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The resurgence of long-form journalism - quantity versus quality

by AirTalk®

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The New Yorker magazine's October 15 edition is diplayed in an Upper East Side newstand in New York on October 9, 2012. The New Yorker has created a cover illustration, titled “One on One,” by Barry Blitt of the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and GOP opponent Mitt Romney that seems to be a parody of Clint Eastwood‘s speech involving an empty chair at the Republican National Convention. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Think long-form journalism and you might think The New Yorker, Los Angeles Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, The Texas Monthly, but the rise in the use of tablets and smartphones has helped bring the long form to the wide open space of the web. Online publications from BuzzFeed to Business Insider to POLITICO are trying their hands at the genre, and sites like and Atavist have sprung up to cater to and curate for readers who appreciate the form.

What kind of pieces best lend themselves to being told in the long form? What are the qualities of the genre? Given that a long word count doesn’t always mean in-depth reporting, how should writers and editors balance readability and the impulse to go long? As a reader, have you ever started a 7,000-word piece only to abandon it midway because of the daunting length?


Gabriel Kahn, Professor at USC and the Director of the schools’ Future of Journalism project at the Annenberg Innovation Lab. Kahn was at The Wall Street Journal for a decade reporting Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Rome.

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