The following comments are taken from a talk given by Oregonian reporter Tom Hallman on September 25, 2009, at the American Association of Sunday and Feature editors. Hallman won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for “The Boy Behind the Mask.”
For reporters, there has to be a change of attitude. Narrative was seen as being all about writing and having plenty of time to do stuff. Narrative reporters were seen as prima donnas. So for younger writers, they’re going to have to tell stories, to find stories that are going to be shorter…
The truth is that we turned out stories that were not worth 40, 60 or 90 inches, where the openings were about impressing other writers more than reaching the readers. But you cannot tell a scenic story in 15 inches. It’s going to require a different kind of narrative: The presence of a writer’s voice but without the heavy first person references. My feeling is unless you’ve witnessed a murder, you don’t need to be in the story. It will take a more disciplined approach to the story, the realization that some things are going to have to go by the wayside. You’re going to have to use quotes, whether you want to or not, to condense the story.
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