What Works Assignment 3/18

In Mississippi, the Mysterious Murder of a Gay, Black Politician

The title combines all the words that people use to stereotype Mississippi. Most people would click on the title because they simply want to know more about the murder. However, the deck of the story made me want to read this story because it alluded that the author was going to really dig in to what might have happened and not gloss it over as a stereotypical “Mississippi story.”

The author starts the story with a quote lead. I really like that the author chose to lead with a quote from a pastor of a church in Clarksdale. It’s almost like the reader can hear the pastor in a Southern church preaching to the congregation. I think it’s really interesting that the author juxtaposes the church’s position on homosexuality and Marco McMillian’s sexuality. The author portrays a church and a community that only acknowledges the parts of McMillian’s life that fit in the version they want to remember.

I appreciate that the author tries to accurately describe the town, the situation and Marco McMillian instead of putting an opinionated spin on the story. The fifth paragraph can be considered the nutgraph. The nutgraph reveals that McMillian, a black, gay mayoral candidate, was murdered.

The author does a great job of tying in the historical background of Clarksdale and explaining why it’s relevant to the present condition of the town. I really like how the author uses the deaths of the legendary blues musicians to explain that sometimes the answers to a murder are never revealed.

Not only does the author highlight Clarksdale’s past but the poverty and crime rate. The author interviews local people to hear first-hand accounts about the problems plaguing Clarksdale. For several people, the murder of McMillian is devastating because they saw him as a figure of hope that had solutions to these problems.

However, I think it is important to note that the author does not glorify McMillian just because he was murdered. The author respectfully acknowledges that McMillian “didn’t have much of a track record” and that he might have become more popular because of his death.
I like how the author breaks up the story under different headings. This allows the reader to not get confused when the story refers to the past.

Seven people were interviewed for the story. Some were pastors, friends, classmates, Clarksdale citizens and political figures. Each source added a different angle to the story.

I really liked the picture at the beginning of the story and felt it was a powerful way to hook the reader. The picture had a fading image of McMillian in front of a cotton field and a dilapidated shack. I feel like it captured many of the factors in the story—McMillian’s murder, poverty, and the role of agriculture. The author uses audio clips of the blues music Clarksdale is famous for and the gospel choir at one of the local churches. Numerous pictures of local businesses, blues joints and a church sign are also used.

The author did a really good job of pulling in several multimedia elements that enhanced the story. I think video interviews with some of his sources would add to the story. Also, I think pulling in reactions of McMillian’s murder from social media would add value.

Overall, this story was really able to dig into several different angles of McMillian’s murder in a way that connected the past and the present.


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