Adam T. Vaccaro

Occasional musings on journalism and media

Posts Tagged ‘boston

Lost In a Magazine Article

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Two weeks ago tonight, I completed a two-month binge of the epic ABC program, Lost.

There are criticisms of the show I buy into. But the positives, I can list off quickly:

  1. It is built on a rich history and myth…
  2. Its narrative, while wild and all over the place, seamlessly transitions from one segment to the next…
  3. It is told with a lot of heart…
  4. It’s addicting as all hell.

This Boston Globe Magazine article, written by Neil Swidey, captivated me in a way no article has in some time. Or any media at all, for that matter, except Lost. It tells the history of the Boston-New York rivalry, from early settlement stand-offishness to 19th century infrastructure wars to baseball battles to the future fight for tech-minded smartypants.

I can’t tell if it’s the unapologetic first person storytelling, the snapshot-in-time to snapshot-in-time storytelling, the rich history mixed with right-now reporting (and looking-forward speculation), or engaging writing that did it for me, but through all its twists and turns and right up to its last sentence, I kept wanting more. When my fiancee, Deirdre, attempted to ask me a question while I was reading the last few sentences, I said, “Hold on a second. It’s the season finale.” Not joking.

And like Lost, for the first few days since reading it, I can’t stop thinking about it.

I grew up a diehard Red Sox fan and have lived in Boston for six years, but I don’t think I’d have felt differently if I had read it as a Detroit native or from out of the country.

I think, more than anything, it restored my recently-wavering faith in long form journalism. In the age of the web — and it’s worth noting I read the article in its entirety from my laptop — it’s easy to love a three paragraph story that tells you what you need to know, fast. At, the highest viewed story of all time was an extremely quick hit that got around, fast. A long-form and expensive investigative story that I worked on, published in the same month, didn’t even get a fifth of the attention.

But this story did something different from those sorts of traditional investigative stories to keep me reading. Swidey was funny and engaging throughout, knew how to keep the stakes way up with each developing storyline, and had multiple moments of rising and falling action. In journalism, the term story is stock. Everything from a recap of a town meeting to a list of most purchased groceries is considered a story. Swidey, though, told a story. And I couldn’t keep my eyes from it.

I emailed Swidey to tell him how much I enjoyed the piece, and I decided — why not — that I’d make the Lost comparison. His response was just spectacular to receive, in part thanks to this sentence:

As a devoted Lost fan — it was the last show that my wife and I were clinically addicted to — I especially appreciated that comparison.


Written by Adam T. Vaccaro

July 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm