The raison d’etre . . .

pour ze blog, I zink vee haff found eet.

Here’s the thing: I knew I wanted to use this blog to give you something helpful, which I hope is what’s happening with the news summaries that soon will become daily (YES. YES THEY WILL, BY GOD, even if it kills me). And I knew I wanted to write some silly stuff, because for some reason, people respond to it. But that wasn’t enough for a real, to-be-taken-seriously blog. And then I remembered what it is that I want to do, ultimately, as a writer, and realized I could start doing that in small chunks here.

Here’s the thing: I love history. I asked a particularly fascinating history professor in graduate school (where I was studying journalism, not history, actually) how he made his lectures so darned interesting. Because they were. And here’s what he said: “History’s just people tellin’ their stories.” And you know what, he was totally right. That’s Joel Williamson at UNC Chapel Hill, if you’re interested, and I had him for this really fascinating history-of-race relations course that incorporated Gone With the Wind and Elvis Presley.

Now, where Joel Williamson and others who are excellent storytellers aren’t involved, history can get a bad reputation as dry and irrelevant. But that’s not the fault of the history, it’s the fault of the storyteller. So my aim is to find these fascinating stories that our past is so full of, and tell them as good stories. Because they are. So in addition to the current categories of “fix” — the news summaries — and “fluff” — the live-blogs, the nonsense — I’m adding a third category called “Stories for Grownups.” I hope what you’ll find them to be is a well-told account of something from the past that is fascinating and absolutely true. You’ll have to let me know when I’m getting it right, and when I’m becoming boring, or lazy with my fact-checking, or infuriatingly biased or whatever.

Now I’m just going to elaborate on this just a little bit more because I like hearing myself talk. For those who would say that history is just a boring list of what happened and when, I would say that the most interesting element to studying history is not the what or the when but the why. That’s where all this “those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it” stuff comes from. Knowing WHY stuff happened is every bit as important, and 50 times as interesting, as knowing what happened. So that’s part of why I love it.

I work in the news. I am grateful to. But, when all my cards are on the table, I’ll admit that what really fascinates me is the olds. With news, there’s not a lot of time to ponder things, at least not the brand of news I am paid to write. I love the pondering, the researching, the ruminating. That’s what really engages the imagination.

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2 responses to “The raison d’etre . . .

  1. Great idea! I hated history when it was all memorizing dates and places and names and field trips to Civil War battlefields and OMGGGGGG it’s just a field of grass and it’s really not exciting to look at, but once I took some classes that delved into the whys and hows, I finally realized that it’s actually pretty fascinating stuff.

  2. I love it! I can’t wait to see your stories. You’ll do a fabulous job!

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