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Catherine Cusick
Catherine Cusick is a writer, editor, and digital audience strategist based in Austin, Texas.

15 True Crime Longreads and the Questions We Should Ask Ourselves When Reading Them

(Armin Weigel/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

“I think one of the reasons these stories are so popular — and they’ve been very popular since long before whatever true crime boom we’re currently in,” Rachel Monroe notes while discussing her book Savage Appetites, on our cultural fascination with crime, is that “they’re very emotionally engaging.”

“Whenever we’re telling these stories,” Monroe continues, “we’re participating in that emotional, social, political conversation, whether we want to admit it or not.”

For all that we can stream entire seasons of docudramas in a single day, true crime stories often take years to report out and get right. Whether the person facing the facts of any given case is a staff writer or a law enforcement official, even full-time, invested professionals can lack the bandwidth or the resources to investigate every life story that crosses their desks, with the undivided attention each of those lives deserves.

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8 Longreads by Will Storr on the Science of Storytelling

Author Will Storr (Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Getty Images)

“People change, don’t they?” journalist and author Will Storr asks at the beginning of an Aeon essay called “Plot Twist.” That question has been at the heart of Storr’s writing for years now, a question he carries with him throughout so many of his investigations into science, belief, and the human impulse to tell stories.

Storr has a knack for starting with a simple statement that anyone can intuitively understand, then revealing how deceptive both simplicity and intuition can be. Storr’s willingness to challenge even his most basic assumptions appears most often in his stories as curiosity, which he brings anew to all of his conversations with sometimes desperate story subjects who find themselves facing some of life’s most serious consequences.

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25 Movies and the Magazine Stories That Inspired Them

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez on the set of 'Hustlers' in New York City. (Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

As more publications pursue blockbuster stories with film and television potential, producers in Hollywood and the magazine industry are taking their inspiration from successful article-to-film adaptations of the past that have achieved box office success.

Here are 25 gold-standard film adaptations of magazine articles, published over the course of half a century as cover stories, features, or breaking news, as well as direct links to read all 25 stories online.

Legacy magazines with well-known print editions dominate this list, as do the nonfiction writers that legacy magazines accept and champion. Many of these writers’ names will be familiar to readers, as will the majority of the magazines and films themselves, in many cases because celebrated journalists inspired these major motion pictures at the peak of their careers as writers and reporters. Name recognition in one industry reinforces name recognition in another, and — despite the incredible diversity of feature-length nonfiction being published today by new voices most mainstream audiences have yet to discover — institutional support still tends to elevate known veterans.

While the talents of all of the writers on this list are undeniable, there are also well-documented structural biases that account for why so many of the writers represented here are overwhelmingly male, white, or Susan Orlean. These stories belong on any narrative nonfiction syllabus on their own merit, but I hope these samples are still just the beginning, and that new filmmakers and magazine writers can start to work together far more often on a greater breadth of material, with sufficient editorial guidance and studio backing to support them.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I’ve limited this roundup to favor adaptations (loosely defined) based primarily on magazine-style features, including only a couple of films based on award-winning newspaper investigations. The list of new film and television adaptations based on popular books or podcasts, let alone reporting that has helped support the explosion in streaming documentary formats, would run even longer.

It takes time, access, imagination, and resources to be able to realize ambitious true stories like these in their original form as narrative magazine features. It would be a welcome change to see greater diversity in the production pipeline in the coming years: in the subjects of narrative stories, in the publications considered for exclusive source material, in the creative teams that are given studio support, in the agencies brokering deals, in the awards and recognition that elevate new work, and in the storytellers who are given the resources to write long.

Writers are the lifeblood of all of these industries, and will always play a pivotal role in any production that is based on a true story.

* * *

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Based on Can You Say…Hero? by Tom Junod (Esquire, 1998)

Once upon a time, a man named Fred Rogers decided that he wanted to live in heaven. Heaven is the place where good people go when they die, but this man, Fred Rogers, didn’t want to go to heaven; he wanted to live in heaven, here, now, in this world, and so one day, when he was talking about all the people he had loved in this life, he looked at me and said, “The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is, Tom. We make so many connections here on earth. Look at us—I’ve just met you, but I’m investing in who you are and who you will be, and I can’t help it.”

Hustlers (2019)

Based on The Hustlers at Scores by Jessica Pressler (The Cut, 2015)

While evolutionary theory and The Bachelor would suggest that a room full of women hoping to attract the attention of a few men would be cutthroat-competitive, it’s actually better for strippers to work together, because while most men might be able keep their wits, and their wallets, around one scantily clad, sweet-smelling sylph, they tend to lose their grip around three or four. Which is why at Hustler, as elsewhere, the dancers worked in groups.

Beautiful Boy (2018)

Based on My Addicted Son by David Sheff (The New York Times Magazine, 2005)

Nick now claims that he was searching for methamphetamine for his entire life, and when he tried it for the first time, as he says, “That was that.” It would have been no easier to see him strung out on heroin or cocaine, but as every parent of a methamphetamine addict comes to learn, this drug has a unique, horrific quality. In an interview, Stephan Jenkins, the singer in the band Third Eye Blind, said that methamphetamine makes you feel “bright and shiny.” It also makes you paranoid, incoherent and both destructive and pathetically and relentlessly self-destructive. Then you will do unconscionable things in order to feel bright and shiny again. Nick had always been a sensitive, sagacious, joyful and exceptionally bright child, but on meth he became unrecognizable.

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A Tribute to Lynn Cohen, 1933-2020

Actress Lynn Cohen attends the 2011 Lilly Awards at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. (Bruce Glikas / Getty Images)

Most fans first saw Lynn Cohen 20 years ago in Season 3 of Sex and the City, in an episode called “Attack of the Five Foot Ten Woman.” After rearranging all of Miranda’s mugs, Magda’s first order of business as the new cleaning lady is to advise Miranda to make more pies. Her second is to replace Miranda’s vibrator with a statue of the Virgin Mary

Magda might have been introduced as a loveless scold on paper, but after ten years of playing her on television and in film, Lynn’s performance elevated Magda to an extension of Miranda’s family. Behind the scenes — on sets around the world, and especially at home in New York — Lynn frequently welcomed new friends into an extended family of her own.

I first met Lynn more than a decade ago in Poughkeepsie. I was interning for New York Stage and Film’s 2007 Powerhouse Season, which NYSAF produces every summer to incubate new work in development. I was assisting on a reading Lynn was doing with Sybille Pearson, Leigh Silverman, and Kathleen Chalfant. 

Theater professionals almost always work together on one project and then never again, but you get to know each other fast. Lynn was the queen of that kind of at-will intimacy with new blood. She went straight for the youngest people in the room to get all the gossip, and immediately befriended me and my best friends from college. She called us “my guys.” Lynn would admit the next generation into this posse on a rolling basis. Jennifer Lawrence became one of her guys, too.

Lynn loved her husband Ron fiercely, a devotion she often expressed by teasing him relentlessly. In an interview after their collaboration on Rivka Bekerman-Greenberg’s play Eavesdropping On Dreams in 2012, Lynn describes meeting Ronny 150 years ago, before offering a second opinion on the length of their relationship: “We try to keep it very loose.” 

Actress Lynn Cohen and her husband Ronald Cohen celebrate at a party for the premiere of “The Jimmy Show” on December 12, 2002 at Kanvas Bar & Lounge in New York City. (Myrna Suarez / Getty Images)

Ron and Lynn’s marriage lasted 56 years, which Lynn spent practicing her comedy routine as an incorrigible flirt. “You think you reach a certain age and you never have to worry about wearing a wetsuit,” she quipped on The Couch, winking conspiratorially at CBS New York’s John Elliott. Lynn thought most of her fellow actors were drop-dead gorgeous, and wasted no time saying so. (When her Hunger Games costar Stephanie Leigh Schlund tried to excuse Lynn’s flattery as Lynn just being sweet, Lynn didn’t miss a beat: “I am sweet, yes.”) She was always flirting with someone, and if you were in her crosshairs, it was you. 

Lynn was a commanding presence, a feminine powerhouse with a physical mastery of technique that she refined continuously. Her age contributed to her energy, granting her exclusive access to characters with decades of life experience. She was so youthful and sassy and probing and funny in person, it was sometimes easy to forget that she was also doing next-level work at a breakneck pace well into her 80s. Whether she was playing Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in Spielberg’s Munich or Philip Seymour Hoffman’s mother in Synecdoche, New York, Lynn’s past work steadily earned her offers of future work. IMDB lists half a dozen of her projects that are still in post-production and haven’t been released yet. Right up until the end, she was booking gigs back-to-back-to-back.

