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Journalistic Analysis 4: Deadline Writing


That Was the Desk I Chose to Die Under
Washington Post
David Maraniss

This piece was a part of a collection of articles in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. This particular piece chronicles in detail the day of the shooting through the eyes of students directly involved, from the shooter’s roommate to survivors of the classes shot at. Maraniss uses compelling language to vividly tell a story that was being told across the country at news organization simultaneously. By telling the story through characters, this piece stands out and gives a more emotionally effecting account of what happened.
Maraniss goes through the day in an account of the events, but breaks up the tragedy and tells it through the eyes of students. This allows for a more in depth detail and scene setting. The imagery used, the pacing, and the tone emotionally invests the reader, bring the reader into the tragedy because they are watching it unfold as it actually happened.
The choice of storytelling quotes also provides great impact, such as the one used for the headline, “That was the desk I chose to die under.” He chose to quote students’ thoughts, adding to the in the moment feeling, which ultimately sets this piece apart in terms of reporting this breaking news event.

Tragedy on Ice
O’Ryan Johnson and Chris Markuns

This piece covers the drowning of four boys in Lawrence, MA. in the Merrimack River. The article chronicles the series of events and describes what happened in detail, but uses two young boys who were friends to the victims and witnesses to the event in order to do so. The authors let the young boys tell the story, using direct quotes that give off a child’s voice and way of speaking. This provides the emotional aspect to the piece by emphasizing that innocent children were involved in an innocent event turned tragic.
The authors don’t use incredibly descriptive language or imagery, instead opting for straight forward and explanatory wording. In this case, blunt wording and explanations are more effecting and appropriate. The piece involves children, so the emotional factor is built in and intensified when you have children telling the story as well. Bluntly describing the thickness of the ice and conditions of the river is also just as effecting.  The key to this is knowing that the story had to be emotionally effecting and the most appropriate way to accomplish that.

The Reaction: Tense Scenes Played Out on Miami Streets
Miami Herald
Sandra Marquez Garcia, Tyler Bridges, Curtis Morgan

This article gauges the reactions of residents in Little Havana after a federal SWAT team seized Elian Gonzalez, painting a picture of the outraged temperament of the neighborhood.
The authors use descriptive words to create images of the riots, creating an image of complete chaos. “Demonstrators, outraged at the seizure of Elian Gonzalez by a gun-toting federal SWAT team, shouted, wept, waved flags and signs and — in isolated angrier outbreaks — blocked traffic, threw rocks, overturned bus benches and torched tires and trash bins.” The descriptor “gun-toting” paints the SWAT as an enemy already overpowering an innocent victim in juxtaposition to the child, creating a reason for the outrage in the eyes of the neighborhood.
The authors also use quotes that give a feel of the outrage to the piece, such as the words shouted by the protestors. This is also in sharp contrast to the more articulate, disproving words of officials interview, showing the disparity between government/authority and the common man.

On the Road, a Family Vanishes
The Oregonian
David Austin and Mike Larabee

This article is the first in a series of articles covering the disappearance of the Kim family in south Oregon. The article is written very informatively, as this was written towards the beginning of the search for the family. The authors are careful to detail the known plans of the family and what was already done by the police in the search as in this type of situation, the information is the most important part.
The piece is broken into subheads, which breaks the information into smaller pieces and allows the piece to easily look at different aspects to the story, from the general overview, to the family’s search, to the problems the authorities have run into. The quotes used not only give the emotional insight that gives the reader an attachment, they also give pertinent information.

Catastrophic: Storm surge swamps 9th ward, St. Bernard
The Times-Picayune
Bruce Noland

This piece is part of a series of articles covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  The story goes nine paragraphs before the author mentions a single person or uses a single quote, relying instead on heavy description of the destruction. It details the events through a factual encounter of imagery and symbolizes the speechlessness of the New Orleans citizens.
When the author did use quotations, one of the most striking was from the City Council president, a position of authority at a loss for words and speaking colloquially, showing the emotional devastation: “Look, look man, it’s gone. It’s gone.”

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