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Gangrey: The Podcast

Narrative journalism and the reporters who write it

Episode 35: Michael Graff

Property of Logan CyrusMichael Graff is the editor of Charlotte Magazine and is a freelance writer for SB Nation Longform, Washingtonian Magazine and Politico. Before taking over Charlotte Magazine, Graff was an editor and writer for Our State Magazine in North Carolina for four years.

On June 4, SB Nation Longform published Graff’s piece, “Two Lanes to Accokeek.” The story is an at times graphic story about a street race that turned tragic in the most unimaginable way.

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In this podcast, we talk about that story as well as some of Graff’s work with Charlotte Magazine, including a story about the world’s greatest female skydiver and her quest to become the first woman with 20,000 dives.

Episode 34: Mike Wilson

Mike Wilson, Editor of The Dallas Morning News, photographed February 16, 2015. (Evans Caglage/The Dallas Morning News)
Mike Wilson, Editor of The Dallas Morning News, photographed February 16, 2015. (Evans Caglage/The Dallas Morning News)

Mike Wilson is finishing up his first few months as the new editor of the Dallas Morning News. Wilson came to Dallas from ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight website, where he was managing editor.

Before that, he was the editor of the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay Times. While in St. Petersburg, Wilson oversaw a staff of incredibly talented writers and reporters, many of whom have been featured on this podcast, reporters like Ben Montgomery, Michael Kruse and Kelley Benham French. During the podcast, we talk about a series of stories that ran in the St. Petersburg Times called Encounters. One by Kruse was about a dad teaching his young daughter how to ride a bike.

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the writers Wilson cultivated in Florida. He was the primary editor on Lane DeGregory’s story, “The Girl in the Window,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2009.

During our discussion, we also talk about a story Wilson said he recently read, titled “The Root of All Things,” by Nathan Thornburgh. The piece ran on the website roadsandkingdoms.com, an independent journal of food, politics, travel and culture. It’s a story well worth checking out.

Gangrey 33: Brooke Jarvis

mugBrooke Jarvis is a longform narrative and environmental journalist who lives in Seattle. One of Jarvis’s more recent stories, “The Deepest Dig,” will be included in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015. She is a 2015 Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow, reporting on the advent of deep-sea mining. That is what her story, which ran in the The California Sunday Magazine in November 2014, is about.

More recently, Jarvis wrote the story “Homeward.” That story was also published by The California Sunday Magazine, and is about a young man from the jungles of Ecuador, whose village sent him stateside so he could be educated and come back to save the village from the oil industry and colonization.

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Jarvis has written for a whole host of national publications, including The California Sunday Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, Al Jazeera America, Audubon Magazine, Rollingstone.com, The Washington Post and Orion Magazine, among many others.

Episode 32: Brandon Sneed

Sneed headshotBrandon Sneed wrote the book “Behind the Drive: A Story of Passion, Dreams, Demons, and Highway 55, the World’s Next Favorite Burger Joint.” The book is a collaborative effort with Kenney Moore, the man who started the popular restaurant.

Despite Sneed’s youth, this is already his second book. His first was titled “Edge of Legend: An Incredible Story of Faith and Basketball.” That book was about a dominant Division 2 basketball player.

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Sneed writes often about sports, and has also written for publications like GQ, ESPN The Magazine, Pacific Standard, Outside and SB Nation Longform. His story “The Prospect” was noted in “Best American Sports Writing 2014.”

Episode 31: David Giffels

David GiffelsDavid-Giffels-2013 is a former newspaper reporter who wrote the book “The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt.”

Giffels, who grew up and has lived his entire life in Akron, Ohio, writes about the city’s despair and destruction as the rubber industry moved out, as well as Akron’s resurgence. He writes about bowling, rock n roll, thrift stores and sports in a smart and funny way.

Giffels was once a reporter and columnist at the Akron Beacon Journal. While at the Beacon Journal, he worked alongside Chuck Klosterman and Michael Weinreb.

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Now Giffels is an assistant professor of English at the University of Akron. He’s also the author of “All the Way Home,” which won the Ohioana Book Award.

His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Beacon Journal, Grantland, and many other publications.

