My five favorite pieces of journalism ever (and of 2008)

Ever think about the best stories you’ve ever read?

What’s special about newsprint is how we clip those stories. We save them. I wanted to collect my favorite journalism pieces of my short life and share them with you. I have wanted to do this for sometime.

Below, find my five favorite and a slew of my favorites from 2008, more generally than my favorite Philadelphia pieces of the year that I shared earlier this month.

  • Yes, Virginia (There is a Santa Claus)
    Unsigned Editorial | Sept. 21, 1897 | New York Sun
    It has become famous, and my opinion may be affected by my historic nostalgia for times I’ve never known, but this piece always sticks out in my mind. It is reader interaction at its best. Newspapers need to remember that their brand can have enormous impact on readership, no matter how small.
  • The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved
    By Hunter S. Thompson | June 1970 | Scanlan’s Monthly
    It has his gruff and cut. I think the way I best recognize Thompson is not realizing I’ve been told a story at all.

And then, my favorite piece of journalism I have ever read in my entire 23 years of life.

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  • It’s an Honor
    By Jimmy Breslin | Nov. 26, 1963 | New York Herald Tribune
    This story was first showed to me by a friend in a journalism-school textbook. I have read it more times than any one piece literature I know. It is brilliant if only because it shows how many different ways a single story can be told. Breathtaking.


Being nearest to 2008, I knew I would come with more from that year than it likely deserved, so below, a little belatedly, find my honorable mentions from the year just passed. (No, I have no idea why I fell in love with so many stories from May)

  • Day 1: Unveiling the “Shaggy Defense”
    By Josh Levin | May 21, 2008 | Slate magazine
    Levin’s coverage of the R-Kelly trial was riveting and, perhaps unfortunately hilarious. Listen to his reading of the story, a unique feature that hasn’t caught fire but I think I like just fine – journalists are storytellers, so I love the thought of hearing one tell it.
  • The What Your are Afraid Of
    By Adam Sternbergh | May 25, 2008 | New York Magazine
    Any0ne who knows me well will know I am loathe to give credit to anything with a tinge of New York City to it, but this chronicle of a Brooklyn-blog comment-er is more interesting than it probably should be. It has broader implications of online personas.
  • The Phantom Five
    By Richard Rys | May 2008 | Philadelphia magazine
    This is a really brilliant piece focusing on the “silent” owners of the Philadelphia Phillies, now the reigning World Series Champions. Breaking into the corporate ownership of sports entertainment franchises is a tough gig and an interesting one. (I also boosted this post as among the seven best pieces of Philadelphia journalism in 2008)
  • Too Weird for The Wire
    Kevin Carey | May 2008 | Washington Monthly
    “How black Baltimore drug dealers are using white supremacist legal theories to confound the Feds.”
  • A Boy’s Life
    Hanna Rosin | November 2008 | The Atlantic

    An eight-year-old boy who says he wants to live as a woman and the family who supports him.

Thanks to Culture 11 and The Millions Blog, both of which helped me develop my thoughts.

Photo from Tech Awards.

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