Nice piece in this week’s New Yorker on an obituary writer’s convention. (While I’m talking about jobs I’d like to have, I want Mark Singer’s job: roving national correspondent for the New Yorker, writing every three weeks or so. That’s the life. He now writes the U.S. Journal column, originated by my man Calvin Trillin back in the 1960s. Trillin compiled some of those early great pieces in a book called U.S. Journal; my favorite’s one on the annual tension between Jewish and non-Jewish leaders in New Orleans every Mardi Gras. He also put out a later compilation called American Stories, which has the definitive Penn and Teller profile.)
A recipe for a pissed-off newspaper reporter: Take a few months to write an interesting and worthwhile series on an important local topic. See it published, to substantial local acclaim. Then, two days later, see another newspaper reporter sweep in and steal your story — writing the same piece as if it were his own, interviewing the same people, and generally ripping you off. I’d be pissed off, too:
“Rick Bragg of The New York Times, who lives in New Orleans, read our series and went to the exact same place and did the exact same story — same dateline, same folks interviewed, same themes, etc. To his credit, he did note our series in his story in a general way. But this still feels a little fishy to me — Bragg is a fine writer, but if you are spinning something off someone else’s work, doesn’t journalism etiquette dictate you try to go in a slightly different direction, or at least cover your tracks a little?”
Bragg’s piece, while as usual enjoyable and well written, still has my least favorite Bragg tic: treating residents of Louisiana as mystical swamp creatures so incredibly strange as to be barely human. “Like the other people here, his accent is Cajun, more music than language” — we don’t even speak, we sing! It’d be okay if Bragg mixed up his Cajuns-as-swamp-unicorn schtick with some serious reporting — he does, after all, work for the New York Times. But nope — it’s all cliched atmosphere, one story after another. When there’s real reporting in a story, like this one, it’s ripped off from the local daily. Harrumph.
(And no, my Bragg animus doesn’t just come from the fact I want his job. Really. Okay, maybe a little.)
A potentially unreliable source has make a startling claim to me: that there is a Target somewhere in Dallas (North Dallas, I believe, but still in the city limits) that sells good sushi. I find this thought frightening, yet strangly alluring. Anyone with additional info on this or other sources for cut-rate yet non-diseased sushi, please spill.
I’ve stopped promoting it as much as I used to, and part of the site was down until last night, but the CD Mix of the Month Club is back open for business. Signup for the July mix is open until July 15. (Note to June mixers: you should be getting your CDs very soon.)
Alas, all good things come to an end: Chanda loses to Serena Williams, 6-3, 6-3.
Interesting, if a little too self-serving, story in Sunday’s paper. JFK fetishists, among others, should enjoy it.
Scary reporter impersonator. I wonder why the Chronicle waits until the 50th paragraph to reveal who the bad guy is. (Actually, I know why — its covering its ass — but still strikes me as a bad decision, tinging an otherwise terrific story.)
Here’s my story in today’s paper. A pretty interesting topic, a nothing-special story.