David Simon’s “The Metal Men”

“The Metal Men,” by David Simon, is a 1995 story published in the Baltimore Sun magazine. Those of you who are fans of The Wire will probably recognize that the character Bubbles was a metal man.  We’ll be discussing:

  • Structure: Is the 3+2 explanatory story structure visible here? Which parts are action? Which parts are digression?
  • Sources: How is the story sourced? Which sources are used in which sections?
  • Ethics: Is it ethical for a reporter to witness a crime and not report it? Does this article glorify subjects who are engaged in illegal activity?

There’s an interesting back story to this feature. According to Simon, the story was initially spiked. You can read about that here.

More on explanatory narrative

In chapter 12 of his book Storycraft, Jack Hart explains the process of writing an explanatory narrative by describing how Richard Read wrote the Pulitzer-Prize winning story The French Fry Connection. The story, photos and sidebars are worth a click.


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