The Perfect Human Interest Story

These days, reading a hard copy of the New York Times is a rare thing for me. In general, I get my news over the Internet. So when I have an early flight -- like yesterday morning -- the traditionalist in me jumps at the opportunity to pick up a fresh issue of the Times and read it section by section ... old school! During those cherished moments, when all electronic devices must be turned off, and just prior to our reaching an acceptable altitude for turning them back on, I revel in the simplicity of scanning the news, page by page, section by section. Despite the convenience and ease of surfing online for news, I still find that I am able to absorb a broader swath of information in a quicker period of time with wonderful, smudgy newsprint in hand.

As we approached cruising altitude, I stumbled upon a story on page A12, the front of the National section. The title was catchy enough: "Good Will to All, With a Side of Soft-Serve." What followed was one of the more engaging human interest news stories that I've read in a while. A heart-warming fish-out-water story about one man, Hamid Chaudhry, who has turned his Dairy Queen in rural Kenhorst, PA into the philanthropic epicenter of his community.

In and of itself, it's a great read. But for anyone who has ever wished they could get a human interest story in a major newspaper like the Times, I would also recommend that you observe the composite elements of the story: A dynamic central character, a challenge that must be overcome (doesn't have to be Shackleton-esque), an unexpected juxtaposition (philanthropic hotbed vs. Dairy Queen) and lots of wonderful anecdotes and details to put meat on the bones of the story.

There are many other fine models for a good story to be certain, but this one follows the standard template. And it works well. Thanks to Dan Barry for writing a great piece. Thanks to the NY Times for providing permalinks to stories that are not subject to your new digital subscription mandate. And thanks to Hamid for demonstrating that the act of giving is sometimes enough to merit a story in the New York Times.