Sixty-Nine Days, an article published in The New Yorker, details the story of the Chilean miners trapped by the collapsed San José Mine back in 2010. (Published in 2014, it is immediately clear that the author went to immense depth to craft the article.) The article begins pre-collapse by describing the scene, the subjects, and the history. Many of the thirty-three men are introduced in detail. Then, an almost-daily account of the entrapment is given, in which camaraderie, faith, and dreams of death are emphasized. Finally, the author investigates the effects that the rescue and sudden fame had on a few of the miners. The author avoids any serious discussion of politics and jurisdiction, and he focuses, rather, on survival and on the human condition.
The writing is “immersive” in every possible way — often, the scene and characters are described with such detail that you can’t help but think it’s fiction. Writing, like this, showcases the author’s deft ability to incorporate research (mostly interviewing in this case) and the depth to which he went before writing. The subjects are beautifully characterized beyond anything that would be found in a traditional news article, allowing it to surpass the endeavors of that genre. Further, the writing yields bits of dark humor that reveal the desperation of the situation to the audience.
When reading this article, there are a number of things that I encourage you to pay attention to: the characterization of the miners, the fluid inclusion of research, the use of present tense, the bits of dark humor, the detail and imagery with which the story is told, the use of dreams, the way in which death is described, and the presence (absence?) of photographs/videos. Each of these aspects lends accordingly to the genre and the intentions of the piece.
Last week, Britni included another article to read and compare her’s to. Given that mine is already very long (thirty pages), I won’t ask you to do that. Do, however, keep in mind the way in which the writing here differs from the conventions of typical news pieces, though we won’t necessarily address this head-on.
In discussion, we will be focusing on the following questions:
- What is the genre? How can you tell?
- What is working well here (given the genre)?
- What is the purpose?
- Could this piece have taken a different medium? Different publication?
For those of us writing in a similar genre as this article, I think it will be extremely valuable. For those of you who are not, I hope you that you are able to take something away from it and find enjoyment in it nonetheless!