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Writing About Cancer

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 3_Octave_Fart, Sep 3, 2014.

  1. 3_Octave_Fart

    3_Octave_Fart Well-Known Member

    Very good piece on the 'genre' of cancer writing.
    When writers get cancer, they tend to write about it.
    But is there anything new to say? A recently diagnosed woman tackles the stock presentation.

  2. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I worked at a small shop that published a special section on breast cancer survivors, complete with pink-dyed paper (ugh) and a zillion ads. Big cash cow for the company. Every reporter had to write a story including the sports guys, and I was assigned to write about a former county schools superintendent. She was salty and fantastic, refusing to "personify" the illness too and detesting the whole pink movement, "awareness," etc. She believed there would never be a cure because there was so much money to be made from hospitals to doctors to Race for the Cure organizers to people selling "those damned pink car ribbons."

    I told her story just as she wished, which needless to say didn't exactly match the rest in the section. The editors refused to run it. Disappointing.
  3. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    A coworker was once diagnosed with a tumor and decided to write a series about the treatment process. Trouble was, it really was a wholly unremarkable process. Obviously that was far more important than whether it was a compelling series, but the reality was that it simply wasn't.
  4. SellOut

    SellOut Member

    No offense to Jenny but as a cancer survivor, if we want to write about it -- whether for professional or personal purposes -- then we will. And I would imagine that as soon as she gets over the shock of the diagnosis, she will too.
    Are there familiar paths taken during this process for most cancer patients? Absolutely. But there's only one path that's yours. And if the pap we write is too trite for you, great. Move the fuck on.
  5. PaperDoll

    PaperDoll Well-Known Member

    One of my sports editors is a cancer survivor. I found out because it's in his Twitter profile, right alongside where he works and that he's a dad and the sports teams he likes. He's never said a word about it, and I haven't asked. If he chooses to tell his story, I will support that.

    I've written about entirely too many student-athletes (and younger) who have had cancer. Some of those stories sound similar, though there have been a few with their own twist on treatments and life in general.

    I've also been subject to the pink paper, but we took it one step farther and had to write not just breast cancer stories -- but <i>Susan G. Komen For the Cure</i> stories. I was chided by upper management (outside the sports department) because the local triathlon in which a group of local female survivors participated was not a Komen fundraiser.

    I have not written another story targeted for that day since.
  6. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    When I was in Brattleboro I agreed to let a staff photographer photograph a few of my 35 radiation treatments after they sawed off my left nut. He did a good job in the photo essay.

    I don't think you can ever really over-do the cancer thing as a writer. It connects all of us on one level or another.
  7. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    It's all up to the individual. Some otherwise fine writers might consider the whole situation too personal to bring out into the light; others might feel unleashed in a way and WANT to spew out virtually everything in their minds on the subject. Some previously stilted and wooden writers might be suddenly seized by an electric bolt of creativity.

    But life and death is the absolute most personal subject ever. If you want to write, write. If you don't, don't.

    Of course somebody else (editor or publisher) is going to have to decide whether the resulting material is of interest to the audience. If I were in such a situation, I'd say, "run it or don't run it; I don't give a fuck what anybody else thinks of it."

    If, given such a statement by the writer (me), the editor decided not to run it (as an editor, I'd be strongly tempted not to), I still wouldn't care one way or the other.

    If I felt it was important that any specific individual (s) see it, I would see to it that they did. After that, I wouldn't care.
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I have to say I don't read these. And I don't read stories about some athlete overcoming this or that. Unless I'm paid to read them.

    The ice bucket thing, too. Brings awareness, a yup.

    Of course, I might read one of these if I knew what is gonna croak me. But I don't.
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