Little Tweets and Longer Stories
Blogs, Facebook postings, "charticle"-style graphs, and tersest of all, those tiny little tweets—we journalists are writing shorter and faster by the nano-second. As a social media expert put it during a conference I recently attended, "People are lazy and busy. They want quick news bites, and they don’t want to go looking for them—they want the news to come to them."
I get that. I live off my e-mail and BlackBerry now—that’s me in the car next to you at the red light, desperately trying and failing to resist the imperative urge to look down and scan whatever new messages just came flying in.
I’ve even learned to like writing short and snappy—it’s fun to see if you can be newsy and clever and concise in just 140 characters. (Well, less, if you leave room for retweets, which the social media expert says you always should.)
But I still love curling up with a long, absorbing read, turning myself over to a smart writer whose research or insight or wit can take me away and sometimes even change the way I see an issue—or the world. Writers like that are the most precious resource an editor can have, and here at Sarasota Magazine, we’ve been blessed with more than our share of them over the years. Some have even been famous—Clifford Irving and Kurt Vonnegut are two contributors that come to mind. Like some other celebrity writers we’ve snagged, both had a Sarasota connection—Irving spent a summer on Longboat Key right before he went to prison for his Howard Hughes hoax, and Vonnegut was good friends with the late Sarasota painter Syd Solomon.
Why did they write for us? Not because of our worldwide influence or hefty fees. Mainly, they did it because they liked Sarasota, and they told us they really liked what we were doing with Sarasota Magazine.
That’s how we met Adam Davies, a young star whose three novels have all won great reviews and been optioned for screenplays. Davies, who was a writer-in-residence at New College of Florida this spring, wrote us a fan letter back in March. That’s all it took; three of us immediately corralled him for lunch, where he charmed us with his self-deprecating wit and wonderful stories—some of them featuring Hollywood buddies like James Franco or the late Katharine Hepburn, who was a kind of godmother and inspiration to him growing up.
"Have you ever written about her?" one of us asked, while the others leaned in for the kill. He hadn’t, he said—it would have seemed almost presumptuous, or disrespectful. Still, someone suggested, so much time had passed…and your stories are so amazing… Davies smiled and threw up his hands. You can read the intimate and endearing story that resulted—"The Kate I Knew"—in this issue.
You can also read another, very different piece by a local rising star—David Ball, whose coverage of a financial scandal that ensnared education officials in the Florida Keys won a first place from the Florida Press Association. We asked Ball to examine the controversial new Florida law that ties teachers’ ratings and pay to student test scores. Interviewing a host of local and national sources, Ball managed to wade through the passion and politics (and bypass the educational jargon) to present a clear and balanced report on how the law might affect Sarasota schools. And rather than demonizing supporters or opponents, he leads us to understand how difficult even the best-intentioned education reform really is, with seemingly sensible, simple solutions bringing with them a tangle of unintended consequences.
You’ll also find pieces from two of our editors—Kay Kipling, presenting her annual theater awards, and Bob Plunket, making the case that downtown Sarasota has become one of the hottest spots in the state. Bob and Kay, who already have bookcases full of writing awards, just learned they are competing for another. Both are finalists in the South Florida Society of Professional Journalists’ competition for "Best Arts Writing"—a category our own Charlie Huisking won last year. Bob is also up for "Best Light Feature," and our Biz(941) editor Susan Burns is a finalist for "Best Investigative Reporting." Congratulations to them all.