A former student of mine who is a student at Swarthmore, has been sharing this column from the Swarthmore student paper on Facebook. It’s written under a pseudonym–read it and you’ll see why–and it is a great example of column writing that strikes a balance between being personal and vulnerable and being informative.
Also, it is a great example of the kind of subject matter that does not get discussed enough or featured enough in the mainstream press.
I’ll be interested to see what you all think.
Some background music as you read Woodward and Bernstein.
Creed of the Klanswoman
In Stetson Kennedy’s article we see him start the article not with a clever one-liner, but instead with a quote that leaves the reader with no other option than to keep on going. How does Kennedy keep the reader engaged with his sweet quotation? Good question….with the quotation Kennedy has chosen he puts the reader in the middle of a situation without explaining how we got there. Much like a maze we have to read our way out. Kennedy keeps the reader too engaged to read their way out and then stop- this is partially because of the nature of the story and partially because Kennedy is doing his job well. One of my favorite lines was when Kennedy is describing the woman given the job of climbing into the cab. His engaging brilliance is put on display with the line, “She’s a Klanswoman, all right, I said to myself, and I’ll bet she knows how to use the pistol in her purse” (Shapiro, 255) I think the line is meant to show people are rarely what they look like on the outside. Alluding to the fact that anyone around you can be in the Klan. Because I am from south Georgia, this resonates with me. My entire family on my mom’s side has lived in Macon Georgia for over a hundred years, so Kennedy’s depiction of the Klan fascinated me. The descriptions of Atlanta were interesting too as my dad grew up there and I have visited it a lot. The Klan is still present in the area around where I live but most of the photos I have seen of them show them doing community service etc. The people shown in this investigative piece are the people I see every day in my community. One part that interested me was Kennedy’s deep engagement in Klan activity. I found it interesting that he participated in their schemes and activities. I didn’t have a moral problem with it, I just found it interesting to see how that participation interacted with his depictions of the Klan in his writing. The integration of oneself as a journalist is something I think very interesting and would like to do myself. The idea of remaining objective is almost obliterated because the journalist is in so deep. This is also seen with Julian Sher who lived deep within the motorcycle gang Hell’s Angels. I am planning on reading Kennedy’s entire book because I know my dad owns it. (This is his area of study) Kennedy creates an engaging and moving piece of reading by his integration of quotations, imagery, and experience. Good move Kennedy, good move.
Klan Wedding 2000's- from Modern Day Klan Photojournal
Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiell write:
One of the risks of the new proliferation of outlets, talk programs, blogs, and interpretative reporting is that these forms have left verification behind. A debate between opponents arguing with false figures or purely on prejudice fails to inform. It only inflames. It takes the society nowhere (43).
The following videos drive home these risks through satire.