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APSE winner stories...

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by umiami06, Jun 7, 2007.

  1. umiami06

    umiami06 Member

    I've been going through the APSE winners' stories and there seems to be a pattern to the winners: Go find the worst shit that's happened to people in your area and write about it. Did someone lose some limbs in an accident? Great. Did their best friends and teammates die in an accident? Excellent. Did they witness their whole family get executed? Even better.

    I realize that these things can make for interesting stories. And I realize that people will read stuff like that. But say if you won an APSE award for writing a story about a kid whose family all died in a car accident last year, would you feel a little bit odd getting recognition and congrats since it's based on something so awful? If I was in that spot, I would be very honored to get recognized but I would feel terribly awkward about getting pats on the back for it. It doesn't mean I have a problem with writing those types of stories at all. In fact, I would do it myself. It just seems to create an odd dynamic.

    Help me out. Tell me how do you not feel like you're taking advantage of a terrible situation for your own accolades?
  2. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Ever hear of the Pulitzers?
  3. Hopefully, we're finding gripping stories to tell. We should be focused on telling stories the readers do (or should) care about, with awards having very little to do with determining our coverage.
    If I win an award for something, great, but I feel much better about myself if I know I'm doing a good job serving my readers. That is what I get paid for.
  4. Larry Graham

    Larry Graham Member

    I have to agree with Okie. We get paid to tell interesting stories. Sometimes they involve tragedy, sometimes they don't. I like finding those stories that involve some sort of personal triumph.
  5. vanbrimmer

    vanbrimmer Member

    Okie's on the money. We should be much, much more concerned about pleasing our readers than we are our peers. The catch there, of course, is our peers give us the next job or the big bump in pay. And in some cases, the APSEs mean plenty in those areas. Plus, I've always felt contests should be more portfolio based. All of us can turn out gold once or twice a year. It's the writers who can turn it out consistently that should be honored. But that's hard to judge in a contest setting. If everybody who entered the APSE sent in their best six to 10 stories, the judging would take a couple of months. Oh well.
  6. Larry Graham

    Larry Graham Member

    But one thing not to forget in all of this is the importance of solid writing. Finding the stories is one thing, however the APSE winners tell the story in a compelling fashion.
    Anyone can write about triumph and tragedy, but I hope that the APSE winners are the ones that let us know why we should care.
  7. That's one of the oddest questions I've ever heard a reporter ask, and if you were standing in front of me right now, I'd tell you that in a nice voice without derision.

    I've been covering news now for more than 10 years - covering everything from the OKC bombing to mass murders and car wrecks - and I never once asked myself if I felt like I was somehow benefitting from other people's misery, even when I happened to receive an award.

    If you think like that then you're in it for the wrong reasons. Okie was right. We are doing this for the readers.

    I am shedding light on problems with society by writing about murders and poverty. When someone, even a backup cornerback for a crappy football team, can overcome some of those problems and translate it into personal success then that is of equal news value.

    Both types of stories drive emotion, which often leads to change. People read our stories and they want to do something about it, even if it's just to call us up and tell us how fucked up the world has become.

    Read the Pulitzer winners: Darfur, Iraq Katrina, etc. Should those reporters give their awards back? The reason they won is because they exposed problems and gave leaders the tools to fix them.

    Here at home it's the same deal. Granted some writers take it too far and spin tales of heros and heroines who persevered through family tragedy but it's never that black and white. It's the gray that is always the most interesting. Read the stories about the Clemson backup who had to take custody of his little brother but had to leave some of his siblings behind with his drugged out mother. Many people covered it and the vast majority, unfortunately, covered it with a happy ending. What about the other kids? That's lazy journalism.

    Last piece of advice. You may have just gotten your first gig as a sportswriter but remember, as long as you are working for a newspaper you are a news reporter first. You are a public servant who instead of being paid by the government, you are there to watchdog it.

    You should always be looking out for news, even when it's not happening right in front of you on a basketball court.
  8. Monroe Stahr

    Monroe Stahr Member

    Pete Hamill had a great term for what's happened to the business, with it's growing need to include a dead body -- or a cancer-ridden one, or a one-limbed one -- in every story. He called in necrojournalism.
  9. My point regarding sports journalism would be this. Just because a story doesn't spin some tale of someone overcoming hardship, tragedy and adversity, that doesn't make it any less of a story than one that does.
  10. MGoBlue

    MGoBlue Member

    You can all blame Mitch Albom for that.

    His end-of-year Dreams Deferred columns and stories won year after year after year (that's, of course, when he used to be a writer only).

    That began the trend, UMiami.
  11. This is the most people have ever agreed with me.
    Am I...hired?
  12. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I have no problem with this kind of story morally or ethically, my problem is I usually don't find them very interesting. I'm not much fascinated by people's suffering in the sense that it's neither entertaining nor especially informative, less fascinated with their noble ability to rise above it, and fascinated least of all by some sports writer's attempt to either moralize or turn it into a metaphor for the meaning of life. This is generalizing, not specifically trashing the award winners -- the piece on Jeff Reardon was interesting, for example, but the disease of the week in some preps sections, well, I usually won't read them anymore. Because I know how it'll go: spunky local kid becomes better through adversity. I don't often agree with Poynter's Roy Peter Clark, but the leadoff anecdote says it for me:

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