Tag Archives: Tampa Bay Times

Behind the Scenes of Longform Storytelling: A Reading List

That’s me in the photo. June, 2011: my first time interning at a daily newspaper and the first time I read Joan Didion. She blew my mind, of course. Eventually, I started sharing my favorite longform pieces on my personal blog, which led to a variety of opportunities, including my gig here at Longreads. If you’re new around these parts, like I was just a few years ago, the stories below will give you an idea of the strength and skill that goes into creating engaging literary journalism.

Each of the four stories below has been featured on Longreads before, minus the annotations, of course. The interviews with the authors are just as fascinating as the essays they’ve written. Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Adrian Chen, and Brian Kevin discuss their research methods, their writing style, and how they choose which details to include and which to let go. There are literally dozens of other Annotation Tuesday stories I could’ve featured — it was hard to pick just three! — so be sure to take a look for yourself on the Nieman Storyboard website.

1. “Annotation Tuesday! Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah and ‘If He Hollers Let Him Go.’” (Elon Green, October 2014)

Part of successful longform storytelling is a seamless blend of the macro and micro. In recounting her journey to Yellow Springs, Ohio — where comic Dave Chappelle lives, where he grew up, in part — Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah does just that. She never interviews Chappelle himself; she interviews several of the people surrounding him, including his mother, scholar Yvonne Seon, and Neal Brannan, co-creator of “Chappelle’s Show.” Ghansah and Elon Green share a fascinating back-and-forth about the impossibility of objectivity, the n-word, and comedy as a weapon.

2. “Annotation Tuesday! Adrian Chen and ‘Unfollow.’” (Katia Savchuk, January 2017)

Tech reporter Adrian Chen — formerly of Gawker, now The New Yorker — wrote a marvelous profile of Megan Phelps-Roper, who was once a devoted member of the Westboro Baptist Church. When Phelps-Roper took over the church’s social media accounts, her life changed. In between hate speech and emojis, she engaged with people of different backgrounds and worldviews. Chen explains that it took a long time for Megan to feel comfortable opening up to him and sharing her story publicly. But when she did open up to Chen, she gave him access to her emails, her journals, even her private messages on the Words With Friends app. They spoke for hours, and the result is a nuanced portrait that demonstrates the nonlinear nature of healing.

3. “Michael Kruse and the Woman Who Disappeared in Her Own Home.” (Paige Williams, August 2012)

I remember reading this piece when it was first published in 2011. I was interning at a daily newspaper and learning about feature writing and reporting for the first time. Michael Kruse and the Tampa Bay Times (previously the St. Petersburg Times) came highly recommended to me, and this story, “A Brevard Woman Disappeared, but Never Left Home” — is a contemporary classic. Journalist and professor Paige Williams dissects the story on an educational basis; Kruse answers her questions and adds commentary.

4. “Annotation Tuesday! (Back to School Edition): Josh Roiland and His ‘Literary Journalism in America’ Syllabus.” (Josh Roiland, August 2015)

During my senior year of undergrad, I embarked on an independent study of longform journalism — reading hundreds of essays, interviewing Ben Montgomery, and analyzing what makes different stories tick. Ready to embark on an independent study of your own? There’s no better place to start than this syllabus — I wish it had been around when I was in school. Roiland, presently an assistant professor with the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine, goes into glorious detail about each of his reading selections.

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Florida State Hospital. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

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Meals Behind Bars: A Reading List

Alcatraz Dining Hall by Carl Sundstrom. (Public Domain)

Food is everywhere — we eat at home, at work, at school, on the go, and while traveling. Many of us are able to eat what we choose, when we choose; for some, deciding what to eat, obtaining it, and preparing is enough of a burden that we’re turning to meal-replacements like Soylent in such numbers that orders are backlogged for weeks. That all changes in jail, where you eat what you’re given — or you don’t eat at all. Among the many freedoms prison limits, where does losing the ability to choose the timing, quantity, and, most importantly, flavor of your food rank? Pretty high.

