Practicing Intimate Journalism: Documenting a Child’s Losing Battle with Cancer

Posted: September 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Newspaper Writing, Recently Published | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Amy Friedenberger speaks with Naples Daily News staffer Jessica Liscomb about the process of practicing intimate journalism during “Little Man and the Pursuit of Happiness”, a three-part series about 12-year-old Ethan Arbelo’s battle with cancer. Liscomb, along with photographer Dania Maxwell, documented Ethan’s quest to experience as much as happiness as he could before he died. Published in August 2014, you can read the three-part series here.

How did this story come about?

I started when one of our photographers, Dania Maxwell, met the mother on Craigslist. She saw an ad the mother posted about needing someone to help her drive her son to his treatments an hour and a half from us. Dania contacted her and said “Well, we can’t drive you, but we’d like to tell your story.” Maria, the mother, thought it would be a good opportunity to tell an honest cancer story. I came into the project about six to eight months after Dania had started. So I came in around May 2013.


Tell me a bit about the mechanics of the reporting process with Ethan? How long was the reporting phase? How much did you hang out with Ethan and his mother? Did you witness everything you wrote about?

I was there for about 90 percent of what I wrote about. I started last May. I went with Dania to their house and got to know them a little bit. Sometimes I’d be there by myself and sometimes it would just be Dania. I was probably there at least twice a month, if not more. Sometimes I’d be there twice a week if there was a lot happening. Our paper sent us on the road trip to New Mexico and part of California. We went along on Ethan’s doctors appointments. Sometimes it was just a lot of hanging out with them and watching TV with them.


So you did end up traveling on a portion of the bucket list? Was that a hard sell to editors to send you across the country?

We knew toward the beginning we wanted to go. That was a major part of the story for Ethan, experiencing what he did. It was critical to the story. We could have done some reconstruction, but it wouldn’t have had the same impact. We went to the editors and said, “Here are the parts we think would be worthwhile to go to.”


What was the medical involvement? Those can always be tricky with privacy, but it seems the mother gave you pretty full access.

There was nothing she wouldn’t let us cover. There was really only the one exception of her pulling the photographer aside and telling her not to include a photo of her bending over and her butt. But when Ethan was throwing up in the toilet, she allowed us to be there and photograph it. But when you go about these things, with Ethan being a kid, you don’t want to be exploitative. So you approach these things with sensitivity.


How did you approach reporting on such a delicate situation, from Ethan and apparently some family tension? Did you ever find yourself getting emotional following Ethan so closely, especially toward the end? Do you think there is some value in letting your emotions show a little before your subjects in moments of grief?

I think everyone has their different style. I think some journalists may not be comfortable being so close to a family. But we opened ourselves up to them like they did to us. When we were at the doctor’s office, and the doctor was explaining to Ethan what death was, I was taking notes while I was crying and trying to hide it. Maria knew we were reporting the story objectively, but you can’t not feel upset about what’s happening. I think it would have been maybe a little disingenuous not to. There were definitely moments when I cried.


I found your series to be a great example of what Walt Harrington describes as “intimate journalism,” or how people live and what they value. The story unfolds before us with live dialogue and vivid descriptions. Describe the process for how you achieved moments like how Ethan described the kiss as ice cream melting in his mouth or being able to write that Ethan believed in his mind that he wasn’t dying when he was diagnosed in 2012.

I think for most of the dialogue I try to sit back and watch what happened and to be an observer. I did four or five sit down interviews to record them and get them to answer some questions to get some information and background we needed. For details like the ice cream, he told me that during an interview. I like stories better that have natural dialogue that don’t feel like it’s people talking to a reporter. At the end of the first part, for what Maria was thinking, she told me that in an interview, that Maria wanted him to know that when he would take his last breath, he was going to have lived a full life.


Sometimes reporters have an idea and they spend time vetting different characters to see who comfortable they’d be with being open to a reporter. You didn’t have a choice, and yet Maria seemed so open and Ethan wasn’t quiet around you. Did you feel fortunate that you knew you’d be able to tell a great story because Maria and Ethan talked?

Maria had a way with words, so she was really great. If you asked Ethan something and he didn’t want to answer, well, he’s a kid and you’ve got to let it go. You’re talking to an 11-year-old boy, and you don’t want to push him. Ethan had a magnetic personality, and he was very mature for his age, and his mom gave him a lot of autonomy over his medical decisions. He was aware of what was going on. Maybe 11 is pretty young, but it’s not like you’re talking to a 6-year-old. He knew what he wanted and he knew what he wanted out of life.


Were there any details that hit you the hardest?

I think being there in the process of him dying was really difficult. I’ve never been there when someone was dying, even for a relative. It’s tough because you knew what was coming, but you don’t know what you were going to see or hear. My notebook has tear marks on it. At that moment, it was go time for us. This was a critical part of the story and what people need to know about. We wanted to share that moment. It was unpleasant. But we’re all going to be there one day.


What was the writing process like? Is this the first kind of intimate journalism story you’ve done?

I’ve done other stories where I’ve followed families or people around for a while, but it wasn’t quite as long as compared to this story. I have a paper box of notebooks and recordings and notes on my phone. I try to write when I’m at a certain event with them. As soon as I return from an event, I’ll sit down and try to write a little section about it. Some of those I ended up using, and I’ll keep them in tact. But others wouldn’t make it, or they’d get shortened or changed a lot. In July, that’s when I went back and wrote the entire story.


What has the response been to this series, including Ethan’s mother and family?

Ethan’s mom was happy with the story. She was very clear from us at the beginning she wanted the raw truth and not some sugar-coated story that glosses over what’s uncomfortable, from Ethan’s situation to her yelling at her ex-husband. She was very happy with it. A lot of people appreciate it wasn’t a heroic story about cancer. We wanted it to include the fights and the yelling and the uncomfortable situations with the doctor. There was definitely the handful of people who commented online on the story that decisions Ethan made weren’t appropriate for him at his age. I think we expected that, and you take it. But the story should make you feel uncomfortable, and it’s OK that it makes you feel uncomfortable. Maria would comment on some of the posts. She’d say, “For those of you you think his innocence was stolen, his innocence was stolen the day he was diagnosed with cancer.”


This is an out-of-the-blue sort of question, but I’m curious. Did you feel any pressure with this story and how its topic is sort of similar to the popular movie and book “The Fault In Our Stars?”

I’d actually never heard of this book until I saw the movie trailer. I didn’t want to watch it while I was writing because I didn’t want to be influenced by it. Maybe I’ll see it now that I’m done with this story.


You’re a night cops reporter, which can mean you sometimes get bogged down in the daily breaking news. What advice do you have for journalists looking to do a long term intimate feature story like this, which is oftentimes a rare thing for an editor to see and sometimes agree to?

I think for this one in particular, I was brought in on it. But it’s important to have a good story and good people who are on board before you pitch. Dania was good about that before pitching it. It’s hard to get the story going. There were definitely weeks where I was off on other crazy assignments and writing five cops briefs in a shift, but I tried to carve out time for my story. And we did a lot of work on our own time. Sometimes something happens on a Saturday, and you just have to be there because you don’t want to miss that moment. Maria was almost always posting things on Facebook, and we’d text her a few times a week. I’d do that when I was in the office or at other assignments.

Jessica Lipscomb is currently a night cops reporter at the Naples Daily News in Florida, where she’s been for about two years. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2010, and previously worked at The Franklin Press in North Carolina and The Beaumont Enterprise in Texas. You can follow her on Twitter at @jessicalipscomb.

Amy Friedenberger is a crime and breaking news reporter for The Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Va. Previously, she wrote about business for newspapers in Pennsylvania.

Nathan Fenno on Finding a Story that Endures at Penn State

Posted: December 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Newspaper Writing, Recently Published | No Comments »

Like many of his colleagues in journalism, Nathan Fenno rushed to State College as it became clear that the unfolding Sandusky scandal was more than anyone first expected. But unlike most of his colleagues, Fenno, an enterprise reporter at The Washington Times, found a way to crystallize the conflict felt by many—a conflict of morality, of institutional allegiance, and of the desire to keep calm and carry on. Fenno cut straight through the incessant highs and lows of the breaking news cycle, found a beating heart at the middle of the chatter, and convinced us why it matters. FeatureStory spoke with Fenno about his story, which received more than 400 comments on the Times’ website and 9000 “likes” on Facebook.

READ FENNO’S STORY HERE:  ’At Penn State’s stadium, profanity, scorn greets one father’s protest


You were sent to State College by The Washington Times to cover the scandal as it unfolded—were you part of a team or were you reporting solo? What was the paper’s plan for coverage?

