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A Lesson from Thrillist on Writing Stories Worth Reading

18th December 2018

 This was one of the best articles I’ve read in a long, long time. It was shared all across Twitter, by both those in the food industry and plenty outside it. It stirred up a bunch of conversations about protecting smaller, local restaurants and responsible reporting.

In short, it did exactly what I think creative work should be all about for businesses: it got people talking and it got people thinking.

Side note: it did receive a lot of criticism following publication because it left out a lot of 'personal' information which could suggest other reasons for Stanich's closing down. This does, sadly, slightly diminish the genuine nature of the article. I did decide to write this anyway, however, because it's still a damn good read.

Educational doesn't have to mean boring

There are lessons to be learnt in this article. Kevin Alexander, the writer, clearly wanted his readers to become more aware of certain things.

He could've easily written an article titled "5 Lessons I Learnt After Listing Stanich’s Cheeseburger as the Best in America”. But he didn't. He told his story, included his own thoughts, and allowed the reader to take their own lessons from it. To think for themselves.

"If there was one main negative takeaway from the raging fires of food tourist culture and the lists fanning the flames, it was that the people crowding the restaurant were one time customers. They were there to check off a thing on a list, and put it on Instagram."

If we all considered whether we should write something other than the default how-to posts and thought about what we're adding to the discussion that's already out there...I think we'd end up with a lot of seriously readable articles.

Side note: if we do write how-to posts (which is a more than acceptable thing to do), it's worth thinking about why someone would get their information from us rather than a bigger site. Why would they, for example, read about how to set up a WordPress blog on your website when they can go to WPBeginner?

What really got me about Alexander's article is how it shows that you can write something educational without resorting to creating guides every time. It leaves you feeling a little less ignorant than when you started reading and you probably enjoyed reading it more than you would a guide too.

We all like a story 😍

And to write a good one, you gotta include the good and the bad. I did mention in an earlier side note that Alexander didn't include all the bad bits...but I'd like to point this out anyway.

He doesn't paint himself in the best light. He talks about his mistakes, the criticism he's received from others, the consequences of his mistakes...everything that's necessary to put together a genuine, relatable, and educational article.

"And that fact is the thing I can’t quite get past. That a decision I made for a list I put on the internet has impacted a family business and forever altered its future. That I have changed family dynamics and relationships. And it could very easily happen again."

And, ya know what? Including the bits of the story that aren't great doesn't make you think he's shit at his job. It makes him more likeable. Go figure.

It'd be really cool if we could put our creative work before the promotion of our businesses every once in a while. I think the internet would be a more interesting place for it. We talk all the time about producing content that's 'valuable' for our readers...but is it really as good as it can be if the end game is always to make money?

And, of course, I have to talk about those illustrations

They're fucking epic. Emiliano Ponzi is one seriously talented artist.

It's a shame I had to copy and paste the tiny attribution below the images and Google him because they didn’t link to his website or social media once in the entire article...

Emiliano Ponzi attribute

But, shit. This article really wouldn't be half as good as it is without the accompanying artwork. I know a lot of writers will argue the words are what matter most in an article or blog post, and they're right. However...we have to appreciate what good design and illustration can do for those words.

The featured illustration was what stopped me, mid-scroll on Twitter, and had me clicking on the article. I probably wouldn't have read it without it.

Anyway, Emiliano Ponzi, everyone. You’d be doing yourself a favour by following him.

Emiliano Ponzi Graveyard

A final thought

If your blog is anything more to you than just something you feel you have to do, telling the full story goes a long way.

If you enjoyed reading that, these other posts might interest you.