March 18, 2012

Forgive me if I sound a little sentimental on this early Sunday morning. But I’ve been sitting in my pretty kitchen with some hot tea and the Sunday paper. The TV is tuned into the white noise of a local news station as I read stories that make me fall in love with journalism all over again.

Even though everyone says that print is dead, I still feel comforted by the familiarity of holding paper and rustling newsprint pages. Yes, I also feel guilty about the dead trees that go into making this old-fashioned product. And no, I can’t really justify my guilty pleasure.

While I am addicted to news websites, I simply can’t let go of  “real” paper — yet. The print reading experience always leads to random encounters with stories that I never would have found in the hyperfocused search culture of online reading.

My Sunday paper of choice is The New York Times. This morning, I found three stories that inspired me with their art and craft. None of the topics was actually on my radar. Long live serendipity! Since I will be working today on my own reporting and writing, reading these Times pieces reminded me of my goals.


How to tell a story that readers will remember


Nothing beats a beautiful, thoughtful sentence: I usually skip the Sunday Review because it’s often filled with blah-blah opinions. But the lead piece by noted novelist Jhumpa Lahiri is “My Life’s Sentences.” In it, she quotes from James Joyce: “The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed.” So vivid — can’t you feel the scene?! Lahiri’s essay marks the debut of a new online NYTimes series on the art and craft of writing.


A pro knows how to condense difficult facts and figures: Right below the Lahiri essay is Nick Kristof’s reporting on the horror of  “Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods.” It’s about, which is owned by the Village Voice’s parent company, and the website’s role in fostering sexual slavery of American girls. I especially admired the concise informational power of a line in the fifth paragraph. While the result ain’t James Joyce, there’s a utilitarian elegance at work. It takes extraordinary skill to read a jargon-y, data-filled report and crunch key stats into a single  summarizing sentence:

Backstage accounts for about 70 percent of prostitution advertising among five Web sites that carry such ads in the United States, earning more than $22 million annually from prostitution ads, according to AIM Group, a media research and consulting company. 


Carefully-chosen specific details will hook readers: Getting these two story goodies would have been enough. But just as I was finishing my tea, I hit on the latest “Modern Love” essay in the Sunday Styles section. “Moving Through Grief, Chair by Chair” by Avery Corman covers a relationship situation that I’ve never faced. But as I read, I ached all over again with my own memories of losing marital love. It reminded me of how hard I’ve worked to create a new home for the new me. I won’t say more because you need to go along for the storyteller’s ride.  ;)


Well. That’s it for quiet Sunday morning reflections. I can go on with the day, fueled by the emotional caffeine of good stories, the perfect cup of tea and the body memory that comes from creating supportive daily routines.

Time to move now, from the kitchen to the home office desk. Gotta start working on some my own stories. Wish me luck!  xoxo