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What makes Joe Posnanski a good columnist?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Mar 20, 2008.

  1. Let's see how this goes - every few days, I'll post a big name that a lot of us are familiar with in this business, and maybe we can get a discussion going on what we like/dislike about their technique/subject matter, etc.

    Figured Pos was as good of a place to start as any.

    Here's his latest in case anyone wants to have a read:


    My brief thoughts:

    * Always very even-keeled with little in the way of hysterics, perhaps even to a fault since he's more of a feature columnist than an opinion guy.

    * Just an easy read. His columns often run the length of other people's takeouts, but they're just so easily digestible.

    * Does a lot of his own reporting. He is far from a pundit-type or a guy who just rants from his couch somewhere.

    * Open-minded. The "Baseball Prospectus" crowd absolutely loves him because he has taken the time to learn their world a little bit and find some redeeming, enlightening qualities in it instead of just making fun of it.

    Other thougths? Let's see how this goes. Could be fun - and informative.
  2. Bullwinkle

    Bullwinkle Member

    Let's add this one from a few days earlier: http://www.kansascity.com/180/story/534308.html
  3. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    I would say that these are the keys to Joe's success:

    1) He has been in KC for a long time, and he probably has a built-in institutional memory that allows him to make connections and draw parallels that a newcomer to town couldn't do.

    2) He doesn't force those connections or parallels.

    3) Instead, he just tells stories, and he tells them cleanly, and he doesn't get all glittery or baroque about it. I think his seeming lack of ego -- I don't know the man, but I know his writing -- sets him apart from many columnists, particularly the fat one who writes opposite him.

    4) He makes writing look effortless, but I like to think that he works at it.

    5) He's not afraid to report.

    6) His reputation in town probably makes it easier for him to report, but still, he has to get out there.

    7) He really has an ear for the right notes to strike. It's not often I read one of his columns and think, Wow, he kind of missed that one. Even his "ordinary" columns have at least a few moments in them that ring especially true.

    I would guess that Joe would tell you that it's not that hard: He reports, and then he writes, and he tries to do both well, and he has worked to that end for a long time now, and it helps that he loves Kansas City, that he cares about the stories he tells, like Breslin about New York.

    Of course, that's a much harder trick to pull than it might seem.
  4. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    One thought to add to The Jones smart and comprehensive post.

    JoePo doesn't have an adversarial relationship with his readers.
  5. Which is tougher to avoid than you'd think sometimes.
  6. Simon

    Simon Active Member

    I found this entertaining on his blog: http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2008/03/20/from-the-notebook-three-screw-ups/

    Take a look at the "lead" of this blog entry. He does this a lot with his leads. He brings the readers in with something that everyone can connect to. He does this in a lot of stories when he isn't writing leads like this:

    Basketball games end this way only in the movies. The basketball bounced and danced around the rim — it was in, out, in again, it was out — as if it was deciding what to do, deciding whose heart to break, whose day to make, deciding who would celebrate and hug at midcourt. Basketball games end this way only in the movies. And in tournament games.


    He made this women's basketball game interesting for me. The descriptive writing is just perfect. The quotes actually move the story along unlike a lot writing that just uses quotes to fill up space. He makes lots of things that are interesting to me. He makes things that I've been beat over the head with interesting.

    It doesn't hurt that he has the best editor in America.
  7. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    Poz is a great columnist because he works at his craft. He writes, he reports, he studies his subjects. Poz knows what he's writing about. He's not throwing a column together and hoping it sticks, just because he's that skilled.
  8. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    i don't think this is that difficult. it's because he's an everyday guy.
  9. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Seems to me that the "work" part is the key, both in the reporting and the writing. He might be the fastest writer ever, but it doesn't read like he just cranked it out as fast as he could. And it's clear he spends time gathering the material. He doesn't cheat the process either at the front or the back end. Doesn't seem like he's rushing off to do a three-hour radio show either. I actually do not know whether he's one of those multimedia fellows, but what I read seems to be his first love and top priority. With a lot of the double- and triple-dippers, you can tell that they're half-assing the day job. :mad:
  10. Pilot

    Pilot Well-Known Member

    I'm as big a Poz fan as you're going to find, but I have seen him throw stuff against the wall and hope it sticks before. Only once that I can remember, but it was a little disappointing.
  11. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    He seems down-to-earth in the column I just read (the one about his screw-ups).

    That would put him in good stead with me.
  12. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    His blog, as I've said before, blows my mind because he puts more work into it than most people put into their work.

    He did a multi-thousand word blog entry about Herschel Walker that still amazes me.
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