Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blog 20: Nonfiction article

Ginny wrote about women that feel the need to get married, and soon. Once women reach a particular stage in life, it seems that society, and more importantly, some families, expect women to find a husband. I felt that her third person, insightful but not introspective, point of view was very appropriate. As a woman, Ginny most probably has feelings about the topic, but she did not allow these to creep into her article. I felt that I was reading the women's stories, not a story spun to make things seem a certain way.

I particularly enjoyed the status details of the first woman that Ginny interviewed. For some reason, knowing where the women lived and worked really set the tone and helped me to see where the women are/were in their lives with respect to getting married.

One thing that might have helped some is variety. Understandably, all the women are local teachers/students and around the same age. It may have helped to have an older woman talk about how times have changed and if this race is anything new. Women have become a lot more goal/career oriented and have most often moved away from the MRS degree. Are societal expectations just not caught up with women's goals and timelines?

One part that was confusing for me was the title. After Ginny's work with Black Like Me I was thinking this had something to do with actual race rather than a competition. But this misconception was quickly cleared up.

Sadie's story also employed third person narrative to tell about the soup kitchen. The pacing of this story flowed well; the proper amount of time and description was given to each aspect/stage of feeding the hungry and her scene by scene construction allowed me to follow through her morning as it progressed. I also enjoyed the little bit of dialogue and banter among the people in the kitchen. The exchanges between them showed that they are real people and care for each other and their cause.

My favorite part(s) of the story are the little bits that describe each person at their respective job. Although these sections are very short, I am able to see their personalities and the part they play in the mission. Even more physical details could have been added here. Also, I really enjoyed the snippets of conversation from the people that came for food. More description could have been added here as well. Were there children? Did anyone get out of line or act louder than anyone else?

There was really no confusion throughout this story. Each aspect is straightforward and presented clearly. Sadie asked at the end of her story if she should put herself into the story. This could be helpful if she talked about the effects the volunteers and their open hearts had on her. But this is also given more subtly through her descriptions of them so I don't find personal inclusion to be necessary.

Ben wrote about the Miami Heat game and his experience with the changing of the team and the fans. Ben's status details really pushed his point. The way the fans were dressed, how much they were willing to pay for amenities, and the fact that some noted fans didn't stay to the end of the game really reinforces that the Heat game was a status thing and much less about the winning and losing, although it takes a team foreseen to win to draw a crowd.

This was written from first person perspective, but might have been made stronger if utilized more. The story doesn't really say if Ben was there as a status boost or to watch the game. He stayed to the end and knew the final score which causes me to assume he cared, but maybe a little more talk about the game and how it went and the reception of the big names would help show that Ben was interested in more than the court-side proceedings (which were not bad details- very helpful). This is something that I also would've liked to hear more about.

More could have been added to the story from Chloe and Andrew's perspective about the game and the team. Chloe is a central figure because she provides the tickets but there is nothing about what she thinks of the team and their 'status' to other attendees of the game. Is she one that comes just for fun or does she have an interest in if the Heat win or lose?

I really enjoyed the comments from Jose Lamas. He seemed to be a loyal fan and had the authority to that others were there for 'sceney' reasons and not necessarily for the athletes and game.

Michelle wrote her story about the horse farm in the first person perspective. There were few status details about the people and place itself; much more space was alloted for the horses themselves. To me, that speaks greatly, if indirectly, of the owners. The horses seemed to be well-groomed and cared for, which shows that the owners are doing their jobs and living their dream.

The growth of the farm and how it functions worked really well. Giving the place and sharing that the owners accept donations is good to note if a reader wanted to visit the farm or help the cause. Also, does the Humane Society help with the farm at all? Their policies were quoted and I wasn't sure if that's because they are the animal authorities or if they have a hand in the farm.

The details about what could happen to the horses if not cared for at the farm really reiterates the work that the Gregorys are doing for the animal community. My favorite part of the story was the fact that even though the Gregorys have lived and traveled in many different countries, they felt that Alachua county was the best place to start their vision. Their mission is a great asset to this part of the state where there are horses in need of help.

