By Reed Jackson
Ashley Parker’s “All the Obama 20-Somethings,” a piece published recently in the New York Times, is an extremely interesting narrative on the young staff members that help make up the President’s administration. Using detailed descriptions and well-placed quotes, Parker paints a picture in the reader’s mind of what it’s like to work under the most powerful man on earth while still living out the formative years.
The piece starts with an attention-grabbing introduction that establishes a setting and creates a visual image in the reader’s mind of who the piece is discussing and why. With the use of direct quotes that reference both John Quincy Adams and the police answering a noise complaint, the reader immediately understands what makes someone like
so interesting. Parker does a great job of using details in the piece to evoke the reader’s five senses. For example, her description of Eric Lesser, a 25-year-old White House staff assistant, drenched in sweat while dancing to Panjabi MC is written with vivid detail that makes the reader feel the story as if they were in the humid, music-filled room themselves.
One of the interesting aspects of this piece is the format of it. Because there isn’t one single person that the piece is focusing on, Parker had to find a way to discuss each young staff member without losing the piece’s rhythm. The way she does this is by creating a large setting (the party), then going off on small tangents of each person at the party. This way, the reader can view one side of a person’s personality, which is the personality they have outside of work, and can also view the person’s work lifestyle. This format gives the piece a fluent rhythm that allows the reader to learn about each staff member without feeling overwhelmed with individual information.
I believe the best aspect of this piece is the understanding Parker has for the people she is covering. Often, covering people with such eccentric lifestyles leads to a journalistic misunderstanding in existence and character. Observing a White House staff member do a keg stand, for example, may give a journalist a wrong impression of what the true story really is in this situation. Parker, however, has a appreciative and thoughtful comprehension of what these young staff members are exactly about, which, from reading the story, seems to be living the dream of being influential in some way while still enjoying life. Through her writing, Parker captures this dream perfectly.