Jon Franklin, Pioneering Apostle of Literary Journalism, Dies at 82

Jon Franklin, an apostle of narrative short-story fashion journalism whose personal work gained the primary Pulitzer Prizes awarded for characteristic writing and explanatory journalism, died on Sunday in Annapolis, Md. He was 82.

His loss of life, at a hospice, got here lower than two weeks after falling at his house, his spouse, Lynn Franklin, mentioned. He had additionally been handled for esophageal most cancers for 2 years.

An creator, trainer, reporter and editor, Mr. Franklin championed the nonfiction fashion that was celebrated as New Journalism however that was truly classic narrative storytelling, an method that he insisted nonetheless adhere to the old-journalism requirements of accuracy and objectivity.

He imparted his interested by the topic in “Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction” (1986), which turned a go-to how-to information for literary-minded journalists.

In 1979, Mr. Franklin gained the primary Pulitzer ever given for characteristic writing for his two-part sequence in The Baltimore Evening Sun titled “Mrs. Kelly’s Monster.”

His vivid eyewitness account transported readers into an working room the place a surgeon’s agonizing wrestle to avoid wasting the life of a girl whose mind was being squeezed by a rogue tangle of blood vessels illuminated the marvels and margins of trendy drugs.

He gained his second Pulitzer, this time beneath the brand new class of explanatory journalism, in 1985, for his seven-part sequence “The Mind Fixers,” additionally in The Evening Sun. Delving into the molecular chemistry of the mind and the way neurons talk, he profiled a scientist whose experiments with receptors within the mind might herald therapy with medicine and different options to psychoanalysis.

Inspired by Mr. Franklin’s personal classes with a psychologist, the sequence was tailored right into a e-book, “Molecules of The Mind: The Brave New Science of Molecular Psychology” (1987), one of seven he wrote.

Barry L. Jacobs, a professor of neuroscience at Princeton, wrote in The New York Times Book Review that the creator had approached his theme — that utilizing medicine to deal with psychological sickness may make the world a saner place — “in a snappy journalistic style, as well as with a touch of humor and an often entertaining bit of cynicism.” “Molecules” was amongst The Times’s Notable Books of the Year.

Mr. Franklin’s “Writing for Story” was not a lot a sermonic bible for budding journalists who fancied themselves future John Steinbecks, Tom Wolfes and even Jon Franklins, because it was a demanding lesson plan about storytelling that, he wrote, took him three many years to grasp.

“The reason we read stories is because we have evolved a wish to understand the world around us,” he mentioned in an interview for the Nieman Foundation at Harvard in 2004. “The way we do that best is through our own experiences, but if we read a good story it’s like living another person’s life without taking the risk or the time.”

Critics expressed concern that emphasizing fashion might imply sacrificing substance. Mr. Franklin demurred.

Literary journalism, he insisted, “is no threat to the fundamental values of honesty, accuracy and objectivity.” He cautioned, nonetheless, that carried out correctly, literary journalism requires time and expertise. “Not every story merits it, nor can every reporter be trusted with it,” he wrote within the American Journalism Review in 1996.

“Mrs. Kelly’s Monster” was printed in December 1978. That yr the Pulitzer Board had established a brand new prize class to acknowledge “a distinguished example of feature writing giving prime consideration to high literary quality and originality.” The board created the prize for explanatory journalism in 1984. Mr. Franklin was the primary to win every.

Jon Daniel Franklin was born on Jan. 13, 1942, in Enid, Okla., to Benjamin and Wilma (Winburn) Franklin. His father was an electrician whose work at development websites within the Southwest frequently uprooted the household.

John aspired to be a scientist, however as a result of of the household’s transience he was educated largely in what he referred to as the “universal school for writers” — the novels of Fitzgerald and Hemingway and the quick tales in The Saturday Evening Post.

Bullied in gang fights as a minority white boy in largely Hispanic Sante Fe, he was given a battered Underwood typewriter by his father, who urged him to vent his hostility together with his fingers as an alternative of his fists.

In 1959, John dropped out of high college to hitch the Navy. He served for eight years as a naval journalist aboard plane carriers and later in an apprenticeship at All Hands journal, a Pentagon publication the place, he mentioned, a demanding editor honed his expertise.

He attended the University of Maryland beneath the G.I. Bill, graduating with a level in journalism in 1970. He labored as a reporter and editor for The Prince Georges Post in Maryland earlier than The Baltimore Evening Sun employed him to be a rewrite man in 1970. He gained his Pulitzers overlaying science.

“I am a science writer, but I don’t write about science,” he mentioned in the Nieman interview. “I write about people. The science is just the scenery.”

He left The Evening Sun in 1985 and returned to the University of Maryland, this time as a professor and chairman of the journalism division. He went on to direct the inventive writing program at the University of Oregon for a time and to take a writing job at The News & Observer in Raleigh.

Again returning to the University of Maryland, he was named to the primary Merrill Chair in Journalism there in 2001. Gene Roberts, a college colleague who had been government editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and managing editor of The New York Times, hailed Mr. Franklin as “one of the greatest practitioners and teachers of feature writing in all of journalism.” He retired as a professor in 2010.

Mr. Franklin’s marriage to Nancy Creevan led to divorce. He married Lynn Scheidhauer in 1988. In addition to his spouse, his survivors embrace two daughters, Catherine Franklin Abzug and Teresa June Franklin, from his first marriage.

Among his different books is “The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs” (2000), by which he describes how the Franklins’ pet poodle, Sam, woke the household when their home caught fireplace.

For a author whose personal surgical expertise solely went as far as having his thumb reattached after it was severed in a fall on the sidewalk, Mr. Franklin’s story on “the monster” aneurysm urgent on Edna Kelly’s mind was wealthy with element and accessible imagery. The rising pressure on the arterial wall, he wrote, was like “a tire about to blow out, a balloon ready to burst, a time-bomb the size of a pea.”

Mrs. Kelly was prepared to die fairly than dwell with the monster. Her story was not a couple of miracle. But it begins and ends by invoking sustenance, with out which life, and miracles, can’t exist:

Waffles for breakfast made by the spouse of Dr. Thomas Barbee Ducker, chief mind surgeon at the University of Maryland Hospital. No espresso. It makes his palms shake, Mr. Franklin wrote. When the surgical procedure is over, what awaits Dr. Ducker are extra medical challenges and a peanut butter sandwich his spouse had packed in a brown bag with Fig Newtons and a banana.

“Mrs. Kelly is dying,” Mr. Franklin wrote.

“The clock on the wall, close to the place Dr. Ducker sits, says 1:43, and it’s over.

“‘It’s onerous to inform what to do. We’ve been interested by it for six weeks. But, , there are particular issues … that’s simply so far as you may go. I simply don’t know.’

“He lays the sandwich, the banana and the Fig Newtons on the desk earlier than him, neatly, the way in which the scrub nurse laid out the devices.

“‘It was triple jeopardy,’ he says lastly, staring at his peanut butter sandwich the identical approach he stared at the X-rays. ‘It was triple jeopardy.’

“It is 1:43, and it’s over.

“Dr. Ducker bites, grimly, into the sandwich. He should go on. The monster gained.”

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