Casey covered the cadaver lab from the perspective of a new physical therapy student with side notes from the professor. Casey used 'subjective arrangement of reported information to effect.' He slowly reports concrete detail that he wants us to know, holding out on certain status details of the environment of the lab and what sets it apart from every other lab on campus.

I really enjoyed the slow release of detail, which also matched the slow progression of comfort that the remaining students would feel as they continued with the program. Senesac serves as a guiding light both to the students she teaches/counsels and to the reader; the description of her voice had a calming effect on me as well as I read. One thing that I am curious about, though, are the students' expectations before coming into the lab. Do they know what they are going to see and how the bodies will be presented? Upon entering the program, did they know they were going to be working with cadavers?

There was no confusion for me in this article, and I felt that enough space and detail was alloted for both the students and the professor to express being nervous and express and instill calm, respectively. My favorite part is the paragraph when Alyssa has completed her first day in the lab and the background that she doesn't know about is explained. There is a lot of work and financial input that is needed to get these cadavers so the students can use them.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Blog 19: Tracy Kidder

Tracey Kidder's writing appears to be an off-shoot and fusion of new journalism respectively coupled with travel journalism. Kidder is not quite immersive because he doesn't need to cover himself or hide his goals. Instead, Kidder travels to the story and makes a story out of what he sees rather than thinking of an opportunity and crafting a story around what he senses to be an opportunity. Having the ability to see a town like Hamp/Noho, notice fringe members of the society and write a story that weaves them together into a journalistic book makes Kidder a traveling journalist, in my opinion. He writes the details that are the essence of the place and uses the characters' unique characteristics to define them, not exploit them. For Mountains Beyond Mountains, he attempted to paint the man as man, as father, as human. Kidder wanted to show the power but also the making of Paul Farmer. He did not immerse himself in the subject but rather observed and saw Farmer's cause, adding to the travel journalism aspect while detracting from immersion.

There shouldn't be a question of this as a legitimate form. The genre of new journalism leaves room for experimentation and Kidder has innovated what has already been accepted. It appears that he presents his characters as truthfully as he sees them, making these works more than just fiction and more than a simple relay of what he has witnessed. Also, being able to bring the stories of the people together makes this more than a simple retelling but also a weaving of a society. But one attribute that does not coincide with travel journalism is the excitement of his subjects. Rather than traveling to exotic places and bringing audiences tales of places they can only read about and never visit, Kidder takes the ordinary townspeople and makes their inner lives more prominent.

I would like to do something like this because it seems to involve getting out into the community and getting to know people on their level, not just professionally or in one respect but how they think and what they are like as people, intricacies and 'character flaws' included. Copious notes wouldn't be my favorite part of the job, but understanding the subject in such depth is pertinent to the story. I would also love to travel so that is another plus for this genre.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blog 18: Avis Meyer

Meyer is not necessarily defending literary journalism. Instead, he brings attention to the fact that the writers were so varied and although branching from many previous experiences and writing backgrounds, each has built on the empire of writing. He seems to be defending the merit of the writing more than the ability of the writers themselves. People seem to have discounted the writing of these authors because they do not write traditional news stories in the inverted pyramid style.

On page five, Meyer makes distinctions about the authors and the different genres they write for different literary publications. He does not esteem one author or genre over another; each is portrayed with care and attention that shows his belief that each is necessary to journalism as a whole. Each one has contributed to the growth of publication of the written word (i.e., newspapers, magazines, journals).

Meyer also points out the vocations of the writers before and sometimes after they write for newspapers or magazines. He may do this to show that these authors did not just materialize and begin to write, regardless of skill or experience. He verifies that these writers are professionals and have a solid background in reporting and the field of journalism.

Also, in Sandburg and Hemingway's cases, Meyer points out the usefulness of their careers before poetry and writing, respectively. Before these two notable authors took the stage in other genres, they got their feet wet in the little stream known as literary journalism. In Steinbeck and Hemingway's cases, Meyer relates how the background experience that they had fortified them as writers. Hemingway relied on his experiences of writing in Europe and Steinbeck used his Hooverville sightings in writing The Grapes of Wrath.

