Editors Roundtable: Alma Matters, Raisin Hell, and Upstairs Cocaine (Podcast)

Raisins drying. (George Lepp / Getty Images)

On the May 3, 2019 roundtable episode of the Longreads Podcast, Fact-checker Ethan Chiel, Audience Editor Catherine Cusick, Head of Fact-checking Matt Giles, and Senior Editor Kelly Stout share what they’ve been reading and nominate stories for the Weekly Top 5 Longreads.

This week, the editors discuss stories in The Cut, Vulture, The New York Times, Topic, and The Atavist.


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1:47 The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence
(Ezra Marcus and James D. Walsh, April 28, 2019, The Cut)

“…that is sometimes how life is. Stories are incomplete, crazy things happen to non-famous people in ways that are very difficult for us to get the full story on. Sometimes life delivers stories that are hard to tell to completion.”

New York magazine’s wild story about a man named Larry Ray, who moved in with his daughter Talia at Sarah Lawrence College, positioned himself as a mentor to her friends, and basically started a cult.

The team discusses the need for contextual disclosures of reporter-subject relationships, the pleasure of discussing magazine journalism with friends, and reporting as a finished product versus a tool for further intellectual property sales.

9:35 In Conversation: Anjelica Huston
(Andrew Goldman, May 1, 2019, Vulture)

“Sometimes I think that interviews can be sort of boring or sometimes celebrity profiles can be sort of boring but this one was great. At one point she’s asked what makes good cocaine.”

The Longreads team discusses Huston’s relationships with, and current takes on Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and Jeffrey Tambor in light of the #MeToo movement and whether it’s difficult for women to be frank about the misbehaviour of men. They also muse about Huston’s relationships with Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson and her father, as well as her evocative description of the 70s. Finally, they touch on the behind-the-scenes craft of celebrity interviews and how they come together.

Huston’s two memoirs are A Story Lately Told and Watch Me: A Memoir.

16:26 The Raisin Situation (Jonah Engel Bromwich, April 27, 2019, The New York Times)

A look at Harry Overly, the CEO of Sun-Maid Raisins, and his attempts to grow the raisin industry, including getting millennials to eat raisins. The piece examines how the industry works and the relationships between growers in and around Fresno and the California Central Valley and raisin companies. Overly is the central character and hero of the story, perhaps at the expense of some other possible directions.

18:50 The Big Business of Spring Water (Katy Kelleher, April 2019, Topic)

The team discusses specialty water, theories of labour, value and property, and how things that are good enough for everybody, like public water, vary in their quality. They also discuss the raw water movement and reference Nellie Bowles’ New York Times piece, “Unfiltered Fervor: The Rush to get off the Water Grid.

27:33 The Heart Still Stands (Elizabeth Flock, April 2019, The Atavist)

“It’s a story about love, it’s a story about distrust, and about broken promises, which are very sort of historic, inherent to the relationship between Native Americans, indigenous people, and governments.”

On the third anniversary of Standing Rock, The Atavist shares the story of Red Fawn Fallis, an Oglala Lakota Sioux woman arrested while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and charged with attempted murder for allegedly firing a handgun at officers who had tackled her. The gun belonged to her boyfriend at the time who turned out to be working as an FBI informant. Reporter Elizabeth Flock gives context to this relationship and the history of the FBI use of informants going back to the 1960s and 70s with the American Indian Movement.

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