Tag Archives: journalism

graphic journalism

24 Oct

Gapers Block, Chicago’s fantastic Web newspaper, is trying something new. Graphic journalism, they’re calling it—blending a typical news story with the style of a graphic novel.

There’s a gravity to their debut story (above) we might not initially see because we associate its style with childish things like comic books. But the panels tell the story of a woman on her wedding day. She arrives at the Cook County courthouse to marry her fiance, who is being held at the jail until his court date. He is charged with shooting and killing a 24-year-old man during a card game. More emotional than the stark words a journalist would typically use and more soulful than photographs, these illustrated stories may help soften the callousness associated with news reporting. Continue reading

american newsprint: 1690-present

2 Sep

Stanford University has created an interactive visualization of American newspapers, beginning at printing’s dawn in 1690. Don’t write it off as just one more infographic. It’s worth checking out. An interesting bit, from 1808:

“When an Irishman named Joseph Charless came to St. Louis to start the Missouri Gazette in 1808, it was the first newspaper to be printed West of the Mississippi. A year’s subscription could be paid in cash or vegetables.”

Plus, do you know where the Associated Press came from? It’s the result of a cooperative five New York dailies formed to afford the high costs of transmitting information via telegraph, in order to report on the Mexican War. “The telegraph also forever altered news-writing style,” I learned, “making it more concise, and inspiring the ‘reverse pyramid’ style: the most important facts up front, in case the rest didn’t make it through.”

As you click through, note the explosion of American newspapers between 1860 and 1890.

pens, stairs, & toys

15 Jul

When CBS MoneyWatch released a list of the 20 craziest interview questions ever asked in a real job interview, tech journalist Giles Turnbull figured he’d answer every single one, so he’d never be unprepared. Some of my favorites:

Procter & Gamble: Sell me an invisible pen.

Imagine that pen you loved. Remember? It was a great pen. Then that jerk in the office asked “Can I borrow that for a second?” and it was gone, never to be returned. You still see that jerk every day, but have you seen your pen? That need never happen again with the invisible pen. It’s a pen only you can use, because you’re the only one who knows it’s there.

Google: You are climbing a staircase. Each time you can either take one step or two. The staircase has n steps. In how many distinct ways can you climb the staircase?

There’s a typo in your question, there, dude. You said “n,” but I think you were supposed to put a number.

Kiewit Corp: What did you play with as a child?

We had no toys. Grandpa sometimes brought us interesting-looking stones that he’d found by the creek, so we gave them names and invested them with complex personalities and back-stories. They lived in a stony alter-universe where everybody was a stone. The stones had little stone parties sometimes. We offered them bugs to eat, but the stones weren’t hungry. I have my favorite stone in my pocket. He’s called Gufflin. Would you like to meet him?

secret handshake

21 Jun

Tonight is the launch of a new journalistic endeavor here in Chicago, and it is the best approach I’ve seen. Do we need another lit journal full of soggy fiction and hyperinflated poems? Do we need another political rag for PC intellectuals? A new hub for citizen journalists’ petty anecdotes and diatribes? I don’t think so. We need a print journal that gives us one conversation, one interview, one essay, one short story, and one road trip—and that’s it.

The Handshake offers just that, and it looks to be head-and-shoulders above some of Chicago’s other independent publications. In its influences, informers, and heroes alone, it impresses: Studs Terkel, Hunter S. Thompson, David Foster Wallace. These are some of the true greats in literary and narrative nonfiction, and if they are the standard, then The Handshake will maintain an excellence unseen in the independent publishing world as well as a spot on my coffee table. Check out what they’re up to, and if you live here, go to the launch tonight at Schuba’s.

If you’re looking for the story of its origins, you can find it, for the most part, in Daniel Duffy’s letter from the editor, which I’ve reproduced in an abridged version below.

:: :: ::

“This past Spring, I interviewed J.C. Gabel, who founded one of my favorite magazines, Stop Smiling, in the mid-‘90s. … [We] met at the Intelligentsia in the Monadnock Building in the South Loop of Chicago. Jackson and Dearborn. The Monadnock—that thing is unbelievable. It’s the tallest commercial load-bearing masonry building ever constructed. It’s made of this purple-brown brick that looks amazing when it rains, and its walls slope gently out at the base and top. Inside, it’s all wood and aluminum and marble. Beautiful and ornate. … I love that Intelligentsia. 

Gabel started Stop Smiling when he was nineteen. He got his first advertisers immediately. He got his first investor shortly after that, and he’s been on salary and working three jobs ever since—one with Playboy. And here I was, thirty years old, bartending two nights a week and living on school loans. And I was hungover. “I’m a piece of shit,” I thought.

But then this funny thing happened. … The brilliant motherfucker basically told me how to start a self-sustaining magazine. I stopped thinking about my faults then, boy. I started thinking about how I was going to do what Gabel had done sixteen years ago. I was going to start a magazine.

My high school English teacher … always called me Phineas, referring to a character in John Knowles’ novel A Separate Peace who was a nonconformist, constantly refusing to follow rules and regulations, doing stupid shit like wearing his tie on his head, and organizing a group called the Summer Suicide Society.

There’s another Phineas out there, as well. At 4:30 in the afternoon on September 13, 1848, a twenty-five year-old foreman named Phineas Gage was preparing a roadbed for the Rutland & Burlington Railroad in the forest near Cavendish, Vermont, when the accidental explosion of a charge he had set blew his tamping iron through his head. The tamping iron was 3’7” long and weighed approximately thirteen pounds. It entered on the left side of Gage’s face, under the cheekbone, demolished his left eye, and exploded out of the top of his skull before flying into the air and landing in the woods a good eighty feet away.

The most absurd part of this story is the fact that Gage not only survived, but also didn’t lose consciousness. He was speaking within a few minutes of his accident. … The thing is, however, that when Phineas was strong enough to return to work, the contractors who had employed him wouldn’t take him back because his personality had changed drastically. … Gage, in effect, reverted to savage-hood.

I want the Handshake Media Project to be our tamping iron. I want it to enter our faces, demolish our eyes, and explode out of the top of our skulls before flying into the air and landing in the woods eighty feet away. I don’t want it to turn us all into a bunch of emotionally-explosive, verbally-abusive assholes, necessarily, but I do want it to be a catalyst for change. I want it to change the way we think about things. The way we think about each other.

Phineas Gage, with tamping iron

Eggers, Klosterman, Gladwell to join ESPN’s new Web venture

1 May

A few days ago, the first wave of writer and editor hires for Grantland.com, “the much anticipated sports and pop culture web site,” was announced. I was blown away by the caliber of those hires. Three of the site’s editors:

  • Chuck Klosterman
  • Malcolm Gladwell
  • Dave Eggers

From the press release:

Grantland.com is scheduled to launch in June with a mix of original columns, long-form features, blog posts, and podcasts. The name of the site honors the legacy of Grantland Rice, the legendary sportswriter who helped elevate sports into American culture during the early 20th Century.”