The career paths of the writers that Meyer mentions show that literary journalism can be used as an occupational plateau and/or stepping stone for writers. Some of these writers continued to go on and publish more outside of this realm while some created names for themselves in this genre. He shows the effectiveness and questions why some people do not give the full amount of credit due to these writers; they have proven themselves prolific and talented with the ability to relay information and inform their audience as well as entertain.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Blog 17: Sketch like Crane's

The crowd jostled and moved, dipped and swayed, not in unison but not against each other. Each movement was jerky or smooth, planned or erratic, but each was an attempt at keeping time to the thumping bass on the dance floor, oblivious to the heat waves emanating around the small room.

The music pulsed and the peopled danced, meshing and colliding with each other. A heavy set drunk in red stumbled backwards. Her shoulder length brown hair was plastered to the frame of her face as she sloshed into the arms of strangers. With their support, she regained her feet and a little of her posture. She turned with enormous eyes and a smile stretched wider than a taxi with open doors and jumped around, promptly losing her footing and tumbling again into the crowd. She was caught again but this time pointed in another direction, maneuvered towards the stage where her chances to balance herself were increased. She turned her smile-stricken face and jumped away into the throng of bodies, moving, beating, shaking with rhythm.

A main stage crowded the back of the room. Couples danced tightly, twining arms through arms, around faces and over shoulders as legs weaved to create a structure of support. Trios move together, complicating the already desperate attempt at finding a common ground and jiving, touching, pulling, tripping together while maintaining balance. Cigarette smoke climbs high into the air and the beer coats the ground, adding to the obstacles of their already complicated dance.

A girl with hair pinned up on her head, more straight than her dancing routine, treaded on stage as "Here we go again, I feel the chemicals kicking in..." blared from the speakers beneath her. A young man in a dark shirt promenaded playfully towards her as she turned her body to receive his advances. The bass dictated their movements as he stepped closer, bringing their proximity to uncomfortable in the sweltering room. They joined hands and reveled together in each other's grace and fluid motions. The girl's small frame and low visibility due to her dance partner's size rendered her unaware of another young man sauntering up to her dance partner. The darkly clad young man was enraptured with the girl and failed to see his pursuer, with dark jeans and a white shirt, stepping slowly closer to him and seemingly wondering how close, how close, this much closer...

The heat seemed to infiltrate the crowd, making one person for every two and filling the space between groups. Instead of swishing, skirts stuck. Instead of hanging, shirts clung. Movement increased and diminished as the songs became dominated by bass or lyrics. Words had a soothing effect on the pulse of the crowd while the music amped the reactions. Higher and higher the crowd climbed, as the beat pounded. Hands left hips and were raised above heads. Drinks were lifted to avoid the crash and crumble of the crowd. "I'm supposed to interfere, I'm coming from your fears" throbs from the speakers on the floor, flooding the room with techno sounds. Girl's hair is flipped this way and cleaves another's shoulder with a sweaty grip.

The last song drips from the speakers as people drain the last of their beers, fix their tabs and find their original or new escorts. "Payin' anything to roll the dice, just one more time" permeates the thinning room as the crowd spills onto North Main Street.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blog 16: Markey

