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 or 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:
Annotation Tuesday! Davy Rothbart and The California Sunday Magazine’s “Crowd Source.” In this crazy election season, which has included allegations that Trump protesters had been paid to turn out and create headlines, this piece by Davy Rothbart about a company called Crowds on Demand is especially timely. Davis Harper sets up Rothbart well: “Unlike most of us, Davy Rothbart enjoys being thrown off balance, even if it leaves him uncomfortable or embarrassed — or even humiliated. another life, this quality might’ve made Rothbart merely the life of the party, a risk-taker in a world of the risk-averse. But Rothbart happens to be a storyteller.” In this case, he gets hired by Crowds on Demand, first as “The Selfie Guy” at a life coach event, and later a fake reporter at a Masonic convention. The story raises a lot of tricky issues, and might leave you feeling a bit queasy.
Soundtrack: “The Great Pretender,” by Sam Cooke. I don’t love this song, but it fits the story, and in this version I get to hear Sam Cooke’s voice-of-wonder.
The Pulitzer at 100: The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team and an epic series on priest abuse. Next month, the Nieman Foundation is celebrating 100 years of the Pulitzer Prize with a swellegant (my favorite word from the Cole Porter song “Well, Did You Evah?”) gathering at Harvard. We’re going to explore the theme “Power: Accountability and Abuse” with two dozen Pulitzer winners — how cool is that? So I thought Storyboard should explore the writing of some of the winners. And there is no better place to start than hometown winners on a grand scale: the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, and its stunning investigation into widespread abuse by priests in the city. (Coverage, of course, that recently won another big prize — the Best Picture Oscar — for the film depiction of their brave reporting.) Ashley Powers, who wrote some pretty stunning stories about priest abuse herself for the Los Angeles Times, totally nails why the epic series of stories succeeded:
A great investigation delivers on two levels: It has scope, and it has specificity. It shows not only how a system failed, but why readers should care that it did.
Soundtrack: “Holy Moly,” by Matthew E. White. If you don’t know White, please go straight to a record store (OK, or iTunes or Spotify). He’s my favorite discovery of the past several years. He’s almost uncategorizable, ranging through gospel, soul, funk and rock — a kind of funkier Spiritualized. This song was inspired (if that’s the right word) by priest abuse. Such anger, and such a great song.
What I’m reading online: Back when the Japanese tsunami hit, in 2011, I was working on the foreign desk at the L.A. Times and edited one of the most moving stories of the coverage, about a husband who was still searching for his wife months after the disaster. I was even more moved by this New York Times Magazine piece, about a husband searching for his wife five years later. He’s even learned to dive, and spends his spare time swimming through murky waters, hoping (and yet not hoping) to find even a tiny piece of her. It’s a story about loss, but also about obsession, and being trapped in a moment. Beautiful.
What’s on my bedside table: Do you know the British magazine Delayed Gratification? It proudly touts its “Slow Journalism,” saying, “Today’s ultra-fast news cycle rates being first above being right. It tells us what’s happening in real time but not what it means. It gives us the beginning of stories but rarely their end. It promotes kneejerk reactions and cut-and-past journalism over context and perspective. It lends significance to Twitter storms, PR-driven stories and synthetic outrage. It does not nourish. It does not inspire. It is not enough.” When I was in Scotland recently, I scoured every newsstand for an ink-and-paper copy and finally found one. I totally support their mission statement. If Nieman Reports hadn’t already done a super story on the Slow Journalism movement, I’d be writing one right now.
What I’m watching: I thought I’d add a new category this week, after watching “Starboard Light,” a documentary about a family having to give up its beloved summer home on Cape Cod. Although some questions went unanswered — the dissension over the decision to sell it — it’s a moving exploration of a family’s love through the generations, for one another and the house. After I watched it, I stepped outside my farmhouse, with its lights glowing in the windows, and felt detached, like an observer on my own life, but at the same time the deep bond I already have for this home.
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: “Segovia: Three Centuries of the Guitar.” Yes, this is one that’s worth buying just for the beautiful cover alone. But the delicacy of Segovia’s guitar work is the perfect complement to an easy Sunday morning reading on the porch.
If you want to suggest story soundtracks of your own, or just want to chat about storytelling or music, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.