Hey there. I’m Bill Murphy Jr.
I’m the guy responsible for Understandably. Good, bad or indifferent, it’s all on me.
This is a brand new website/email/media thingy. I haven’t 100% figured out how to define it, but I think it’s about “the story behind the story.”
Here’s an example. I read a great article on The Atlantic by Rachel Monroe.
She tells the story of Matthew Cox, who was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 26 years in federal prison, where he turned his life around — well, maybe, that’s a big part of the story — and who is now trying to become a true crime writer, based largely on all the lives of all the other criminals he was locked up with.
That’s a pretty wild story, but what I’m getting at here is why she’s writing about him.
How did she even know about this prison inmate doing two and a half decades?
Did she hear about him while writing another story? Did she go to college with his cousin? Did she see a quick story about him on some blog somewhere, and dig deeper?
Nope. He cold emailed her. She was fascinated. (“I am an inmate at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida,” she says he wrote. “I’m also a true crime writer.”)
Hmmm. I’ve been a writer for 20 years, one way or another — from my early days in college and at the New Haven Register up to my work these days as a contributing editor at Inc.com, with a lot of stops in between.
Let’s just say: I get pitched all the time.
It’s not that all pitches are horrible. Occasionally, someone pitches me a story and I love it, and I run with it — sometimes I pursue a different angle — but it does well. (This one was like that.)
But, I usually find my own ideas and dig up my own interviews. It’s very rare that I even have time to respond to pitches — never mind take the nugget and wind up writing an entire article.
But then this guy, Cox, from a prison cell(!), writes an email to a writer for The Atlantic and gets a 5,800-word profile out of it.
(By the way, he got his sentence reduced and he’s out now. Check out Monroe’s article if his story sounds interesting.)
We’ll talk about other “behind the scenes” factors in different contexts, too.
Why do a group of companies all make the same odd strategic decision at the same time? Why does a pretty ordinary social media post blow up and drive tons of engagement (and millions in sales)?
And even though most of what I write about these days is either business or media-related, I’m sure a lot of other topics will come up, too.
I’m writing this on the first day, so I’m sure it will evolve. I hope you’ll check it out and keep me honest. Sign up for it here, or click the button below.