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This is the kind of stuff that needs to be done more often

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Elliotte Friedman, Dec 22, 2010.

  1. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member

  2. AD

    AD Member

    that was just flat-out superb.
  3. Colton

    Colton Active Member

    Damn fine story, Kevin.
  4. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    In the interest of discussing the craft, why does this story work?

    Or, why might it not work?

    Is was Elliott said feasible? Could journalists write more stories like this? Or does it require a willing subject?

    Fire away.
  5. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member


    I'll take a stab, from my own personal point of view. It works, for me, because as Elliotte said people want to know about the people. They want the peeks behind the curtain. In the instances in which we, as journalists, get to peek behind there, they want to know what we see. And to be able to tell an instance behind a story that ran in the past that helps explain who Friedgen is...that's what they want. Even if they don't know it.

    But based by the comments on that blog, I think at least some of them are feasible.

    Now, could people write more of those? Yes. But most likely it's better off like this: feature in the paper, further info in the blog. Because shrinking newshole is going to limit the amount of story someone can tell in print.

    But yes. I think it worked, and I think it can work. Fans can watch the games and tell you what DB is blowing what coverages and why the second-string running back is second string. But they don't know as much about the people under the team colors as they could ever possibly want to.
  6. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    I'd rather read well-crafted, interesting and long stories like this in the paper than some of the shit that's published today.

    If editors would commit to doing them, I believe the stories would be well-received.
  7. silent_h

    silent_h Member

    I concur with everyone else. Well done, Kevin.

    That said ...

    ... a piece like this also leaves me feeling frustrated and sad. Indirectly, it speaks to the economy of our business.

    If Kevin didn't already have a wealth of experience and knowledge of Fridge to draw upon -- if he didn't already have all of his reporting done, so to speak -- would many news organizations give him the time and money needed to find this kind of story?

    Could many news organizations afford that, even if they wanted to?

    From the Sun's perspective, a story like this works because: (a) Kevin can write it out of his head, at no cost save the time it takes to craft a well-written story; (b) the paper can post it on the web with almost no production, printing or photo cost; (c) it's something readers will like, because it is good.

    In essence, the cost-benefit ratio is very favorable.

    Now imagine if Kevin was asked to write something like this, but he had to do all of this reporting from scratch. He has to get access to Fridge. Lots of it. He has to access the people around Fridge. Lots of of it. Again, that takes time. Money. It's risky, too -- maybe you don't get the material you need for a truly good piece. (The material, as much as the writing, is what made Kevin's piece sing). And what's the reward for all that time and effort?

    Probably about as many page hits as, say, a news item on Brett Favre's ankle. Less hits than a Deadspin salacious blind item.

    Now, consider: you're a economically strapped news organization that's bleeding print circulation and watching your longtime business model implode. You're making pennies on web advertising where you used to make dollars on print ads.

    Honestly, what are you going to do?

    Of COURSE readers love pieces like these. They just don't love them enough to pay any sort of viable premium for them. (Does the New Yorker even make money? I know the Atlantic does -- but only because they shifted their entire business model toward profiting via shorter, opinion-based web content).

    Costly, time-consuming long form narrative journalism only makes sense as a subsidized loss leader. And that's the thing that makes me frustrated and sad.
  8. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    Good story - I think it really draws readers in when writers reveal their fragile side. Seems like at some point in his life he was traumatized by a stern father or football coach or perhaps both.

    He seemed to be looking for some sort of kinship with Ralph and Ralph was not giving an inch.
  9. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    I can't say what it works. Just why it works for me.

    1) I know a bit about the coach already and a small bit about the writer.
    2) It's a topic I am supremely interested in.
    3) It's an easy read, even though it isn't a quick read. That is hard to pull off. Kevin can flat out write.
    4) You get the sense he is very sympathetic toward Friedgen, yet he managed to keep that on the sideline and explain why it's understandable that he was forced out in the current landscape of college football. With a lesser writer, that might have come off as equivocation -- the typical, "I am a newspaper writer, so to be 'objective' I have to find an opposing side to the story," which I hate. Sometimes there isn't an opposing side. In this case, he managed to fulfill that "requirement" without forcing in an opposing side.
    5) Loved the kicker at the end about Fridge not quitting.

