Jon Franklin, a pioneering figure in the world of narrative journalism, passed away at the age of 82 in Annapolis, Md. His dedicated work to the genre earned him the distinction of being the first recipient of Pulitzer Prizes for both feature writing and explanatory journalism. Franklin’s approach to storytelling emphasized the importance of maintaining traditional journalistic standards of accuracy and objectivity, despite the rise of the New Journalism movement. His influence extended beyond his own writing, as he authored the influential book “Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction,” which became a key resource for aspiring literary-minded journalists.
In 1979, Franklin was awarded the Pulitzer for feature writing for his series “Mrs. Kelly’s Monster,” a gripping account of a surgeon’s battle to save the life of a woman with a life-threatening medical condition. He later received a second Pulitzer in 1985 for his series “The Mind Fixers,” which delved into the molecular chemistry of the brain and potential treatments for mental illness. His work also inspired the book “Molecules of the Mind: The Brave New Science of Molecular Psychology.”
Jon Franklin’s commitment to storytelling extended into his teaching career, where he shared his expertise with future journalists as a professor and chairman of the journalism department at the University of Maryland. Despite his focus on science writing, Franklin emphasized that his stories were ultimately about people, with the scientific elements serving as mere scenery.
In addition to his significant contributions to journalism, Franklin’s personal journey from a troubled upbringing to a celebrated career serves as a testament to the power of storytelling. His impact on the field has been widely recognized by colleagues and students alike, solidifying his legacy as a prominent figure in the world of narrative journalism.
Opinion: Franklin’s commitment to using storytelling as a means to understand the world and the human experience, while upholding journalistic standards, sets a valuable precedent for aspiring journalists. His dedication to accuracy and objectivity, combined with his narrative flair, creates a compelling model for journalists to follow.