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IndyStar: Life on the edge

The IndyStar has a great package about life in the city’s most crime-ridden apartments. Life on the edge is a three-part series, with today kicking it off. I can’t wait to read the next two.

IndyStar package: Life on the edge

This is an immensely important topic and the writing by Matthew Tully is exceptional. I love the way he repeatedly makes his point using short sentences that all end in “the Phoenix”, dropping these lines in for emphasis throughout.

Here’s the basic outline of the first part of the series just based solely on this effective writing tool.

  • Talking about the gun-fights that keep a woman and her nephew awake at night, the writer makes the point: This is life in the Phoenix.

  • Explaining how it came to be, section-8 housing is largely to blame according to the article: This is the story of the Phoenix Apartments.
  • Talking about the criminals harbored there and the daily cop calls: That’s life at the Phoenix.
  • Discussing the failed initiatives of a former mayor: The Phoenix is a mess.
  • Following from the failed programs he details the sorry state of the current complex, the roaches, bullet holes and crumbling sidewalks for a start: This is the Phoenix.
  • Showing the complex to the State Rep. who initially thinks the cut grass is a sign nothing is wrong but gets schooled pretty quickly: Another day in the Phoenix.

The second story also uses dates and lines taken from police reports to break up the story of how crime-ridden the area is and the police struggle to calm it. This tool makes the story not only more credible but more readable.

I should also note, as anyone who clicked through has already seen, this is a multimedia presentation. And the designers well anticipated my questions. I’m not from Indianapolis, and aside from the visits I’ve made down there since moving here and the stories I read in the Star, I don’t know much about the city itself. I’d never even heard of this place before. As soon as I started reading… I wanted to see where it was in relation to the city and what it looked like. The additional graphs of census data shows the dramatic shift in the make-up of the population since its hey-day. Finally, the video ride-along with police gives you a taste of the problems the officers are up against.

I’m looking forward to the next two installments.

One Response to “IndyStar: Life on the edge”

  1. grace Says:

    I read the first installment of this—the amount of reporting put into it is phenomenal and shows the dedication the reporter had to showing the Phoenix from the inside.

    But honestly, I’m not a fan of the short sentences you called out. They add emphasis only the first time or two they’re used, and after that it just feels like a crutch and even distracts from the otherwise stellar writing. Example:

    “This is like doing patrols in Afghanistan,” he said. “Except we’re not as well-armed.”

    This is the Phoenix. [end section]

    That is an incredible quote, and repeating the same annoying Phoenix line after it is so distracting.