A Community, Under A Bridge

Dan Barry: PROVIDENCE, R.I.

The chief emerges from his tent to face the leaden morning light. It had been a rare, rough night in his homeless Brigadoon: a boozy brawl, the wielding of a knife taped to a stick. But the community handled it, he says with pride, his day’s first cigar already aglow.

By community he means 80 or so people living in tents on a spit of state land beside the dusky Providence River: Camp Runamuck, no certain address, downtown Providence.

Because the two men in the fight had violated the community’s written compact, they were escorted off the camp, away from the protection of an abandoned overpass. One was told we’ll discuss this in the morning; the other was voted off the island, his knife tossed into the river, his tent taken down.

The chief flicks his spent cigar into that same river. There is talk of rain tonight.

Stealing Knowledge

Giant thanks to Lena Price for taking notes at The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference last weekend, then structuring them in this nifty top ten tips list, just for you:

1. Get away from home. The more you see, the more reasons you’ll have to write. Wherever you go, take books with you. – Paul Theroux, travel writer

2. Reporters can be pretty intimidating to “normal” people. Bridge the divide by having a drink with the person you’re interviewing, or by offering them a cigarette. (But don’t pick up a smoking habit along the way.) – Ashley Harrell, SF Weekly staff writer

3. Famous people can dictate their own legacies. It takes a lot more sensitivity to work with people who only have one chance to get their stories out there. – Bill Minutaglio, author of First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty

4. In a story where people are getting killed every day, it’s more dramatic to write about the empty barstools and tables in restaurants that used to thrive. – Diane Solis, Dallas Morning News senior writer

5. It’s important to brand your voice as a writer, and Facebook and twitter can be useful tools. If someone reads 140 characters that you write, they might read a longer piece. Hopefully. – Joy Sewing, Houston Chronicle fashion writer

6. Out of any 20 story ideas, two thirds of them will be crap. Don’t waste your time trying to make bad ideas work, but always have a stockpile of backup ideas. – Ira Glass, This American Life host

7. There are two goals when writing about social injustices. First, you have to outrage your readers. Then you have to inspire them. – Roger Thurow, Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent

8. You better learn to laugh at yourself, because you’re not that cool. – Julia Reed, Newsweek columnist

9. You have to make real people into characters in a story, and you can only do that by getting into their heads. Some of the best insights come from how someone relates to others, and not necessarily other people. – Susan Warren, Texas Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal

10. Risk failure with every single story you write. – Alma Guillermoprieto, author of Dancing with Cuba

The Truth About The Naked Cowboy

Jennifer Fermino (thanks, B): The latest candidate to throw his 10-gallon hat into the race for mayor is a Nietzsche-spouting semi-nudist who lives in New Jersey, twice posed for Playgirl and regularly rakes in $300 an hour crooning off-key in Times Square.

The Naked Cowboy’s panty-prancing around the Crossroads of the World has made him a hit with camera-snap ping tourists all over, but it’s his off-hours persona that’s really bizarre.

To The Death

David Barstow: WICHITA, Kan. — It did not take long for anti-abortion leaders to realize that George R. Tiller was more formidable than other doctors they had tried to shut down.

The Chase

I loved this behind-the-curtain look at a robbery investigation from John Barry: TAMPA — In blurry videos of three convenience store robberies last week, one detail got everyone’s attention — a big, black, blunt gun. It looked like a sawed-off shotgun. The way the robber pulled it out of his shirt and aimed it gut-level looked unforgivingly lethal, a murder in the making.

It turned out to be the strangest of cases, a jewel of police work.

One long day last week, a detective swore he wouldn’t go home without a bust. He worked day and night, 21 hours. And when he finally got his man, nothing about the case was what he expected.

Thanks, Elderly!

So the over-65 crowd has long been the most dedicated newspaper readership demographic.

It’s high time we forgive them for calling to complain about the word “suck” appearing in print and for referring to our 80-inch narrative as “that ad you put in the paper.”

And we should get them something. Anything. A pillow? Blood pressure pills? Lipitor?

You saw this new report from the Census bureau?

For the first time, people aged 65 and over are expected to outnumber children under age 5 (Figure 2-1). The global population aged 65 and over was estimated to be 506 million as of midyear 2008, about 7 percent of the world’s population. By 2040, the world is projected to have 1.3 billion older people—accounting for 14 percent of the total.

The AP put it like this:

The number of centenarians already has jumped from an estimated few thousand in 1950 to more than 340,000 worldwide today, with the highest concentrations in the U.S. and Japan, according to the latest Census Bureau figures. Their numbers are projected to grow at more than 20 times the rates of the total population by 2050, making them the fastest growing age segment.

Specific to the U.S.:

… centenarians are expected to increase from 75,000 to more than 600,000 by midcentury. Those primarily are baby boomers hitting the 100-year mark.

What that mean$ for new$paper$ remain$ to be $een.

This old guy seems to like them.


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