October 7, 2010
In journalism, there’s something called the telling detail. It’s what professional journalists do when they observe the person they’re interviewing and writing about, or the place where a crime or fire has taken place, or a restaurant they are reviewing.
So if the person you are interviewing has a photo of President Obama in a frame on her desk, that might be a telling detail about the power and importance of the interviewee. Or if a 20-something sports an antique ring, that might be her telling detail. Or if a middle-aged man’s hair is dyed purple, that might be a clue as to their personality.
When we eat out, I like to look at the telling detail(s) throughout the restaurant. Here’s on I spotted at Barolo Ristorante in downtown Seattle. The candle drips are as lavish as the restaurant’s decor, replete with gauzy white veils, good-looking servers, and dim (flattering!) lighting.
I’ve been told that the servers cut the wax every day so it looks good. . .which, in itself, makes for quite an interesting telling detail.