Journalism has been defined as "a true report," an ideal more often aspired to than attained. One of the more accomplished practitioners of this demanding craft is Edwin Shrake, known as Bud to his friends. You may recall the story he did last spring (SI, May 8) on Muhammad Ali's refusal to be inducted into the armed forces. Because of the emotional factors involved it was a difficult one to do, but Shrake's article was a superior example of clear and factual reporting. In other words, a true report. In other words, journalism.
Shrake is a writer of fiction as well as a reporter, and an excerpt from his second book, a historical novel called Blessed McGill, which is being published next month, begins on page 60. Shrake's story of a buffalo hunt conducted by a tribe of Indians and one white frontiersman (the McGill of the title) has such validity and immediacy that you know at once, on reading it, that this must have been the way it was when the buffalo roamed the plains and the Indians went out to kill them for food and clothing and whatever else they could salvage from the massive carcasses. Shrake knows the country where the hunt takes place—the Texas panhandle—and he knows the people. He put the overworked traditions and stereotypes of the Plains Indian out of his mind; he revisited the land and he read and reread old diaries and journals and trail reports, and he found out for himself how things looked and sounded and smelled back then. He deromanticized the myth and then re-created the era, affectionately and honestly. As you read the result of his labors, you cannot help but feel that this, too, is a true report.
If Shrake has deromanticized an area of myth, the Ford Motor Company has romanticized an area that used to be considered nothing but cold, hard business. Bob Ottum's lively account of Ford's activities in auto racing (page 28) and Jim Drake's opulent cavalcade of photographs (page 33) reveal a company-wide feeling for cars that goes beyond costs and sales and profits. Certainly, Ford's basic reason for entering the unpredictable arena of racing is publicity, and, of course, increased sales and profits as a result of racing are ends devoutly to be wished by the brass at River Rouge. But even so, Ford is gambling every time it races, putting its name and its reputation right on the line. It is a sporting gamble and, really, a romantic story, and we think Ottum and Drake have done a first-rate job of presenting it.
This is our Special Holiday Issue—one reason why plums like the stories mentioned above are included. Our next issue, January 8, will be on the newsstands January 3, so we take this opportunity to wish all of you not only a very Merry Christmas but a New Year of peace, happiness, prosperity and all good wishes come true.