On our June 14, 2019 roundtable episode of the Longreads Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Mike Dang, Audience Editor Catherine Cusick, Senior Editor Kelly Stout, and Books Editor Dana Snitzky shared what they’ve been reading and nominated stories for the Weekly Top 5 Longreads.
This week, the editors discuss stories in New York Magazine, The New York Times, The Outline, and CrimeReads.
0:36 The I in We. (Reeves Wiedeman, June 10, 2019, New York Magazine)
“I have said it once, I will say it again: I want nothing to do with colonies on other planets run by start-upy white dudes.” – Kelly Stout
New York Magazine’s look at WeWork founder Adam Neumann and how, like other start-up founders before him, he has built a company based on cultural hegemony and a cult of personality. The team discusses the absurdity of late-stage capitalism as it is depicted in the piece, as well as the seemingly capitalist communism ideology behind WeWork, which seems to take all of the bad of communism, but none of the good. They also consider the jargon of start-ups and venture capital and question the use of the word ‘community’ as a misleading placeholder for the idea of a network.
12:05 The Making of a YouTube Radical. (Kevin Roose, June 8, 2019, The New York Times)
“How to get someone to revert or… I guess blue-pilling isn’t a thing?” – Mike Dang
“Throw up the red pill.” – Kelly Stout
How do you use the Youtube algorithm against right-wing radicals? That’s the question answered by this piece from The New York Times. It follows the story of Caleb Cain, a young, white 20-something who considered himself liberal, but then found himself falling prey to the entertaining tactics used by right-wing Youtubers to gain audiences.
The team discusses the now common refrain that Youtube’s algorithm is dangerous and questions whether it is possible to use it for good. They talk about how we can’t wait around for Youtube to fix the problem and how the left-wing Youtubers who emerge in the piece, mimick the successful aesthetic choices of the right-wing to win back audiences. The team also talks about the strange feeling of watching people you know change their political views drastically and about the challenges of having constructive conversations about privilege in our ‘shut down’ culture.
21:19 There is nothing more depressing than “positive news.” (Joanna Mang, June 12, 2019, The Outline)
“I feel like the question underneath it all is what do I do with mental health management in my news consumption?” – Catherine Cusick
The team weighs the dangers of the trend toward positive news as examined in this critique from the Outline. They talk about Mang’s observation that those who are making money off of “unlikely animal friends” and “dads who beatbox with their babies” are also passively encouraging distrust of news outlets that publish stories about society’s problems, and turning viewers away from having to do anything substantive in response. They consider the idea that bad news encourages a liberal world view by compelling readers to action whereas a retreat from this type of news is a retreat into conservatism. Lastly, they touch on how awareness of this plays into Longreads‘ weekly recommendations.
31:44 The Rise and Fall of the Bank Robbery Capital of the World. (Peter Houlahan, June 11, 2019, CrimeReads)
“I do really love pieces that can teach me something in that tone… in an entertaining way while still covering all the bases. That’s like the sweet spot.” – Catherine Cusick
In the ’80s in Los Angeles, a bank was robbed every hour of every day, reads the subhead to this book excerpt published by CrimeReads. The piece lays out the lesser-known history of a string of polite bank robberies in the ’80s and the convenience-oriented banks that located themselves next to freeway on-ramps, inadvertently creating the perfect getaway route for criminals. The team discusses using entertainment as an engagement technique and how when this is done in concert with sound reporting, it makes for an ideal Longreads pick.
* * *
Produced by Longreads and Charts & Leisure.