Tag Archives: journalism

An American in a Strange Land: A Journalist’s Tour of a Divided Country

Photo by LHOON (CC BY-SA 2.0)

After living abroad in cities like Beijing, New Delhi, and Rome and watching the United States from afar for more than a decade, New York Times correspondent Jim Yardley returns to find a country he doesn’t recognize.

This summer, I decided I wanted to explore this place that had become a foreign country to me. I didn’t understand what had happened since I left, why so many people seemed so disillusioned and angry. I planned a zigzag route, revisiting places where I once lived or worked, a 29-day sprint through 11 states (and four time zones). I knew I would be moving too fast to make any sweeping declaration about the state of America, and I wouldn’t ask people which presidential candidate they were voting for. I was more interested in why they were so anxious about the present and the future. I wanted to find out why the country was fragmenting rather than binding together. Most of all I wanted to see with my own eyes what had changed — and so much had changed.

Read the story

Marin Cogan On Political Reporting, Blogging, and Growing As a Journalist

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“My first campaign was in 2012, and I did that for GQ, and it was essentially a blog. I was on the trail covering it every single day, multiple times a day. So I was trained pretty narrowly as a political reporter. But I always had this ambition to be a magazine features writer, and after 2012 I tried to lay the groundwork of doing features, about politics but also about other things. …

“After spending a year at GQ covering the campaign — I had gone there with the idea that I was going to be a daily blogger on the campaign trail and also write these great longform features. And guess what? It’s really hard to blog every day, and also write longform features. So at the end of the year I was sort of looking I was like, ‘Well this was great, but I didn’t write anything that was like a classic magazine feature.’ I freelanced for about eight months and I just use that time to really establish myself as someone who could do the features because, for one, I wanted to know that I could do it. But I also wanted to say to other people, ‘Here’s the kind of writer I am.'”

-On my latest episode of the Kill Fee podcast (iTunes), I spoke with journalist Marin Cogan about her early career, and how she navigates the world of politics, sports, and beyond.

‘Let’s Suck This Week Less Than We Did Last Week’: An Oral History of The Stranger

(Left to right) Nancy Hartunian, Tim Keck, Dan Savage, Sean Hurley, James Sturm.

Amber Cortes | The Stranger | October 2016 | 15 minutes (3,636 words)

The StrangerTo celebrate its 25th anniversary, we’re proud to partner with The Stranger in featuring their oral history about the early days of the pioneering (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) independent newspaper. Read more from their 25th anniversary celebration here.

In July of 1991, Tim Keck moved to Seattle from Madison, Wisconsin, to launch a newspaper. He’d recruited a handful of friends and colleagues from the Onion, the satirical weekly he’d cofounded and recently sold (yes, that Onion), to help him conceive a new, irreverent publication—one which sent-up the weekly newspaper format and had equal doses of reporting and criticism as it did satire.

Among those who joined him were James Sturm, Peri Pakroo, Nancy Hartunian, Wm. Steven Humphrey, Christine Wenc, Johanna “Jonnie” Wilder, Matt Cook, Andy Spletzer, and, later, Dan Savage.

Armed mostly with hubris, a few thousand dollars, and three slow-as-fuck computers, they initially set their sights on appealing to University of Washington students, but quickly found their real audience among the queers and weirdos who (used to) populate Capitol Hill. Their coverage of Seattle was necessarily informed by their perspective as outsiders, transplants… (are you really going to make me say it?) strangers. 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…

Looking For a Killing: On the Ethics of Longform Reportage

Afghan soliders on patrol.

Now, imagine you’re on a mission with a platoon of Afghan soldiers in a valley that you know to be under the control of insurgents, and imagine your task is to show that fact. On the one hand, you don’t want the soldiers to be ambushed—what kind of person would want that?—but on the other, the only reason you came to that valley in the first place was the high likelihood that they’d be ambushed and your desire to be with them when they were. Which is to say, I think, that you do want them to be ambushed.