    It was just a well-written piece about something that interested me. Not sure I can analyze it any better than that.
  10. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I always wonder, with some stories, what makes a personal connection work? And what goes wrong when the writer is in the story and it doesn't work? Is it tone? Is it taste?

    For instance, Joe Posnanski writes so eloquently on his blog about personal things. We didn't really talk about it much (I think I saw it linked on the Springsteen thread) by Posnanski's post about why Darkness on the Edge of Town is so personal to him was, to me, one of the best things I've read this year.


    And his piece about Harry Potter and his daughters was also wonderful.


    But we have a handful of people here who are consistently annoyed whenever a writer puts himself/herself into the story. Simmons is flogged repeatedly for this. Wright Thompson too. We're not the story. That's drilled into us early.

    But at the same time, can't the writer's connection to the story enhance the telling? Obviously in cases like Posnanski's pieces, there is no story if it's not personal. That's why those piece are on his blog, although I'd argue they could run anywhere and connect with people.

    I don't know that there is a correct answer. I just think it makes for an interesting question.
  11. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    DD, It's a matter of degree for me. In many cases, I'd say the writer has no place writing himself in. But, 1) As long as the writer doesn't become too much of the focus of the story--and in this case I left thinking about Friedgen, not Kevin, and 2) In cases like this, it's almost impossible to write the blog entry without Kevin having inserted himself. It's a part of the story/remembrance. Could he have done it and included less of himself? I guess. But as long as he doesn't take it too far, I'm personally OK with it. I think Wright Thompson has taken some heat on here for that because (and this is my guess), he has gratuitously placed himself in a thing or two, in some people's opinion. It rubs some people wrong.

    But if it is an easy read and the writer clearly belongs in the piece, why not? John Ed Bradley is one of my favorites. He hardly ever gets fawned over on this board, the way some of the "board favorites" do. There's something about his easy writing style, and his ability to see nuances that really works for me. And because of his experiences, and the fact that he often writes about topics he has direct experience with, he has developed a good style in which he can write himself into something (and even make himself the focus) and do it in a way that doesn't seem gratuitous. He's even used it to bring out poignant sentiments about others.

    For me, there is no hard and fast rule on it. You either do it, and it really belongs in there, and it just works. Or you do it and it's forced and it bombs.
  12. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    DD, for what it is worth, I am firmly in your camp when it comes to this "debate." It is funny to me that you bring up Posnanski. A few years ago, I had finished reading his book about Buck O'Neill and their travels together. I was raving about it to my sports editor, who was firmly in the other side of the "debate."

    "That doesn't make any sense to me," my editor told me. "If I want to read about Buck O'Neill, I want to read about Buck O'Neill, not about Joe Posnanski and Buck O'Neill."

    Not that I'm any great shakes as a writer, but I was still thinking, "Man, you don't get it!"

    To me, used correctly, first-person is a device that gives the story narrative horsepower that it otherwise would not or might not sustain. Memoir is obviously popular today in literature, and I don't think that's just because people love salacious confessionals. I think that first-person is very relateable, very raw, and very story/narrative-centered. Modern readers respond to that for some reason. It's tactile in a way that third-person is not and cannot be.

    Granted, sometimes it can be nauseating - something like "Eat, Pray, Love" comes to mind. But, to me, this kind of first-person narrative has its origins in the travel writing genre, which has a long and rich history as a legitimate literary vehicle.

    Maybe it really connects with people in sports because it has the illusion of breaking down the barrier between reader and writer in a way that modern readers appreciate. They don't want distance. They want immediacy. This puts them into the story. This is a way to deliver the immediacy of story that film is able to without putting up artificial constructs ("... a reporter asked Friedgen why ...") that often clunk up a piece.

    EDIT: Just saw the mention of John Ed Bradley. His memoir, "It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium," was absolutely brilliant. Might have actually been the best sports book of the last decade. This board has always needed to expand its reach beyond Chris Jones, Jeff MacGregor, Charles Pierce, Wright Thompson, S.L. Price, and Gary Smith. There is more reverence to go around. And many, many more writers to learn from, sports and otherwise.

    EDIT 2: An alternative name for this thread could be, "This is the kind of SportsJournalists.com thread that needs to be done more often"
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