Monthly Archives: May 2011

The “perp walk”

Today’s Times takes a glimpse at an old journalism tradition known as “the perp walk.” It is a ritual in which the police take a suspect (whom they routinely refer to as a “perpetrator” or “perp”) for a short walk, whether it’s really necessary or not. The idea is to put the perp on display for the media, especially the cameras. The perp walk plays absolutely no role in the administration of justice, but it represents a perfect convergence of the interests of the police and the media. That may be why it has survived court orders aimed at eliminating it.

As I see it, the perp walk is a result of the transparency built into our criminal justice system,which, on the whole, has served us pretty well. I’m not sure I would swap it for the French system, for example, which is mentioned in the Times.

What do you think?

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Narrative (cont.)

It’s always heartening to see a good account of an event that you attended in person. Here is a story about the recent conference on narrative non-fiction at Boston University, written by Andrea Pitzer for the Nieman Storyboard.

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My Book Gets Nearer to Publication

I am pleased to pass this along from UMass Press. It’s the page from the Press’s upcoming fall/winter catalogue announcing my book, Covering America:

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OPTIMISM AND JOURNALISM (in the same headline!)

By Chris Daly

I had the good fortune to attend the annual Conference on Narrative Non-Fiction, hosted at Boston University. It was a gathering of the tribe of people who do (and think about and care about) narrative non-fiction, long-form journalism, or any of the allied arts.

I was struck by the comments of Ken Auletta, the indispensable chronicler of the media business. Unlike a lot of the panelists, Auletta, a veteran New Yorker writer, said he saw reasons for optimism in the current situation. With his permission, I want to share his 14 reasons to look on the bright side:

1. e-books (which eliminate all the impediments associated with printing and distributing books — plus, no returns!)

2. (Apologies: I can’t read Auletta’s handwriting on this one, and it didn’t register as a separate item in my own notes.)

3. The Web puts a virtual library at every writer’s fingertips, greatly speeding up the pace and bringing down the cost of doing research.

4. Google books, which is bringing out-of-print books back to life.

5. Apps, which are teaching people that they should expect to pay for content.

6. Multimedia tools for story-tellers. (Auletta cited the pioneering use of video by the NYT in Art Buchwald’s obit)

7. The old media are beginning to “lean in” and engage with new tools and social media, rather than always deciding to “lean back” and feel sorry for themselves.

8. Writers have more platforms than ever before, so writers can pick the one that best fits a particular project.

9. The media have become more democratic, since readers now have a voice, which they can use for (among other things) contributing reports from places where there are no journalists.

10. Because the media are two-way, readers can help with fact-checking.

11. Because the media are two-way, readers can also help with suggesting story ideas. (“Hey, Auletta, why don’t you look into …”)

12. Blogging gives content-creators more options.

13. Links allow readers to find our work in all sorts of ways; they can stumble on something they didn’t already “subscribe” to.

14. The speed of publication allows some old media (like books) to keep up with developments in a way they never could hope to when it took 12 months to get a book into stores.

It’s quite a list, and many thanks to Ken Auletta for A), coming up with it, and B), sharing it.

Photos next:

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