My editor, Mike Harris, dispatched me to State College around 5 p.m. on Nov. 9. That was fortuitous, as I arrived in time for the evening’s mace-soaked riot in response to Joe Paterno’s firing. My assignment was simple: find stories to convey the atmosphere. We didn’t care about blow-by-blow details of the Board of Trustees meetings. To have an editor that provides that sort of freedom to find stories is a wonderful thing.

Many people looked to Saturday’s football game as a reflection of the week’s upending events, and it sometimes seemed that the opinions in State College didn’t match the opinions held by the rest of the country. You found a way to illustrate this “disconnect” through a narrative vignette. Was this something you were looking for when you woke up Saturday and covered the game?

When I woke up Saturday, I had no idea what I would write. That left me a bit nervous. But after spending two days in State College, I felt strongly the story — whatever it was — wasn’t inside Beaver Stadium’s press box with the rest of the media horde. That was the last place I wanted to be. My primary plan, actually, was to visit key sites in the overall story (the homes of Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno along with other places mentioned in the grand jury indictment) during the game. But one question hung in my mind: what would gameday feel like outside the stadium? I was fascinated by that, particularly after the previous night’s candlelight vigil to honor victims of childhood sexual abuse ended with “We are Penn State” chants and a speaker complaining about negative publicity.

Were you specifically assigned to write more about the human side of the issue by talking to people at the game, or did you just happen to find John Matko [the character the story centers around] on the way in and realize he may tell a much better story than anything else you may have found inside the stadium?

I spent a couple hours wandering around the stadium before the game and talking to all sorts of people, from a student distributing bookmarks about child sexual abuse to a man staring at Paterno’s statue to a graduate told by stadium security to throw away his sign protesting the situation. I happened upon Matko around 11 a.m. and was struck by the boldness of his protest and, almost immediately, the profane response from passers-by.

When you first discovered Matko, what did you do next? 

I stepped back and watched and listened for about 15 minutes before chatting with him. No tweeting or checking my phone every few minutes. I wanted to see and hear how people reacted to him and vice versa. There’s tremendous value, I’ve found, in simply hanging around. Those details are crucial in being able to transport the reader to that moment, to let them know what it feels like to hold signs in the middle of a street as passers-by hurl abuse and no one intercedes.

How do you keep perspective and focus in such an emotionally charged situation that’s unfolding as quickly as it did?

Everyone approaches those situations differently, but my default mode is to take a deep breath and try and soak up every detail, word, smell and feeling. That’s where my focus lies. You need to be calm. But totally divorcing yourself from an emotionally-charged situation is tough, if not impossible. We’re human and reporting shouldn’t strip away that humanity. We need it. And, bluntly, throughout the hour I spent around Matko, I couldn’t escape the thought someone was going to punch him.

Often, student journalists find people that we know would make good stories (like Matko), but are unsure of how to proceed—especially if we’re “only” writing for our college papers. Any words of advice for students looking to tell the kind of story like you did?

Keep things simple. Report obsessively, both in talking to everyone you can and searching for telling detail. No amount of good writing can cover up shoddy reporting. Embrace any chance you have to go in the opposite direction from the media pack. That’s where you’ll find some of the best stories. Get out of the office as much as possible. You can’t do a story like this on the phone. And invest the time in simply hanging around. Decades ago, Gay Talese hung around Frank Sinatra and his associates for a month. No big sit-down interview, but it turned into of the great magazine stories of our time.

The response to your story has been incredible! As I understand, even Matko’s brother contacted you?

Yes, Matko’s brother let me know of his disagreement with the protest. Otherwise, the response was enormous and overwhelmingly positive. To a lot of folks, the story summed up the disconnect they felt between how State College and the rest of the country viewed the scandal.

Anything else you’d like to add for students looking at your piece as a really, really fine work of reporting?

Read as much good writing as you can from as many sources as you can manage. Folks like Chris Jones at Esquire, Greg Bishop and C.J. Chivers at the New York Times, Michael Kruse and Ben Montgomery at the St. Petersburg Times, Wright Thompson at ESPN, Michael Lewis and Talese are some of my favorites. Tear apart their stuff and figure out why you like it, how they approach stories, everything. The more you read, the better you’ll get.

UPDATE: On November 30, Fenno published a follow-up to his original story: ‘Penn State protester wearied of lonely fight in battle of ideology


Nathan Fenno is a writer for The Washington Times. Read more of his work at or follow him on Twitter @nathanfenno.


Generation Limbo: NYT’s Jennifer 8. Lee on Waiting It Out

Posted: October 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Newspaper Writing, Recently Published | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Last month, FeatureStory spoke with Jennifer 8. Lee, the author of a piece that led the NYT Thursday Style Section. Generation Limbo: Waiting It Out chronicles the sheer reality many college students have come to take for granted: not finding a job after graduation. Lee’s story breached the NYT’s Most Emailed Stories list and generated discussion across the web, so we spoke with her about her writing process.

How did you first arrive at the idea of a Generation in Limbo?

The story was actually editor assigned – they were like, can you take this? This was the Thursday Style editor, Denny Lee. He asked me to take a look at it. I’ve done a lot of zeitgeist and trend stories for them, you know, the way it is now. So he basically wanted me to take a look at the new generation of college grads and figure out some cohesive story about how it’s hard to get jobs.

You know, the thing is, I don’t have young grads in my social circle. I’m not old enough to have kids, and I’m not young enough to have friends in that group, so I had to start reaching out. Luckily, I’m like one generation removed, so I put out a call on Twitter and Facebook and then over the Harvard NYC list — just to see if anyone knew anyone who would fit our criteria.

It was like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean, it was tricky, because at that point, we had a very specific thesis. It had to be someone who studied something fairly practical, had a very specific career desire, couldn’t get their career desire and now was in a kind of random job.

How many responses did you get? What sort of responses were you hoping for?

There were lots of responses, but not many with that exact profile. It couldn’t be like they wanted to be an actress and they had a hard time—it had to be a field distinctly harder now than it was before. Oh, and they had to have gone to a decent school, a recognizably decent school. That way, you could isolate the fact that their hardship was due to the economy and not due to something else. For all we knew, this person could have been someone who also wouldn’t have found a job in a better economy. So you needed to isolate the other factor. They wanted it to be in a field where historically there were jobs, where historically there were entry level things, and they just couldn’t break in, for whatever reason, and then decided to do something interesting. And then they had to be the right age. So it was a bunch of different things…you need geographic diversity, and then you need gender diversity. You needed to make sure not everyday had the same story.

It’s like this giant LSAT problem that you’re trying to solve.

Why did you decide to write using anecdotes rather than a more traditional hard-news story?

It’s because its the Style section – its just the way this story works. Its not even a question. It’s like asking why you wrote a breaking news story beginning with the facts.

It was designed to be a story that was about people’s stories. Its like that one saying: a million is a statistic – one is a story. A million people in a place isn’t a story. One person is a story. I interviewed over 20 people.

How long was the entire story process, from being assigned by your editor to publication?

They originally mentioned the story to me in January but we were not working consistently on it. What actually helped moved things along was in May when the [Rutgers report] came out that gave much more quantifiable data than what we had previous. Everything we had previously talked about was anecdotal—then the report dropped from Rutgers, which crystalized a lot of what we found. It was hard, because not a lot of people were “experts” on unemployed youth, and you could slice the issue in different ways.

If that Rutgers story had not been published, would the story have died?

No, it would have run. We still would’ve done it, but we wouldn’t have had the same amount of confidence in it. It was just so stark. They’re comparing people who graduated in 2006/2007 with 2009/2010 – you could not be more crystallized in what we were looking at. Other studies were looking at the year 2000 and earlier.

You end the story on a quote about adopting an artistic mentality and making opportunity happen. As the author, how did you decide that this story was about people waiting in limbo and being waylaid as opposed to people really just finding things not related to their studies? Is there a distinction here?

Yeah, there’s totally a distinction. I think there’s an emotional order in that. You need to first say that they’re waylaid. At first, you’re going to get the fact that nobody can get jobs. Once you establish that as a denominator in life, you’re then going to get the next wave of stories about people becoming entrepreneurial, people doing arts. This second wave doesn’t really care as much of a punch unless you have the premise that there’s something messed up in the economy. This is a distinction that I was noticing.

But I only got to this premise through the process of reporting. Yeah, I could totally just write about people being creative, but that’s not as interesting. My story is a response to a phenomenon. You need to establish the phenomenon before you can do the response correctly.

Which you came to through your reporting—it’s not something you can just say without qualification?


Moving on to your life as a journalist, you started working at the Times at 24?

Yeah, very young. [Journalism] wasn’t my academic field of study, but I wrote for the Harvard Crimson, and I interned at the Boston Globe, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal—about as credentialed as you can get. I had completed 5 internships by the time I had started at the Times. I studied Applied Math and Economics while in school.

