Julia's Portfolio

Welcome to my digital portfolio!

America’s Best Newspaper Writing: Chapter 4

leave a comment »

When it comes to crime reporting, the best journalists go above and beyond the official police reports. For crime reporting, readers want to know the story behind the crime, the face behind the criminal and the family behind the victim. In America’s Best Newspaper Writing, editors Roy Clark and Christopher Scanlan say the best crime stories are told with detailed dispassion and inspire outrage, fear, satisfaction or reform. However, when you are doing crime writing, you can not over exaggerate or sensationalize. This can lead to distortion of the story or can fuel an irrational fear in readers. To be a crime journalist, you can’t be faint of heart. You have to be “counter-phobic,” which means you need to write about your fears with courage and persistence. You have to fully investigate and go beyond the officials. Find the people who really matter to the story. The friends of the criminal, the family of the victim, etc.

Cathy Frye uses a narrative format in her writing. Narratives are chronologies with meaning; they tell episodes of revelations in public and private lives. Frye uses her writing skills of arranging events in a specific order to convey a certain sense, in this case fear. She weaves in her reporting techniques in finding out details to make a story that really affects the readers. Frye uses a timeline to structure her story. She sets the scene towards the end, but then jumps to the beginning of the story and tells it chronologically. The way Frye starts her story gave me goosebumps. The lead describes the scene in such an eerie way, you almost feel like you are being watched by this stalker. It immediately draws you in and the rest of the story is told so descriptively that it is impossible to tear yourself away. Her story incites a rational amount of fear in the readers without going over the top and over exaggerating.

Linnet Myers takes a unique approach to her writing that not many journalists use. She talks to the reader and guides the reader through the story, rather than just telling the story to the reader. She walks the reader through the scenes, almost like an audio guide takes you through a museum. In the end of her piece, Myers even tells the readers what to think. She says things like “you start to wonder how many killers have you seen?” If you weren’t thinking it already, you are now.

Anne Hull goes beyond the official police reports in her writing. She rode along with the police, she sat in on the trial. She found out the life behind the criminal and tells the life stories of the characters, starting from their early age. This brings a more emotional and personal aspect to the story.

Other examples:

The 30-Year Secret by Nigel Jaquiss

Jaquiss uses a similar technique to Hull. He goes beyond official reports and tells the life story of the main character, Susan, rather than just focusing on what happened in the crime.

Uncle: ‘He was all about money — suddenly, he was all about God’ by Mike Carter

Carter uses a different technique from the other writers and doesn’t tell his story chronologically. What I found interesting is that he doesn’t even mention the crime until the 5th paragraph. He introduces the family and gives some background before telling what happens. This gives us a more personal feel.

In the Bank, a ‘Huge Monster in Black’ Yelled ‘Hit the Floor’ by Jill Leovy and Henry Chu

What immediately caught my attention for this story was the headline. Readers are immediately drawn in by the expressions used, even though they don’t know what the story is about. The story begins by setting the scene for the robbery and describing the people involved, including a woman with a baby. Details are captured that add to the story, such as the man giving the shaking woman a hug.

Horrified Workers Witness Killing in Parking Lot by Mike McIntire

The amount of detail in the story is so great, from the “rage in his eyes” to the “maze-like collection of cubicles.” Detail is what makes McIntire’s story great. He adds sounds in addition to sights.

The informer, the cop and the conspiracy by Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman

The beginning of this story reminds of the beginning of Frye’s story. It describes a man in the darkness, peeking out windows. It sets the scene first and then launches into the story.



Written by juliasayers

March 3, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: