I think could go a long way in helping our class write their narrative non-fiction pieces. I think Isabel Wilkerson's concept of accelerated intimacy will be extremely useful. Wilkerson uses metaphor to compare the interviewing process to peeling an onion. Apparently this metaphor is cliche, but this was the first time I had ever heard this comparison. By comparing interviewing as peeling an onion -- throwing away the first few, brittle layers with the ultimate goal of getting to the center -- I get a clear picture of what the point of the interview is. In the past I've always felt obliged to use print too much of what my sources say, which results in the use of worthless quotes. The idea of winning the source over and defining a natural relationship, all while trying to get to the 'center of the onion' as quickly as possible, seems obvious now after reading Wilkerson's perspective. The assigned readings are quickly showing how important it is to come into a story with a clear gameplan.

Another part of the reading that stood out to me was the debate surrounding the use of tape recorders. To this point I haven't been able to decide how much I like using them. As Banaszynski said, using a tape recorder often leads to going back and transcribing an entire interview a few hours later. In my experience, the exact same thing often happens because I take very few notes when using a recorder. I came away from this section of the reading thinking that in feature writing a recorder is best served as a backup, which allows the reporter to take notes on more important details. As a question for class discussion: How important are direct quotes in narrative non-fiction? Is it possible to take away enough detailed information from an interview without the use of a recorder?

Helpful tips on reporting...

I found Part II of this book to be very interesting and helpful. One part of the reading that I liked was the section called "To Tape or Not to Tap." I found this part interesting, because I have never really considered bringing a tape recorder with me when I am reporting. I have always just brought a notebook and a pen or pencil. On page 28, Adam Hochschild, who uses a tape recorder said that, "it frees me to take notes on all the other details: what the person is wearing, what books are on his shelf, what paintings are on her wall..." That made me realize that I might want to try bringing a tape recorder along with me, because when I have done reporting before sometimes it is hard to catch other details, because you are trying to make sure you write down what they say and trying to make sure you got some good quotes. On the other hand would having a tape recorder make the person you are interviewing feel a little more uncomfortable or under pressure to respond the right way? Would it make it less conversational and more of a serious interview?

Another part of the reading that I liked was when Anne Hull was giving advice on things that she has learned. I thought her tip, "build a world around their world," was interesting, because it reinforced that fact that we need to try and get to know the community, or person that we are reporting on. We should embrace their qualities, hobbies and culture to help fully understand the thing we are reporting on.

Telling True Stories: Part II

After reading for today I was basically under the impression that I could land a spot at the Star Tribune in a week for how much information I took in. Who knew that there was so much to it? It seems it takes a special person to be able to report. Not only do you need to be able to formulate a idea for a narrative, along with extended research, you need to have humility for every in question to your story. The phases of interviewing not only intail gathering and dissecting information, but also enable a human aspect of trust to be built. Isabel Wilkerson sums it up best, "Your own sense of integrity, honesty, and empathy matters more then anything. Empathy is the balance to power. Power without empathy leaves you with manipulation-a horrible thing". (33)

I also liked the mini-section about using tape recorders or not. It ties in directly to the section above about the human aspect. Do you lose something the second you pull out that device instead of a not pad or neither? Personally, I would not use a tape recorder simply because, from what I read, the phases on compiling a story involve way more then a piffy quote you can listen to at any time. Some of the best stuff for the story may come in a two hour span over the course of a ten month feature. Such as the transvestite story written by Lane Degregory. (21) In a story such as this, where the source in question may not be looked at the same by every person, he struggled to gain much personal access. It wasn't until they went to the drivers license station to get a VERY NEW picture taken, where he was able to sit back and watch his subject freely.

An overall question I can make from this reading could broadly be, How do you know if you have a newsworthy story when all the criteria for one, as described in the book, may not be met? Have those conventions been broke before by great narratives in the past?

Alot of info to take in, my brain is fried.

Narrative: taking a series of small steps

Part II of Telling True Stories was very helpful and interesting to me. I found the series of points and tips to be extremely useful during the process of reporting facts, finding a concrete story idea, and finally organizing all of the information gathered into a poignant piece of writing that conveys an idea; whether it be the same or different than originally intended.

I liked the quote on page 19, "A narrative writer with a good story idea is a solo entrepreneur doing a start up." How true. Finding the idea worth pursuing is the initial step in beginning a large story. I also like the idea of an ending really being another beginning. This brings up the idea that sometimes our first draft of an idea don't work out. They fall short or lack some component that holds us back from pursuing a full story guided around this idea. This failed attempt can lead us to a different beginning, maybe related to the initial thought we first persued.

In terms of talking about a "conflict of interest," finding unbiased, reliable sources are key to the heart of any great narrative piece. Mark Kramer explains, "you need the uncle of a distant friend." Finding somone to offer you a fresh perspective will be far more useful than someone you already know, or already knows your angle on the story.

In the section, "Build a world around their world" I found the quote, "Working on a longer story is like being in love." The writer must take the idea and build up on it by chasing the idea and allowing it to consume their life. Fully immersing oneself into another's life, is like falling in love with them.

Being hidden... but not TOO hidden.

I love reading these different perspectives on how to interact with the people you're interviewing and the places you're visiting. I have a hard time with this because I like to connect with people at their level, and I never enjoy having an obvious barrier between me and another person: namely, the interviewer-interviewee barrier. I like what Anne Hull says about remembering you are not one of them. She says on page 41, "Warn your subjects of your separateness. Keep reminding them." It's so easy to take advantage of the trust you gain and hope they forget you're reporting, when really you need to take responsibility for reminding them.

I also like Ted Conover's comments on page 36 about living with the hobos. He talks, as do a lot of these other writers, about coming in humbly. You are learning from the people around you, not teaching them something. Those people will see through that sort of cockiness in a heartbeat. Come to think of it, so will your readers. (That's not a jab at Michael Lewis. Wait... maybe it is.) Conover says of his time on the train, "I wasn't trying to convince the reader that I was a hobo. That would have been ridiculous. I was a beginner in a scary and little-known world-- right there is all the drama you need."

I guess my question at the end of this reading would be, how do we approach interviews and stories with honesty about who we are and what we're doing, without wearing a big sign that says "Hi, I have ulterior motives." I want to find that balance because I want to connect as deeply as possible with these people I'm writing about, without ending up the betrayer when the story comes out.


This chapter made me want to go to some far off corner of the world and immerse myself in a culture. The authors' description of the reporting process is what excited me. These journalists are always learning something new and interesting while getting paid to do so.

Conover's chapter on immersing himself into the culture of correction officers was hilarious. He didn't believe for a second that he would be hired or go through the training program with his journalist resume. Also, Anne Hull's chapter on covering the guest workers from Mexico was great. She understood by being there. She got the soul of the story through experiencing what her subjects were experiencing. I think that is very important: to experience the story.

Another aspect that drew my attention in this chapter was the amount of work that these people put into their stories. Thousands of pages of notes, months or years immersed in the story, meeting so many people... Sounds awesome!

I thought it was amusing how many of the authors described the writing of the story as their least liked, or at least exciting, part of their job. What most of them were excited about was the actual discovery process as Cynthia Gornet describes. It makes sense to me, though I have little experience. It seems that these people are genuinely interested in the stories of the forgotten, of everyday people. Their job is to make these everyday, garden variety stories into works of art by connecting with them. It is very interesting - I am excited to learn more about these people.

Interesting points...

From today's reading, there was a lot of good advice; but the book seems to contradict itself in places. For instance, I don't know what to take from the section on tape recorders. There are four arguments presented and each writer makes a good point, but each person is making an almost entirely different point. Gay Talese NEVER uses a tape recorder, yet Adam Hochschild on page 28 is "deeply grateful for the invention of the pocket tape recorder." Who am I to believe here? Normally, I do not like using tape recorders but in a lengthy interviewing process (like those needed for this class) I'm not sure what will work best. It's all personal preference, but I'd have preferred the book be a bit more straight-forward here.

I did enjoy what Isabel Wilkerson had to say. Her seven steps seem grounded in personal experience, and she stresses not to intimidate a source, which is clearly important. My question is, why does she advocate putting the notebook away before getting to the "reinvigoration"? If the subject is already comfortable by the fourth step, why is it necessary to eliminate a note-taking device before the grand payoff? This is counterintuitive to me, but I'm sure she's using her past as a guide. I'm curious what everyone else thinks about this aspect of her advice.

Part II Narrative Writing

When I first started reading I thought to myself that I never get the chance to write stories like the authors talk about. To do this I would need to be an established reporter and have a lot of time to write the stories I was writing. Then I realized that this isn't true at all. I have written stories that could have been a lot better if only i used some of the advice in this chapter.

Degregory said, "If my subject has a regular routine, I go along. I see the person doing things that I would never have thought to ask about. If there isn't anything going on I can make something happen" (20).

This stuck out to me as particularly good advice (the same advice I have also heard from both Hatcher and Julin). It brought me back to a story I wrote for Reporting and Writing II. I was interviewing a lady inside her restaurant that she was getting ready to open. In the middle of the interview she asked if we could meet again and finish some other time because the guy had just arrived with all the food to fill the freezer. I said that was fine. I left and came back a different day. I didn't even think that maybe i should ask If i could stick around and watch her set up, maybe even learn about the Japanese food she was loading into her kitchen. My story was OK. But with better narrative and detail it could of been a lot better. Lesson learned.

In Kramer's list of 10 tips the last tip was one I will remember. "Cherish the structural ideas and metaphors that come to you while you are reporting" (28).

So often I read things and wonder how the reporter got such a great quote, painted such a clear picture, or thought of a creative metaphor. I think I could definitely do a better job of recognizing and appreciating my surroundings while I am writing a story or interviewing and it would help me a lot.

Degregory said, "If there isn't anything going on, I can make something happen" (21).
My question is how? He used some examples of asking to see photos or videos, but what if this doesn't work. Is "making something happen" a skill that all reporters should have, or do have? Or is it a skill that only great reporters hold? I don't think I have it yet. Hopefully, one day I will!

Tell me how to do what you do

I most enjoyed the section on the decision to use tape recorders. The directness of the answers made them easier to conceptualize than a lot of the other sections. Many of the pages in this section were blurred by the pages before and after.

I identified with Conover who not only told me how to write narrative but did so by using narrative. His descriptions of working in the prison were entertaining. I'd like to read his book. Not only that, but I'd like to employ his tactic of being a participant and an observer when I decide to write a piece of non-fiction.

If I was forced to conceptualize the reporters' advice as a whole I'd say this section taught me the importance of access (the term Degregory uses to describe a special relation with your subject/source). Many of the reporter's used that term but I think Degregory set it up beautifully in the beginning and therefore I attest it to him.

Kramer's notion of "contaminated access" gave me a new perspective on conflicts of interest. I really like the way he explained HOW a conflict of interest can literally "contaminate" a story.

Blog Entry Due Thurs Feb. 4th

My overall impression of section II is TIME. You really need to grant yourself time to be able to get to know someone on the deep level that you need for a story. I think it was interesting how many of the writers stated that you need to follow your person around while they do their day to day life. Getting to know your person and as Anne Hull says on p. 40 "live as they do."

This idea is obvious after I read it and apparent in the few stories we have already read. In the three little words story, I am willing to bet that the reporter didn't hang out with them just the day they spread the guys ashes over the pier. But you don't realize that in the story. It's really intimidating to me, because what if I really start to get to know a person and I am really not interested in what they say? I don't want to hurt their feelings but I sure as heck don't want to listen to them anymore. Plus life is crazy as it is, and this isn't a job, so how am I supposed to dedicate that much time to someone? I guess that is why we have a whole semester to get to know someone.

What if I meet someone and I can't get to know them well enough, because they aren't the type of person who opens up, or talks much? In the book, getting to yes, it talks about getting what you need out of a person using either the soft or hard approach but it doesn't take into account that some people may not want to tell the story at all. Isabel Wilkerson talks about how Phase One is the introduction, where they don't want to talk to you, they don't have the time for you, and the person will want to get rid of you. (p. 31) She then jumps into Phase 2 about how you start talking to the person and making adjustments, but she skips a very important step. How do you introduce yourself? You don't want to lead someone into a story, you just want to hear what they have to say. How do you get someone to talk without you telling them what you want to hear. By telling the person you want to know more about their struggling farm, will you ever find out about the son who ran away from home and they haven't heard from in 10 years?

Narrative News Writing..?

I think the way the two different writers approached the topics was really interesting. Granted, they were two very different stories, it was interesting to read the way Lewis put his voice in the story much more. In Three Little Words I thought it was a good thing that the writer didn't involve himself very much at all in the story, after all it was a story profiling this man's life with AIDS. Obviously the Three Little Words story is going to raise emotion in the reader, but I think Lewis did a good job of making the reader feel a different kind of emotion. While there is a lot more information on the actual person in Lewis' story, I still think I feel more emotionally connected to Jane in Three Little Words. This may have something to do with the fact that it was such an emotional story I guess. Parts of Three Little Words got a little graphic and I don't know that I would want that published but I suppose that's part of the writer's job to really let people know what happened.

Kristen made the point yesterday that as a reader she really got into Three Little Words by noticing the word "three" and the way things came in groups of threes. I don't know if this was a writing technique or just something that happened but I think it was a really good way to keep the reader interested.

It's hard to say that this type of narrative writing has a place in the everyday grind of news writing. The Little Words was a 29 issue daily publication and I just feel like that was a little long for a narrative story. It was the type of story that you need a lot of information about, clearly, but I think it could have gone without so much background information and maybe ended up being a two week story.

Not Always Being There

After reading Part 2 of Telling True Stories I became inspired to complete my dream of writing a book. I still have a lot to do before I am ready for that but all of the different authors perspectives and ideas about reporting really intrigued me.

The part that really made me think was at the end of Louise Kiernan's section. There was an excerpt about how sometimes you get good reporting by not always being with the person you need to interview. The way she described her relationship at first with the teenage daughter makes sense but I really applaud her for analyzing the situation and realizing it wasn't her place to take over her birthday party.

To have this kind of intuition as a reporter is something that I need to learn. I always feel the need to be constantly in conversation and observance with those around me but if I take a step back I might get the kind of information that I really am looking for.

A question I have for the class discussion today would be; how do you know when you've crossed your boundary and need to step back and when should you continue to push forward?

Telling True Stories, Part II, by James Buchanan

Telling True Stories, Part II, by James Buchanan

Mark Kramer and Wendy Call wrote that the process of reporting always begins with empirical data collection. To my mind, collecting raw data and then writing your story's narrative and theme first appears counterintuitive. While writing my own magazine articles, I have always started with my readers of specialized magazines, who wanted specific narratives and themes.

In other words, my magazine articles were always sold to hobby magazines that have a narrow focus. For example, I found it was easy for me to write an article about a local railroad depot to a magazine about building model railroads. I also helped that I am interesting in the hobby of model railroading. It will be interesting experiences to collect raw data and see if there are any hidden stories.

I had never imagined that the narrative writer could be described as a solo entrepreneur doing a start-up. I had never imagined that even basic research reporting was a business proposition, but I will from now on.

Lane Degregory describes that a story is witnessing firsthand an unfolding action as well as having access to people who know something about the unfolding action. Maybe, we can talk in class about ways of keeping information flowing from a source and keeping these people comfortable? Perhaps, we can even have practice interviews with each other to see what are good ways to obtain information from our sources?

Jan Winburn asked us student reporters to take a fresh angle on an old subject. In my latest Duluth News Tribune, Opinion Page letter that was published in February third, I wrote about the future Northern Lights Express (NLX) from the angle of optimism and pessimism. When I had realized that no one had written about the proposed (NLX) using the optimism and pessimism angle before, I knew I had a story worth telling.

Mark Kramer asks us student reporters to consider what will intrigue our readers? Kramer then talks about securing good sources. If I were ever to rewrite my Endion depot article, I would attempt to track down people who worked in the building while it was an operating railroad depot. I would ask them what where their normal routines and what extraordinary events happened at their workplace.

Isabel Wilkerson describes the relationship of interviews as guided conversations. How do you ask questions to your source without leading their answers?

It might be fun to try out psychological interviews as a class project. I can't remember who said it, but the expression "We are the stories we tell" fits in with Jon Franklin's article.

Ted Conover says that an article is about the sources, not about the reporter. A common theme appears to be that the reporter is learning more about the topics and sources than will ever appear in his or her final drafts.

Anne Hall comments that us student reporters should "observe carefully." I would add that a bit of good information about a group can appear anywhere, from nearly anyone, and during any hour. Thus, you should always be ready to record it and ask whatever follow up questions you need to flesh out your story.

I attended a Twin Cities event named "Anime Detour" in the Ramada Inn and Thunderbird Convention Center. I had just seen a few episodes of "Read or Die, the TV" that had been fan subtitled. The show for that room ended and I joined a group of animation fans who walked out to attend other events in other rooms.

Then, I found myself walking down a narrow hallway behind two Caucasian men that appeared to be college students. The first man asked about the meaning of a Japanese word that was used and translated in the series. The second man replied that the word had been mistranslated from Japanese into English. But, he added that is a common mistake for people first learning the Japanese language.

I could write a story based on how Americans are studying the Japanese language to get the most direct experience they can from the shows that they love to watch. In short, "true" fans of Japanese animation want to be able to hear and understand the original conversations and songs, without reading subtitles or waiting for a dubbed version to be licensed in North America.

Cynthia Gorney talks about "the Glimmer" of a story idea. For some exercise, I happened to be walking on the Lakewalk and saw the Endion depot. I wondered if anyone had ever written up Duluth's Endion depot as a model railroad magazine article? After asking around, I found that no magazine had published such an article. So, I wrote and sold my own Endion depot article.

Telling True Stories: Part II

The second part of Telling True Stories was held my interest and read pretty quickly for me. The story examples provided to support the advice given in the book kept me intrigued, and I feel like I learned a lot of advice that will help my writing in the future. I found it interesting that many of the authors' advice overlapped in different ways, while others conflicted. On page 43 Anne Hull says, "Don't paraphrase what people say. Allow their syntax, language and slang to blossom fully in your notebook." This seems to go against what Banaszynski said on page 29, "When I take notes, the quotes I record are closer to proper grammar, though the person probably didn't say them exactly that way." I would say that the second bit of advice is much more consistent with what I have always known to be the way to quote a source. It can be looked at as disrespectful to quote someone and include their slang or grammatical errors, but in narrative journalism it seems to be much more acceptable, especially if you're not planning on talking to a source again (as seen in Michael Lewis' approach). I wonder what the class thinks-is it ever ethically wrong to quote sources 100% as spoken?

When I was reading Isabel Wilkerson's 7 steps in an interview, starting on page 31, I couldn't help but think that this would be the perfect interview, and is somewhat wishful thinking. Most of the interviews I have done have gone through certain stages she brings up, but have never followed her script exactly.

Victor Merina's section "Reporting Across Cultures" brought up a certain experience for me. In Reporting and Writing 1 I did an article about a Native American rap group. It was incredibly intimidating to interview them about a culture that I didn't know much about. It ended up being a huge amount of work, because I wanted to go in to the interview prepared and not sound stupid. It went ok, but the interview threw me many curveballs that I hadn't experienced up until that point.

Three Little Words, by Roy Peter Clark

Journalism 4001, Three Little Words, by Roy Peter Clark

Jane Morse was a brave American to have been so open about her experiences being married to Michael David "Mick" Morse, a man who died of AIDS. Roy Peter Clark took what was a tragedy for one family and used it to illustrate how AIDS kills not just the infected victims, but harms the surviving people around the victims. Unlike Michael Lewis, Roy Peter Clark does not voice an opinion, allowing the players in this drama to do all the talking.

Mick Morse, the husband of Jane Morse, admits that he had unprotected sexual intercourse and as a result contracted AIDS. The victim Mick Morse didn't say much, so the burden of carrying the story rested on the words of Jane Morse, their children, and the other people in Mick's life. To Jane Morse, AIDS was no longer a news item that she read about in newspapers, but was slowly killing her husband.

There are many sets of "Three Little Words" that are the centerpieces of this series of newspaper articles. The first set was spoken by Mick, "I have AIDS" and the next set that followed was spoken by Jane "What about me?" This pattern of "Three Little Words" became a recurring theme. Additional three word sentences in the articles are "I trust you" or "Jane is safe" or "I forgive myself" or "I am gay" or "I loved him" or "Joy and renewal."

The article details the mind games that Jane did to keep herself sane, something that many other people do to keep their minds off an immediate problem. These "magical thinking" rituals are what many other people do to take their minds off of their problems. The readers can see themselves doing what Jane doing rituals to reassure her mind and therefore these rituals create an emotional connection between Jane and her readers. The readers will read about Jane's rituals and see themselves and think about what they would have done in Jane's place.

The article has many verbal metaphors to get the reader into Jane's mind, seeing what she saw, feeling what she felt, and touching what she touched. Jane's narrative also uses figurative language to describe how much different public acceptance of sexuality in Brazilian culture was to public acceptance of sexuality in Midwestern culture.

Jane's journal entries give her readers windows into her mind and feelings. I found it was an emotionally moving series to read and will share it with my family and friends.

Ethical dilemmas in narrative reporting

Part Two of Telling True Stories provided me with quite a few tips on how to report and write an effective narrative. I found this section of the book to be very informative and helpful. I liked how the main points in some of the sections were either bolded or italicized. It made the main ideas easy to recognize. In addition to the helpful tips presented, I became aware of a couple ethical dilemmas that may arise when reporting narratives. The first ethical dilemma I noticed was in Ted Conover's story about how he captured his narrative about inmates and correction officers at the Sing Sing prison. I really enjoyed reading this story and I thought Conover used an intersting, but deceiving technique to get his story. I thought it was interesting that Conover applied for and accepted a job as a corrections officer in a prison in order to get his story. And better yet, no one at the prison knew that he was under cover. He was employed there for 10 months and none of the inmates or other corrections officers knew his true identity. It's amazing that his cover didn't get blown since a few of his friends did know that he was under conver, but Conover still managed to keep his secret within the prison walls. After reading that Conover changed 1/3 of the character's names in his story, it made me question the ethics involved with changing one's identity in order to get a story. Conover stated that, "At Sing Sing I worked with people who didn't know what I was doing. I decided that if I portrayed them in any way they might find embarrassing, I should change their names. I changed about one-third of the names in the book" (pg.38). Is it ethical for Conover to pretend like he is just another corrections officer, but then publish dirt on the inmates and other employees of Sing Sing? He admits that some of what he wrote would have embarrassed some of the characters if their true identitys were revealed; should the inmates and employees of Sing Sing feel betrayed by Conover? To what extent can reporters take on a different role without deceiving the people they are immersing themselves with?

Another ethical question was raised when I read the part of the chapter titled "Not Always Being there" written by Louise Kiernam. Kiernam interviewed the daughters of a woman who was unexpectedly killed by a piece of falling glass. The daughters were distant when Kiernam first began reporting. In regards to the teenage daughter, Kiernam said, "The older daughter didn't open up to me during the reporting process. I felt as if I were a flashing neon sign saying to her: Your mother is dead, and I'm here to find out how you feel about it" (pg. 45). Clearly this girl did not feel comfortable talking to Kiernam about the sudden death of her mother and Kiernam realized this. It is obviously a touchy subject and I completely understand why the daughter didn't want to talk to some reporter about it. When is it okay for a reporter to interview a child about their mother's death? And what is the proper way to approach such a touchy subject?

This chapter enabled me to realize that ethical issues are common in the reporting process and it made me think about whay I would do in situations such as the ones presented in this chapter. It is clear that the reporting process isn't just black and white. There are quite a few grey areas when it comes to reporting and writing narratives.

Narrative Reporting is sounding like a pretty good gig.

After reading Part 2 of Telling True Stories, I learned that there is so much more to reporting then sitting in an formal interview with a source and asking the hard questions. I love the fact there is still journalism out there where we have the ability as journalists to develop stories that may take months at a time, but being able to feel connected with our sources and their stories.
I thought it was interesting to read about the opinions of journalists on using a tape recorder. I have one but have used it once in my reporting. I agreed with Gay Talese- "I do not use a tape recorder. I espouse patience in listening, trying to capture what the other person is thinking, trying to see the world from that person's view." He goes on in saying that he doesn't necessarily need the exact words because words aren't the only element that captures the moment. I would agree. Not that tape recorders are useful and that I would never consider using one. I just think that there has been outstanding reporting done with using recorders because the reporter is using the natural senses and is capturing the natural world for the audience. Sometimes I feel if a tape recorder is used, the reader loses the sense of naturalness for the story.
I also enjoyed reading Anne Hull's section called "Being There." She describes the idea that as a journalists we may be put into extreme circumstances and that we have to be willing and able to throw ourselves into the story and sacrifice. She said that, "Observations, the art of watching, is one of the most underrated elements of reporting, especially in newspaper journalism." I find this to be true because as journalists I think sometimes we get wrapped up in asking the serious questions and not observing and communicating with our sources. Another concept that gets me really excited about this type of journalism is having the ability to live as your sources do. She talked about how she did a story on a group of women who traveled from Mexico to South Carolina and for ten hours a day they would stand at steel tables and pick the meat from blue crabs with knives. She said she felt so connected with these women because she was able to observe the pain and hard labor they were doing. This picture and emotions would never have been captured had she made a phone call or an email.

After reading the pieces assigned for today's class, I find myself amazed at Michael Lewis's piece on Jonathan Lebed. I found the story entertaining at first, especially the way Lewis narrates the interactions between Lebed's parents. As someone who knows nothing about the stock market or day trading, I did not think I would find the story to be particularly interesting. But once the story escalated into the way Jonathan managed his accounts, I actually got excited about what was going to be told next, which never happens when I read. I especially liked the way Lewis never makes any obvious judgements about Jonathan or his character, but instead let's the questions he asks of the SEC and his parents do the talking. I can't imagine how hard Lewis had to work to put this piece together, as he states in the beginning that he must have been "the fiftieth journalist" the person at the Philadelphia SEC office had talked to. As was stated in an earlier entry, the way Lewis takes himself in and out of the story is what makes the piece so strong.

Emotions involved in non-fiction writing...

I found both of these two readings to be very interesting. The first one that I read was, "Three Little Words," by Roy Peter Clark. I really liked the emotion that was put into this story and the detail that was used. I felt like every sentence painted a picture for the reader. For example the sentence, "the door opened. It was Dr. Gil again, and Jane could tell by the look on her face that the results of her AIDS test were in." For me I can feel the emotion and can imagine what the anxiety and tension that was occurring might be like. The reading for me was hard to read in a way, because that is not a very happy subject to talk about and to hear about, but the writing draws you in. The way that the author writes it and end the chapters makes you want more and to keep reading.

The "New Kings," article, by Michael Lewis, wasn't as interesting to me. I didn't really understand everything that the SEC was trying to prove or show. I think it was an interesting story, and I found it interesting how teachers got involved in what Jonathan was doing also. I liked how Lewis told the story about a teenager boy who was involved in the stock market and not just a typical older businessman. I thought it was a good story to read to help explain more of what non-fiction writing is. I have never really read non-fiction much before this class, but the readings that are chosen in this book make me want to read them. There is such good writing in the stories that you don't even notice that you are reading a non-fiction story. It still draws you in.

Michael Lewis's story was about a topic in which I know very little about: stock markets, and more specifically, stock market fraud. However, Lewis didn't fail to hold my attention by outlining the story with different facets of conversations between SEC and John Lebed. He went deeper into the story by speaking with the Lebed family to get to the root of how each person involved felt, which in my opinion is great journalism. He seemed to be rooting for John throughout the story, basically rooting for the "underdog." I like the language that Lewis uses when he describes John on page 19; "There wasn't an explanation point in him." This visually paints a picture for the reader, which is what I particularly love when reading stories with vivid details like these.

In contrast with Lewis's story, I could tell right away I would like "Three Little Words." The hard-hitting words were not flowery language, but they were short and full of meaning. Clark described Jane; "If you passed her in the elevator...it might be the best thing to happen to you that day." I could empathize with Jane as if she were someone I knew myself, a friend even. Another quote that carried such weight was,(describing her getting testing continually for AIDS) "It was like waiting for communion, only it was my body, and my blood." This type of writing grabs onto the reader, and fascinated me to read on to find out what would be the fate of this couple. Each chapter was a different snapshot into their seemingly happy, but deeply trouble-filled marriage.

The higher you feel....the farther you fall....

When I started reading Three Small Words I was indifferent towards it. It was good, but that was it to me; just good writing. Then I kept reading and got sucked into it. It was all I could do to leave for work in the middle of my reading. I loved how emotional the story became and how much of the family and the situation was discussed. Also, the fact of whether or not he was gay was never blatantly spelled out for the reader was a classy way of keeping Mick's sexual orientation private. I got home to read it and got sucked in again. The way the conversations between people were written made it seem like the reader was actually in the situation; watching it happen. The Chapter about the Christmas Video was intriguing to read. The description of how Mick was there, but hardly ever seen on camera gave readers the experience of him not only fading in physical appearance, but also in the family life. The writing was a wonderful mixture of experiences and facts. Facts about AIDS and its research. Facts about Brazil and its history. Facts about what the family had gone through. When combined it made one of the most interesting stories I have ever read.

Until the end of the story, that is.

I felt the ending of this story was extremely anti climactic. I don't know what it was; I still can't put my finger on it. All I know is that when I was done reading the final chapter, the Epilogue, and the little bit of "where they are now" I felt as if there was no final closure with what had happened with Jane. Maybe that's the feeling the author wanted to leave the reader with however. A feeling of expectancy for Jane; what will happen to her next now that Mick is dead and she has a made a life for herself and kids? The author might not have known how the story truly ends because in regards to Jane, it's not done.

Michael Lewis may have done the impossible: made me care about the stock market. His form of non fiction writing made a topic that, to me, is the most boring thing to read about in the world. He took this topic and found a certain aspect of it that made it interesting to read about and not only learn about the characters in the story, but also at the same time learn about the stock market and some of its inner working.

Inspirational emotion-filled story

The series of articles written by Roy Peter Clark were very inspirational. I enjoyed the writing very much and after completing each part of the story, I was eager to keep reading to find out what happened next. One of the main reasons I wanted to keep reading was because Clark ended multiple sections with cliff hangers. For example, Clark concluded the fifth section of the series by saying, "She lay in the dark beside him, her dreams turned to ashes. Something was very, very wrong. It would talk her more than 20 years to find out what." As soon as I finished reading that last sentence, I wanted to keept reading to find out what Jane waited 20 years to find out.

I was also inspired by how Clark wrote about Jane and Mick's emotions. Instead of explicity saying how they felt, he used description. When Jane saw her son David using Mick's razor, Clark didn't out right say, "Jane was worried that her son might contract AIDS from using the same razor as Mick." He let the reader interpret Jane's emotions by saying, "What she saw next almost made her heart stop. Davis, his face lathered for a shave, was holding his father's razor to his throat" (Section 3). Details such as this one, hooked me into reading Clark's articles. I also thought the "three little words" theme incorporated a great amount of emotion. It was clear throughout the story that Jane was frustrated which each set of three little words uttered by Mick. She wanted him to elaborate both when he said "I trust you" and when he said "I have AIDS." When he refused to further explain, Janes anger and frustration were evident. I would like to be able to create emotions in a story without explicitly stating the way people feel. How did Clark come to undertand Jane's emotions so in depth, that he was accurately able to portray them in his story? Are there certain techniques he uses to portray different emotions?

Emotional Journalism

I liked "Three Little Words" because it didn't read like typical journalism. It's still such a new concept to me that writers can put so much feeling into a story and have it still be journalism. I particularly liked the part of Roy Peter Clark's story where Jane Morse first finds out her husband has AIDS. She says "three little words," which in this culture, is always assumed to be "I love you." Which couldn't be any more different or induce any more opposite feelings than, "I have AIDS." I thought Clark did a nice job of discussing the prevalent issue of AIDS form a narrative approach. A few things I was left wondering were when Clark started this story- if he actually met Mick or just did his research off of what Jane told him. I think it would be incredibly difficult to do a story of this emotional magnitude without getting attached to the sources.

When I came to Michael Lewis' story about Jonathon Lebed, I was a little confused, which I think was at least partly intentional. It seemed to me that the law differed between Jonathon and the SEC. I kept waiting for the SEC officials to just come out and say what was wrong with what Jonathon was doing, but really, they never did. They took every possible route around being straightforward. This made me uncomfortable and led me to thinking about what other government agencies are doing and how they could be manipulating aspects of our lives like this. Jonathon's mom has said that they hadn't even called, that they just sent the subpoenas and the case was underway. Which to me, is a scary thought, that you could be doing something you thought was okay only to have a lawsuit on your hands without even seeing it coming. I like how Lewis wrote this article from an average person's perspective. By that I mean not a stock broker. He said right off the bat that he was confused about the situation as well (16).

Michael Lewis/Roy Peter Clark

First and foremost, let me say that both of these men are incredibly talented writers and that all of us could probably greatly improve our writing by mimicking their styles. That said, I loved the Michael Lewis article but was only lukewarm on Roy Peter Clark's.

There is just something about the way Lewis nonchalantly pulled himself in and out of his writing that I loved. He clearly is no expert on the stock market, or at least he wasn't when he began working on this article, and yet he manages to explain what's happening in layman's terms while still managing to step back and insert some humor or creativity along the way. For instance, on page 16 Lewis says, "Cedar Grove is one of those Essex County suburbs defined by the fact that it is not Newark." I love that sentence. It's not formal and it doesn't overtly contain any meaning at all regarding the stock market but it captures the atmosphere of living in suburban New Jersey perfectly. Next, in the middle of Lewis' conversation with the SEC on page 34 he drops this beauty, "I might as well have strolled into the office of the drug czar and lit up a joint." Awesome. That is what's best about great storytellers; they can take any subject, no matter how dull, and inject humor or anecdotes that anyone could relate to. I look forward to reading more by Lewis in the future.

As for Clark, his series was also superbly written--but I could not attach myself to it as I did with Lewis' article. Perhaps that has to do with the length or the subject matter, I'm not sure. I just couldn't get into it. I do have a LOT of respect for Clark and everyone involved with the story. As a writer, to immerse oneself into such a tragedy cannot be easy and this particular topic isn't something I'd flourish with. Clark did a wonderful job encapsulating the story and providing a sense of "being there" along the way. I do question how realistic articles like this are for the "average" journalist. Clark clearly has a skill and a supportive newspaper backing him, but how many circumstances like that exist anymore? I appreciate this article and respect Clark's writing, but I didn't enjoy reading it the way I did with Michael Lewis'.

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis wrote non-fiction in a very untraditional way. I definitely appreciated the way he told a hard news story through his writing. It was a news story but told in a way that read like fiction in certain places.

For example, on page 21 the first paragraph starts, "By the spring of 1998, Johnathan was thirteen, and his ambitions were growing. He had glimpsed the essential truth of the market" If someone was to start reading at this paragraph I doubt they would think they were reading a news story. But that's what I really enjoyed about his writing.

Lewis was able to turn an average story into one that is worth reading for the 26 pages it is. Reading his work makes me want to improve my own.

I appreciate how he started out knowing very little about the stock market, probably like a lot of readers. Instead of trying to use his "voice" he lets his source who does know about the stock market use his.

"Tell me about the kid" (16).

This is what we are taught all the time and this story is a perfect example of why we need to listen during interviews rather than talk.

I also love the way the story ends. "In the stock market, you go in knowing you can lose. We were just doing what Jon was doing, but not doing as good a job at it." (41).

I like it because it tells the story in one sentence. Plus it is funny.

The Daily Grind

I found myself nothing short of humbled by the writing in these two pieces. I think they go well together in that they take two different avenues in touching on how creative nonfiction fits into the daily news grind.
The story about what seemed to be a perfect family affected by the AIDS virus was a very long and descriptive narrative that does not seem like something you would find in a daily or weekly newspaper. However, as nice as it would be to be able to rely on our news sources to be totally impartial, we must remember that the 'daily news grind" is a business; and I am sure that the "to be continued" effect this story had kept people picking up that newspaper from St. Pete. Only a handful of people really prefer human interest stories, but in 1989, a story like this about AIDS when it was just in its infancy probably hit home in a big way for a lot of people and took "human interest" to a new level.

On a different note, I really preferred the story about the 15-year-old stock market genius for a totally different reason. Like I have said before in some previous postings, I think that the way a writer perceives and event is, in and of itself, a big part of the news.
If the SEC had had it their way, facts would have been laid out, but details would have been left out. Jonathan would have been labeled the same kind of white-collar criminal that we see on Wall Street all the time.
However, Lewis starts his story from the same standpoint of the reader: naive and clueless about what had happened. He then basically takes us on a play by play of everything he experienced regarding the story, and it becomes evident to the reader that this is clearly a case of a bunch of old men who worked hard their whole lives being very upset that a 15-year-old kid was able to beat their system.
The daily news grind would not have gone into this kind of detail, and readers would be left to decide for themselves. My point is that readers, viewers, and listeners don't often respect the fact that they don't have the primary sources that the writer does because in the daily grind, the writer tells the news and not the story.

Krebs hopes to "express sufficient wonder"

Michael Lewis inspired me to write non-fiction. It was very clear from the beginning of the piece that he had little knowledge of the stock market. He employed proper reporting and story-telling techniques to "express sufficient wonder" (39).
He started with an interviewing technique that we discuss a lot in class. That is, to let the person who you interview tell the story.---- "Tell me about the kid" (16).

I'm really starting to recognize the different between telling a hard news story and writing non-fiction. I always thought that non-fiction was news and visa versa. That's not so.

Michael Lewis' piece is one of the first pieces of non-fiction that I have read beyond
the newspaper or a textbook.

These excerpts show me the different between his story-telling and news reporting:

"Greg said, hurling a thumb at Connie" (17).
"Connie absorbed the full-frontal attack with an uncomprehending blink" (17).

I'd never write that in a news story. Yet, this is a story.

As I read on it seems as though Lewis jumps back and forth between this story-telling tecnique and reporting. Particularly between pages 19-21.

