Friday, May 26, 2006


C.J. Chivers offers a stirring narrative in June's Esquire of what really happened when Chechen rebels seized 1,100 hostages, most of them children, in the Russian town of Beslan two Septembers ago. Chivers, who originally covered the terrorist attack for the New York Times, recreates the drama in "The School" through the eyes of some of the hostages. His skilled reporting reveals the kind of vivid details that make us feel like we're really there. The result is narrative writing at its best. You can read the first section of Chivers' story on the Esquire Web site, but you'll have to go to your local library or newsstand to read the whole thing.
Happy Memorial Day everyone. And thanks again to B.J. Summers for his help.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ted and Bobby

"In life, if you're lucky, you come across one or two great friends," sports writer Kalani Simpson of the Honolulu Star Bulletin writes. The two friends he tells about in his "Sidelines" column are baseball Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr. It's a story that's been shared before, most notably by David Halberstam in his book "The Teammates." But Simpson describes it exceptionally well through his use of simple, vivid words and rhythmical sentences.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Windy City Mob

The Chicago Sun-Times is running a remarkable three-part series this week about the mob's ties to Chicago City Hall. Reporters Tim Novak, Robert C. Herguth, Art Golab and Steve Warmbir report that dozens of descendants of Bruno Roti Sr., who they describe as being close to Al Capone, have gained lucrative city contracts and hold many city jobs, including alderman. According to the Sun-Times reporters, many of these relatives have been involved in programs noted for bribery, theft and other scandals. This is a good example of highly detailed investigative reporting colorfully told.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Her Own Story

A few months ago I noted the stories being written by San Francisco Chronicle copy editor Alicia Parlette, who discovered last year that she had a cancerous tumor spreading from her right hip. Through many difficult times she has continued writing "Alicia's Story," and it's worth reading if you haven't already (she's turning the first seven chapters into a book). Notice how Parlette compresses her most moving material into short, powerful sentences.
Our prayers are with you Alicia -- please keep writing.


The Minneapolis Star Tribune and reporter Maura Lerner have done a masterful job of following the fate of Abbigail and Isabelle Carlsen, the once-conjoined twins from Fargo who are recovering from separation surgery. This is a great example of how to use online multi-media resources to best tell a story. In addition to Lerner's beautiful three-part narrative of the girls' path to surgery, the STrib's Web site includes regular updates, a slideshow by photographer Joey McLeister accompanied by the voices of the girls' parents, information on where people can send donations, and links to Web sites about the girls created by their parents and by the Mayo Clinic, where the surgery was done. An audio interview of Lerner on how she reported the story is especially interesting. Thanks to faithful reader Brian Summers for the suggestion.
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