The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard runs a handful of useful websites for journalists and journalism students. My favourite is Nieman Storyboard, which publishes two ongoing series: Notable Narratives, which features detailed interviews with journalists about the back story to a given piece of their work, and Why’s This So Good?.
There are currently 45 entries in the Why’s This So Good? series, each of which takes an an article and explains not only what makes it tick on a technical level but what makes it an exceptional work of journalism. One of the great things about the series is that it only writes about stories that are available for free online, so it’s easy to access both the original piece of writing as well as the analysis of it.
I contributed a piece to the series earlier this year about Andrea Curtis’ 2005 story, “Small Mercies,” from Toronto Life, which you can find here. As I note in the write-up, it’s a look at what makes the story a “a textbook example of how to pace a story for maximum reader engagement that is sure to keep you glued to the page until the very last word” and how to skilfully weave two different narrative threads into one compelling story.
If you haven’t checked out Nieman Storyboard, you should. It’s a great, free resource for journalism instructors and students.