Do you read long-form journalism? You should. There’s pressure today to make journalism short, to squeeze all such writing into bullet points and text boxes. Surely there’s a place for that. But there’s a massive place for journalists who take on a big story and tell it at length with great skill.
Thomas Lake is one of those long-form journalists that you should not miss. Lake is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, an astonishing post for a man barely thirty years old. I first noticed Lake’s writing in the April 11, 2011 issue of the magazine in a piece entitled “Bad Nights in the NFL” that covers in great detail the killing of former Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams. Williams died in a nightclub shooting on New Year’s Day 2007. The events surrounding his death are complex and have never been explored in all their nuances before Lake’s coverage.
Here is an excerpt from the piece that shows Lake’s ability:
There was a young millionaire in Denver whose white limousine came under gunfire on a snow-lined boulevard in the dark of a winter morning. When the shooting began he had about one minute to live, and he spent that minute surrounded by the tangible signs of his newfound wealth. The black leather seats held nine women in short dresses and fur-trimmed jackets, as well as four rappers from Texas whose T-shirts advertised their collective name: BILLION DOLLA SCHOLARS. But the most dazzling sight in the Hummer limousine was the young millionaire’s gold chain. Dangling from it was a medallion about the size of a compact disc with a white crust of diamonds that spelled the name of his record label, RYNO ENTERTAINMENT; and his nickname, D WILL, short for Darrent Williams, starting right cornerback for the Broncos. The chain was worth about $50,000, and those who had worn it said it felt heavy around the neck. In the last 10 minutes the chain had been lost, then found, and the reasons for that brief disappearance would make the difference between life and death.
Lake is a graduate of Gordon College and, it would certainly appear, an evangelical Christian. His writing displays both a lyrical quality and a moral conscience. I was surprised to discover Lake’s background, as I had not heard of him previously. Since coming upon his moving story about Williams and his needless death, I have read a number of Lake’s pieces and have found them without fail to showcase excellent writing, a storyteller’s sense of drama, and the aforementioned moral sense. Look for Lake’s writing–those of you who enjoy good sportswriting will find a feast in his material. Here’s one of his most popular stories–and another.
Good long-form journalism is worth its weight in gold. This is one of the reasons I love magazines: they allow for this kind of writing. The New Yorker, the New York Times, Forbes, Fortune–these and many other periodicals allow their writers to compose what are essentially mini-books, or mini-screenplays. We need to train ourselves to read thoughtful work that unfolds a narrative or an argument at length. That’s good for us. By the way, those looking to dive into some of the best long-form writing should go to longform.com. That’s a great place to start. Here’s another good site, and another. You won’t agree with everything you find in these links.
Thomas Lake’s writing shows us an example of a Christian who is not only working in public, so to speak, but who is applying his Christian faith in a very meaningful way to his work. From what I can see, he’s a model for aspiring young Christian journalists, one that the Christian community would do well to notice.