Eli Saslow, a Washington Post staff writer and ESPN The Magazine contributor as well as the author of Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President, was recently a Pulitzer Prize finalist for feature writing for his story about a struggling swimming pool salesman. Nieman Storyboard interviewed him for one of their latest Annotation Tuesday posts, which is excellent and which you should probably go read right now. They had him annotate his story in ESPN The Magazine …
Thought this was a strong, strong piece of reporting by the Boston Globe — which did, really, a near-perfect job covering the Boston Marathon bombing on the whole — that traces the 102 hours officials spent hunting down and nabbing Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Chechens suspected of committing the crime. It reads quickly and it’s loaded with all the information you’d want to know and then some. For five indelible days, the unthinkable became …
Click here to read a cool behind-the-scenes look at how SI landed that groundbreaking Jason Collins cover story. Highlights: At 9 a.m. last Friday the writer Franz Lidz drove to the Los Angeles home of Jason Collins with a completed draft of a story on which the two had collaborated two days earlier. When he arrived, Lidz was introduced to Collins’ mother and father; his twin brother, Jarron; and a high school classmate. They, along …
Thought this was a solid report by Patrick Hruby for SportsOnEarth about the benefits that medical marijuana could have for athletes: Guys popped pills, Vicodin and Oxycontin, serious stuff, at first a few and then a few more. Guys took injections, Marcaine and Toradol, potent liquid lifelines that wouldn’t be out of place in a trauma ward. Jackson did the same, swinging the rubber hammer. The shots made him uneasy. The pills made him groggy. …
Kent Babb at the Washington Post wrote a good story about Allen Iverson: Three years after Iverson’s last NBA game, the spotlight has shifted from his play to his flaws. His refusal back then to play by society’s rules was seen as an independent player’s quirks, part of the character and the brand, same as his cornrows and tattoos. Practicing with hangovers added to the legend. Skipping team functions and refusing to obey the league’s dress code …
Great little love story out of Tampa today. (I keep up with a few Tampa Bay Times writers on Twitter — @MichaelKruse and @Gangrey — because it’s a paper that swings big on narrative storytelling. Good stuff every day, seems like. Worth the follow.) Cameron was a firefighter. Melissa was an ex-girlfriend. She got stabbed 32 times by the ex. Cameron was one of the first responders. Now, more than a year later, they’re in …
Really impressed with pretty much everything about this story about Ray Lewis by Liz Merrill of ESPN.com. There’s been a ton written about Lewis lately and there’s going to be more, as much because of how passionate and dominant he is at the game as for his possible involvement in two murders in Atlanta in 2000. Predictably, some reporters are fixating on the latter, such as Tim Graham of the Buffalo News and Kent Babb …
Update: Thomas Lake started a fundraising page for Pop Herring at IndieGoGo.com. Here’s the link: click.
Back in January, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Lake profiled Pop Herring, the man who purportedly cut Michael Jordan from his high school team in Wilmington, NC, way back when. It was a fantastic story, and Tom was even kind enough to let me interview him about it. Tom had also hoped the piece would get Jordan’s attention, as Herring had not in fact cut Jordan and had even been incredibly kind and generous, opening the gym early for Jordan to work on his game, giving him rides and even loaning him his car, and the like.
Well, Jordan never responded, and Herring, who’s suffered from a debilitating mental illness, went from bad to worse. He recently landed in jail. Lake went back to Wilmington to check it out. What he found was that Herring had been drunk when police came looking for someone else, and that got him locked up. He’d stayed in jail for weeks because he simply had nobody to bail him out. Lake ultimately decided to bail Herring out, and then when he sat down to write about about Pop’s latest developments, it took the form of an impassioned and powerful open letter directed at Michael Jordan, imploring him to help the man who in his most formative years helped him take those all-important first steps toward becoming the basketball player he is today.
The reaction has been loud and mixed. Lake (@ThomasLake on Twitter) has been equal parts praised and blasted. When I initially read his piece, titled “A letter to Michael Jordan: Shame on you for refusing to help Pop,” I thought what Lake had done was, on a human level, awesome. As a journalist, I was torn. There’s a fine line we journalists have to walk when it comes to advocacy, and it’s a safe argument to make that Jordan doesn’t really owe Pop anything. One could even argue that Lake overstepped his bounds as a journalist, as was argued fairly and thoughtfully by, among many others, Wilmington Star-News sports editor Dan Spears.
I’d planned to ask Lake if he wanted to come on the blog and talk a little bit more about the situation, maybe explain some of his thinking behind these decisions and all that, but radio talk show host Scott Hennessee (@ScottHennessee) got to him first. It was a to-the-point 10-minute talk, and Lake was thorough in his explanation. You can listen to it by clicking here, or if you prefer to read, I’ve transcribed it for you below. It’s a quick read, and well worth the time.
Hey you guys, remember back when I posted D Magazine’s Michael Mooney’s story about Bill Fong—The Greatest Bowling Story Ever. Quick refresh: Bill Fong came within one pin of bowling a perfect 900—three straight perfect games—when he had a stroke. Well, now an ambitious guy named Joey Daoud is working on a documentary about Fong’s story that he’s calling “Strike,” and he’s got a Kickstarter page going for it. He asked if I’d tell you …
Glenn Stout, who edits the Best American Sports Writing series, emailed me recently to see if I’d like to get involved with a new project he’s overseeing for SBNation.com. Since I’m always looking to help aspiring journalists find new work, I told him I’d post something about it for my readers, all twelve of you.
Here’s Glenn telling you all about it:
Gore Vidal. Norman Mailer. Two great writers and thinkers of their time. Apparently they didn’t like each other. Then Esquire sent someone to interview them and apparently they liked each other after that. Or something. Whatever the case, Esquire published that interview in May 1991, and today, for the first time ever, made it available online.
Here’s a couple exchanges I rather liked. And here’s the link to the whole interview. And I also definitely cribbed that image from the Esquire website, just FYI.
Just some quick thoughts about the whole Jonah Lehrer fiasco. I may update it as things develop.
Quick recap: Jonah Lehrer is a young and, until recently, rising superstar in the journalism world. A brilliant thinker, or so it seemed, he’s only 31 years old and has already written several books and landed a full-time job writing for The New Yorker, a veritable pinnacle of the field.
Today he resigned from The New Yorker after multiple scandals in which he was implicated for plagiarism and, most recently, for fabricating quotes from Bob Dylan in his latest book, “Imagine.” Here’s a New York Times story about it.
You ever been to a volcano? Or a sulfur pit? (Because, you know, I just assume EVERYONE visits volcanoes and sulfur pits for fun.) You can feel the heat from a great distance, and by the time you’re on top of it, it feels like you’re going to bake. My guess is that Lehrer’s felt the heat a long, long time, but the trail behind him had collapsed by the time he decided to turn around.
Some of the big questions I see flying around Twitter right now are: HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? WHAT WAS HE THINKING? HOW DID HE THINK HE COULD GET AWAY WITH IT?
I’m working on a story right now about someone who did something very similar. Those are the same questions people asked about him awhile ago when his story went viral. So I talked to a behavioral economics and pscyhology professor at Duke University about it all, this strange art of deceiving others as well as oneself. I asked him the same questions about my guy that people are asking now about Lehrer.
