behind-the-scenes of nonfiction longform pieces
October 10, 2014 4:20 PM   Subscribe

annotating Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah's profile of Dave Chappelle, "If He Hollers Let Him Go"
Q: This decision of yours–to let him go, as it were–was quite contentious! “There was no conversation to have,” you told Longform, because Chappelle had already declined to do an interview. “The point is he’s stated all he needs to say.” Is this the difference between being a reporter and an essayist? I think a reporter would be obligated to be, as you put it to Longform, a pest, while the essayist has the freedom to stay back.

Ghansah: But is the reporter obligated to find things if they already know the answer? Plus, I don’t think the story needed it. You need to respect people’s autonomy and their ability to make decisions for themselves. It’s a comment on the entire history of black people in America. We haven’t had autonomy and ownership of things. Here was someone who had ownership of all that stuff, and didn’t have any reason to return again. I don’t think I wanted to see Dave Chappelle, the person who wanted to be pestered; I wanted to see Dave Chappelle, the person who wouldn’t talk to me. And that’s what I got. I was pretty satisfied with that.
"If He Hollers Let Him Go" previously on MeFi

More from Nieman Storyboard's "Annotation Tuesday!" feature: ...and many more interviews in their index of Annotation Tuesday pieces

*Nieman Storyboard's Why's This So Good? previously featured on MeFi
posted by flex (8 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I've only just started reading this, but I have to say I love this annotated format. Thanks for this.
posted by gwint at 4:39 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow for sure I thought the title was a reference to the racist version of Eany Meany. It was shocking to me to read in the annotation that it was not. So the annotation format was pretty neat.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:57 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I had thought the same, and was similarly surprised. But I assume Himes was thinking about the racist rhyme, so it wasn't so far off.
Also excited to learn more about Frank Sinatra Has A Cold, the original "subject won't talk to me, now what?" article.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:11 PM on October 10, 2014

Thanks for posting this. Her essay is one of the most striking pieces I read last year and it's interesting to hear a little more about the background.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:27 PM on October 10, 2014

This is terrific, thanks!
posted by Joeruckus at 4:42 AM on October 11, 2014

Ugh... Having RTFA, I'm disappointed to be liking the Chapelle piece less than I used to. To allow blatant errors of fact to stand in an article because of "emotional truth" is not only yucky, it also avoids an opportunity to understand the subject. If Dave Chapelle saw his teenage city as much more dangerous than it was, much like the white population does, that tells us something important about him.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:08 AM on October 11, 2014

Thanks, I enjoyed the article all over again. (Didn't much like the interviewer and kind of wished Ghansah had gotten more openly irritated at the pushy questions, but never mind.) I do have a question, though: does anybody know how Seon is pronounced? SEE-on? SAY-on? Something else?
posted by languagehat at 12:27 PM on October 11, 2014

I'm late to the party, but this is fantastic. Thanks!
posted by gemutlichkeit at 3:16 PM on October 20, 2014

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