Markey’s treatment of writing about Number 48,227 is exactly the inverse of what the other ‘characters’ would have readers believe.  While the buriers, priests, superintendents and morgue workers are most concerned with people that are identifiable, that have names and families that will knowingly miss them, Markey has taken Number 48,227 from the rest, out of oblivion, and made him a person.  Despite the lack of persona or identification (even Willie seems trivial), Number 48,227 becomes the only name/recognition that anyone receives.  Even the workers are nameless and faceless.  But Markey does name all the places and inanimate objects; the boat name is known, the East River is mentioned, as well as the park, island, places and gates that the company passes through on their way to burial.  Number 48,227 practically becomes one of these inanimate objects and a part of the surroundings because he is the only person referred to with a title.
            The use of status details is used to reinforce the anonymity of Number 48,227 and to secure his place as a respectable person.   Markey ensures that he is given proper respect and care because he is buried in the Catholic lot.  He is cleared of any crime because his prints don’t match those of a common local pickpocket.  Markey seems to imply that he was well off and not part of the working class because he had a decent amount of money and his hands proved that he was not accustomed to hard or rough physical labor.  His scapular proved that he had faith in God and no one could prove that he had committed suicide so he took his place amongst other Catholics. 
            The scene-by-scene construction serves almost as a purgatory.  He travels through the ranks and is cleared of guilt on each level, eventually gaining the blessing of a priest before being interred in the burial plot.  In each office or room, Number 48,227 is given a positive attribute or saving grace that clears him of guilt and he gets a free “release for burial” stamp and is sent to the next level. 
            The dialogue doesn’t seem to add a lot of context.  While it helps to set Number 48,227 apart because he has no voice and cannot tell his story or whether he was murdered or committed suicide, I don’t feel that it really adds much depth to the story.   In having a numeraled man with a description among a sea of faceless workers, Markey has already set the unidentified dead man apart.
            Markey was a writer that did a good deal of traveling and chronicled what he saw.  He also wrote a moving piece about the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous.He played a backseat role, often documenting the movement and action around him while being immersed in it but never played a central part.  He toured 16,000 miles of the country and had his observations published in This Country of Yours.

For my article, I would like to cover something either sports or community related.  Possibly an event in the community or some kind of athletic event.  I'd like to write about the place and possibly pick a person to shadow throughout to see the event through their eyes as well.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blog 15: Undercover journalism

Of all the articles we read for this week, the "Deception/Hidden Cameras Checklist" is the most effective at describing when and how things have gone wrong or right.  I think it is through this scope that the rest of the cases must be measured.  Bly's experiment exposed extreme indecency being performed on individuals that were unable to defend themselves or fight back (to any effect).  She satisfies the most important part of the requirement for this type of journalism, "must prevent profound harm to individuals."  In uncovering the ethics in the asylum, Bly got a great story but more importantly, she saved the people from their situations.  There was also no other way to prove this kind of thing was happening except through first-hand-experience.  She was willing to admit her methods for getting the story and had evidence to back up her allegations and pleas for fixing the current system.

Pam Zekman also falls into this category.  As long as she didn't come into owning a bar illegally and never misrepresented who she was, I believe that she carried out her mission effectively.  She did her job and while offering the money, it is the law enforcement's job to make sure they 1) don't take that money and 2) supervise her to do her job effectively.  Unfortunately for them, they took the money so she could continue to run a sub-par bar.  The only way to really prove this sort of thing is to run through first hand, just as Bly did.

The Food Lion scandal is another story.  I am bothered because they lied to management and were not honest about previous work experience.  This reminds me of Conover's stint at Sing-Sing, but Conover completed the training and didn't have to lie about previous work experience to get the job.  The Food Lion debate also causes me to question why the workers wanted to go undercover at that grocery store.  Had people complained about being sick from their food?  If that was the case, I feel that these complaints would have surfaced and consumers would have been able to decide for themselves about the quality of the food.  If no one else had complained then I don't think that this investigation met the 'appropriate' standards on several points, including "When the harm prevented by the information revealed through deception outweighs any harm caused by the act of deception."

As for the lobbying scandal and the phone line issues, I believe both of these could have been achieved in different ways.  I also don't believe that these news organizations used "excellence, through outstanding craftsmanship as well as the commitment of time."  When confronted with the ethical implications of their arguments, these investigative reporters became defensive and pointed out that if the perpetrators were doing things illegally, they should be allowed to uncover them illegally, which happens to fall under the 'criteria that do not justify deception.'  

Unfortunately, there is no way to say that things definitely are or definitely are not ethical or appropriate. I have trouble drawing concise lines to delineate what should and should not be allowed.  But I do believe that if a reporter is undercover and confronted with the truth (if they are found out), they should reveal their identity UNLESS their lives are in danger.  If their cover is blown, they should take the hit and walk.  If they are in danger of losing their lives, they should cease investigative reporting but not let their cover down.  Anything beyond this guideline really becomes subjective.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blog 14: Gay Talese, DiMaggio

Gay Talese seems to want to show the private life of DiMaggio; he wants to describe his habits, his person, his fears, his dislikes and his likes, among other things.  This is shown best by the fact that Talese was unsuccessful in getting an in=depth interview with DiMaggio.  DiMaggio was a very public figure that resented the spotlight, which typically made him all the more mysterious.  This mystique was aided by his short marriage to Marilyn Monroe, who coveted the spotlight.  Talese seems to be chasing this allusive American hero, hoping to give more insight into his life and habits, and in a way, he is successful.  At the same time, DiMaggio never faces Talese squarely to answer any questions and adds to his shy nature.

The plot can be a bit confusing if the reader is not careful.  Talese uses a series of 'present' actions as well as flashbacks to show his story.  The 'season' Talese refers to can be seen as a baseball season (for a team and sport that he no longer plays) or as a season in his life- he wants privacy, to be left alone, and is most often noted as brooding and quiet.  Which, ironically, seems to be the way that he lived his entire life.  For the majority of the article, Talese writes about a specific day in DiMaggio's life, which is an ordinary day.  He intersperses flash backs then returns to that day.  The last page or two of the article glosses over a 30 day period where DiMaggio goes to camp with the Yankees.

Dialogue is heavily relied on for this article, yet indirectly.  There is no discourse between the author and the baseball legend.  All insight through conversation is gleaned through that 'fly-on-the-wall' reporting style.  Direct quotes from DiMaggio are short and few, which ultimately aid his reputation as a reticent talker.  When he does talk, it's often about sports, (not much about his baseball), or short quips tat respond to questions without really answering them (see the exchange on p. 157 with man with 'wine on his breath').  Comments from friends, acquaintances and outside sources give a lot of characterization for DiMaggio.  Interestingly, though, I was struck by the amount of his direct quotes that were about pretty women.

Talese's scene by scene construction is weakened by his narrative style, but his status details are strong.  I felt that he did a good job of detailing places and people without telling his audience what to think or how to feel.  Mentioning that DiMaggio "slept crossways on three seats" shows readers that he is a tall man, and the way "flabby men in he locker rooms of golf clubs sometimes steal peeks at him when he steps out of the shower, observing the tight muscles across his chest..." show readers that DiMaggio has retained the young man's baseball figure (although Talese does feel compelled to spell this out for this audience a little later in the passage).

Talese absolutely leaves the writer out of the picture.  He writes from an immersed standpoint and fly on the wall, a position relegated to him by DiMaggio himself by not granting an interview.  This makes the 'exploration of inner experience' extremely difficult.

Gay Talese is a nonfiction writer (because he didn't want to change the names) and has written an assortment of articles and books.  He has reported for the New York Times, Esquire (where this particular article was published), The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, and others.  He has been credited by Tom Wolfe as the inventor of "New Journalism."  He has been married for 50 years to Nan Talese, who works with a publishing company.  After witnessing his parents' "claustrophobic" marriage, he is happy that they are able to function independently of each other, especially when he is away writing.
http://www.randomhouse.com/kvpa/talese/index.html ; also articles/interview available.

Talese believes that patience and curiosity are most valuable to a journalist; he has both.  Although he has been writing for 55 years, he has only written "five long books, two short ones, and four collections."  His process of note-taking, writing, editing and typing are extremely tedious.  Talese also needed patience and curiosity to complete the piece about DiMaggio.  If he employed the same tactics as he did for his famous article about Sinatra, Talese followed DiMaggio around, gleaning everything he could from people that he passed and spoke to as well as friends and family members.  If DiMaggio had a conversation with someone, Talese may have approached them later to find out the specifics of the conversation and possibly gotten their information for more quotes and source info later.

Question: Talese's method of following DiMaggio around reminds me of tabloid writers that stalk their subjects to see what they say or do, yet Talese seems much more refined than that.  What is it about his approach that makes him different, while what he does is basically the same?