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The Babe Ruth of celebrity profiles, Tom Junod, wrote another exceptional one for Esquire on George Clooney. Tom examines Clooney’s ability to be particularly good at one thing in his career – the art of being a famous person.
It’s an enjoyable read, because of Clooney’s self-awareness and self-deprecating humor and the great efforts he takes to humanize himself. People engrossed with Clooney-like fame can feel superficial or invincible – or worse, give the perception that they feel this way about themselves – but Clooney trends the other way by acknowledging how celebrity can so easily bust at the seams with one ill-advised word or deed. It’s fascinating to read how a mega-star grapples with that reality and manages his career.
One nuance of Tom’s profile that stood out to me is how few people around Clooney are quoted. We hear from his assistant, Angel, but that’s it other than George. The depth of Tom’s reporting clearly went far beyond the two people quoted, but it’s interesting because that seems unusual for profiles of this length.
But something I’ve always enjoyed reading Tom is his ability to analyze a subject’s environment and milk meaning out circumstance. He strings together private anecdotes and reflects on the public ones, and out of it comes a detailed narrative built heavily on his observations and interpretations.
We aren’t bogged down by too many voices. Instead, Tom – and this is just an outsider trying to understand his process – does that work for us and then crafts a story based on his evaluation of what HE thinks we need to know. I come away with an understanding of the subject and Tom’s own feelings of his subject – they are interconnected – and nothing was wasted on the road to getting there.
If nothing else, it’s a great read on Clooney. But the larger takeaway, for me, is the depth Tom reaches by virtue of his own voice, rather than relying on other voices to carry him.
Amy K. Nelson wrote a thoughtful and enlightening piece for women in the sports media business, reflecting the long and stacked odds they face. Amy is a talented writer, among other things, who has worked at ESPN and SB Nation, among other places, and believes what women need most is more women in positions of power within the industry. The most important thing for real progress isn’t simply hiring more women as writers or broadcasters – although that’s, obviously, important – but rather getting more women in executive positions.
I’ll let Amy’s thoughts for why women face a difficult time getting opportunities stand instead of offering my own opinion, but I take solace on this subject in two things.
First, I believe that, ultimately, talent prevails. It sucks that talented women might choose to do something else before they reach their sports media dream, discouraged and pushed away by the roadblocks, but for those who do stick with it, I choose to believe their talent and efforts will be rewarded.
I’m a huge fan of ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke, someone who’s faced an extraordinary amount of ignorant criticism in her time on air. She’s also as knowledgeable, professional, detailed and diligent as any reporter or analyst on the NBA, and she’s a core piece of the company’s NBA coverage. Talent should win, and I think in the end it does.
Secondly, there are many more entry points into sports media now than there has ever been. You don’t have to travel through the musty stairwell of old journalism anymore to find a platform. Progressive blogs, websites and magazines are giving nontraditional voices opportunities to be heard.
This is an overwhelmingly good thing. The battle for credibility for women may be much the same – “Yeah, great, I write for a blog but nobody takes me seriously” – but there are more ways now for women to have a platform than ever. And once you have a platform, over time the only thing that matters, again, is talent.
Read Amy’s piece. It’s an important issue and a very complicated one, and I don’t at all intend to make it seem easy by saying, “Just stick it out, ladies, your talent will carry you!” I’m aware of the unfairness in the process of rising in this business. But I do believe the majority of people making the decisions want to give talented women, talented anyone, a shot.
Paul Gregory wrote in the New York Times Magazine about the time he was close friends with Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife, Marina.
You should read it.
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