Sunday, March 6, 2011

The New York Times Magazine essay that began on Reddit

We're working on personal essays in my magazine writing class this week, so today I went hunting for some good examples to show students.

I've been struck by the level of intimidation students feel about writing the personal essay, considering how much they routinely share on social networks and blogs. But these revelations are often fairly scattershot and in real time. We're really good at staying in constant connection and telling the world what we're up to.

But a good personal essay requires self- reflection, thought, and the stillness of time, three rare commodities these days.

Blogs and online postings can actually help you develop a first draft for your ideas. D'oh.

Case in point: today's New York Times Magazine LIVES column, by a writer named Justin Horner, called  The Tire Iron and the Tamale is a terrific read. In the comments section, someone posted a link to the evolution of this column, which began as a comment on Reddit, responding to a question.

From Reddit to The New York Times? Yes indeed.
Here's Horner's account, from his Reddit page:

rhoner 181 points182 points 1 day ago[-]

As requested, making this a parent comment...
Here is how it went down: An editor for NYT Magazine is a redditor and thought the story would make a good addition to the magazine. They contacted me to see if I would grant permission then they began to rework it (coarse language was a problem). They did a very thorough fact-check with me and a third party to make sure that what I said actually went down. Then it was up for consideration and ultimately chosen for publication.
For those curious, I don't know anyone at the NYT Magazine or newspapers in general. The story has appeared in print in a few other places as well. And, yes, I was very skeptical upon first being contacted.

Many roads to Rome.

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