Episode 30: Vanessa Grigoriadis

Vanessa Grigoriadis headshotVanessa Grigoriadis writes for New York, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazines, among other publications. Grigoriadis calls herself a generalist longform writer. She writes about hot topics in the world and does a lot of celebrity profiles, really good celebrity profiles that dig far beyond what a celebrity’s publicist often wants.

She won a National Magazine Award in profile writing for her profile on Karl Lagerfeld. Her New York Magazine story Gawker and the Rage of the Creative Underclass was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in feature writing.

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She recently wrote a piece called Justin Bieber: A Case Study in Growing Up Cosseted and Feral. The story in many ways serves as a follow-up to the profile of Bieber that she wrote for Rolling Stone in 2011.

Episode 29: Baxter Holmes

Bax_Mug3Baxter Holmes recently joined ESPN as its new Los Angeles Lakers reporter for ESPN.com. Holmes previously wrote for The Boston Globe, where he covered the Boston Celtics. Before that, he was a sports reporter for the Los Angeles Times. It was his first job after graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 2009.

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Holmes has won a slew of awards in just a short time as a professional sports writer. He has received Associated Press Sports Editors honors for explanatory reporting, projects reporting, beat reporting and breaking news. Additionally, he received first-place honors in the Game Story and Features categories of the Professional Basketball Writers Association 2013 Best Writing Contest.

A year ago, he profiled Celtics head coach Brad Stevens in a three-part series. In September, he profiled Celtics guard Marcus Smart. His last piece for the Boston Globe was a story about the time Bill Russell, KC Jones and other players from NCAA basketball champion University of San Francisco visited the inmates at Alcatraz.

Episode 28: Seth Wickersham

wickersham_seth_mSeth Wickersham is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He joined ESPN right after graduating from the University of Missouri. While he primarily covers the NFL, he has also covered the Athens Olympics, the World Series, the NCAA tournament and the NHL and NBA playoffs.

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He’s also been writing some wonderful longform literary journalism for ESPN. He wrote about a runner from Kenya who went to college in Alaska, but suffered his own private torment, something that changed his life forever. He wrote about legendary NFL coach Bill Walsh’s attempt to write a book that would teach everyone how to coach in the NFL. And he wrote about vets who have to put racehorses down after catastrophic injuries, a story that was anthologized in the book “Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.”

In this episode, we talk with Wickersham about two stories in particular. In “Awakening the Giant,” Wickersham wrote about legendary quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who suffers from dementia. He also wrote the story “Out Route,” which chronicled Atlanta Falcon’s tight end Tony Gonzalez in the final season of his hall of fame career.

Episode 27: Earl Swift

SwiftEarl Swift is the author of “Auto Biography: A Classic Car, An Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream.” The book tells the life story of a 1957 Chevy that, at the beginning of the book, is falling apart.

Swift profiles the car’s thirteenth owner, Tommy Arney, who has led an extraordinary life, one that started with a brutal childhood, proceeded into a life of crime and ended up as a somewhat successful and controversial businessman. Arney sets out on a quest to restore the car to its former glory, and Swift is there for all of it. Through that narrative, Swift manages to also tell the stories of every single person who had ever owned the car. In the process, he captures America’s strange and abiding relationship with the automobile.

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This is Swift’s fifth book. Since 2012, he’s been a residential fellow of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at the University of Virginia. Before that, he was a newspaper reporter for the Virginian-Pilot, where he was nominated five times for a Pulitzer Prize.

Episode 26: Eli Saslow

Eli Saslow headshotEli Saslow is a reporter at the Washington Post. Earlier this year, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for his series of stories on food stamps in a post-recession America.

Over the course of 2013, Saslow reported and wrote six extraordinary stories that focused on everything from a town in Rhode Island where one-third of the residents receive food stamps to a program that uses school buses to take lunches to kids in rural Tennessee during the summer.

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Now he’s writing a series of stories on another hot-button issue – immigration.

Saslow was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing in 2013 for his story “Life of a Salesman.” That story looked at the suffering American economy through the eyes of a man who sells swimming pools. Last year, he wrote a heart-breaking story that focused on a family whose first-grade son was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.

In 2008, Saslow covered the presidential campaign, and he’s also chronicled the president’s life inside the White House. As if his work at the Washington Post doesn’t keep him busy enough, Saslow also occasionally writes for ESPN: The Magazine, and has been included in Best American Sports Writing twice.

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