Richard Ben Cramer, the journalist and writer and word magician, died on Monday at the age of 62. Lung cancer. We spent an hour looking for a quote of his, or an excerpt, but the trouble was that everything new we read was better than everything we’d just read, which in turn was better than anything we’ll ever write.
Start with this, The Strange and Mysterious Death of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis, first published in Rolling Stone in 1984. His explanation of how he wrote the story is almost as good as the story.
"It’s so sobering for journalism: You think you know what something means, and you think something is a disaster. But maybe it isn’t. One of the big questions about 9/11 now: In the history books in 50 years, is the headline going to be ‘U.S. Overreacts to 9/11’?"
— Bob Woodward, when asked “If you did the one-volume history of this last decade, what would you call it?” in Foreign Policy.
"Narratives that disclose news or express opinion used to be called ‘articles’ or ‘columns’ but are now universally referred to as ‘content.’ It is as though all our words have become gauzy filler material, the pale fluff inside decorative throw pillows. Newspapers used to give readers what we thought they needed. Now, in desperation, we give readers what we think they want. And what we seem to think they want is happy, glitzy, ditzy stuff, which is why in recent years newspapers across the country have been replacing sections named, say, ‘Viewpoint’ with online Web destinations named, say, ‘Wheee!’ featuring multiplatform, user-interactive content-sharing with clickable portals to ‘Lolcats.’"
— Gene Weingarten
Turn down all assignments.
Your editor should throw up at the sight of you.
Report your pieces as Jane Fonda™, write them as Peter Fonda™.
If your editor asks you to write a profile of Robert Pattinson™, say O.K. Then turn in a piece on a two-alarm fire in which no one was hurt.
Wise Kaplan is on fire today.
Monica and I are practicing actual journalism, which is our day job. She’s readying herself for an epic trip to cover the royal wedding, and I’m trying to figure out what’s up with the lady who attacked the Gauguin. Please be patient with us. [DZ]