Tag Archives: The New Yorker

Book Review: “The New New Journalism” by Robert S. Boynton

When I was a journalism teaching assistant at the University of Illinois, I signed up for a seminar called Writing Across the Curriculum, which was designed to help teaching assistants incorporate writing into their classes in more meaningful ways.

During the two-day workshop, one of the activities involved each participant drawing a sort of comic strip describing his or her writing process. Up to that point, despite holding degrees in creative writing and journalism, and having worked as a newspaper reporter for a few years, I had never really given much thought to the individual steps by which I gathered information and turned it into a piece of written work.

As we went around the room and shared our drawings, it was evident that the writing process is incredibly idiosyncratic. It didn’t just vary among academic disciplines but also from each individual writer to the next. Some people’s processes included breaks to go for a jog or to do the dishes. So, while some wrote more efficiently than others, there was no single right way to approach the task.

One of the beauties of Robert S. Boynton’s “The New New Journalism” (Vintage Books, 2005) is that it shows that this phenomenon is not exclusive to a group of a few dozen graduate students at a Midwestern research university.

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Behind the scenes of “The Daley Show”

Photo by Kate Gardiner, used under Creative Commons license Non-Commercial 2.0

In a piece for The New Yorker last year, Evan Osnos, who has been the magazine’s China correspondent since 2008, wrote about a leader who rose through the ranks of the political party that has dominated his city for the better part of the past century to assume a position of power once held by his father. But the story’s subject isn’t a Communist Party boss. He is Richard M. Daley,whose sixth term as the Democratic mayor of Chicago ends Monday. Osnos’ profile offers rare insight into the life of a man who is well known for his contentious relationship with the press. “The Daley Show” appeared in the magazine on March 8, 2010, before Daley announced that he did not intend to seek re-election.

Osnos has been familiar with Daley since he interned at the Chicago Tribune while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. “He struck me as a fairly unique American political figure,” the writer said. Around the time of Barack Obama’s historic election, Osnos, who came to The New Yorker from the Tribune’s Beijing bureau, pitched a story to the magazine‘s editors about the man who wields seemingly unchecked power in the new president’s political training grounds. The editors were very supportive of the idea. “They were interested in understanding, ‘Who was the guy who controlled the city that produced Obama?'” Osnos said.

To do the story, Osnos knew he would need to spend a lot of time with the mayor. Given Daley’s fiery attitude toward reporters this could have been an insurmountable obstacle. “For a New Yorker piece of this kind, you need to have a lot of access,” he said. “I wasn’t going to do the story unless I knew I was going to have access to Daley to interview him repeatedly.” He approached Jacquelyn Heard, the mayor’s press secretary, with the idea in early 2009. While the administration had the “usual level of concern” expected from any political operation, Osnos was guaranteed the time he needed with the mayor.

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