Goldberg's Sick, Sick Feature

Jeff has a piece in this week's New Yorker that checks in, I've heard, at some 17,000 words. It's a rather incredible take on a group of American preservationists who head to Africa and promptly lose their minds. Most impressive to me is just watching is the second half of the piece where we watch Jeff chase down lead after lead until he lands in square in front of his quarry:


The Owenses became involved in a state-sponsored effort to trap and tag the region's few remaining grizzlies. Darrell Kerby, a former mayor of Bonners Ferry, the nearest town to the Owenses' ranch, said that, over time, Mark Owens became more moderate in his approach to his neighbors. "He realized he couldn't come in and just tell people what to do," Kerby said. "This isn't Africa." 

One day this winter, I made a visit to their ranch. The Owenses had long declined to speak with me. It was snowing when I arrived, and the clouds had settled on the slopes of the mountains behind their log cabin. 

As I pulled up their drive, I saw Delia Owens emerging from a barn on the property. She was feeding hay to a herd of deer that had gathered near their cabin. Delia became agitated when I introduced myself. "I'm going to have a stroke right now. I'm going to have a heart attack," she said. "How in the hell did you find us?" 

He found you by being a bad-ass. When I was young, my first editor used to say he liked to take writers and make them reporters, not the other way around. The assumption was that writing was something more innate. I'm not totally convinced of that, as I think reporting often comes from an insatiable curiosity. 

Nevertheless, I was a writer who, as he saw it, had to be made into a reporter. It took years for me to develop the work-ethic and willingness to make call after call after call. As a consequence, I've always fetishized great reporters, and deified great reporters who could also write. It's something to read this piece. I feel like I'm there with Jeff making all those calls. Check it out. It's a ripping good time.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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