Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Story of career diswasher killed by hit and run driver is moving; a great example of beautiful writing and solid journalism

Back in the saddle, almost, after finally finishing (I think) the process of writing a course for delivery entirely by one and zero -- in other words -- through computer screens and on line.

Imagine someone asks you to write down how to make a left turn in your car. Problem is, the person doesn't know what a steering wheel is, what a brake pedal is, or, what left is. When you write for on-line delivery, at least at our place, you have to create not only instructions for students but instructions -- on the left turn model -- for teachers. Ugh.

I don't usually send you elsewhere, but today I am. And, I'm not sending you to I-70 baseball because I'm sure you've been there.

I'm sending you to the St. Petersburg Fla., Times. The Times is a progressive newspaper in both design and writing, and a student hepped me to an absolutely stunning piece there.

This piece is stunning in its simplicity. It is a perfect example, in my opinion, of the art of journalism. It perfectly illustrates the aesthetic of journalism, what journalists think is beautiful in writing. This is not the same, generally, as what English teachers think is beautiful. Poets may appreciate it -- I'm not sure.

The piece grows out of a controversy broiling in the profession which I have mentioned here as my secret pleasure - the comments section under stories in daily newspapers and Web pages. The controversy centers on the most outlandish, childish, racist and tasteless comments in these threads. The newspaper wants to be a forum. It seeks democracy. It seeks full First Amendment rights. But, the news stories themselves are edited for taste, style, and content in the name of decency and to fit the standards of the community.

The motto of the New York Times before "All the news that's fit to print" was "It doesn't soil the breakfast cloth."

Well, what's appearing in comment sections today does more than soil the breakfast cloth.

And the St. Pete paper recently ran a story about a 48-year-old career dishwasher, Neil Alan Smith, who was killed in a hit and run accident. The driver has not been caught. In the comments section under the story someone (oh, I'd like to add some adjectives here, but will refrain) wrote that a 48-year-old dishwasher is probably better off dead.

This is not unusual for comments sections. I guarantee you can find something of similar worth in the comments under the stories in today's Kansas City Star.

The St. Pete Times, however, decided to do a full obit on the dishwasher and Andrew Meacham's piece is brilliant. It should win an award. It should make the commentator crawl under a rock. It should be read by everyone. You can find it here.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing that. It was beautifully written and a most fitting tribute to the man who passed away.