Lynn was a born comedian, but her profound range was grounded in critical thinking about the human condition. She would acknowledge humor’s relationship with suffering on a dime. One of our mentors described Lynn as “holding court” whenever she’d join us for lunch, but she’d interrupt her own clowning to stress just how much an education in drama would help us anticipate life’s unforgiving surprises. She’d hug us three at a time, laughing to punctuate her opinions, but she was careful with her advice.

Lynn happened to be an actor’s actor and a director’s actor, but her fluency with language and nuance hinted that she was in it for the writing. She knew more about new work than most emerging playwrights and screenwriters, and dedicated the better part of her life to workshopping writers’ earliest drafts. She loved female-driven stories almost as much as she loved female-driven creative teams, and she devoted her career to honoring women who were determined to survive. “Women always have to fight for everything,” Lynn would say, hoping to encounter the same traits in scripted characters that she practiced for decades herself: “Intelligence, sexuality, strength, ‘til the day you die.”

I thought of Lynn as my role model for how to age, so I don’t fully know how to describe my first reaction to her death — there’s grief, clearly, but there’s no sadness. I only feel lucky. She lived a towering life, full of achievement and love and joie de vivre, and her legacy requires celebration. 

A proper tribute to Lynn wouldn’t be complete without a nod to her impeccable timing. Of course she died on Valentine’s Day. Of course she died on an unforgettable day to lose someone you love.

Downsizing in the Shadow of Disaster

Ghost Ship warehouse fire memorial mural
Local artist Norman Vogue works on a mural dedicated to the victims of the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, California. The mural includes the names of the 36 people killed in the fire. (Anda Chu / Bay Area News Group / Getty Images)

In Harper’s Magazine, Wes Enzinna writes about living in a 32-square-foot shack behind a friend’s ex-boyfriend’s house in Oakland in 2016, the year of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire. Struggling to find personal solutions they can afford amidst the country’s worst housing crisis, Enzinna and his friends try to live within their means by downsizing what they need to live and dwelling in dangerous makeshift spaces that threaten their health, well-being, and, when disaster strikes, their lives.

“It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out,” George Orwell wrote in Down and Out in Paris and London. “You have talked so often of going to the dogs—and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.”

The powerful thing about smallness, it occurred to me, isn’t actually smallness for its own sake—the point, instead, is a matter of scale. If you reduce the size of your life enough, then the smallest change can be a profound improvement. Yet the hardest thing is to recognize your smallness without being diminished by it. In my shack I was always balancing that tension—I didn’t want to become so small that I disappeared, I just wanted to hide for a little while.

Everyone was sick with sadness following the fire. I saw survivors at bars, their eyebrows singed off. I chatted with old pals at parties and realized they were talking about their girlfriends or boyfriends in the past tense, as if they were ghosts, because they were. There was talk of suicide, songs about suicide, attempts at suicide that failed and attempts that succeeded. Jenny cried every time we hung out.

In the end, I lived in the shack for eleven months. It shrank to the size of a cage. Living like an animal was no longer liberating. I grew tired of waking up in damp, soiled T-shirts. The weeds by my bed grew head-high. The skunk birthed a litter and left me. My mind a fog, I kept accidentally kicking over my pee jar. Living on so little had exacted a heavy toll.

Being down-and-out is cheap, sure, but the things you do to stand it become expensive, whether drink, drugs, or whatever other vice gets you through the night.

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The Living Nightmare of Homeownership

House obscured by fog
Toomas Tuul/FOCUS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Katy Kelleher, whose work readers will recognize from her popular Longreads series on the ugly history of beautiful things, has a new piece in Curbed on the ugly history of homeownership — and why the manmade dream of owning a home haunts so many prospective homebuyers.

A 30-year time horizon seems almost impossible to imagine anywhere now, but I did once live out the anachronism of coming home to the same house for more than a quarter of a century. The specter of security that I associate with my since-demolished childhood home follows me from apartment to apartment, dangling the emotional logic of future homeownership over most of the choices I make. I ask myself daily, almost unconsciously, what it might take to reconstruct that feeling, whether any home can fill the role that house played in comforting me as a child. A decade after the housing crisis, the idea of accessing emotional stability through homeownership still sounds like so much marketing copy.

