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Who wrote it better - WSJ vs. NYT

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by ringer, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. ringer

    ringer Active Member

    Classic heavyweight bout here: two stories, one gymnast, in two giant papers

    Please compare, contrast, discuss...




  2. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I looked for a way to soften the blow, but I can't find one. John Branch out-wrote and out-reported Aimee Berg on this one, and I don't think it was close. He had the better structure (focusing on the family), the better quotes ("I was a pizza monster"), the better phrasing, the better lead and the better kicker.

    Berg's piece wasn't bad by any stretch. Branch's was very good, though. A strong edit could have made this close, though. The phrasing and organization hurt Berg's piece more than anything. I think the lead would have read better as:

    It manifested as fearlessness, initially. John Orozco would hang from the basketball rim in the yard at age 1. He would jump off the roof into his father's arms at 18 months.

    Orozco took a job at 13, bagging groceries at a Bronx bodega. "I'm gonna help us get out of here," he'd say. His talent took him further than the tips.

    I'm not saying it's great. But I wasn't pulled in with Berg's lead because it had nothing to do with gymnastics or sports and really was relatively mundane. It could have been about anyone.
  3. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I'm surprised the WSJ wrote a story about someone from The Bronx. It's a little out of its coverage area in South Manhatten.
  4. 1HPGrad

    1HPGrad Member

    I know parents like to embellish their children's feats, but anybody who lets an 18-month-old on a roof, much less jump off one, needs to be reported, not commended. Maybe it's true. But the fact somebody would encourage that is so unbelievable I didn't really want to continue reading.
  5. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    It's hard to assess what that means, really. It could be the equivalent of an 18-month old jumping into the waiting arms of his dad in a pool, depending on the height of that roof.
  6. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I'll give it to Branch for the writing. They each reported a handful of their own details, so I'm not going to suggest Branch did a better reporting job. I'm not sure he did. Berg really explains why, for example, Orozco got hurt. It was more than just a "dismount." He got hurt because he didn't commit to the routine. It's a weakness we'll look for later on.

    Branch's story was a bit light on the actual gymnastics. For example, he writes this:

    <i>In a world where gymnasts teeter on that beam between strength and agility, Orozco is a rare combination of power and grace.

    “He does things that are, like, physically impossible,” Hebert said. “He’ll just defy gravity and all laws of gymnastics.”</i>

    Well, give us an example. What's his best routine? What can he do that others don't or can't? To whom does his style compare?

    The Berg story needs an edit, like Versatile said. Good, but it rarely sings.
  7. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    It's gymnastics, though. I can agree with you on the portions each devoted to the injury: Berg was certainly more complete, and that's actually interesting. But Branch had better human-interest details, aside, perhaps, from the hanging from the hoop and jumping off the roof parts. The back end of his story did lack specificity, but he didn't wan to put the focus on the intricacies of the sport.
  8. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Why, though? Would he presume no one cares? It's a graf in a story fleshing out a hyperbolic quote. He practically defies laws of gravity? So does David Blaine. How's the kid do it?

    I'm saying: Qualify the quote.
  9. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I agree that it would have been a better quote with a backing image. Maybe the coach was referring to a particular trick on the parallel bars. But maybe the quote is more general. I don't think that makes it a bad quote to use.
  10. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    I don't know who wrote it better, but I read these better than any of you.
  11. ringer

    ringer Active Member

    I'd say the WSJ did a far better job of reporting and gave the readers a much better sense of what kind of person and athlete Orozco is.

    1) The dad has a stroke and the kid still wins
    2) The kid gave away his first gold medal
    3) The kid persisted despite harassment from his peers for being a gymnast
    4) The kid was working since he was 13? How many other sheltered gymnasts can say that?
    5) Then, there were interesting details like going to J-Lo’s grade school and driving to super-rich Chappaqua, a place where presidents retire.

    Also, the WSJ got the story first.

    The merits, imo, of the NYT story were the visual aspects and the pacing. Somehow, Branch manages to make extremely mundane details enticing. (i.e. photos on the wall of an ordinary gym, the kid's diamond earrings and wisp of a moustache.) Do those details matter? Not a bit. But they're effective.
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