This was a special week on Storyboard, because we shone a spotlight on some journalists who often don’t get the recognition they deserve. Latina journalists, a minority within a minority in the field, are doing some standout work, among them Michelle Garcia and Carolina Miranda. And Gene Roberts is an inspiration to those who worked with him at The Philadelphia Inquirer, but he isn’t famous like his counterpart in the era Ben Bradlee. Why? “He let the editor of the editorial page be the one to attend functions with city leaders and luminaries. Roberts stayed in the newsroom and plotted ways to make the paper better. He just preferred talking to reporters, photographers and editors to hobnobbing.”
How Michelle Garcia told the story of Juárez, a city lost to violence, through its dogs. It’s gratifying to point out a gifted Latina journalist — in a post written by another gifted Latina journalist. (If you don’t already follow Carolina Miranda’s culture coverage for the Los Angeles Times, I highly recommend it. She’s @cmonstah on Twitter, as a starting point.) In this piece, Carolina writes about a story by Michelle Garcia that has haunted her since she read it four years ago. The body count in Ciudád Juárez had gotten so mind-boggling during the height of the drug war, it became easy to tune the violence out; so Garcia told its story through the dogs who paid the price when a city went feral. I’m haunted by it too.
The soundtrack: “Dogs of War,” by AC/DC. Not my usual listening vibe, although sometimes a little AC/DC hits the spot, doesn’t it? And the lyrics here, about mercenary men and a culture of violence, fit the story: “I’ll firefight in the night/Run away or die of fright.”
One Great Sentence
“She was beautiful but when she tasted the water from the glass on her lectern she smiled sadly as if it were bitter for, in spite of her civil zeal, she had a taste for the melancholy – for the smell of orange rinds and wood smoke – that was extraordinary.”
John Cheever, “The Wapshot Chronicle,” 1957. Read why we think it’s great.
Legendary editor Gene Roberts reflects on a lifetime in journalism. This post means a lot to me, because I’ve always said that if I had a journalism time machine, I’d take it to Gene Roberts’ newsroom at The Philadelphia Inquirer of the 1970s and ’80s. Friends have told me how wonderful it was, how he gave his writers and editors freedom to tell a story that no one else was telling, or to tell a familiar story in a way no one else had. It seems like my spiritual home. Now a couple of filmmakers are making a documentary to shine a spotlight on this legendary editor who never sought the spotlight. I’ll definitely line up for that one. Here, contributor Julie Schwietert Collazo interviews Roberts; it’s a must-read.
The soundtrack: “Heroes,” by David Bowie. One of my favorite Bowie songs. It’s shot through with love and defiance and the recognition that nothing lasts forever. It’s that bittersweet feeling that fits this story about a wonderful moment in journalism. It didn’t last, but while it did, Roberts was king and the newsroom was his queen — his partner, not his subject.
What I’m reading online: I’m two chapters into “My Aryan Princess” by the Dallas Morning News’ Scott Farwell, the latest entrant into the new golden age of serials. It tells the story of a woman who informs on the scary Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang. The lede is striking, and effective, because it telegraphs that the informant is not your traditional “hero”: “Crystal meth glowed orange, an ember in an ink-black night.” (The Columbia Journalism Review did a good piece on why the Morning News decided to run all seven parts at once online, “Netflix-style.”)
On the shorter side, I enjoyed “(It’s Great to) Suck at Something,” an essay by Karen Rinaldi in The New York Times. She talks about her obsession with surfing, which she acknowledges she’s terrible at, even after 15 years. Why endure? She writes, “Some might think your persistence moronic. I like to think of it as meditative and full of promise. In the words of the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, ‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.’ When I surf, I live in the possibility. Or, as the great father of surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, wisely advised: ‘Be patient. Wave come. Wave always come.'”
What’s on my bedside table: Someone on Twitter recently pointed out an older piece on the literary site The Millions with these words: “In my experience, there are two types of Marilynne Robinson readers: ‘Housekeeping’ people and ‘Gilead’ people.” And I realized that I’m a “Housekeeping” person. But I wanted to break free from that, so I once again picked up my copy of “Gilead,” where the bookmark rested on page 27, from an abortive attempt years ago. And on the bottom of the page, if only I had gotten that far, was a beautiful description of a man grabbing a wet branch and showering him and his girlfriend with water, a joyful moment. I’ll keep reading now, and maybe I’ll end up being just a Marilynne Robinson person.
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: “The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads,” by Talking Heads. The death of the great director Jonathan Demme put me in a Talking Heads mood. I couldn’t find my copy of “Stop Making Sense,” the soundtrack to the concert film he directed, so I settled on another live album. Side 4 is my favorite: “The Great Curve,” “Crosseyed and Painless” and “Take Me to the River.”
If you want to chat about storytelling (or music), you can reach me at email@example.com. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.