Frank Sinatra had a cold

In 1966, Frank Sinatra had a cold.

Gay Talese created a journalistic movement – New Journalism – by writing about that cold, and left behind a few lessons.

A frustrating assignment doesn’t have to be boring. Sinatra’s cold could have been just another ho-hum sick day for him and his entourage; Talese’s story could have stayed on the editor’s desk and never made it to print.

But the story made the cut, and Esquire magazine calls it “one of the most celebrated magazine stories ever published.”

Talese made an interesting story out of a bad situation. The subject of the feature article wasn’t granting interviews; this would be enough to send many reporters back to the editor in despair. Instead, he got creative.

He interviewed friends, companions, acquaintances of Sinatra, and followed the man around for days, according to Esquire. The story Talese turned in is as full of life and color as if it had been culled from tape-recorded interviews with Sinatra.

There’s no way Talese wrote that story up after an hour of research and called it a day. In fact, Wikipedia says he spent three months following Sinatra and his friends, gathering information for the article. I’m reminded of Kent Gramm (my writing professor)’s advice: good writing always takes time.

It takes time to do the extra research to make an article or essay great. It takes time to think creatively, rather than spitting out a color-by-numbers story.

But it’s worth it; Talese’s creativity and tenaciousness are inspiring reminders of that.

In 1966, Frank Sinatra had a cold.

What could happen in 2008?


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