Despite years of setbacks and disappointments, my husband and I haven’t wholly abandoned our mission to escape the rental market, but we’re still millennials. We’re both self-employed in precarious industries that do not look good on paper. The size of the downpayment we’d need continues to rise while ballooning rents and healthcare costs erode our ability to save. And like so many of our peers, our vision of homeownership has permanently shifted to accommodate the warnings from the scientific community. Over time, regional housing markets are destined to undergo painful, unpredictable adjustments to climate-driven migration. That beachfront property actually isn’t going to appreciate, no matter what Miami real estate agents may say.

Emotionally, I still imagine living out the length of another mortgage with my family. But I can also read the writing on the proverbial seawall. My generation’s housing choices are necessarily limited; we all need to take far more into account than just our own private emotions, means, and finances. We can hardly afford to let the built environment stand, as it is. Most homes weren’t constructed to weather ahistorical climate conditions. The majority of our buildings were not constructed to support nature; to protect the health, safety, or welfare of people; to generate energy; or to sustain life. Until the construction of ecological housing is put within reach of everyone, previous generations’ outsized monuments to privacy will continue to threaten global health, haunting would-be buyers who can’t even afford to set foot inside them.

If the filmic nightmare of homeownership has looked, so far, like the claustrophobic fear of being trapped, the living nightmare of homeownership is shapeshifting to confirm the childhood terror of being forever locked out.

There are two different tales we tell ourselves about houses. The primary story is not about ghosts or demons or red rooms or ghouls, but rather about bright futures, long lives, children, grandchildren, and hard-earned success. The second story, the darker story, is about the horror of being trapped. Throughout American history, these stories have existed side by side. For people with the resources to buy in, one once felt more “real” than the other, but as we learned after the real estate crash of 2008, there’s truth to be found in both of them, especially for members of the cash-poor, dream-rich millennial generation.

…most of our desires are culturally rooted, shaped by a set of factors beyond our control. They don’t spring into being organically. I own a house in the woods for reasons other than my husband’s dreams or my own vision of myself as a future radical homemaker. I own out here because I can’t own in Portland, because the market is rising too quickly in the city, because I couldn’t buy in Boston, because I watched the real estate crash decimate my mother’s savings, because I feel the same anxieties as my peers. I’m afraid that a more expensive house in a more convenient area would put me into debt should the market experience another massive failure. I’m afraid that I could become trapped in one place, unable to sell, unable to move, haunting my own home and dreaming of mobility.

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1000 Days of Trump

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

It’s been 1000 days.

I doubt the definitive retrospective on this presidency and administration will ever exist. No one book or story, no matter how long, will be able to cover this kaleidoscopic history — let alone its fallout — in its entirety.

Three months after Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, we shared a collection of longreads from Trump’s first 100 days in office in an attempt to capture a cross-section of some of the early, often breathless stories that came out of that hectic period of adjustment (and refusals to adjust). The month after, we looked back even further, examining his war with the past.

Here are some of the longreads from Trump’s first 1000 days that Longreads editors and contributors chose as some of the best political writing of each year, as well as all the stories about the presidency and the administration that headed up our Top 5 Longreads of the Week emails since Trump’s inauguration.

1. Donald Trump: He Was Made in America (Kirsten West Savali, The Root)

The question is not “Where did Donald Trump come from?” It’s “Where have our so-called allies been?” It is not “Why is he resonating with so many people?” Rather, it’s “How could he not?”

But we already know the answer to that.

“I don’t trust any journalist in the world more that Kirsten West Savali,” Kiese Laymon wrote in 2016, when he picked this story as one of the best political analyses of that year. Written eight months before the election, Laymon singled this piece out for making it clear “to any one willing to listen what this nation was going to do on November 2” — and for anticipating so many clear answers to questions that are somehow still being asked years later.

2. The First White President (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic)

“Few writers have done more to expose the racist truth of the Trump presidency than Ta-Nehisi Coates,” Longreads Founder Mark Armstrong wrote while highlighting this excerpt from We Were Eight Years in Power as some of the best political writing of 2017:

Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.

