My wife forwarded me a link to a Washington Post article about the ways international supply-chain problems impacted a small, family-owned, dairy north of our place in easternmost Maine and its signature product, a chocolate milk with a passionate following.
For me, it’s a great piece of journalism, or as I told her, my ideal of reporting.
In fact, it fit into the aspirations I present in my novel Hometown News.
Personally, I favor longer pieces that take a long-range view, as this one does, especially when they encapsulate a much bigger, more difficult, issue in ways that hit home.
In contrast, the trend has long been for shorter, faster, less complex dispatches that move on to the next sensational blast. You know, the 24-hour news cycle. Or less. Most of it is forgettable, puff in the air, hit-me-with-what’s-next superficiality.
Instead, what we have here is a consequence of assigning a reporter full-time to the Northeast, as the Washington Post does, in one of those expenses that might seem superfluous to the bean counters who fill too many executive positions in too many industries. In fact, we can blame them for much of the supply-side issues that plague us. Prestige, after all, is rarely seen as a quantifiable asset.
Moreover, I doubt the Post would have found this story without that marginal investment. (The nearest daily newspaper, fine as it is, finds itself way too overwhelmed by everyday issues to dig into something requiring an investment of time like this. In fact, one of the things I that drew me to working at the New Hampshire Sunday News was the opportunity to assist similar projects, where we might have a week to dig into the dimensions and then display the findings properly.)
I also love the fact that the Post hired an excellent photographer to pursue the story, too, and paid for his time to look beneath the obvious surfaces. Again, it takes time to get a feel for what’s beneath the surface and come up with something fresh and expressive. His shots tell a full, parallel, story of people dedicated to their seemingly commonplace employment. What emerges is almost like a film score underpinning a movie.
Better yet, in this case, the difficulty encountered was about chocolate – who couldn’t love that! As well as the schoolchildren who loved the dairy’s chocolate milk as part of their lunches. You can’t build a better connection than you do with kids, except maybe through the words of their parents, as this report does.
My kudus to reporter Joanna Slater and photographer Tristan Spinski – and their unnamed editors for publishing this.
If only we could see much more along this line of journalism!