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Gary Smith on Pat Tillman (again)

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WildBillyCrazyCat, Sep 7, 2006.

  1. I didn't find another thread on this yet, so hopefully I'm not DBing it.

    Gary Smith's Tillman story in this week's SI was phenomenal. It's probably redundant to have a thread praising his writing every time the guy writes a story, but it's again worthy. I loved the way he framed the story with the other soldier's personal battles.

    That said, the reporting on this story is better than the writing. The level of detail is astounding, even for G. Smith's standards.
  2. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

  3. MCEchan36

    MCEchan36 Guest

    I just finished reading it, and it's amazing. It shows that you don't have to be from the big guns like Mizzou or Northwestern to become a top-notch writer. Go La Salle.

    PS - Sorry for the cheap plug, but we haven't had a lot to cheer about lately. I couldn't help myself.
  4. I haven't read the new one, and I certainly will, but does it account for the fact that Smith pretty much got spun by the Army on his first run at this topic, and , if so, how?
    (This is no rip on Smith. The Army was lying to everyone there for a while.)
  5. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    The editor's note in the front does some interesting backflips around the issue, FB, and Gary chalks it up to, honest to god, "the fog of war" which he hopes now has been reduced to "a fine mist" with this effort. Um, ok.

    Let's be clear: I love Gary Smith's stuff. He is, perhaps more than just about any writer, the reason why I got into this business, and the reason why I've stuck with it. He hooked me with the story about Jamila Wideman (not even one of his best) and the story about Jonathan Takes Enemy while I was in college, and I realized what I wanted to do with my life.

    However, every story cannot be A GARY SMITH STORY, especially not on deadline. There is a reason why narrative writing takes time. If you don't have the reporting to back up every sentence, you can't do it. And the Tillman story, right when it happened, still feels to me like one of those stories that was forced to fit a particular style when it didn't necessarily have the facts to support it yet.

    This version, the second one, is a beautiful story. It also reads like a 4,000 word correction. Or, at the NYT would say in the matters of Whitewater, Wen Ho Lee, Jayson Blair and Weapons of Mass Destruction, a 4,000 word "clarification."
  6. daemon

    daemon Well-Known Member


    "But if we really want to know who Pat was, our best chance, maybe our only chance, is to look hard at that picture of a half-naked man doing a handstand on a roof. Doing something he loved to do just because it was hard and scary, sort of like telling the truth."
  7. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    geezm what's the big deal? the first tillman piece was done right after the fact, when the facts were blurred by the freakin' army. now that the dust has mostly settled, gary wrote a beautiful do-over. s.i. fully admitted it, like everyone else, had been played.

    the 4,000-word do-over is a thing of beauty. no other way to describe it. 8) 8) 8)
  8. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    First post here, wish I came here earlier, but I gotta comment on Smith.

    This one was A+. I loved the guy since I read his story on Radio when I was in high school. He has bombs like all of us where it doesn't work, but this Tillman story was incredible.

    I didn't want to read it intially because I read several stories on Tillman, the latest a good effort by ESPN Ticket. But the detail was incredible.

    I have 5 years writing at a daily where I have some time to do stories, but I would love to sit down and figure out technically how he did the story.

    It is one thing to write like Smith, few have that talent, but the reporting and detail is better than the prose. That is tough to do.

    Okay, now that I am loving Smith so much, I gotta go negative. Must every story of his be literature? Sometimes it is torture to read his stuff. This is one I am glad I picked up.
  9. Sxysprtswrtr

    Sxysprtswrtr Active Member

    Welcome to the board jfs!

    OK, after reading some of the comments on this thread, I pulled out my issue and read the Smith's Tillman masterpiece.

    It was an excellent read with a lot of detail as well as literary devices such as repetition and recurring themes such as the religious, or shall I say non-religious, undertones.

    My one beef is that there were some choppy parts. Some transitions that made me want to stop reading altogether instead of willing me to read on. I found myself distracted and had to stop, and then pick up where I left off after a couple minutes of thought and/or doing something entirely different.
  10. e4

    e4 Member

    how does a gary smith piece get fact-checked? who do you go to double-check stuff when the majority of details are revealed through his narrative voice? those are the questions i had after reading the piece (phenomenal, by the way) and those questions were somewhat answered by the sources box that followed the story... i like that they did that, especially with all the contradictions that have surrounded the manner in which mr. tillman died
  11. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    You are absolutely correct. I guess for this type of story to work, the writer has to have tremendous credibility. Smith is probably one of the few who can pull it off. I don't think you can fact check it at all. This may be one one where you let bits and pieces be read by the sources? I don't think that is possible.
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