While reading one of its most iconic passages, Longreads editor and writer Danielle Jackson shares how this segment from Coates’ excerpt echoes James Baldwin’s commentary in the 1964 documentary Take This Hammer, on “the creation of a class of pariahs in America.”

3. The Loneliness of Donald Trump (Rebecca Solnit, LitHub)

The opposite of people who drag you down isn’t people who build you up and butter you up. It’s equals who are generous but keep you accountable, true mirrors who reflect back who you are and what you are doing.

Solnit’s Grimm fairy tale was one of our No. 1 story picks for 2017. For another poetic retrospective, read Brit Bennett’s essay on “Trump Time” in Vogue:

In Trump Time, the clock moves backward. The feeling that time itself is reversing might be the most unsettling aspect of a most unsettling year. What else is Make America Great Again but a promise to re-create the past? Through his campaign slogan, Trump seizes the emotional power of nostalgia, conjuring a glorious national history and offering it as an alternative to an uncertain future. He creates a fantasy for his base of white Americans but a threat for many others. After all, in what version of the past was America ever great for my family? “The good ol’ days?” my mother always says. “The good ol’ days for who?”

4. Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway (Michael Kruse, Politico)

He said he was going to bring back the steel mills.

“You’re never going to get those steel mills back,” she said.

“But he said he was going to,” I said.

“Yeah, but how’s he going to bring them back?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “but it’s what he said, last year, and people voted for him because of it.”

“They always say they want to bring the steel mills back,” Frear said, “but they’re going to have to do a lot of work to bring the steel mills back.”

He hasn’t built the wall yet, either. “I don’t care about his wall,” said Frear, 76. “I mean, if he gets his wall—I don’t give a shit, you know? But he has a good idea: Keep ’em out.”

He also hasn’t repealed Obamacare. “That’s Congress,” she said.

And the drug scourge here continues unabated. “And it’s not going to improve for a long time,” she said, “until people learn, which they won’t.”

“But I like him,” Frear reiterated. “Because he does what he says.”

Chris Smith, author of The Daily Show (The Book), contributor to Vanity Fair, and contributing editor at New York Magazine picked Kruse’s story as one of Longreads’ Best of 2017. Longreads Editor in Chief Mike Dang also selected it as an editor’s pick, alongside Adam Davidson’s New Yorker story,Donald Trump’s Worst Deal.”

5. I Walked From Selma To Montgomery (Rahawa Haile, BuzzFeed)

Rahawa Haile’s story on hiking the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail was one of our No. 1 stories for 2018:

On Feb. 9, 2017, 20 days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence as attorney general. The travesty of that sentence, the sinister potential of it more than a year later, fuels my anxiety still. It is the reason why, mere months after returning from the Appalachian Trail, I emailed my father on Feb. 22, 2017, to see if he might be interested in meeting me in Alabama for a thru-hike of sorts. I wanted to walk from Selma to Montgomery — following in the footsteps of the civil rights marchers who had come before me — to protest Jeff Sessions’ entire political career, specifically his most recent and wildly dangerous appointment as the head of the Department of Justice. […] I traveled to Selma, Alabama, because I had to, because no other walk on Earth made sense to me, or my rage, at a time when walking was the only activity for which my despair made a small hollow. And fam, let’s be clear — I did it for us.

6. How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump (Jane Mayer, The New Yorker)

Jane Mayer has written several blockbuster stories on the Trump administration, including this year’s “Fox & Friends” and 2017’s “The Danger of President Pence.” Here was another of our No. 1 stories for 2018:

Jamieson said that, as an academic, she hoped that the public would challenge her arguments. Yet she expressed confidence that unbiased readers would accept her conclusion that it is not just plausible that Russia changed the outcome of the 2016 election—it is “likely that it did.” […]

Her case is based on a growing body of knowledge about the electronic warfare waged by Russian trolls and hackers—whom she terms “discourse saboteurs”—and on five decades’ worth of academic studies about what kinds of persuasion can influence voters, and under what circumstances. Democracies around the world, she told me, have begun to realize that subverting an election doesn’t require tampering with voting machines. Extensive studies of past campaigns, Jamieson said, have demonstrated that “you can affect people, who then change their decision, and that alters the outcome.” She continued, “I’m not arguing that Russians pulled the voting levers. I’m arguing that they persuaded enough people to either vote a certain way or not vote at all.”

7. Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father (Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and David Barstow, The New York Times)

Last year’s ground-breaking investigation into the potentially illegal financial schemes, tax evasions, and grandiose lies employed by the Trump family was one of our No. 1 stories for 2018.

President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes.

8. Hideous Men (E. Jean Carroll, The Cut)

E. Jean Carroll’s excerpt from her memoir, What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal was one of this year’s No. 1 stories:

Which brings me to the other rich boy. Before I discuss him, I must mention that there are two great handicaps to telling you what happened to me in Bergdorf’s: (a) The man I will be talking about denies it, as he has denied accusations of sexual misconduct made by at least 15 credible women, namely, Jessica Leeds, Kristin Anderson, Jill Harth, Cathy Heller, Temple Taggart McDowell, Karena Virginia, Melinda McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Jessica Drake, Ninni Laaksonen, Summer Zervos, Juliet Huddy, Alva Johnson, and Cassandra Searles. (Here’s what the White House said:  “This is a completely false and unrealistic story surfacing 25 years after allegedly taking place and was created simply to make the President look bad.”) And (b) I run the risk of making him more popular by revealing what he did.

Further listening: The Daily covers this story in “Corroborating E. Jean Carroll,” which Longreads editors discuss on an episode of the Longreads Podcast, “All Things Being Unequal.”

Fox & Friends in High Places

Bill Shine
Bill Shine, former co-president of Fox News, now director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

For The New Yorker, Jane Mayer chronicles how the revolving door of personnel between Fox News celebrities and the Trump administration has turned Fox into something like state TV and the White House into its one-trick ratings pony. (The trick is using fear as a business strategy.)

Mayer focuses on Bill Shine — the former co-president of Fox News and current director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House — and his well-documented history helping to create hostile workplaces as one of Roger Ailes‘s key enablers.

Shine led Fox News’ programming division for a dozen years, overseeing the morning and evening opinion shows, which collectively get the biggest ratings and define the network’s conservative brand. Straight news was not within his purview. In July, 2016, Roger Ailes, the co-founder and C.E.O. of Fox, was fired in the face of numerous allegations of chronic sexual harassment, and Shine became co-president. But within a year he, too, had been forced out, amid a second wave of sexual-harassment allegations, some of them against Fox’s biggest star at the time, Bill O’Reilly. Shine wasn’t personally accused of sexual harassment, but several lawsuits named him as complicit in a workplace culture of coverups, payoffs, and victim intimidation.

Shine, who has denied any wrongdoing, has kept a low profile at the White House, and rejects interview requests, including one from this magazine. But Kristol contends that Shine’s White House appointment is a scandal. “It’s been wildly under-covered,” he said. “It’s astounding that Shine—the guy who covered up Ailes’s horrible behavior—is the deputy chief of staff!”

But at least four civil lawsuits against Fox have named Shine as a defendant for enabling workplace harassment. One of these cases, a stockholder lawsuit that Fox settled in 2017, for ninety million dollars, claimed that Ailes had “sexually harassed female employees and contributors with impunity for at least a decade” by surrounding himself “with loyalists”—including Shine. The suit faults Fox for spending fifty-five million dollars to settle such claims out of court.

The use of company funds for payoffs prompted a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan. In 2017, Shine was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, but instead he agreed to be interviewed by prosecutors. The criminal investigation seems to have been dropped after Ailes’s death, but Judd Burstein, an attorney whose client was interviewed by prosecutors, told me, “I don’t think someone can be a serial sexual abuser in a large organization without enablers like Shine.”

Two months after Shine left Fox, Hannity became a matchmaker, arranging a dinner with the President at the White House, attended by himself, Shine, and Scaramucci, at that time Trump’s communications director. Hannity proposed Shine as a top communications official, or even as a deputy chief of staff. A year later, Shine was both.

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When Accepting Support Feels Like Becoming a Burden

Elderly Care
Raquel Cuellar / Getty Images

In an essay for Topic called “The Color of Money” — part of a series on how a financial windfall can change your life — Ijeoma Oluo writes about receiving her first large royalty check for her book, So You Want to Talk About Race. Oluo tells a fellow black writer that she wants to use the $70,000 to buy her mother a home, but her mom isn’t as excited about that dream as she is.

