America’s Best: Chapter 5

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Connor Cavanaugh

            Business and explanatory journalism has the potential to be just as entertaining as other forms of journalism, but only if the writer uses techniques that engage the reader, and make them want to keep reading your piece.

            Explanatory journalism as a term became popular in the 1980’s, when newer, complex issues required a new kind of reporting. Journalists were reporting on the construction and engineering of new airplanes, as well as other technological advancements that readers wanted to be informed about. To be able to explain such topics through reporting requires an understanding of numbers, and an understanding of how to simplify very technical processes in a way that your readers can make sense of.

            William E. Blundell was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and has mentored writers for years. Blundell uses theme to guide his reporting and research. For example, his piece on cowboys, he uses the theme of the cowboy “as a sword to slice irrelevant material from his notes and research” (America’s Best, p. 114). Blundell also advocates using the lead as a way to tease the reader, and keep bringing them along by placing entertaining and informative nuggets throughout the piece, so they maintain interest throughout.

            Peter Rinearson was an aviation reporter for The Seattle Times and Pulitzer Prize winner. In his piece on the development of the Boeing 757, Rinearson combines “the best aspects of business, technology and feature writing” (America’s Best, p. 122). He writes simply and clearly, so that his readers understand a very complicated and long process such as the creation and engineering of the 757. His goal was, “to understand so that his readers would understand” (America’s Best, p. 122).

            Michael Gartner wrote for more than 40 years, and helped develop the explanatory style of journalism. Gartner’s goal was to write editorials that were lyrical, and sounded as if they should be sung, but certainly read aloud by his audience. He also used arguments in concert with facts so as to inform as well as persuade his readers. His use of numbers was top notch, illuminating, surprising, and evoking passion that backed up his arguments. 

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