Writing in LitHub, journalist Luke Mogelson explores the darker side of what it means to do longform, on-the-ground reporting.

Read the full essay

How to Report on the Life of a 13-Year-Old

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There must be few journalistic feats more difficult than getting inside the head of a teenager. But with “13, Right Now,” Washington Post staff writer Jessica Contrera joins the ranks of reporters who have skillfully chronicled the lives of children and teens, including Susan Orlean (read her classic Esquire piece, “The American Man, Age 10”) and more recently, Andrea Elliott, whose “Invisible Child” for the New York Times in 2013 documented the life of an 11-year-old homeless girl named Dasani.

Contrera’s story focuses on Katherine, 13, whose life has been upended by the death of her mother, and whose world seems to increasingly exist inside her phone—through apps like Instagram and Snapchat. (As an #old myself, seeing Katherine’s life revolve around her social networks is shocking only in the way it mirrors the screen addiction of the American grown-up. It practically begs for the return of the “I learned it by watching you” meme.)

I spoke to Contrera about her story, which is one in an ongoing series (“The Screen Age”) that the Post will publish throughout the summer. Read more…

In Praise of Public Pitching

From Hunter S. Thompson's correspondence.

I’ve always been fascinated by how narrative journalism gets commissioned, reported, and published–but the most perplexing part of the entire system is the continued power imbalance between writers and publishers.

This imbalance persists in spite of the internet “democratizing” publishing. More digital publishers are embracing feature writing, but the process behind the scenes feels stuck in the past–a time-consuming marathon of unanswered emails and rejection. Read more…

Stories Make Us Human

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

They say language makes us human. That notion is being challenged as we discover that apes have language. Whales have language. I welcome them into our fold. I’m not threatened by them, quite frankly, because I think that stories make us human. Only by telling them do we stay so.

Stories are our prayers. Write and edit them with due reverence, even when the stories themselves are irreverent.
Stories are parables. Write and edit and tell yours with meaning, so each tale stands in for a larger message, each story a guidepost on our collective journey.
Stories are history. Write and edit and tell yours with accuracy and understanding and context and with unwavering devotion to the truth.
Stories are music. Write and edit and tell yours with pace and rhythm and flow. Throw in the dips and twirls that make them exciting, but stay true to the core beat. Readers hear stories with their inner ear.
Stories are our soul. Write and edit and tell yours with your whole selves. Tell them as if they are all that matters. It matters that you do it as if that’s all there is.

—Journalist Jacqui Banaszynski, in Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. The book’s essays are derived from presentations given at Harvard’s Nieman Conference on Narrative JournalismRead more…

We Are All Compromised: The Access Game Isn’t Dead Yet

Mark Zuckerberg

John Herrman’s excellent Awl series on the anxious state of the media business (featured in our latest Top 5) should be required reading for anyone who creates or consumes content on the internet. His conclusions—advertising models are sputtering, no one wants to pay for news, Facebook dictates the entire tenor of conversation and its subject matter—do so much to explain why we are inundated by media but largely unsatisfied with what floats to the surface. Come for Herrman’s dystopian vision—a future in which professional journalism is suffocated to death—and stay for the animated robot GIFs. Read more…

How the ACLU Came to Publish a Powerful Piece of Investigative Journalism

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“Out of the Darkness” is not an easy story to read. It chronicles how two psychologists who had previously devoted their careers to training US troops to resist abusive interrogation tactics teamed up with the CIA to devise a torture program and experiment on human beings. The story is a torrent of information artfully webbed into a fluid narrative, fleshed out with specific, vivid details. It has all the elements we’ve come to expect from strong investigative longform journalism, albeit from an unlikely outlet: The American Civil Liberties Union.

One doesn’t typically think of the ACLU as a journalism outlet, so I reached out to the story’s author, Noa Yachot, to hear more about how the piece came about, and the ACLU’s role as publisher (the story was also syndicated on Medium). Yachot is a communications strategist at the ACLU, and she spoke to Longreads via email. Read more…