I’ve heard the arguments much too many times to count. Facebook splinters human attention. Twitter lowers the literary standard to what we can spew out on the way down the escalator to take the tube, spelled in SMS English, with the thought investment of a catchline from an impotence infomercial. The death of journalism as instant news and burns the crafted article at the altar of the here and now.
Well, it’s all bunkum. A full reparte to this general propaganda will wait for a time when I have more time. Suffice to stay, that it is not the duration of attention that has dropped, but the quality of attention that has risen. It is not the intellectual investment in the word that has reduced, but the ideas and methodologies of the writing which deserve full intellectual investment has reduced. The quality of thought is not strained. It has been distilled.
One such form, and the focus of this post, is a recent discovery of mine – Long Form Journalism. In essence, journalistic work far too large for the standard 600-words-ish magazine / newspaper article and of course much too short to be a book. Articles which, unlike the standard-issue state-and-embellish-the-facts-and-report idea of journalism, develops a story. Stories of the journalistic method, of the stories behind events, of the evolution that which are deemed to be considered news.
A good example is the story of Air France Flight 447. A veritable Illiad of an article, it covers the mysterious circumstances of the crash, the ongoing search, and even the commercial / political fallout of the crash. It clocks in at over seven thousand words.
Another example, one which is destined to pull the heartstrings of every cricket, nay, every sports fan around, is the Saga of an American journalist from ESPN visiting India and his coverage of the Cricket World Cup. It is a truly masterful rendition of what cricket means to this nation, the cultural iconography of Sachin Tendulkar, the evolution of the game and its future fate(s). In terms of length, this too is a monstrous article.
Even I would not be so bold as to attempt to summarize, at any level, such Epic works. It would be best, dear reader, if you read them for yourself. I will end here, and return to address both the Cricket article, and the argument at the beginning of this post at a later time.
One last thing: Amazon recently launched Kindle Singles – one-off pieces of longer fiction / non-fiction priced from $1 to $5. The latest in a series of sites riding (and building) the revival of Longform. More here. More from me once I get a good read of all these sites.