Three of these pieces look at what mealtime is like on the inside, from an examination of chow hall food to stories of inmates’ ad-hoc cell-made meals to an in-depth look at a commissary food that’s both dietary supplement and currency for thousands of inmates. A fourth adds a different dimension, revealing how some of the foods on our own tables are the product of prison labor.

Read more…

Trauma and Joy: Four Stories About Adoption

The stories of adoptees are not open-and-shut case files—they are complex and messy. In these particular stories, you’ll meet a young woman who fought for her three brothers, a group of stridently anti-adoption adoptees, an eager couple waiting by the phone, and another couple coping with the myth of post-racism.

1. “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” (Nishta Mehra, Guernica, March 2015)

You can feel the urgency of Nishta Mehra’s words, like she’s crafted this essay in her head so many times and now, finally, has it in writing. Here is what happens over and over again, she says. Here is our family: a white woman, an Indian woman, a black toddler son. We are full of love. We face many questions. We have much to fear. Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Photo by jbergen

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Read more…

The Complicated Relationship Between a Reporter and a Source

“The reporter-source relationship is a complicated one that defies easy description. It borrows a little from the salesman-buyer relationship, the therapist-patient relationship, the police officer-witness relationship, sometimes even the growing intimacy of a friendship. We work hard to gain access and trust, and generally we avoid doing anything that stops a source from talking once she gets started.

“‘How are you now?’ I asked at the time.

“‘I’m suffering horribly . . . but I’m not suicidal,’ she said. ‘It’s a soothing thing. I don’t really want to do it. But it helps me calm down, it helps me sleep to think about the possibilities to end the suffering.’

“If I had possessed some sort of device that could peer inside her brain and pick up some biological trace amongst the billions of nerve cells and circuits that would indicate she was likely to commit suicide, would I have stopped the interview?”

— In the Tampa Bay Times, Leonora LaPeter Anton examines the suicide of one of her sources, a woman named Gretchen Molannen who was suffering from an embarrassing genital arousal disorder. Was there anything Anton could have done to prevent the death?

Read the story


Photo: Roger H. Goun

A Longreads Guest Pick: Andrew Pantazi on Michael Kruse's 'The Last Voyage of the Bounty'

Andrew Pantazi writes for his hometown newspaper, The Florida Times-Union.

From the gripping first paragraph in the first chapter of the first part of this longread, ‘In the dark, in the wet, whirling roar of Hurricane Sandy, on a ship tipping so badly the deck felt like a steep, slick roof …,’ Michael Kruse drew me into a tale of desperation and desire.

And that’s just Part 1. I didn’t want to feature a story that wasn’t fully published, but The Tampa Bay Times’ The Last Voyage of the Bounty was too good to pass up. The web design is beautiful and fairly non-distracting. Kruse churns out telling details. He slows the story when the crew has to make a decision, and then he moves the story along faster and faster and faster, as the storm gets closer and closer. Also check out the reporter’s notes where he annotates how he got all the details.


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“The Divorce from Hell, The Battle for Alimony and Empty Pockets.” Leonora LaPeter Anton, Tampa Bay Times.

Hailey and Olivia Scheinman are seven-year-old twins with an unshakeable bond. Olivia was born with epilepsy and cerebral palsy, and Hailey spends much of her time raising money for her sister’s care, and awareness about families with children who have disabilities:

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a scenario in which the trajectory of the sisters’ lives simply continues to diverge. But something in Hailey has resisted that. She seems determined not to lose her grip on the being to whom she is closest in the world. Her mom thinks that because of Hailey’s efforts, the sisters are closer now than ever.

What makes a good sister?

Hailey Scheinman doesn’t have the answer. She’s 7.

Hailey Scheinman is the answer.

“Twins Bond in the Gift of the Other.” — Rebecca Catalanello, Tampa Bay Times

See more from the Tampa Bay Times