“Your mom’s white, right?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I answered, still not getting it.

He nodded like I just answered my own question. “White people don’t buy their parents homes. They put their parents in homes.”

I laughed. Of course that wasn’t true. I had white friends who took care of their aging parents. Plenty of them. Furthermore, I was pretty sure that after 37 years, I had already encountered all of the different nuances of my mom’s whiteness.

But his words lingered in my head, and I began to understand what was at the heart of what he was saying. My mom wanted my siblings and me to be proud of our blackness, and she tried to make sure that we were not lacking in black culture because we had a white mom. We saw every movie with a black character, went to every black and West African community event, listened to all the most popular black musicians. So it is no surprise that my dream of walking my mom into a new home I had just bought was a scene straight from countless movies and hip-hop videos. Black success was a black family’s success. A black community’s success. You’d help your brother, your sister, your cousins—but first and foremost, you’d help your momma.

I didn’t get the same messaging about success from white American culture. What I learned about white success was that those who earned enough to be comfortable became not only independent, but isolated. They’d move to another town and set up their own families away from their old ones. They’d visit on holidays. They’d never borrow money, and the only money they’d share would be in the form of a loan to younger relatives to help them on their way to financial independence. (Eventually, when those younger relatives found success, they could fully pay you back and move away to their own home.)

I thought about whether any of my white friends were proud to be able to help their families financially. Few were. Many were embarrassed for themselves and their parents.

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This Month in Podcasts: Innocent Until Proven Grifty

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Let’s start right off the bat with a correction:

When our team introduced the Longreads Podcast last month, I opened the series by saying that on April 17, 2009, Mark Armstrong tweeted the tweet that launched a decade of #longreads, noting (for the comedy!) that this auspicious announcement had only been retweeted twice.

But now that I’ve listened to our first roundtable episode on fact-checking — and Mark has since helpfully reminded me that, in the spring of 2009, Twitter hadn’t formally rolled out native retweets yet — I would like to redress my cavalier lack of rigor by issuing a belated correction. Because lo and behold, he was right: retweets weren’t formally introduced as a native feature on Twitter until November 2009.

So more than two people retweeted that first tweet! It was more like four.

More importantly, the first attempted retweet appears to have graced Twitter on April 17, 2007. So not only does this first monthly podcast newsletter give me a chance to set the record straight, the checking process has given me the additional gift of discovering that retweets and @Longreads have the same birthday! (Is running an account according to its zodiac sign the next frontier in social? Should I be reading @Longreads‘ horoscope? Are you an Aries? Talk to me at

So to celebrate Longreads’ tenth birthday in two months, we’ve decided to follow up Bundyville — just nominated for a National Magazine Award in Podcasting! — with a twice-weekly podcast in 2019. Every Tuesday, we run a narrative feature or recent interview as an audio companion to Longreads’ original reporting, essays, and criticism. Every Friday, we host an editors’ roundtable, where Longreads editors discuss what we’ve been reading and nominate stories for the Top 5 Longreads of the Week.

In this first month of roundtables, we’ve covered antidotes to hot takes, rethinking what you “know,” revisiting overlooked and underreported stories, investigating even the more innocent-seeming grifters, and processing discomfort in the face of climate denial. Here are links to all five of our first feature episodes:

Living With Dolly Parton

In Conversation with Doree Shafrir: Dress You Up in My Love

Checking Facts in 2019: Fact-Checker Roundtable

Every Day I Write the Book

Poached Eggs: An American Caviar Crime Caper

I’d recommend starting with our most recent true crime feature on counterfeit caviar from David Gauvey Herbert, the aforementioned fact-checking episode, and our editors’ roundtable on the latest in long cons.

If you’d like to receive new episodes as they air, you can subscribe here on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Tune in tomorrow morning to hear Lily Burana read from her recent Longreads original essay, “Elegy in Times Square,” and Friday morning to hear what Longreads editors have been reading in the run-up to this week’s Top 5.

Just 59 days until Longreads turns 10! Count down with us at

Thanks for listening!

Audience Editor
Catherine Cusick (@CusickCatherine)

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