This is from last week: Los Angeles Times editor Davan Maharaj and his number two, Marc Duvoisin, lavishing their praise on the emotional Sunday piece A Soldier's Wife by reporter Christopher Goffard and photographer Rick Loomis. The blog by the Times' reader's representative separately ran excerpts of letters to the paper about the story that chronicled the struggles of a returning soldier trying to re-adjust to home life and his wife.
Here's the memo to the staff:
Sent: Thursday, September 12, 2013 9:39 AM
Subject: Message from Davan Maharaj and Marc Duvoisin
“Hit me emotionally like a sledgehammer.”
“An important story, impeccably told.”
“Had me sobbing.”
“I cannot recall ever being so touched by a published newspaper story … ever.”
“This is exactly why I continue to subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.”
“A Soldier’s Wife,” by Christopher Goffard and Rick Loomis, the tale of an Irvine woman, her soldier husband and their struggle to cope with his post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism, was one of those stories that grab the reader and won’t let go.
Chris’ meticulously observed narrative and Rick’s almost painfully intimate photographs and video made a searing impression on many readers this past Sunday. More than 100 have written the two journalists to express thanks and appreciation, as well as their concern for the subjects of the piece, Candace Desmond-Woods and her husband, Tom.
“Many of us have read about the traumas and stresses these soldiers suffered,” wrote one reader, “but your article expressed it in a way that was personal, as if it’s happening to someone in our own family.”
The project got started in early 2012, when Rick met the couple while reporting on the difficulties facing returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. For the next year and a half, he and Chris were all but embedded with the Woods family. One or both of them accompanied Candace to court hearings, on jail visits, to the Veterans Affairs campus in Long Beach, and to the neighborhood pool, the pawnshop and many other places.
The response to “A Soldier’s Wife” confirms our shared instinct that readers prize deeply reported stories that engage them intellectually and emotionally. Long-form storytelling has a distinguished tradition at The Times, and we remain as committed to it as ever. That’s why Chris and Rick got the time they needed to report this story, and the space and resources to tell it properly, online and in print.
Many people had a hand in the project’s success. Steve Marble was Chris’ sounding board during the early reporting. Kelli Sullivan and Michael Whitley devised the print design. Evan Wagstaff produced the package for the Web; Stephanie Ferrell did the digital design. Armand Emamdjomeh contributed. Spencer Bakalar and Liz Baylen produced the video, with music by Colin Baylen. Rachel Dunn and John Penner copy edited for print and digital.
“It’s 1:17 a.m. and I have to be up in two hours for work,” wrote one reader, a Marine veteran. “I was about to go to sleep and saw this article linked on an L.A. Times tweet. I’m glad I took the time to read it. You have made it possible for people to get a glimpse of life after service and show how difficult the transition can be. I am glad that you took the time to show people how life is for families once the yellow ribbons have faded.”
Please join me in thanking Chris and Rick for reminding us of the reach and resonance of great storytelling.
Davan and Marc
* Updated post to correct the name of the story.