The Washington Post Hunts Publishing’s White Whale: The “Talk of the Town-Style Feature”
Everyone I've ever worked with, including me, has at one point or another proposed bringing in some "Talk of the Town-style pieces." This ambition fails to take into account that if the "Talk of the Town-style piece" were feasible, maybe they'd exist in a publication other than the New Yorker, where such pieces are called "Talk of the Town pieces."
So is the Washington Post heading for a Queequeq quagmire with its new "Had to Be There" feature? Or is it Ahab's day, finally? Read the memo below.
In tomorrow's paper, Style will launch a new occasional feature called Had to Be There (as in "You had to be there," name courtesy of David Montgomery). A brainchild of the Style GA writers, the feature is aimed at bringing a greater sense of place and the "Other Washington" to Style, offering glimpses of people engaged in all sorts of happenings throughout the region. You could think of it as a sort of DC-area Talk of the Town. The pieces, which will generally be secondaries/page rounders, will run anywhere from 10-25 inches. They will be strongly voiced and visual, almost cinematic in the unfolding of action. And they will be reported pieces, not unreported or purely observational essays. Taken collectively, we hope this feature will give that proverbial traveler from Cleveland a rich sense of everyday life in this region. The first piece, by Dan Zak, is about a Skeeball craze at a DC bar.
Anyone with an original idea is welcome to try his or her hand at one. Lynn or I would love to work with you. Although we should be able to assign art ahead of time for most of these, we're also open to serendipity, in the event you just happen to stumble upon the perfect one-time piece. Or if you know something that would be perfect but can't do it yourself, let us know that, too.
Lynn Medford (Ext. 4-6340) and Sydney Trent ( Ext. 4-4208)