Just in time for the weekend, here’s a little list of some of the things I’ve been listening to and reading this week, some of it online — Storyboard included, natch — and some of it on vinyl actual ink and paper.

Two of my biggest loves are narrative journalism and music, and I’m lucky that my days are filled with both. When reading stories, I get inspired by songs I think fit the article’s theme — a soundtrack. Here are a couple of this week’s Storyboard articles, and their soundtracks:


Why’s This So Good? Tom Junod on Michael Brick and New York Five Years After 9/11. As this series of essays about the late Michael Brick winds down, I find myself wanting it to go on. But I know it can’t. As Junod writes in his essay: “All journalists come to learn that they’re never going to get the space they need. Mike Brick always worked in a deeper and nearly invisible dimension, so he must have known, without having to be told, that neither do we get the time.”

Soundtrack: I listened to “Line of Fire,” by Junip, while reading this. It’s one of those songs I return to again and again while editing. From the opening notes with their echo of “This Is Not America” to the lo-fi chorus, it always gets me in an editing groove for certain types of stories.

Why’s This So Good? New York Magazine on “One Block” in fast-changing Brooklyn. This is my favorite line in this essay by Allison Eck on the award-winning multimedia article: “Here, the hyperlink represents a human connection.” It’s so counterintuitive, because we usually think of clicks as the opposite of a human connection, but “One Block” manages to make them personal, inviting you into a home with real people and real lives.

Soundtrack: “We Are Family,” by Sister Sledge. Perhaps a strange pick, seeing as this is a neighborhood where old families are leaving and new ones, with more money, are arriving, but it seemed to fit the closeness of years past on this block on MacDonough Street.

What I’ve been reading online: I promise I’m not only reading stories by former L.A. Times writers, but I loved the character in this piece by the gifted Kurt Streeter, featured on ESPN’s new storytelling platform, Doubletruck. It’s a profile of a man who has future movie subject written all over him: As Streeter writes of Nate Boyer: “He has, by turns, been a Che Guevara-inspired globetrotter, a relief aid worker in Darfur, a mentor to autistic children, a soldier in the Special Forces, a long-snapper at a big-time collegiate program, a scrappy free agent trying to be the oldest rookie in the NFL and, most recently, a mountain climber on Mount Kilimanjaro raising awareness about the global clean-water crisis. He has no wife, no children, no dog. He longs for the next adventure. He is ready to go.” I like this passage for its struggle between his limitations and his refusal to be limited.

It gets harder and harder to be Captain America. There will come a moment when it won’t be possible to just keep doing and being more. The signs are there, in that neck pain, in that quiet phone. But he doesn’t concede. Not yet.

“I’m motivated by a fear of regret,” he says. “The fear of missing out, not exploring — of one day looking back and seeing that life has passed me by. The fear of not following my heart. I know myself at this point, and it looks like I am always going to be seeking. I’m always going to be feeling empty if I am not pushing myself to do more, to try something new — to go to the limit.”


What’s on my bedside table: Henry David Thoreau would not approve, but sometimes my attention span is that of a gnat’s. That’s when I pick up my Portable Thoreau and read an essay, both because my attention span is so short (an essay is much more manageable than a novel ) and to try to force myself to become more reflective. This passage, from one of the Maine Woods essays, seemed particularly relevant in this time of carnival politics:

In one town he’s accosted by earnest politicians, “men who talked rapidly, with subdued voice, and a sort of factitious earnestness you could not help believing, hardly waiting for an introduction, one on each side of your buggy, endeavoring to say much in little, for they see you hold the whip impatiently, but always saying little in much. Caucuses they have had, it seems, and caucuses they are to have again — victory and defeat. Somebody may be elected, somebody may not.”


What’s on my turntable: Although I spend most of my time listening to music on Spotify, sometimes I want to hear the needle touching down on vinyl. This week’s vinyl: “Young Americans,” by David Bowie. When I was young, a friend in Scotland and I would send cassette tape letters to each other. How I wish I had kept them, because my old Volvo has a cassette player and I could be driving back roads and hearing his voice and the music he was listening to at the time. Including “Young Americans,” which is still my favorite Side A of all time: Young Americans, Win, Fascination, Right.

If you want to suggest story soundtracks of your own, or just want to chat about storytelling or music, you can reach me at editor@niemanstoryboard.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter

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