Last week, a student asked for notable examples of the write-around, that subgenre in which the journalist had limited to no access with the story subject. The most famous examples are Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” and, to a lesser extent, Talese’s piece on DiMaggio, “The Silent Season of a Hero.” We took the question to Twitter and here’s what came back. Sadly, there’s but one female writer on this list. Readers, if you can think of write-around examples by women, hit us at @niemanstory and we’ll make the addition.
Adam Sobsey: “The Small Boys’ Unit,” by Denis Johnson, about the search for Liberian strongman Charles Taylor, Harper’s.
Reed F. Richardson: “The Passion of Joschka Fischer,” by Paul Berman, The New Republic.
Joe Keohane: “Couch Warfare,” a profile of David Letterman by Peter W. Kaplan, New York.
Kevin Pang: Not so much write-around, but Bill Zehme‘s “The Heather Graham Story,” as an indictment of the controlled celeb-press relationship, from Esquire.
Adam Green: Not a complete write-around, but “Waiting for Rafa,” by Gaby Wood, Vogue.
Tim Carmody: “Bounding into Prominence,” by Frank Deford, on Moses Malone, Sports Illustrated.
Elon Green: his Slate/Longform roundup on this very topic.
Audra Jenkins: “Last Tango in Tahiti: Searching for Marlon Brando,” by Mike Sager, Washington Post magazine.
Justin Heckert: “Steve Jobs and the Portal to the Invisible,” by Tom Junod, Esquire.
Matthew Shaer: “Seven Questions for Bob Dylan,” by Tom Junod, Esquire.
Tony Rehagen: “The Final Comeback of Axl Rose,” by John Jeremiah Sullivan, GQ.
Cristian Lupsa: John Jeremiah Sullivan‘s “The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie,” New York Times magazine. Also, the @Radiolab “Crossroads” episode.
Nico Savidge: “Ron Washington Not Happy to See Me,” by Michael J. Mooney, D magazine.