Monday, July 9, 2012

Right, Wrong, Indifferent, Too Risky for the Mainstream: Investigated Journalism

Writing Nonfiction for the Literary Magazine

When Mark Dragotta and I first started to mold Umbrella Factory Magazine, we had big goals for our little literary corner. For starters, we thought we'd foster and develop some of the greatest fiction writers of the next generation. We, of course, rolled around ideas of Black Sparrow Press and Charles Bukowski and City Lights Books and everybody cool in the literary world. We also fantasized about our new found forum and the daring journalist of tomorrow.

I have not been disappointed with the writers of fiction and nonfiction or the poets we've met over the years.

We have yet to find our Postmaster.

And for the daring journalists? The Gonzo dream? Well, it's fallen short. It's not there. There aren't any crazy journalist out there who are interested in publishing in our humble magazine. Indeed, there aren't any less than crazy journalists out there willing to publish in our humble magazine. And sadly, Umbrella Factory Magazine is not alone.

At the onset of our development, I knew nothing of journalism. Admittedly, I still know very little. I never studied it in school. The high school newspaper was not of interest to me, the same is true for my college paper. And sadly, the daily paper comes to the house everyday, and I do read it occasionally. I'm sometimes dumbfounded by the poor writing (or editing, I suspect) and I'm baffled by how without flavor the content is. The paper offers some perspective on things, but it seldom shakes things up. I think it may be about something more than just journalism. I think it may have to do with money, advertising; retaining market share and employment.

Who cares about journalism in a literary magazine? Well, no one maybe. And why would a journalist care about a little literary magazine? And how can these types of publications serve these sorts of writers and each be beneficial?

For a trained and employed journalist, the literary magazine is not where they're going to pour their energies. Why? Literary magazines don't pay, and writing an article is still work. I would think that even a rogue journalist, romantic notion if they still exists, will find other outlets. But for a journalist just beginning their training, or their career, a rogue adventure investigating something may be in order. A publication is a publication, after all.

A writer who maybe has an insight into something and may want to employ some journalistic tactics may only have a literary magazine as a potential market.

How can a literary magazine serve a journalist? Well, an online literary magazine may have a varied and potentially limitless distribution. Most literary magazines can be as daring as they want to be because they often do not fear loss of advertising money. It's a great deal of freedom enjoyed by the free press which is really free because there is no exchange of money. With this, as daring, dark, morbid or dirty as a story might be, a literary magazine may have many—many less hangups with it. Also, if the story is well written, an editor of a literary magazine will not edit a story's content because of censorship or physical size. You may not win a Pulizer Prize, but you will have readership.

Some sites to help get a writer into journalistic mode:
Jeremy Porter's “How Do Journalists and Bloggers Decide What to Write About”'s idea of a Journalist's Profile:

And to give you an idea of what I would love to see at Umbrella Factory Magazine:

Investigative Reporting Workshop is one of the engaging online magazines I've seen. Before endeavoring an investigated story of your own, read a few from this magazine. They're well written, well investigated and timely. I would run any number of these stories on UFM.

Enjoy Investigative Reporting Workshop:

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