Any advice for student journalists?

You know, its so tough. I would say its more like a niche career—get your experience as a blogger, really distinguishing yourself in that online medium, whatever that may be. That’s the path now—you make yourself a formidable competitor.

In our first interview on FeatureStory, we spoke with Manny Fernandez about his payphone in Queens story. He stressed that it’s really easy to take for granted the stories we’re most familiar with in our own lives. Many young folks take the limbo and uncertainty in their lives for granted. Any tips for young writers looking for the next big story – where should they be looking?

If you want to write stories that people talk about, you should listen very carefully to what people are talking about. If they’re already talking about it without a story, they’ll probably talk about it more with a story.

Visit Jennifer 8. Lee’s website for more of her work. Lee’s book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, traces the roots and culture of the fortune cookie and other popular Chinese take-out dishes in America.

Lane DeGregory and “The Girl in The Window”

Posted: September 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Newspaper Writing | Tags: , , | No Comments »

In 2008, The St. Petersburg Times ran a story called “The Girl in the Window”, a narrative about a little girl named Danielle who was found trapped in a small room, covered in her own feces and so deprived of human interaction that she had become a feral child – unable to communicate, connect or interact with other human beings. The 6,000 word story, written by St. Petersburg Times staff writer Lane Degregory, chronicled the horrors Dani suffered and her adoption by a Florida family, the Lierows, who took the disabled girl into their home.

The story was reprinted in hundreds of papers and won the feature writing Pulitzer that year, and saw massive public interest that continues to resonate today. DeGregory lost touch with the Lierow family, who signed an exclusive contract with The Oprah Winfrey Show, and cut off contact with all other media outlets.

Three years later, DeGregory reconnected with the Lierows and finished Dani’s story at their new home in Lebanon Tennessee in her follow-up piece “Three years later, ‘The Girl in the Window’ learns to connect.”

FeatureStory looks into how DeGregory went about coping, reporting and writing such a memorable piece, as well as how you  approach writing the conclusion to a Pulitzer Prize-winning story.

There was such a massive public response to the first story about Dani. Does knowing you have a large, passionate audience for this piece before you even start have an impact on how you go about writing it?

I definitely felt the pressure when I was writing it. I told my husband, ‘I’m doing Star Wars II here. I knew there were lots of people who were going to read it.’

It had been three years and I was still getting several e-mails a week asking how Dani was doing, so I knew people were still interested in her.

But this story wasn’t going to be as comprehensive as the original. The first took me six months to write and I spent three days on the second one. It wasn’t going to be as comprehensive as the original, and it wasn’t going to have the same impact. It was like, “Let’s go spend the weekend with Dani.”

This was more of an epilogue.

Did you pitch the original story? If it was assigned, what were your first steps in writing the original and this piece?

I was actually contacted about the story by a source I had worked with at the Children’s Board, and she kind of brokered access of the family for me. She just kind of reassured them that we were good people because, initially, the Lierows didn’t want any media attention.

I’ve been a newspaper journalist for 22 years, and I’ve never done that before, but she was really motivated to get Dani’s story out there.

Was it a matter of waiting until the Oprah show aired, or were there other restrictions? So was the 3 year wait to accommodate that?

They actually contacted me because they had written this book with some woman and were looking for promotion. To be honest, I hadn’t tried with them in two years because they were getting more and more angry with me when I asked.

The original and the follow-up story are really emotionally charged pieces, with such a tragic beginning and a joyful ending? As a journalist, how do you pull yourself away from all that emotion?

That was the hardest part. My youngest son is about the same age as Dani and it was hard to reconcile the story on both ends.

It was a story with really low lows and high highs, so that sort of put us on a rollercoaster of emotions. What helped was that every time we went to see her, the photographer Melissa Lyttle and I had a three-hour drive down and back, so we sort of acted as each other’s therapists.

She had a rough time with the anger she left, where my reaction was more “How could someone have let this happen?”

What was it like to interview the mother?

Initially, I had never really planned to interview her, but about 5 months into the reporting my editor asked me ‘So when are you talking to the mother?’ and I was like ‘I don’t want to talk to the mother!’ I mean that’s tough. She’s 6 foot 2, so she’s a big lady!

