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Editors' Roundtable: Time magazine story on Tucson shootings

February 11, 2011

Tags: narrative nonfiction, Nieman

Nieman Storyboard's first-ever Editors' Roundtable (Time magazine takes on the Tucson shootings) features five journalism experts' responses to David Von Drehle's story The Real Lesson of the Tucson Tragedy.

An interesting Q&A with Drehle (on his process for drawing lessons from such a shocking event) appeared the next day (2/2/11):Time’s David Von Drehle on narrating tragedy and the evolution of his Tucson story.

Jacqui Banaszynski on Von Drehle's focus: "Von Drehle takes a subject everyone is writing about but chooses and sustains his core theme: the war on normal. Repetition of that word becomes a tool of structure, cohesion and theme-building. Even Christina Green as opening and ending: She’s not just the most innocent victim of one deranged man, but a metaphor for a better sense of America – Von Drehle reports it as a reality – under attack by 'cabals' on both ends of a destructive screed."

The roundtable experts providing insights into why this story works (and where it doesn't) are Jacqui Banaszynski (Knight Chair professor, Missouri School of Journalism), Maria Carrillo (Managing editor, The Virginian-Pilot), Kelley Benham (Enterprise editor, St. Petersburg Times), Laurie Hertzel (Senior editor for books and special projects, Star Tribune), and Tom Huang (Sunday and enterprise editor, The Dallas Morning News).

Interesting conversation. Von Drehle praises his editor for improving a line and Laurie Hertzel criticizes that same line: “Go ahead and cry. … Feel the disgust rise up. … As any normal person would.”

"If I don’t cry, am I not normal?," asks Hertzel. "These lines felt intrusive and presumptuous. They turned the focus from the story and onto me, and I didn’t like it."

"And, while this is completely unfair to Von Drehle’s great work, all of those hyperlinks drove me crazy. The last thing you need when you’re reading a powerful and engrossing work is a whole bunch of little clickable things that will take you out of the story. Let us remain immersed."