Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Political Economy

January 15th, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Journalism, Political Economy

This post is part of the Collin’s 50th! series, in which I look back as a way of moving forward.

At some point, like many young journalists, I dreamed of being a foreign correspondent. Not enough to actually do it, but I studied political science, economics, history, philosophy, and sociology so I’d know more about how politics and economics worked.

My favorite classes were on media and society, and I had two hard-nosed political reporting professors from which I learned the art and science of political and economics reporting. From J. Herbert Altschull at Indiana University, I learned about analytical reporting in the style of the New York Times magazine. From Steve Weinburg at the University of Missouri, I learned about detailed reporting and, in particular, clear writing.

The following articles represent my most politically and economically informed articles. Some focus on political process and others on larger economic questions.

As a student of Prof. Altschull, I wrote a long article on the Polish revolution of 1981. A portion of that article was published in The Bloomington Free Ryder, the then “underground” publication in Bloomington, Indiana, as Money Can’t Buy Me Love: A Report on Poland’s Economy.

My editor at The Ryder, Paul Sturm, signed me up to write political and economic articles. Next, we published “The Ailing Past of the New Federalism,” which covered the history of the term and ongoing tension between the federal and state governments, brought to the fore by the Reagan Administration. In our time of private and public organizations looking to the federal government for solutions (or bail outs), those questions seem almost quaint.

Paul also published my article “The High Impact of Low Level Radiation,”which originated as a paper from a class with Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass, a physicist who in the late 1960s conducted controversial research on the ill effects of low-level radiation. I was fortunate to have the chance to conduct a demographic study in one of his classes similar to those in his book SECRET FALLOUT: Low-Level Radiation from Hiroshima to Three Mile Island.

In the summer of 1982, I worked as an internship at The Hammond Times, now The Northwest Indiana Times. My editor loved my music reviews and gave me a dream project: to write an article on the business of rock and roll in the Chicago area. I interviewed musicians, recording studio owners, and record executives for “The Business of Rock” and “Rock music a morass.”

Working with Steve Weinberg on an independent study project, I wrote my most complete examination of economic development and the political forces that help and hinder it. In “Ebb Tide for a Shipping Dream,” I looked at the present and the past of the Missouri River, which was called “one of the most underutilized rivers in the U.S.”

The piece looks at how transportation promotes economic development and how neglect of basic infrastructure can hinder it. The arguments for river transportation are strikingly similar to what you hear at an Federal Communications Commission hearing on broadband development, as are the questions today about nuclear power similar to those in the 1980s.

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Feature Writing

October 25th, 2009 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Journalism

As a newspaper writer, I excelled at features. I did news OK and loved covering town meetings, like my dad. I generally, however, disdained news reporters as shallow and superficial writers. As a feature writer, you could really write, and you could write long.

I started out studying photojournalism. For The Chesterton Tribune, my family’s newspaper, I shot and wrote a feature on the survival of he nation’s last interurban railroad, the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad, which I loved to ride into the city of Chicago.

Later on, I styled my writing after Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson.

HST Autograph

HST Autograph

In that vein, I wrote as Gonzo, stream of consciousness, and observational as I could in “Late Night Life,” a feature my daughter Lilli suggested I include. I find it interesting now that my interests in human potential focus on choice and consciousness.

I did not completely disdain news. I covered a fire and tried to capture how it was fought as an intern at The Times of Hammond, Indiana. I was also the only Chicago-area reporter to interview an alleged shyster preacher in “Issue Splits Church.”

I wrote short introductions as well. My favorite is “Thinking Eyes Feeling Moments,” an introduction for the Missourian Sunday magazine’s story on the Picture of the Year competition. This was the first issue designed by my fellow student Chris Paule. I had a crush on her, but she didn’t know it. I think it was reading this piece where she decided I probably wasn’t just a heartless snobby critic after all.

Luminous Faces of Pilgrims” is in a similar vein and introduced an article written on pilgrimages by Dr. Judith Wright. The title says it all.

My favorite feature is “Runaway,” written for the Missourian. I met this runaway kid, and this story recounts my meeting with him as a narrative for a story on runaway kids in Columbia, MO. It was the last student feature I wrote and is, in retrospect, a disciplined version of the criticism and feature writing I did at Indiana combined with the political and economic reporting I learned in class.

My features editor loved it and got it published, even though her boss, who headed the features section of the paper, didn’t like long stories at all. (The Columbia Missourian is a professional paper run by professional reporters and editors as a lab for students at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, generally regarded at the nation’s best.)

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Food Writing

October 25th, 2009 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Food, Journalism

I’m a closet foodie, and in college I was a closet cook. As a student in feature writing at the University of Missouri, I spent one semester writing for the food section. The news people may have looked down on it as recipe writing, but I loved it.

I found a British woman who told me all about the marvels of British cookery, which is much more pure than French cooking, with all its heavy sauces covering the food. I cooked a meat and kidney pie for the story and picture in “Blackbird to Beef.”

I also took the picture in “Confessions of a Closet Cook.” One of my instructors in the photojournalism department was absolutely appalled that a real editor would publish such an ugly picture. But then that was the point.