When I look back on the history of The New York Times, it rarely appears to be what some might call a “writer’s paper.” While there has always been great reporting and editing talent at the newspaper, one senses the occasional reluctance to embrace writing and storytelling in the same way.
But there have always been some writers at the Times who have managed to stand out. In the 1940s and ’50s it was the great Meyer Berger, who helped invent the “About New York” column. Berger’s spiritual heirs have been the likes of Francis X. Clines, Anna Quindlen, and now Dan Barry.
Barry is a brilliant and versatile writer, and his series of stories on Elyria, Ohio, have created a buzz on Twitter. His combination of shoe-leather reporting and elegant writing immerses us in a Mid-American culture of decline and despair — with hopes for revival. Presidential debaters step aside. Welcome to working class America.
During a live chat, we talked with Barry about the five-part series and what he learned from reporting and writing it. He shared the back-story and also offered general writing tips for those who haven’t yet had a chance to read the series. You can replay the chat here: