Assignment for Thursday 8/25

Read Fire Raged, They Played On, and the Photo Still Beguiles (in the NYT) and keep a list in a Google Doc of everything the reporter, Sarah Lyall, had to report in order to tell the story behind the photo. Before the start of class, share your Google Doc with me.

In the comments, leave some thoughts on what you think works and what questions you have about the stories — the focus, approach, the voice, etc.

8 thoughts on “Assignment for Thursday 8/25”

  1. I do not recall seeing the picture before and thought the article was an interesting read. I liked how Sarah Lyall broke the story up into manageable chunks with the section headings. It made it easy to digest all the information and keep the reader’s attention. The additional pictures of people either at the game or pictures related to the fire helped put things into perspective. It made them seem more like people instead of just names on a page.

    Some of the questions I have about the story are:
    – How did Sarah Lyall discover the photo?
    – Was it her idea to do the story or was it assigned to her?
    – How did she know who to get in touch with first to speak with everyone else?
    – How long did the story take, from assignment to publication?
    – How did she decide to end with the quote from Peter Weis about why not keep playing?

  2. I really enjoyed this piece. I like the style. The shifts in and out of game coverage were intriguing. I’m interested in why the writer chose to follow multiple characters. Is it to illustrate the chaotic nature of the photo? Was it just to get all the information?

    The writing stands on its own but now I want to know how this story idea came about. Did the writer get a free block and explore something new?

    Also, this kind of writing is really important to me. When elections are over and we’ve written every editorial, this is what we have left: the moments in life that connect us as people. How do we get people to support this writing? I suppose I should tell everyone who runs an arts advocacy organizations when I find out.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this story. I saw the photograph first, I think it has strong visual shock. The photo is still, but the black smoke and water columns seem like real. Then I read the story, Sarah made the story very attractive with clear section headlines. The story is not only as that interesting, it also talked about how did people think about between fire fighting and continue playing game.

    When I was reading this story, I was thinking:
    1. The photo is very old, where did Sarah see it, why did Sarah choose it and decide to write this story?
    2. How did she know those people who interviewed by her were in that game? Did she know these people from other articles? If not, how did she find them?
    3. What are new ideas she put in the story?

    I really love the way how she end the story, “Why would you stop?”.

  4. This was such an interesting photo and story. I really enjoyed it because it not only gave a window into a different time or insight into a weird story, but it allowed the reader to put the past in perspective of today. Like the headmaster was saying, there’s almost no way a high school would decide to keep a football game going if a fire of that magnitude was a field’s length away. I think this story really highlights an interesting aspect of journalism: The ability to contextualize the past in terms of the present and vice versa.
    I also loved how many details she was able to gather that really made this a strong and compelling story, such as the stuffed animal collection that was lost, the weather during the game and people’s thoughts at the time and today.
    The additional behind-the-scene photos such as the contact sheet also added to the story and gave me more respect for the photo.
    I want to know how long this took her and some of her techniques to finding sources. I’m sure old yearbooks played an important role, but I’m curious to know how she managed to track them down. I also want to know how this story was discovered and how the story idea came about. All in all, I’m impressed with the story and I love that the editors decided to run a piece like this.

  5. “On the other hand, if you’re not fighting the fire, what else are you going to do? You may as well watch a football game.”
    ^Crux of entire piece

    I found this story interesting, but I thought it could have been better. I think it would have been most effective to put the situation in context of the football game. Seeing as that was what was the more “important” event of the time, I would have loved to see it be the center of the story. The focus of the audience in the photo is already on the game, why not make the readers focus on it as well?

    I also thought the writer gave away the good part of the story too early. Since the main question about the photo was why the game wasn’t stopped, I thought there would have been more build up to that the reveal of the decision.

    Granted it kind of worked that that section was simple, as the decision to keep playing was too.

  6. I love how Lyall used a combination of pre-exisitng information and new details she discovered from her interviews.

    One of my favorite aspects of the article is the photo story. I think these five photos do a great job of telling the overall details of the story in a popular, current-day format.

    Additionally, Lyall’s decision to include information on where each person in the story is now really helped add a layer to the story. For example, it was interesting to learn that the star player for Deerfield went on to play professional football. Or that a 6-year-old boy, who attended the game, became Mount Hermon’s archivist years later. Or (and I know this is not a person) that Mount Hermon eliminated its football program.

    The one thing I don’t think Lyall did the best job of was making it clear what information was pre-existing versus what she went out and added to the story. I was often questioning as I read, ‘did this come from Lyall or did we already know this?’

    One of my questions reflects this confusion: Did Lyall interview Van Fleet’s wife? Is that how she found out about the scrapbook? Or was this prior information?

    Another question I have is:
    Why do you think Lyall decided to include the fact that a murder happened 31 years prior to this photo? Was it to show how scandalous the school was? I think it takes away from the fire/football story and seems random in the context of the article.

  7. My favorite thing about this story is the ending quote- it’s so powerful and not too forced. I love all the perspectives used in the story, and I love the diversity of information and sources. I think the author really fleshed out the photo, though in a primarily historical way- which is either positive/negative depending on previous coverage of the photo. In this case, it seems the author is the first to truly reveal the story behind the photo- making this story unique and true news.

  8. I notice that, the stream of the story have a strong feel of separation on “past and now”. Feel like it’s trying to make you taste both the sense of presence and the objectivity of author’s investigations, instead of totally pulling people back to the past.

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