Joe Spring is the online editor for Outside Magazine.

This was a big year for longform journalism. Byliner came out with blockbuster stories, like Jon Krakuer’s Three Cups of Deceit. The Atavist put out consistently strong features with solid multimedia. At Outside, our editors and writers contributed excellent investigative online exclusives (“Blood in the Water,” “Crashing Down”). Thanks to Longreads, Longform, Sportsfeat, The Browser, and other longform-loving sites, I found more great stories online then ever before. Every time I read something that made me think, I printed it out and taped it to the wall above my desk. Here are five of the articles published in 2011 that hang over my workspace.


Dr. Don, By Peter Hessler, The New Yorker

A big look at the American West, told through the story of a small town pharmacist

Punched Out, By John Branch, The New York Times

How do you talk about the effects of concussions in sports in a new way? By profiling an individual’s life in exquisite detail, from start to after the finish. The multimedia is first rate as well. (This one took up the biggest chunk of wall space.)

Robert Krulwich, Commencement Speech at the University of Berkeley School of Journalism, Posted on Not Exactly Rocket Science

An argument for going after the things you want.

Frank’s Story, By John Brant, Runner’s World

Frank Shorter was the most famous marathoner of his day, yet few people knew about the disturbing behavior of his father—a supposedly perfect small town doctor.

The Fracturing of Pennsylvania, By Eliza Griswold, The New York Times Magazine

There were stories about hydrofracking with more statistical analysis and stories that explained the overall process and its effects in more detail, but no story was told better. Here’s how fracking in rural Pennsylvania affected the Haney family.


Share your own Top 5 Longreads of 2011, all through December. Just tag it #longreads on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook.