Winning Words

Shellshock. PTSD. Homelessness…Murder. Unfortunately, reintegration into civilian life has often been difficult for soldiers coming home from war, for some it is harder than others. In his feature piece for the New York Times, journalist C.J. Chivers tells the complicated and dramatic story of ex-Marine Sam Siatta. Chivers’ piece was a candidate for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and ultimately won. In this piece, he describes Siatta’s difficult transition into civilian life: that included studying under the GI Bill and just getting through daily life. All of this transition came to an end, when one drunken night, he broke into an apartment and hit a man with a frying pan. His story, called “The Fighter,” is as eloquently written as it is sad, and Chivers, a previous Pulitzer Prize, George Polk, and Medill Courage in Journalism winter expertly uses pathos to keep readers engaged.

As someone who loves reading, good storytelling is extremely important to me; Chivers has excellent organization and flow throughout the piece, making it a fascinating read. I think that this style, where it sounds almost story like is what helped him to tell this story so well. It is obvious that Chiver put forth a great deal of effort in gathering information and setting up interviews for the story; his dedication to the project is more than apparent. Additionally, Siatta’s story is one that many of us have heard, in some form or another, before. But because of the way that Chiver married a journalistic style with a more creative style, his story feels almost more genuine and therefore more touching to the reader. Other headlines on the topic address how the judge “regrettably” charged Siatta with prison time, Chivers didn’t need to say anything so bluntly because of the way he paints Siatta and his situation.

Chivers uses interviews with Siatta, some of his superiors, and those with his peers as the basis for his story. He then uses court documents and other documents to flesh out his story and give it more weight to it. However, Chivers also made use of his experience as a correspondent, Metro reporter, and even officer in the Marine Corps himself in order to increase his credibility and general knowledge of the situation that he is reporting on. While attaining the interviews may not have been necessarily risky, it definitely appears to have taken a lot of time, commitment, and effort to speak with all the individuals he did. It is obvious that Chivers wanted to compile a comprehensive set of information so as to create the most truthful and complete story possible.

Given that: his dedication, his thoroughness, and his craftsmanship in writing, it is easy for me to say that Chivers was more than deserving of this award. His words spoke to me as a reader, I appreciated how detailed he was and how much he seemed to care about sharing this story. Chivers’ beautiful writing and dedication to the story made it that much more impactful.


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