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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ninety-One Nuggets for Narrative Journalists
Archilochus tells us that "[t]he fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing." Conventional wisdom is that the hedgehog's big-vision approach always wins the day. But this book convinces us that the narrative journalist is a different animal. These writers are foxes, crafting their success from little tips, tricks and bits of wisdom gathered along the way...
Published on 8 Jun 2011 by John M. Ford

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the media
This is a handy book for non-fiction writers, and also readers generally.
Its potential scope and application is far broader than journalism - it is filled with pointers and advice for people starting out in non-fiction writing, from freelance work through to memoirs and history, showing how to get a different angle on presenting the subject. Post-graduate students...
Published on 5 July 2012 by Christopher H


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ninety-One Nuggets for Narrative Journalists, 8 Jun 2011
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University (Paperback)
Archilochus tells us that "[t]he fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing." Conventional wisdom is that the hedgehog's big-vision approach always wins the day. But this book convinces us that the narrative journalist is a different animal. These writers are foxes, crafting their success from little tips, tricks and bits of wisdom gathered along the way. Such morsels need to be shared in the same snippety fashion, not force-fitted into some grand unified theory of good writing. This book gets it right.

Mark Kramer and Wendy Call have assembled 91 chapters of advice about writing from 51 working authors and editors. This advice is backed up by the contributors' hard-won experience and by a generous bibliography of books and web sites that contain exemplary writings and yet more writing advice. It is presented in the easily-digestible form of brief chapters that focus on one or two aspects of reporting and writing. Kramer and Call briefly introduce each of the book's nine sections then stand aside so we can hear the contributors' voices. Readers will differ in what helps them the most--there is much to choose from.

Five contributions that I found particularly valuable:

Mark Kramer speaks as a writer in "Reporting for Narrative: Ten Tips." He describes how to balance background research between the extremes of too little and too much.

Isabel Wilkerson's "Interviewing: Accelerated Intimacy" teaches how to establish rapport with sources and hear their stories--while maintaining enough distance to report them.

Roy Peter Clark's "Ladder of Abstraction" shows how to describe concrete details of people's lives, connect them to larger themes, and avoid the deadly region of "middle abstraction" that alienates readers.

Jack Hart's "Narrative Distance" illustrates how to psychologically "place" the viewpoint of a story's narrator--and shift this perspective to guide the reader through a story.

Susan Orlean's "On Voice" describes the self-analysis and authenticity necessary to each writer's unique verbal style. Its development cannot be rushed--or faked.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who writes to an audience and wants to do it better. It is dead-on-target for you if you work in narrative journalism. If you do not, there are still lessons to improve your writing. Kramer and Call remind us that "[w]riting well is difficult, even excruciating, and demands courage, patience, humility, erudition, savvy, stubbornness, wisdom, and aesthetic sense--all summoned at your lonely desk." I like writing at my lonely desk--and I like having this book so I don't have to learn everything the hard way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the media, 5 July 2012
By 
Christopher H (Keilor, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University (Paperback)
This is a handy book for non-fiction writers, and also readers generally.
Its potential scope and application is far broader than journalism - it is filled with pointers and advice for people starting out in non-fiction writing, from freelance work through to memoirs and history, showing how to get a different angle on presenting the subject. Post-graduate students will find some of the suggestions very useful.
There is also a long section dealing with the ethical dimensions of non-fiction writing, raising issues that authors to need consider.
But even if you are not in the profession of writing, it is a useful primer to understand the approaches journalists take, how they structure or style their material, means they use to hook you in and implicitly push a viewpoint.
Then again some pieces are simply a stimulating and informative read: including Jack Hart on the history of narrative reporting, Anne Hull on working in the field, Malcolm Gladwell on profiles, Alma Guillermoprieto on Truth versus Story, Jill Lepore on flaws in writing history, Tom Wolfe on the emotional core of good journalism.
These pieces, and many more, lead me to look at journalism with a more discerning eye.
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