What Keeps William Langewiesche On The Ellie Shortlist?

lang_072407.jpgFor all you writers looking for a near surefire way to make the list of finalists for next year’s National Magazine Awards, here’s a tip: Try spelling your name, W-I-L-L-I-A-M L-A-N-G-E-W-I-E-S-C-H-E.

For the 10th straight year in a row, the former Atlantic scribe and current Vanity Fair international correspondent has been nominated for a coveted Ellie — this time in the Reporting category for his “City of Fear” piece on how a Brazilian prison gang took control of Sao Paulo. Those of you keeping score at home will know that William Langewiesche has been nominated a total of 11 times in the 18 years he’s been writing for the big boys. And unlike Susan Lucci (remember her 18 years of watching fellow Daytime Emmy acting nominees prance up to the podium?), Langewiesche has actually nabbed the prized honor — twice.

So how does he do it? We cozied up to some of our favorite magazine cognoscenti to get their take on the Langewiesche magic…

Cullen Murphy, former Atlantic editor and current Vanity Fair editor-at-large who has worked closely with Langewiesche at both pubs:
“William has enormous patience — he wants to know the people he’s writing about as individuals, and at a deep level. He also has a sense for the underlying dynamic of events, how a story playing out in some dark, forgotten corner of the world illuminates something larger, often cutting against the grain of the conventional wisdom.”

Graydon Carter, the Vanity Fair EIC who stole Langewiesche away from the Atlantic:
“William is a hell of a narrative writer. It helps that he’s also fearless — which serves him very well, whether he’s walking unarmed into Baghdad, flying through lightning storms, catching bullets with his teeth, or dealing with the Vanity Fair fact-checking department.”

Robert Boynton, director of the magazine program at New York University’s j-school and author of The New New Journalists:
“Langewiesche does the kind of old-fashioned, in-depth reporting that is rare today — supported, of course, by the kind of old-fashioned magazine expense account that is even rarer. His work is proof that if you fund excellent journalists well, allow them to write high-quality, lengthy work, it will win awards and sell magazines.”

For more insights on how Langewiesche does what he does, check out our interview with him following last year’s Ellie nomination.