104 Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada: Journalistic Collaboration (JP)

Steve Fainaru and his brother Mark Fainaru-Wada wrote a bestselling and award-winning book (and accompanying PBS documentary series) about the NFL coverup of concussion trauma, League of Denial. This conversation inaugurates an occasional Recall this Book series on collaborative work: who does it well, what makes it succeed, why can’t grumpy isolatos like English professors get with the program?

The brothers generously praise the colleagues and mentors who helped them on their way. They also dig into questions of trust between collaborators and constant choices reporting and writing entails. Some stories are dogs, some are “unmakeable” and some you can’t see; how do you recognize the situation and cope?

Almost as afterthought, they lay bare the amount of persistent, patient long-term conversation and relationship-building that goes into finding out the truth behind events that powerful organizations. Steve explains the reporting behind his 2008 Pulitzer-winning stories about American private contractors during the invasion of Iraq. Basically, “institutions react institutionally.” Then the tricky question of how to be a football fan in the concussion era arises.

Mentioned in the episode

Phil Bennett a mentor for Steve.

Lance Williams journalist, partner, source-maintainer: inspiration for Mark.

The memorable newspaper advisors who shaped Mark and Steve in their high-school gig at the Redwood Bark: Sylvia Jones and Donal Brown.

Plus: Stand by for more of their work on the NBA in China….

Read and listen to the episode here.

Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

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