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Monday, August 28, 2006

Narrative and the news

"One responsibility I really, really believe in is that when you are writing about tragedy -- when you are writing about someone's life -- you don't cheapen it, you don't make it bland or less by making it dull and straight when life is everything but dull and straight. Life is rich and wicked and foul and full. Narrative lends itself to that, but conventions are hard to kick out of the way." — Rick Bragg in the Nieman Narrative Digest.

Later in September, I'll be traveling to Anniston, Alabama, home of The Teaching Newspaper, to talk about a partnership between SPJ and the Knight Fellows in Community Journalism (a grad school inside The Anniston Star), for a narrative conference next February. I'm excited about the opportunities and the caliber of folks involved in this endeavor. As it happens, Rick Bragg is on UA's faculty.

In other narrative news, tomorrow marks the publication date of "Small Moments, Big Dreams: Real-life stories from five redesigned urban high schools," published by the KnowledgeWorks Foundation. My piece about community engagement at Cleveland Heights High School is included. Hopefully there will be a link available to PDF on KWF site.

This was a rich assignment, but one wrought with many complexities, not the least of which was distilling a year's worth of observations into one 3,500-word narrative. It pushed me as a reporter and a writer and though we ran into a few snags near the end of the editing cycle, I'm hopeful it will be impactful. Just in time, too, because the school year begins tomorrow and so begins Year Two of the project.

Finally, I'll be speaking to Dr. Dick Hendrickson's Literary Journalism class at John Carroll University later in November.

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