To provide the best experiences, we use technologies like cookies to store and/or access device information. Consenting to these technologies will allow us to process data such as browsing behavior or unique IDs on this site. Not consenting or withdrawing consent may adversely affect certain features and functions.
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.
Writing Without Access: The Craft of the Write-Around
Mary H.K. Choi notes in her profile of Rihanna for Fader that Pulitzer-prize winner Margo Jefferson wrote a “killer write-around” of Beyoncé without the participation of Beyoncé’s camp. As we read along, we come to the realization that Choi’s Rihanna profile is also a write-around, and it’s expertly done.
How do you write about someone without her involvement? Choi lays out Rihanna’s career with indisputable facts (“For almost a decade Rihanna released an album per year, but it’s been over 1,000 days since her last one”), and then gives the story richness by drawing on memories of her interactions with the singer in the past. Take, for example, this recollection Choi provides us from a conversation she had with Rihanna years ago for the singer’s first cover story:
Write-arounds often evoke a negative connotation—signifying, perhaps, that a writer hasn’t done enough to gain access and get the full story. But access to famous and powerful people frequently come with strings, and the write-around method is a cure to all those effusive celebrity profiles that don’t reveal much of anything.
Someone who would agree with this is Ron Rosenbaum, who wrote in Slate nearly a decade ago about the advantages of the write-around:
Rosenbaum points out that one of the most successful and famous examples of this is Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” which “captur[ed] the ripples and crosscurrents of influence and ego among the nine circles of sycophants who surrounded [Sinatra].”
In a conversation with Talese about his story, Elon Green noted that the story’s success was due in part through Talese’s use of “Sinatra’s fans as a prism through which to view him.” Talese responded:
Writers approach the write-around using different techniques; Choi drew from the past and Talese drew from Sinatra’s “squad” to tell a story. When the method is used effectively, the results can be quite illuminating.
* * *
• “Becoming Rihanna” (Mary H.K. Choi, Fader, Sept. 28, 2015)
• “The Reign of Beyoncé” (Margo Jefferson, Vogue, Aug. 13, 2015)
• “Magazines, Bring Back the Write-Around!” (Ron Rosenbaum, Slate, Oct. 4, 2007)
• “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (Gay Talese, Esquire, April 1966)
• “Annotation Tuesday! Gay Talese and ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold’” (Elon Green and Gay Talese, Nieman Storyboard, Oct. 8, 2013)