Cannabis seedlings
Cannabis seedling. (Angela Weiss / Getty Images)

On our May 31, 2019 roundtable episode of the Longreads Podcast, Audience Editor Catherine Cusick, Head of Fact-checking Matt Giles, Senior Editor Krista Stevens, 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 Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN, Kotaku, and The Globe and Mail.

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1:04The Secret Oral History of Bennington: The 1980s’ Most Decadent College” (Lili Anolik, May 28, 2019, Esquire

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes somebody a genius at a young age… if I go on to become a genius, I will not be a young one.” —Kelly Stout

The team discusses Esquire’s oral history of Bennington College as told by Bret Easton Ellis, Donna Tart, Jonathan Lethem, and their contemporaries at the storied Vermont liberal arts college. They talk about literary celebrity, youthful genius, and reading pieces that feel like they’ve been written specifically for your own cultural touchstones.

4:32 ‘The Hills’ Made Reality TV What It Is. Now It’s Back. (Irina Aleksander, May 23, 2019, The New York Times Magazine)

“The cast members in ‘The Hills’ reboot are the LA Lakers of reality TV.” —Matt Giles

Irina Aleksander goes long on the seminal reality show’s reboot. The team talks about the shift from ’90s reality shows like The Real World to the Reality 2.0 shows that emerged in the early aughts, as well as the tension between being a “serious person” and watching certain reality television. They also speculate about MTV’s bridging of fiction and “real life” by casting The OC’s Mischa Barton, and Matt pulls off a masterful one-to-one comparison of every Hills character to his or her NBA Lakers counterpart. LC is obviously Kobe.

11:06 Lakers 2.0: The failed reboot of the NBA’s crown jewel (Baxter Holmes, May 28, 2019, ESPN)

“Really well-written explanatory journalism, that also happened to be about a workplace drama.” —Catherine Cusick

ESPN’s look at how dysfunction has plagued the Lakers this season breaks down the complexities of team dynamics in a way that makes it accessible beyond the realm of NBA fans. Holmes brings personality clashes, leadership, and management discussions to life in a way that reminds both readers and fans that sports teams are also workplaces for hundreds of people.

15:44 Shady Numbers And Bad Business: Inside The Esports Bubble (Cecilia D’Anastasio, May 23, 2019, Kotaku)

“Who counts as a reader and what counts as a view… is reading something engagement? Is viewing something reading?” —Catherine Cusick

Cecilia D’Anastasio reports on the unregulated world of esports metrics, audience inflation, and who benefits from the narrative that esports is the next big thing. The team discusses the challenges of building and tracking an audience online, the conflict of self-reporting metrics in the absence of trusted third-party standards, and the implications for outsized investments that may have been based on inflated numbers. 

19:21 Canada’s saddest grow-op: My humiliating adventures in growing marijuana (Ian Brown, May 19, 2019, The Globe and Mail)

“Weed, it turns out, is very, very finicky to grow.” —Krista Stevens

After Canada’s legalization of marijuana last year, Ian Brown’s editor proposed that he try growing marijuana. Using a Grobo hydroponic kit that tracks growing conditions and automatically nourishes the plant, Brown decided to run his experiment at work — much to the chagrin of his colleagues, who hounded him about the smell. Was the end product up to snuff? 

The team discusses the generational stigma that can still surround marijuana use, as well as the importance of a journalist’s voice, humor, and personality in writing a successful DIY piece.

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