Something special happened for the nonfiction writing world over the weekend. Down in Dallas, some of the great writers of our time gathered at the Mayborn Nonfiction Literary Conference. Chris Jones, Tom Junod, Tom Lake, editors from my home North Carolina’s Our State magazine, and so many more. (Full roster and details here.) I’m sorry I missed it; it sounds like it was a great time. Andrew Pantazi, a Dallas Morning News intern and a …
@BIGSPORTSWRITER, our mysterious masked Twitter hero, got to thinking about the state of sports discusison last night, particularly how people can’t just debate, they have to WIN. It began when he was talking about watching Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones play and bemoaning the sudden descent of AJ’s career. People reacted with their usual aggression and vitriol, and then Mr. Sports Journo went contemplative, and then I spent a few minutes copying, pasting, and lightly editing said contemplations. For your reading and thinking pleasure:
Knowing somebody’s VORP and win shares isn’t the same as seeing them play. And not because “seeing them play” means I know more. It doesn’t. Often it means I know or knew less. It simply means that I can sit in a room and tell you what it was like to watch somebody play. No finality, no punctuation. Just stories.
Good lord—I mean, if you don’t love sports for the stories, what the hell are you watching for? What the hell are you following me for? Sports dialogue can be just that, dialogue. A mutual trading of ideas. I’m not here to declare victory over any of you. That’s not fun.
I don’t know when it got like this. And I don’t mean twitter—I mean talking sports. I’m not sure when the win/loss columns shifted from the box scores to the bars and water coolers. When it became more important to be right about a topic, or feel like you bested somebody than just talking it out.
I can remember seeing Around the Horn for the first time, and seeing actual points being given and taken away during conversation. And thinking to myself, Holy hell. They
@BIGSPORTSWRITER is the Twitter handle for some mysterious, well, sportswriter who anonymously peppers Twitter with bizarrely cogent insights for a place built on the shoulders of people who’d rather react to things with capital letters, exclamation points and emoticons, usually mixed together.
Jonah Lehrer is a whiz-kid idea guy/writer who rose to fame in the journalism world by writing brilliantly for Wired magazine and then parlayed that into what I assume is a finely remunerated gig with The New Yorker, where he was to regularly post blogs sharing his brilliance. Only, Lehrer got popped for recycling things he’d already written. Jim Romenesko has done a good job keeping up with that.
The journalism world went into a bit of a tizzy, and apparently lots of people were just way too excited to see Lehrer get knocked down a peg. Personally, I reacted with a shrug. Kid’s young, he made a mistake, it likely won’t happen again. But other people … whoo boy.
Enter BSW, who like V For Vendetta put his flying knives of reason (Too much? I think maybe too much.) into the Lehrer episode by posting the following on his Twitter feed late last night. I’ve compiled the tweets—edited super lightly—into a single post here for your reading pleasure.
Today’s dose of journalism inspiration: “America is a Joke,” a Sept. 12, 2010 profile of Jon Stewart written by Chris Smith for New York Magazine. Link: Click. Highlights: Below. “Jon has chronicled the death of shame in politics and journalism,” says Brian Williams, the NBC Nightly News anchor who is a frequent Daily Show guest. “Many of us on this side of the journalism tracks often wish we were on Jon’s side. I envy his platform to shout …
Bruce Bennett: On the day he decided to pay a man to cut off his leg with a power saw, Tom White woke up with a powerful yearning to run. It was last October, early morning. The girls were still asleep. White rolled over and found an empty bed. His wife, Tammy, had already pulled on her shoes and set off on a five-mile run on the streets of Buena Vista, Colorado. Without him. Again. …
“Someone once said I would have found something loveable about Hitler. And to that I say, well, Eva Braun must have loved him, right?” —Mike Sager
National Magazine Award winner Mike Sager (2011, “The Man Who Never Was,” Esquire) profiled an ugly dude in Hollywood for the latest issue of Esquire. That sounds kind of mean until you read the piece, which turns out kind of beautiful. The level of intimacy he gets to with such a character is just astounding. It’s a must-read for journalists both accomplished and aspiring. Probably a must-read-thrice, just to appreciate how much Sager learned about this guy.
As you’ll see below, it took a heck of an effort, but in true Sager form, the man pulls it off remarkably. It’s not a pretty story or a feel-good story, but it’s a true story, and more and more these days I’ve come to appreciate the simple power of truth in a world gone mad with spin.
So without further rambles, ladies, gentlemen, and others, I give you Mike Sager.