Every week, Syracuse University professor Aileen Gallagher helps Longreads highlight the best of college journalism. Here’s this week’s pick:
One of the hardest rules of writing for students to follow is: “Don’t start a story with a quote.” Except… Except when the quote is so incredible that it makes the reader do a hard-stop. To younger writers, lots of quotes have that power. More experienced writers, who’ve reported more and read more, know better. In this week’s College Longreads pick, the quote-as-lead has the same effect on the reader — abrupt silence — that it did on the room full of people who first heard it. “Are we really not going to talk about the black girl?” Writers Abbey Crain and Matt Ford of the University of Alabama, encapsulate the central conflict of their narrative in that one quote. The story, about racial prejudice in sorority recruitment, is easy to attack because it uses some anonymous sources. But it certainly doesn’t use only anonymous sources, and critics of the story should remember that these sources are 19- and 20-year-old women at the University of Alabama who are recounting incidents of racial prejudice in the entrenched culture of their sorority houses. Should they stand up and speak out publicly for what’s right? Of course they should. Is that an easy thing for a 19- or 20-year-old to do? No, and we should be compassionate about that. But sitting on this story would be a disservice to the readers of the The Crimson White.
Abbey Crain and Matt Ford | The Crimson White | 8 minutes (2,034 words)
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