On pages 23-24 Lewis tells the story of the first encounter with the SEC. This style
mirrors the reporter style he uses to relate his interviews with the family. This is
striking because it's obvious that he wasn't actually at the SEC meeting.

Lewis makes great use out of primary documents including e-mails and statements made by the Lebed family. These documents provide length and depth in this piece of non-fiction.

Pages 32-33 is where Lewis really begins to write from his own perspective, unfortunately this is where I lose interest in the story. I think this has to do with my unfamiliarity with this type of writing. As the semester continues I wonder if this is be as recognizable to me as it is right now.

As for, "Three Little Words"
I am amazed that this series was 29 parts long. That was WAY TOO MUCH. Though I enjoyed reading, what kept me going was an obsession with three. I found myself searching out three letter phrases and references to threes in each part of the series.

"smokey topaz oval" "I have aids" "HIV" "The dime store" "just for fun"
3 children
three bullet points in part 10
"i trust you" they hired me" "mick was an example, a teacher, an instructor"

The subtle use of the number three as a theme throughout each of these parts gave each piece an short and concise feel. Yet, as the minutes passed and then the hour I realized that I was reading too much. I knew too much about this story and I no longer was enjoying it.

Had I read this piece one at a time like the readers of the St. Petersburg Time did I know I would have enjoyed it and the concept of 3 would still have been noticeable and enticing.

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis is one of my favorite authors. Moneyball, The Blind Side, and Liar's Poker are three of my favorite books. (Although the fact that Hollywood turned The Blind Side into a sappy Sandra Bullock vehicle kills me) What first drew me to him was his impressive ability to find compelling stories, but what sets him apart is his ability to tell those stories in a concise, easily digestible form, all while seamlessly interjecting his own ideas.

"Jonathan Lebed's Extracurricular Activities" is a prime example of this. Most people see this story and think 'holy crap, a 15-year old stock whiz' and are interested. The story definitely fills the 'so what' qualification Hatcher is always talking about. But what makes the story really good is that while profiling Lebed's fascinating story Lewis uses his prior knowledge of the stock market to add insight and make the narrative easier to understand for the reader. Obviously journalism is better when the writer knows the subject he is writing about.

The best stories are ones when you finish and wonder where the subjects are now. I really want to know whatever became of Jonathan Lebed, I became attached to him through Lewis' writing. The same goes for "Three Little Words." The difference is that Roy Peter Clark did an awesome job of following up and tying up his story with a nice epilogue. I also liked the chapter structure of his story, it was like reading a very abridged novel, with the rising and falling action. I feel like the St. Petersberg Times is one of the few newspapers that consistently puts out creative non-fiction like this. I think there's a lot of value in allocating resources and talent to do this type of stuff, and newspapers should consider making features like this more common.

My emotions were tugged


Both readings really made me think about how involved journalists can get into their stories, but the 30-part series called "Three Little Words" really struck the emotions. I really liked how Roy Peter Clark did a series. The story surrounds a current issue by using a humanistic aspect of how a family was affected. His writing was thorough, but delicate in the way he interviewed and portrayed the family members. He used the controversial topic of AIDS and brought it forth to make it hit people at home and the idea that this disease is in existence and can affect anyone. I liked how he used the view of Jane, Mick's wife, and also how he uses clips from her journals. My question to the class to be discussed would be... with a story as in-depth as this one, how do you keep from getting to involved with your sources? Clark had to have had another level of a writer/source relationship to really get the essence of the pain this family has suffered. He managed to capture dialogue that grabs the readers emotions such as these words said by Jane and Mick when he found out he had AIDS.

"Yes, they know." He looked straight at her.

"Well what is it?"

"I have AIDS."

He looked away.

She didn't hear him right, or thought he was joking.

"That's impossible. You can't have AIDS. How could you get AIDS?"

Mick just lay there without emotion.

"Mick, this is not funny. This is sick. This isn't happening."

"Yes, it is happening. It is true."

What else I thought was interesting is that he played in the photos he used for the story as he wrote. I liked how he described the photos because it gave them more life then just being added in. How does a journalist find the balance between finding the story and being respectful to the sources?

Readings that tug on the emotions

I found both readings for today to be very heartfelt and emotional. The main "characters" if I can call them that, Jonathan Lebed and Jane Morse, in these readings, both had difficult lives and struggled with the affects of others controlling their lives in matters that they were defenseless in.

Lebed's idea of what was lawful contradicted with the SEC's and because of this he has to deal with court cases and possible jail time. The SEC is trying to control Lebed even though they can't give a straight answer to what exactly he did that was wrong. I find this unsettling as a reader that an upper authority can manipulate a young man's life without proper evidence. When the author, Michael Lewis, went to interview the SEC regarding the issue all they could say was "I'm not going to go through the case point by point [because] it wouldn't be appropriate" (Glass, 35). I found this inappropriate for a well acclaimed executive to say such things, almost as if he knew that they were in the wrong to begin with.

Morse had an even harder time with the people around her manipulating her life. She was betrayed by her husband and even in the end of it all he still didn't have the decency to give her the straight truth. In this way, her story is very similar to Lebed's. I feel sorry for her because she had to live through such a terror of watching the man she once loved die. I can't imagine how Roy Peter Clark felt when he was interviewing and continuously asking all the hard questions. I do believe that it was easier for him compared to Lewis however because Morse did want to share her story with the rest of the world. Lebed seemed much more reserved and withdrawn.

After analyzing these readings the question I have for the class is; how could a reporter approach someone when they aren't very responsive, or will only give you a good answer only through email?

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