DevraDoWrite readers may remember the name Thomas French, a masterful narrative writer I admire. (Disclosure: he was my mentor in the Creative Nonfiction masters degree program at Goucher College.) I am delighted to find that OGIC over at About Last Night has recommended one of Tom’s long articles “Elegy For The King And Queen.” This is actually a short piece in the world of Tom French and was a precursor to his 9-part “Zoo Story“ series that ran in December 2007.
(Maybe you already read “Zoo Story” as I mentioned it in my March 11th post Multimedia Enhanced Reporting)
One of Tom’s earlier series, “Angels and Demons,” chronicling the murder of an Ohio woman and her two teenage daughters on vacation in Tampa Bay, won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1998.
The online version of these narratives afford the inclusion of extensive audio and video extras, including interviews and commentaries from reporters and participants as well as many more photographs than ever get to run on newsprint. As a reader I love the extra photos and added perspectives, tho as a writer I sometimes chastise myself for this pleasure thinking that the idea of “a picture paints a thousand words” might encourage lazy writing — on my part, not in Tom’s case!
Other narratives by Tom include
“13: Life at the Edge of Everything” is about the life of seventh graders at a Tampa middle school.
“The Hard Road“, reports the case of an elementary schoolteacher involved in a hit-and-run accident.
“The Exorcist in Love” is a story about a mother of five investigating the paranormal.
“A Cry in the Night” was a ten-part series about another murder case that also became a full-length book titled Unanswered Cries.
“South of Heaven,” a 1991 series about a year with students at Largo High School, also became a book bearing the same title.
Sadly, this type of long-form narrative journalism, which was already a rarity in newsrooms across the country, is now being deemed economically unsustainable. Tom is no longer at the St Pete Times, but he is one of he lucky ones — lucky for him, and for us. As noted above, several of his serials found their way to full-length books, and such is the case for Zoo Story, slated for release later this year. Meanwhile, students at the Indiana University School of Journalism are also very lucky as Tom has joined their faculty.