America’s Best: Deadline Writing

In this chapter of America’s Best Newspaper Writing, the authors examine 4 different writers work with deadline writing pieces. The introduction summarizes what it means to write for a deadline. “Writers come to see [a deadline] as ally and enemy, an inspiration to get to work and the borderline that will keep the story from being great” (Clark, Scanlan, p. 5). Before moving on to the writing examples, the authors give a few tips on how to write for a deadline. They point out that, “fast writing does not equate with formula writing. Fast writing can be powerful and exquisite . . . but only if the writer is prepared” (Clark, Scanlan, p. 6).

            The first example used is Richard Ben Cramer, best known for his reporting from the Middle East in the late 1970’s, which won him numerous awards.  Cramer’s style was profound because he was able to use stories about everyday humans to tell stories about government policies and actions. He used these people as examples of how policies affected those subjected to them. The story examined was written under intense pressure and frustration, but led to an in depth, thorough piece.

            Lenora LaPeter is the second writer examined, and her story is one of perseverance and working hard to achieve her goal of becoming a writer. The piece examined is her account of the trial and conviction of the Santa Claus killer in Savannah, Georgia. What is emphasized about her piece is the prewriting she had to do, as well as writing during the trial, so as to publish the story as quickly after the verdict as possible. She also uses detail and pacing to great effect, keeping the reader interested and informed.

            The third writer examined is David Von Drehle and his piece about Richard Nixon’s funeral. This particular story “demonstrates how a skillful journalist can provide not only news but the meaning behind it” (Clark, Scanlan, p. 19). Von Drehle constructs a setting, a cast of characters, and a narrative timeline and plot to move the story along. Von Drehle is ultimately guided by the theme of the piece, sticking with the tone he feels is appropriate for the funeral of a former President.

            The last work examined is that of Francis X. Clines, a long time New York Times writer. His work is noteworthy because of his ability to be on the scene to capture what others cannot without the first hand details of the event. “Clines knows that only by being there can the reporter soak up the sensory details that bring a story to life and listen for the quotes that make it breath” (Clark, Scanlan, p. 22).

            This chapter gives insight on varying deadline writers, each with a different attribute emphasized for learning. Using each of these techniques and attitudes, one can become a versatile and skilled writer.   Image

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