Class notes: Tuesday, April 19

  1. Profile Story feedback
  2. Writing Editorials

Profile story feedback: Examples of strong narrative leads

“Momma, please hurry up so we can go see the pretty brown lady who works at Neilson’s,” pleaded what appeared to be a five-year-old little boy as he impatiently drug his mother hand in hand across the Oxford square. The “pretty brown lady” is as much a fixture of Oxford as the red telephone booth or the tulips that currently that adorn the corners of square.

Kristy Henry Wilson, the former cosmetic manager for Neilson’s, has worked for Oxford’s oldest retailer for over 30 years. Growing up in Oxford she began working for Neilson’s in high school. Wilson now works part time for the department store, along with her daughter Auguste, and now her second husband Lane, whom she met at Neilson’s.


On the surface, he’s just a guy with a crumpled white poster donned with crooked handwriting, seated in front of the James Meredith statue – perceived as yet another African-American in protest, expressing outrage over racial discrimination or police brutality.

But to many more he’s Correl Hoyle – a compassionate being with a big heart for equality and enlivenment.


It is a Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, which in that town means one thing and one thing only, Crimson Tide football. On this Saturday however, while the rows of fans cheering from Bryant- Denny Stadium echo throughout the state, not many took notice to what would become the beginning of one of the best Offensive Line careers at the University of Mississippi.


Paper clothing patterns line the living room walls, warmly illuminated by a single floor lamp. Two mannequins, pinned with fabrics and notes, stand at the end of the sofa. All of these items are part of the designs for Jeffery Peavy’s upcoming spring fashion shows, named Kaleidoscope and 1992.

Peavy, an “eco-fashion” designer, is from McComb, a southern Mississippi town about an hour and a half from New Orleans. The idea of eco-fashion, he explains, is something he was drawn to because of his Mississippi roots.


“I’m probably not your typical pastor’s wife,” Anna Fortner joked pushing her reading glasses up into her grayed, curly hair as ambient music from the coffee shop hummed in the background. “I love Breaking Bad, and I’m on the last season of Walking Dead.”

Fortner is a local celebrity and the resident “momma” to all who attend Grace Bible Church in Oxford, MS.It’s easy to pick out Mrs. Fortner on a Sunday morning, she’s the gregarious one singing hymns loudly and greeting every attendee with a gracious smile.


Each time the Ole Miss Football team travels to an away game, a customized “Ole Miss” 1999 Peterbilt 379 Extended Hood Truck packed with exercise equipment, medical equipment, uniforms, and all the items needed has already pulled out from Oxford, usually hours ahead of the team. The man responsible for the ordering, packing, and maintaining of the equipment is Ken Crain, equipment manager, for the Ole Miss Football team. With the assistance of around 15 managers, the truck is loaded and unloaded on the 48 foot trailer that has two decks.


2:30 PM on a Thursday in The University of Mississippi’s Lamar hall echoes Freddy Mercury’s “Under Pressure”, marking the start of one of Cathy A Grace’s geology classes.  The song closes, and in a slight southern drawl, she says “Man, I forgot how good Mercury was, golly!”  Her lectures always start with a song tied to the subject matter of the day before bringing up her PowerPoint slides through a light torrent of computer glitches.


Writing persuasive editorials/commentary


Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor at The Times, explains that a good editorial consists of “a clear position that is strongly and persuasively argued.” He then goes on to recommend seven pointers for students.

1. Know your bottom line. “You have to know what you want to say. You have to have a clear opinion — what we call a bottom line.”
2. Be concise. “You need to get to the point of your editorial quickly. You have to state it clearly and you have to be concise.”
3. Give an opinion or solution. “There are basically two kinds of editorials. One expresses an opinion about a situation, like if you want to write about human rights abuses in some part of the world or the country that you’re concerned about. The other kind of editorial proposes a solution to a specific problem. For example, if you want to write about traffic congestion in northern New Jersey, where I live and there’s a lot of traffic, you should have an answer to how to fix the traffic problem.”
4. Do your research. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, you’re not entitled to your own facts. Go online, make calls if you can, check your information, double-check it. There’s nothing that will undermine your argument faster than a fact you got wrong, that you did not have to get wrong.”
5. Write clearly. “Good writing is important. Make your writing clear and easy to understand. Write as if you’re sending a letter to a well-informed friend who cares about what you think. But don’t use any slang.OMG — no. Use examples whenever you can. It’s better to use an example than just to use a word or an adjective that describes something. If you want to say that the mayor’s pre-K policy is wrong, explain how — don’t say it’s just stupid. In fact, never use the word stupid.”
6. Every writer needs an editor. “After you’ve written your editorial, give it to someone you trust to read and listen to what they say. If they don’t understand it, that means it’s probably not clear.”
7. Be prepared for a reaction. “When you write something and you publish it, be prepared for a reaction. If you write a good editorial, people are going to respond to it. And if you criticize people, they definitely are going to respond. So if someone writes you a letter, write them back. Be prepared to defend your position. Don’t get defensive, just explain why you said what you had to say. And if they question your facts, be ready to show that you were right.”



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