I'm delighted to share some very good news about my old friend and former colleague David Darlington, who last week won a National Magazine Award for "Broken," his disturbing, carefully researched, well-written story about bike-car crashes for Bicycling magazine. (Read the story.) The story won in the Public Interest category, which "recognizes journalism that sheds new light on an issue of public importance and has the potential to affect national or local debate or policy." And it beat a field of stories from larger, better-known publications: Business Week, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and Mother Jones.
I met David when we were both starting out in journalism; I had the pleasure of editing one of his first magazine stories, about the world wrist-wrestling championships in Petaluma. He went on to do a lot of excellent magazine work and to write books about Zinfandel, the Mojave, the California condor, and Area 51. David is a skillful craftsman and a scrupulous researcher in the John McPhee mold; he once told me, possibly quoting someone else: "Research is endlessly beguiling, but writing is hard work." I'm thrilled for his success, and hope some of the big magazines he beat start begging him to write for them.
On the negative side of the ledger, the newspaper world is greatly diminished by the departure of John McIntyre, who last week received, as he put it, "an early parole" from the Baltimore Sun, where he'd worked for 23 years, most recently as director of the paper's copy desk. I came to know Mr. McIntyre through his wonderful blog, You Don't Say, and, more recently, through Twitter. I started my own career as a newspaper copyeditor; my relatively brief experience instilled deep respect for the gatekeepers who maintain their vigilance over every edition of the paper, day after day. I'm pained by what's happening to newspapers all over the country, and I'm horrified by the losses on copy desks—losses that are evident every day in misspelled headlines, confusing syntax, and erroneous captions. Experienced copyeditors catch those mistakes; more important, they care about them.
I don't know who's going to care about standards at the Sun now, but I take some comfort in the fact that John McIntyre has re-established his blog, where he promises to offer "observations on language and the craft of editing, with additional reflections on subjects of no necessary connection with the former topics." I enjoyed this postscript: "As the observant may have noticed in this paragraph, now that I am free of the shackles of Associated Press style, I am reverting to the Oxford comma."
Welcome to free-agent nation, Mr. McIntyre.
P.S. Read more about the Sun layoffs, including a scathing comment by David Simon, a Sun alumnus and the creator of The Wire, whose final season was set at a newspaper not unlike the Sun. Simon wrote: