- Reporters must consider their audience. This is something we learned in 101, and Baker restates it here. Never assume that an average reader knows background information or definitions of terms. Putting things in plain language helps a story flow better.
- Handling information in connected stories. When multiple stories are written on the same topic over time, the same information may need to be restated so that each story can stand on its own. Baker suggests using inverted pyramid format, and moving information already stated in previous stories on a topic down the pyramid while putting new information in the first few paragraphs.
- Perspective. Linking to #1, readers may not know about the background of a story, not because of ignorance but because there is no reason for them to immediately assume a connection. Reporters must provide background to prevent their getting the wrong idea.
- Explain not just an event, but its significance. If something is the first of its kind or otherwise unusual, mention it. D*n*ld Tr*mp’s misogynist remarks are more significant given he is running against the first female major party nominee for president. She hasn’t been afraid to bring it up, and nor should reporters be.
- 1000 dead editors. Nice metaphor for the season, but it would be nice if Baker had spent more time on citing other experts and less on convoluted metaphors about bees and zombies.
What makes his writing so effective?
-Grann uses characterization effectively, giving physical descriptions of his subjects and their history when he first introduces them to make the reader feel like they know the person. He also uses powerful and descriptive vocabulary.
How does he meld narrative with his research?
-Grann sticks mostly to chronological order and narrative for the main body of the story, interspersed with well-researched flashbacks.
When does Grann state that Willingham is innocent?
-Grann never states that Willingham is innocent, but he provides Willingham’s own statement of innocence and the views of Gilbert, Webb, and Hurst.
Write a new lede for this story:
“I’m going home to see my kids,” Cameron Todd Willingham told his mother minutes before he was executed for the murder by arson of his three children. Willingham insisted until his death that he was innocent of all charges…
As far as the court case, I’m stuck. All the cases I observed on the 12th had their next court appearances before this assignment was given. Should I go back to the court and try to find another case? How do I do that when I work morning shifts at least three days out of five that the courts are open?
I went to the Albany City court on Morton Street on October 12- Yom Kippur, the only day I could get off of both work and classes. I got in at nine in the morning and stayed until they finished up at noon. I’d tried going directly after work the day before, but I got out of work at 2 and was told to come back the next day.
I got to sit inside the barrier. The police officer who let me in told me I’d be able to hear better from there, but I was stuck behind a gigantic printer and could barely see any of what was going on. I could only hear what the judge was saying, and occasionally one or two words from a defendant or a lawyer. Do courtroom reporters develop superhuman senses? I was next to two other studenty types, both of whom were on their phones. Mine was off. They took notes on printouts they’d brought of the names of people scheduled to appear, I took notes in half a composition book.
Nothing particularly unusual happened while I was in the courtroom. Most of the defendants were black, most of them were charged with minor offenses. One woman was charged with second-degree assault- she’d scratched a man on the face. There were no further details given, so I have no idea if it was a fight with her boyfriend or a random guy on the street. Another man had pulled up in his car beside a woman (again, no idea what their relationship might be) and told her that “nobody in your family is safe, your mother is dead.” The judge entered a plea of not guilty for him and told him to appear again in court on the 19th.
Three of those being arraigned came in in handcuffs. Two of those were wearing bright orange INMATE T-shirts and had their hands cuffed in front of them to a leather belt around their waist; the third was in street clothes and had his hands cuffed behind his back. He was the only one charged with a violent crime- third degree assault; he was sentenced to three years probation.
Some of the people whose names were called did not appear.
Nothing too out of the ordinary happened, or if it did, I didn’t notice.