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TODAY: journalist David Hayes

A freelance journalist based in Toronto, Hayes’s work has garnered him seven National Magazine Awards. He’s written for various publications, including The WalrusThe New York Times Magazine
and Toronto Life. He also teaches Advanced Feature Writing at Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education.

Gay Talese: “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (Esquire, April 1966)
“Gay Talese’s ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold’ is so obvious, probably several others would suggest it, but I guess that’s OK, a bit like all those ‘Greatest Albums Ever’ lists that almost all have Sgt. Pepper as
number one, then Rubber Soul, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde or Highway 61, and the Stones’ Exile on Main Street as the next four, in slightly different orders depending on the list. It’s justifiably called the greatest magazine profile ever written—solidly researched and reported, against all odds, since Sinatra wouldn’t cooperate with him, and beautifully written. Although there are many that are arguably as good, including a couple by Talese himself, like his profile of former boxer Joe Louis.”

Michael Paterniti: “The Long Fall of One-Eleven Heavy” (Esquire, July 2000)
“In non-fiction narrative writing, one common model is the reconstruction. Writers, through masterful researching and reporting, craft a feature about events that happened years, decades or even centuries earlier, including in it scenes that read as though the writers were there, watching events unfold. Paterniti’s ‘The Long Fall of One-Eleven Heavy’ is probably the most powerfully atmospheric of any feature reconstruction I’ve read. A feat of impressive reporting, it uses the techniques of fiction—voice, symbolism, a sophisticated structure, interior monologues, the use of characters rather than journalistic sources. Show the text to someone in a form other than the way it appeared in Esquire and I would think most would assume they were reading short fiction.”

“Being a Black Man” (The Washington Post, 2006)
“Sometimes ambitious multimedia projects fail because the text elements, or the broadcast clips, or the still images seem to be most effective. Individual parts work better than the whole. This massive 2006 project by The Washington Post was the first multimedia story I’d seen that I thought accomplished everything it was meant to. It’s an in-depth look at what it means to be a black man in contemporary America. There are tough issues addressed and incredibly tender moments, and it doesn’t focus only on crime, rappers and sports figures. In fact, although the theme is obviously racial identities, the series often goes beyond that to explore simple humanity.”

Gary Smith: “The Deadly Dive” (Sports Illustrated, 2003)
“I’d say Gary Smith’s ‘The Deadly Dive,’ although you could pick pretty much any of Smith’s pieces. I’ve never read any writer who more consistently gets deep beneath the surface of his subjects than Gary Smith. Because his work mainly appears in Sports Illustrated, he’s known by many as a ‘sportswriter,’ but that’s like saying Graham Greene was a ‘spy novelist’—it misses entirely the complexity and sophistication of the writer. This one is distinctive because of the subject matter. It’s about Cuban Pipin Ferreras, the world’s greatest free-diver, and his girlfriend, Audrey Mestre, who shares his passion for the sport and died in 2002
while attempting to break the record for the deepest dive by a woman. Smith describes free-diving as ‘a man atop a 56-storey building who’s heading all the way down to the cellar, then back to the
roof, only the building is water, all water, and he has no scuba tank.’ It’s pretty clear only the most insanely obsessed would pursue an activity like this, and Smith is the perfect writer to explore the contradictions and paradoxes of this couple. His style—an omniscient narrator who floats in and out of his characters’ heads and often speaks directly to readers—is unique and takes the ‘literary’ in literary journalism as deep as the divers.”