Tagged: journalism

The Annotated “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”

Q: Not that there’s a great place to ask this, but what did Sinatra smell like? This is the sort of detail that rarely ends up in a profile.

A: I don’t know. I didn’t write about it and I didn’t think about it.

Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is accurately considered one of the greatest celebrity profiles ever written as well as a sterling example of literary journalism. Elon Green went through the story with Talese for Nieman Storyboard, finding out a lot of interesting tidbits about how Talese wrote the thing.

There are some really good Talese quotes, like this one: “I never thought it was new journalism. It was writing short stories with real names. But it’s not very interesting to put it that way.” And this: “It’s nonfiction. It’s fact-reporting. It’s beautiful.” And there’s great stuff about how Talese felt about Sinatra (a controlling guy, but understandably so, says Talese), how he picked the Sinatra songs to quote, where he got certain information and all sorts of other angles.

I highly recommend reading it.

And, just in case you missed it, Green and Sebastian Junger annotated “The Storm” over the summer. It was also pretty great.

Sebastian Junger’s Writing Advice

I try to edit my work in different states of mind. So I’ll go running on a really hot day and then read the 2,000 words I just wrote. Or if I’m upset, or really sleepy, or if I’m drunk, I’ll read this stuff. If you’re sleepy and you find yourself skipping over a paragraph because you’re bored by it and just want to get to the interesting part, it comes out. Those different states of mind are a really interesting filter.

Sebastian Junger’s article “The Storm” (which inspired his book “The Perfect Storm”) ran in Outside Magazine nearly two decades ago. In a delightful feature over at Nieman Storyboard, Junger went through the story answering Elon Green‘s questions about how it was written and reported. The entire thing is a great read, filled with wonderful and worthwhile advice from Junger.

(It’s part of an ongoing Nieman series called Annotation Tuesday, where other writers sit down and go through their stories discussing how they were written.)

Nate Silver’s incredibly wise advice for young journalists

Read 
blogs. 
Newspapers. 
Trade
 magazines. 
Books. 
Interview 
transcripts. 
Financial 
filings. … You 
should 
read 
broadly 
‐‐
 from 
people 
who 
come 
from 
different 
backgrounds 
and 
different 
sides 
of 
the 
political 
argument.
 You 
should 
read 
critically. 
Don’t 
assume 
that 
someone 
is 
right 
just 
because 
they 
have 
a 
big 
credential 
attached. There 
have 
been 
a 
number 
of 
studies 
‐‐ 
including 
some 
I’ve 
conducted 
myself 
‐‐
 which 
have 
demonstrated 
that 
a 
group 
of 
four 
political 
pundits 
is 
often 
no 
more 
insightful 
than 
a 
barbershop 
quartet. A
 high 
percentage 
of 
what 
passes 
for 
news 
is 
really 
just 
filler. But 
definitely 
spend 
a 
lot 
of 
time 
reading. 
Don’t 
feel 
guilty 
if 
you 
spend 
the 
first 
90 
minutes 
of 
your 
day 
drinking 
coffee 
and 
reading 
blogs 
‐‐ it’s 
your 
job. 
Your 
ratio 
of 
reading 
to 
writing 
should 
be 
high.

— Nate Silver spoke at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and delivered pearls of statistically-viable wisdom. The entire thing is worth reading.

Jay Rosen: What I Think I Know About Journalism

Jay Rosen has taught journalism at NYU for 25 years. He boils down what he thinks he knows about journalism into these four ideas:

1. The more people who participate in the press the stronger it will be.

2. The profession of journalism went awry when it began to adopt the View from Nowhere.

3. The news system will improve when it is made more useful to people.

4. Making facts public does not a public make; information alone will not inform us.

He expounds on each of those here. Worth a read.

“There’s just too much happening”

HST: Oh yeah, it’s too busy during the day. There are too many plumbers and salesmen driving around. It’s like writing in a crowd, in the street.

Has it always been like that for you?

HST: As a matter of function, yeah. I wasn’t born a vampire bat. As a matter of, take a look around you. I can’t handle it. There’s no way I can work as a writer during the day. There’s just too much happening.

— From an unpublished interview with Hunter Thompson conducted in 1998. Hunter died six years ago this week.

A cognitive linguist on how journalists can be better at explaining things

Cognitive linguist George Lakoff discusses how journalists can explain complex systems to non-specialists. It’s thoroughly interesting and full of useful tidbits like why journalists should study cognitive science, the flaw in allegedly “objective” reporting and why the classical theory of rationality is at the heart of a lot of journalistic problems.

The Small Town’s Own Little New Media Experiment

The Register Citizen of Torrington, Conn., is a small-town newspaper trying to reinvent itself in the digital world:

At the new offices of The Register Citizen in this faded old mill town, there’s a sign out front welcoming residents to come in for coffee and muffins at the Newsroom Café — sort of Starbucks meets “Lou Grant.” Mimeographed fliers reading “Public Welcome!” invite people to walk in and participate in the 4 p.m. story conference. Residents are free to stroll through the newsroom as reporters peck out stories.

The publication, now housed in a renovated factory space, is now aimed at letting “the public see The Register Citizen as its space.” Hence the cafe, public space for bloggers and courses on blogging and journalism that will teach residents how to write and link to the site. The notion of an open-doors publication wouldn’t work everywhere — I’m obviously thinking of major metropolitan cities, if only owing to space and, let’s be honest, can you imagine this working in Manhattan? — but for small towns who need their news, this is an excellent way to deliver it. [NYT]

On Not Talking To The Press

Alex Balk, co-proprietor of The Awl (a site of which I am an avowed fan), declined to speak to David Carr for a recent Times article. It was the story’s only unexplained morsel, so he explained more on the site itself. I found it to be a jolly good read. I actually agree with most of what he says as good and just reasons not to speak on the record, at least with regards to media writers/reporters/etc.