Wick Communications

Here’s how it’s done

In Writing on September 8, 2011 at 8:49 am

Some stories are so big it’s hard to get your arms around them. Terrorism, recession, Mexican drug murders… these are things that seem so enormous and profound that they can’t be given justice by one good newspaper story.

Well, here’s how one woman told the story of unemployment in this country through the eyes of a single man.

It begins with an introduction:

On June 25, 2010, Frederick Deare punched out for the last time from his job driving a forklift at the Old London factory in the Bronx. That summer, everyone at the plant was being laid off: the oven operators, the assembly-line packers, the forklift drivers, the sanitation workers. Total jobs lost: 228. Old London, the snack manufacturer that invented the Cheez Doodle, was moving its operations to North Carolina. At 53, Mr. Deare, known as Freddy or Teddy Bear to his co-workers, would have to find a new job.

From there New York Times reporter Jennifer Gonnerman reminds us of our industrial past, a time when men like Deare were allowed some dignified employment. …

There was a time, not all that long ago, when the sound of factory whistles could be heard throughout the five boroughs. In the Bronx, there was Farberware, the pot manufacturer, which employed 700 people before shutting down its plant in 1996; Everlast, the boxing glove maker, which closed its operation in 2003; and Stella D’oro, the cookie-and-breadstick bakery that moved to Ohio in 2009. A. L. Bazzini Company, the peanut factory that supplies snacks to Yankee Stadium, will soon be leaving the city, too. 

A century ago, about 40 percent of New York City workers held manufacturing jobs, according to “Working-Class New York,” by Joshua B. Freeman. As Labor Day rolls around again, that portion has shrunk to less than 4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. And when Mr. Deare received his pink slip, he joined a growing army of the unemployed in a borough that has been hit hard by the nation’s financial turmoil. The Bronx has an unemployment rate of 12 percent, the highest in the state. For African-American men like Mr. Deare, the city’s unemployment rate is even more disturbing: nearly 20 percent.

Then she goes semi-long. In one 23-inch story, she tells us of Deare’s life, exactly how he spends his days, how he ultimately found a job paying 40 percent less than his last one. It’s poignant and so real it hurts to read. This is what newspapers do better than any other medium.

The key is the simple outline Gonnerman used: Introduction, nut graph, yarn spinning. It’s can’t miss. Try it today.

Clay

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