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Who is the greatest print journalist working?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by DietCoke, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. DietCoke

    DietCoke Member


    Last evening, I read Jon Lee Anderson's piece on the Sri Lankan Civil War in the latest New Yorker. I understand that that sounds like a sentence you say at a D.C. cocktail party of liberal elites, but bear with me. I have no pressing interest in the Sri Lankan Civil War, except that the story was about 15 pages long about something I knew nothing about, and I knew Anderson is a terrific foreign correspondent, and I had some time to kill and desire to dive into a substantial piece of story.

    Quite honestly, the piece blew me away. There is a scene early on, when Anderson takes us back to his first visit to the country, back in 1986 or so. I know this site does not like first-person writing very much, but Anderson put me so much in the thick of that time and place, I don't see how it could have been done any other way. In the anecdote, he is driven deep into the jungle to a mud hut, where he meets with one of the officers in the insurgent Tamil army. The insurgent boasts about the cause, then has some of his toughs bring in a woman they believe is a traitor. In an exhausted whisper, the woman says to Anderson, repeatedly, "They're going to kill me." The officer/warlord has the woman taken away, then confirms to Anderson that, yes, they are going to kill the woman.

    A few observations:

    (1) I think Anderson, who is the author of both "Che," the best-selling book from the late '90s, and the definitive account of the fall of Baghdad, may just be our greatest working print journalist. If not, he's close to the top.

    (2) What a job he has. Can you imagine having thousands and thousands of words - and months and months of time, and thousands and thousands of dollars to spend on your effort - to spin the tale of something like a brutal foreign Civil War? What an incredible life. You name a foreign war over the last 20-30 years, Anderson has probably been right in the thick of it.

    (3) When you have a job like that, how the hell do you spend your free time? How do you go from writing this line: "In the morning, a boy from the group was shot as he defecated," to playing Scrabble or watching the "Hangover" or prepping for your fantasy baseball draft? How?

    Anyway, just thought I'd start the thread. I know that it is difficult to definitively name the greatest print journalist, but there are a lot of people out there that deserve some recognition, particularly in a world when the attention seems to coalesce around those with the loudest bullhorns. And they night serve as an inspiration to other journalists working here.

    Also welcome any thoughts on Anderson's piece or my thoughts on Anderson's piece. Or whether that kind of work would ever appeal to anyone here or if you're perfectly content covering sports or local news. Which is fine. Putting yourself in that kind of danger isn't for everybody. Nor should it be.
  2. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member

    Chivers, Packer, Filkins, Boo.
  3. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member

    Jones, Smith, Junod, Krakauer.
  4. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member

    Lewis, Hersh, Eichenwald, Didion.
  5. DietCoke

    DietCoke Member

    Krakauer is a great one.
  6. DietCoke

    DietCoke Member

    Does Laura Hillenbrand count as a journalist? Or is she more of a historian? Her account of WWII in "Unbroken" has a lot of the qualities I loved about Anderson's piece, including the authoritative voice and the use of hard-fought details.
  7. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member

    Vollmann, Price, Pierce, Bowden, Burroughs, Moehringer.
  8. Mira

    Mira Member

    I think Hillenbrand could be considered a journalist. Any chapter from "Unbroken" could be plucked out of the book and stand on its own. Look at the time with research and interviews for the book. Journalist, for sure. At least in my opinion.

    Didion is amazing, too. Krakauer and Filkins are fabulous. I don't disagree with any of those.
  9. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I'll stick to sports and I'll go with writers, not columnsits, even though a couple who I'll list will be columnists, but they're the more known for being storytelling columnists than their strong opinions.

    Joe Posnanski, Bill Plaschke, Wright Thompson, Gary Smith, Scott Price, Selena Roberts, George Dohrmann, Sally Jenkins.
  10. Mira

    Mira Member

    I agree with many sports folks on your list, Mizzougrad. Particularly Plaschke, Price and Roberts.
  11. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member

    Remnick, Fallows, McPhee.
  12. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I would add Finkle to Azrael's excellent list.
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