It took Melissa and I a long time to work up the courage to find her and knock on her door. When we finally did we pulled up to this trailer, and we were texting our editors to let them know where we were in case something went wrong, and we left the car ready to go outside.

We never expected to find this sad and broken woman. When we told her we were from the paper and we wanted to talk to her about Dani, she just started sobbing and saying “Dani. Have you seen my daughter?” We never expected all this emotional connection from her to Dani.

She was actually really happy to talk to us. She said no one had every asked her side of the story.

But yea, it took some courage. Melissa drove around the block with me a few times blasting Guns and Roses to get me pumped up.

Thanks Lane!

NYT’s Manny Fernandez Listens in on a Pay Phone in Queens

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Newspaper Writing | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

On February 13th of last year, the New York Times ran a piece called Listening In on a Payphone in Queens on A1 in the print edition. It’s a feature piece that looks into the existence of a payphone at a time when payphones are on the way out. I was intrigued by the piece and wondered how Manny Fernandez, the writer, actually approached the writing process. Where did he get the idea? Did he eavesdrop on people using the phone? How did he approach them? Did he reveal himself as a journalist? I emailed Fernandez with these questions, and to my surprise, he called me in response. From our phone conversation:

Where did you get the story idea?

I’ve been fascinated with payphone for years. The people using them, their locations, etc. When I worked for the Washington Post, I was fascinated by this payphone in DC where two or three people had been killed over a fifteen year period. I wanted to write a profile about that phone but never had the chance to.

You’re now at the New York Times. What are you writing about?

I had been on the housing beat for awhile, and then I was moved to general assignment. When I started at the Times in 2005, I covered city politics and then started covering the Bronx.

Did you pitch your idea to the editor?

Yeah, I brought it up with my editor, who was very receptive to the idea. He gave me the time I needed to write the piece.

How did you start researching and writing? What was the first step?

I started by calling payphone owners around the area. Several said no, they weren’t interested. I finally found an owner who managed around 60 phones throughout the area. I narrowed down several phones to the single phone in Queens.

How long did you work on the piece?

The photographer (Piotr Redlinski) and I spent about two days on and off watching the phone, either standing outside or sitting in the car. I watched the phone on a Thursday from 9AM to 3PM, then again from 8PM to 2 AM. On Friday, it was from 3PM to 2AM.

What did you do next?

When someone would approach the phone, I would approach them. I always introduced myself from the beginning, sometimes with a business card. It’s important with something like this to be open. It eliminates questions down the road.

So, it’s important to be honest.

Yes, some people honestly just opened up. Some people didn’t want to be a part of it, but others opened up more honestly than I expected. My editor worried that I wouldn’t be able to find enough people, but that wasn’t the case. People surprised me–the twist at the end of the story ended up being really cool because the subject told me much more than I would expect him to.

How did you quote the dialogue that happened during phone calls?

Sometimes I would just listen and quote snippets of conversation. I could talk with the people using the phone to find out what they were talking about about.

You worked with a photographer on this piece.

Yes, he was assigned by the NYT’s photo desk. As Piotr took portraits, it helped me to write because it helped to confirm that things were working out with the story.

Cool! Did he have problems taking anyone’s photos to run with the story?

Only one or two people didn’t want their photos taken. They didn’t mind being on the record, though.

How do you teach writers to find and pursue stories like this?

You have the license to be curious. Always follow hunches and report them out fully. Pursue, collect, and report. Call people, get a single solid statistic, and work with it. Let’s say you hear a statistic that 5% of students on campus are over the age of 60. Call  the admissions office and find out if these students exist. If the statistic isn’t true, write a profile on the 1 student on campus that IS over 60.

Write about things people know and see daily. I’ve always been fascinated by how the city works (how trash is collected, traffic is managed, etc). Explore very obvious things that need exploring.

Thanks Manny!

This interview was transcribed from notes and memory on February 15th.

-Vaughn Wallace

Welcome to FeatureStory

Posted: August 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: News | No Comments »

Welcome to FeatureStory, telling the story behind the stories. FeatureStory talks to today’s leading storytellers about their craft, publishing interviews and hosting live discussions with the world’s leading journalists and storytellers. For more information, read our mission statement.

FeatureStory is always looking for contributing writers. Whether you’re a journalist or author interested in sharing the process behind your latest work or a student interested in conducting interviews or sharing conversations, feel free to get in touch through our Contribute page. is edited by Vaughn Wallace, a photo editor and photographer based in Pittsburgh, Pa.