I'll grant you that this is a bit of a step down. Last month, I was a young on-the-rise journalist considered to be an expert in the fields of neuroscience and creativity. I had a blog at the New Yorker, three books, and a very cool website. Then, less than a week ago, everything changed. It was discovered that, in my best-selling book Imagine: How Creativity Works, I had "fabricated" or, as I prefer to call it, "enviso-instigated" several quotes from Bob Dylan. I was forced to resign from my plum gig at the New Yorker. Imagine is out of print. And now I'm trying out to be public editor of a too-gay weekly newspaper in Seattle. But as Richard Marx once said, "When God closes a door, enviso-instigate a window as an alternative mode of egress."
So here we go, on the long climb back to respectability. The first thing that occurs to me as I open this week's Stranger is, this is terrible journalism. The feature is all about candy and desserts. This simply wouldn't fly at the New Yorker. What does the average reader care about cherries jubilee, or waffles, or ice cream? If I were to pitch this story, I would suggest an angle that forces the reader to reexamine their favorite dessert through a fresh pair of eyes, and then utilize those eyes as lenses through which to see the world anew.
For example, did you know that Dairy Queen's Peanut Buster Parfait was invented by an eccentric dogcatcher with a heartbreaking secret? And that every scoopful of nuts in a DQ parfait is measured to the exact pico-ounce to ensure optimal sweet/salt balance, in a method that was pioneered by noted nonconformist and quantum physicist Richard Feynman? I mean, none of that is true, but you get the idea. That's the way to approach a story—you should blow apart the reader's preconceived notion of what reality is!
I was interested in CHARLES MUDEDE's music piece about the connection between internet pornography and Erik Blood's new album, Touch Screens. Mudede even finds a way to include mirror neurons in a topic that obviously doesn't relate to mirror neurons at all—classic magazine writing, there. And the nonsensical Gattaca reference? Exquisite. But Mudede doesn't convince the reader that listening to Touch Screens will somehow improve their synaptical feedback, literally "hacking" their brains into a superstate of highly effective consciousness. That last leap Mudede failed to take—making the story personal to the reader, and convincing your reader that something is terribly wrong with them if they don't follow your advice, even if you have no clue what you're talking about—is the difference between so-so writing and excellent journalism.
And I didn't even bother with BRENDAN KILEY's news story about anarchists in prison. If it doesn't involve a way to make corporate middle managers feel cool and futuristic, why bother? As Christopher Hewett, best known as television's beloved Mr. Belvedere, once quipped, "It ain't showbiz if it don't micturate blood every now an' again, wot?" I couldn't agree more.