Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jeff Tietz At The Heart Of Rolling Stone

I’ve been reading Rolling Stone magazine for almost a decade. While I enjoy the entertainment reviews and news, what keeps me coming back is the long form journalism that is featured in every issue.

Like a good documentary, long form journalism has a depth of meaning that most news articles lack because of length and time allotted to research and write these articles. As the news is filled with underdeveloped stories about events that aren’t truly newsworthy, the art of long form journalism remains a unique and vital part of our culture.
The Fallen by Jeff Tietz featured in the most recent Rolling Stone is an amazing example of the power of long form journalism and what is truly at the heart of this great magazine.

This article is apolitical. There’s no mention of the upcoming presidential election or any political party. Instead of using this story of people who live in their cars to make a political argument, he  lets these people speak for themselves and gives voice to an important part of our population.

This is an article about how the economy has effected people negatively and profiles people doing everything right to get out of their situation. These are stories of hope, perseverance and what it means for many people to live in America today.

Tietz tells three stories: Janis Adkins, the Cateses family a wife and husband with three children and Sean Kennan a single dad with two sons. He skillfully interweaves these stories without creating confusion in the story. Knowing when to leave one person to tell another person’s story and come back to it is a passing issue that when done well gives you time away to reflect and motivates you to continue reading.

Great writers don’t describe everything in detail. Instead they pick certain senses that are powerful and memorable to feature.

As we climb in, I realize the van smells faintly of slept-on sheets. Adkins is a clean person – she showers and does laundry regularly – but vehicle dwellers live in spaces too small to easily dissipate quotidian odors.
Tietz doesn’t go into detail about what the van looks like or Adkins appearance herself. Instead of using senses to simply give people an idea of what he is talking about he uses descriptions to tell a story.

The hook at the beginning of the article is effective but what’s really powerful is the ending. When you are done reading the last sentence, it forces you to take a moment to reflect. It’s like the end of a great piece of music. You need that silence after a great song to take in the emotional experience and Tietz creates that same feeling with this article.

I understand people’s reservations about Rolling Stone. This magazine seems to express an unapologetic liberal stance.  There are some writers who have clear liberal viewpoints and republican perspectives are rarely given in the political section of the magazine.  Outside of this section however you find the heart of Rolling Stone with articles like Tietz's.  Like rock music itself, Rolling Stone is not about politics but rather this magazine is about hope, trials and liberation.  

There is a difference between a journalist and a blogger. There is a difference between a great journalist and mediocre ones and there is a difference between journalism that is frivolous with work that is important.  Take the time to read this article and you'll understand what I'm talking about.  I don't have a great ending to this post like Tietz's has for his article.  Just take this post as an introduction to The Fallen and you won't regret it.   

Jeff Tietz's website

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