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MUST READ: Facial transplant feature in the New Yorker

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Dick Whitman, Feb 10, 2012.

  1. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    This week's New Yorker piece on facial transplants, focusing the narrative around one man who was electrocuted while working with a couple relatives, quite simply may be the most brilliant piece of writing/reporting in the magazine since David Gann's piece on the Cameron Todd Willingham execution three years ago.

    Unfortunately, the full piece is under lock and key at the site:


    The piece is 20-plus pages long in the book, but well worth it. It is written by Raffi Khatchadourian. He is a stunningly talented long-form writer. Last year, he wrote what, to me, was the definitive piece on the BP oil spill, a balanced piece in the New Yorker that dug below the surface of the story like nothing else I read.

    His name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue like Tom Junod or Gary Smith, but the depth of reporting and eye for detail and the time that this guy pours into this piece deserves your attention.

    I will try to pull a few excerpts from the piece to talk about it in a little more depth later today or this weekend if/when I get a chance, but for now I just wanted to get it out there before I headed out for the day.
  2. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Just to whet your appetite:

    Surgeons are practiced in distancing their emotions from their work, but the invasiveness of the debridements affected them, too. "I have never been physically sick in the O.R.," Arnoldo said. "But when I removed the mid-face - the nose, the lips, the soft tissue around the eyes - and carried those pieces of tissue to a back table, there was a moment where I felt like I could be physically ill. It was upsetting. You're taking his identity away."

    Another surgeon told me that the amount of tissue that had to be debrided amazed him. "The issue with Dallas was that the burn was so deep that we couldn't get down to anything living," he said. After skin, fat, and muscle were removed, a drill was needed to burr the scorched skull. "We got down to bone," he said; in some areas, the bone had died all the way through. "After multiple trips to the operating room, he literally looked like a skull on top of a body. Everything was gone."
  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Amazing video of the story (not the surgery, but what the family has gone through), narrated by the recipient's grandmother/caretaker:

  4. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Great writing, but after reading that, I don't think I could read the story. Seriously.
  5. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

  6. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Maybe some of the board's better writers like Double Down or Alma can weigh in, but, to me, a rank amateur, I found those two paragraphs to be a clinic in how to effectively use quotes in a piece to drive the story. Especially in our daily work, I think we fall into the trap a lot of times of just "getting quotes" to "plug into" our stories. It would be easy to read Khatchadourian's piece, or his piece on the BP spill, and dismiss its usefulness because most of us don't get months of time and 20 pages of space in the New Yorker, along with a dream travel budget, to put together a feature. But when you pull out a building block like that small excerpt, and dissect what makes it work, it seems like there is a little something that all of us could apply to improve the effectiveness of our storytelling.
  7. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    Before I read and attempt to enjoy this story, I think I'll need to know if the author asked any of the people he talked to not to talk to anyone else.

    Without that knowledge, I won't know how to judge the author or his intentions.
  8. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Sad how Jonesy gets trashed for being honest -- and doing what thousands of other aggressive reporters have done before him.

    YGBFKM Guest

    We're gonna need to work on your sarcasm, YF.

    Poor Jonesy.
  10. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    It's in large part because he's a polarizing figure around here. And it's not even really because of anything he's done. Threads on his work are a battleground where some SportsJournalists.com power politics play out.

    Anyway, back to the New Yorker piece ...
  11. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    I probably shouldn't have sidetracked this thread. The criticism of Jones on the other thread might be the single silliest thing I've seen on this board yet.

    As for this story, it might be awesome, but it might be too intense for me.
  12. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    For some reason, I really enjoy stories about medical advances. I think it's the combination of the science - it's hard to break that stuff down for laymen - and the enormous human stakes involved. A few years ago I got a book with all the Pulitzer Prize feature winners, when I was still harboring the pipedream of joining the list some day, and the first one was a piece by Jon Franklin about a difficult brain surgery. I was hooked.
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