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Businessweek's Sheelah Kolhatkar: My Top 5 Longreads of 2011

Sheelah Kolhatkar is features editor at Bloomberg Businessweek.

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Some of my favorite non-Businessweek features that were published this year:

“Lost at Sea,” Jon Ronson, The Guardian

This piece combines a genre I love—the gritty crime story—with the utter weirdness of the cruise ship industry. Apparently people disappear from cruise ships all the time, but you usually don’t hear about it because the cruise lines keep it quiet. Ronson goes deep into the bizarre cruise culture as he tries to figure out what happened to Rebecca Coriam, who vanished from the Disney Wonder last March.

“All The Angry People,” George Packer, The New Yorker

This story accomplished what seemed almost impossible, at least from an editor’s perspective: it made a compelling narrative out of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in lower Manhattan. Even though OWS was being covered to death, this story—along with Bloomberg Businessweek’s own fine contribution, Drake Bennett’s profile of David Graeber—found a new angle on it and made it fresh and compelling.

“The Girl from Trails End,” Kathy Dobie, GQ

This devastating story just really stayed with me.

“California and Bust,” Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair

His piece about Iceland (“Wall Street on the Tundra”) is my favorite one he’s done about the global financial crisis, but Michael Lewis’s breakdown of the fiscal disaster that is California was his best in 2011. It really makes you think about the scary place we might be headed as a country, and the scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger is priceless.

“Lady, Where’s My Magazine**?” Ann Friedman

This is a parody, and it isn’t terribly long, so I’m not sure that it qualifies. But it is hilarious, and perfectly illustrates much of what is wrong with the publishing business.

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Longreads Best of 2016: Under-Recognized Stories

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We asked a few writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in various categories. Here, the best in under-recognized stories.

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Michael J. Mooney
Dallas-based freelance writer, co-director of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference.

You Are Not Going to Die Out Here: A Woman’s Terrifying Night in the Chesapeake (John Woodrow Cox, The Washington Post)

I saw this story posted and shared a few times when it first ran, but in the middle of an insane election cycle, it didn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. This is the tale of Lauren Connor, a woman who fell off a boat and disappeared amid the crashing waves of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s about the search to find her, by both authorities and her boyfriend, and about a woman whose life had prepared her perfectly for the kinds of challenges that would overwhelm most of us. This is a deadline narrative, but it’s crafted so well—weaving in background and character development at just the right moments, giving readers so many reasons to care—that you couldn’t stop reading if you wanted to.


Kara Platoni
A science reporter from Oakland, California, who teaches at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and is the author of We Have the Technology, a book about biohacking.

Michelle’s Case (Annie Brown, California Sunday)

A clear-eyed, thought-provoking retelling of Michelle-Lael Norsworthy’s long legal battle in hope of becoming the first American to receive sex-reassignment surgery while in prison. Her lawyers argued that the surgery was medically necessary and withholding it violated the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. But, they argued, rather than grant the surgery and set a legal precedent, the Department of Corrections instead ordered her parole. The piece is a nuanced take on what it’s like to transition in prison—at least 400 California inmates were taking hormone replacement therapy when the article was published in May—where trans women are vulnerable to sexual assault and survivors are placed in a kind of solitary confinement, stuck in limbo in a prison system where it’s unsafe for them to live with men, but they are generally not allowed to live with women. And it asks a bigger question: What kind of medical care must the state cover?


Azmat Khan
Investigative Reporter, New America Future of War Fellow.

Nameplate Necklaces: This Shit Is For Us (Collier Meyerson, Fusion)

At first, it may seem like a simple essay about cultural appropriation, but this opus on the nameplate necklace is so much more than that. It is a beautiful ode to black and brown fashion. It is a moving history of how unique names became a form of political resistance to white supremacy. And it is the biting reality check Carrie Bradshaw so desperately needed. Read more…

Longreads Best of 2016: Business & Tech Reporting

best-of-2016_business-tech

We asked a few writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in various categories. Here, the best in business and tech reporting. Read more…

Longreads Best of 2016: Here Are All of Our No. 1 Story Picks from This Year

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All through December, we’ll be featuring Longreads’ Best of 2016. To get you ready, here’s a list of every story that was chosen as No. 1 in our weekly Top 5 email.

If you like these, you can sign up to receive our free weekly email every Friday. Read more…

Confessions of an Instagram Influencer

Longreads Pick

Can an agency turn anyone into an Instagram star? Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Max Chafkin volunteers to find out.

Published: Nov 30, 2016
Length: 13 minutes (3,353 words)

A Nation Struggles to Find Common Ground

I can do nothing more than share this with you and pray that saner minds will prevail. This is beyond right and wrong; it’s about the principles we hold dear in this democracy. Recently a “friend” — whose face I’ve obscured to protect his privacy and right to free speech, however vile — posted this on Facebook: Read more…

Unattributed: A Reading List on Plagiarism

Image by ThePixelsFactory (CC BY-SA 4.0)

It’s been just over a day since the internet exploded with analyses, memes, and hashtags on Melania Trump’s liberal use of phrases from Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. The awkwardness of this particular case of (alleged) plagiarism will soon be drowned out by other stories. But debates around plagiarism never quite disappear: they touch on originality, authenticity, and property, concepts that are deeply linked to our modern sense of humanness.

Here are six meaty reads on plagiarism: from deep dives into infamous recent cases to essays that question the very possibility of writing that isn’t, to some extent, an act of unattributed borrowing.

1. “The Ecstasy of Influence.” (Jonathan Lethem, Harper’s, February 2007)

By now a postmodern classic, Lethem’s piece is a passionate, erudite defense of plagiarism — composed almost entirely of passages he himself lifted from other works.

Read more…

Little Government in the Big Woods

Illustration By: Katie Kosma

Mary Pilon | Longreads | July 2016 | 8 minutes (2,061 words)

 

Last May, and much to the disappointment of many “Little House on the Prairie” fans, Melissa Gilbert announced that she would be ending her bid for a congressional seat in Michigan’s 8th district.

Best known for playing Laura in the 1970s television adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s iconic series of books, Gilbert, a Democrat and former president of the Screen Actors Guild cited health problems as her reason from stepping away from the campaign.

But during her short-lived bid for elected office, many Michigan voters and fans of the “Little House” television show and books may not have realized that politics is far from anything new for the franchise. In fact, they’ve been integral since the books’ Depression-era genesis.

Given the wholesome, all-American image of “Little House,” the political history of the books may surprise some readers. Wilder, who was born in 1867 and published the first “Little House” book in 1932, was an impassioned hater of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal policies. In a letter, she once called Roosevelt a “dictator,” and like her journalist and politically-active daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, Wilder also maintained strongly anti-government views. Lane, along with Ayn Rand, is noted as one of the pioneers of the American libertarian movement. Read more…