Since I’ve managed to piss off some who think I’m killing the article (I’m not; instead I’m raising the bar, arguing that articles need a reason to exist and that reason is to bring new value not old facts), I might as well go to the next stage of Defcon-J and question another sacred construct:
In his smart continuation of the discussion about the fate, need, and requirements for the article, Jonathan Glick says that nuggets of news won’t have to be embedded into articles all the time and that frees journalists to add real value in the articles they write: context, analysis, perspective…. I agree with him except for one thing. He calls this…
I hear that more and more these days from journalists looking for safe harbor for their lengthy ambitions. But I think it’s a terrible description of the form.
Length does not equal intelligence, no matter what Nick Carr says. I know we’ve all read lots of long and stupid things. And I’ve read plenty of smart and short things.
Indeed, it’s harder to be short than to be long. Thanks to my editor’s picking at loose threads in my manuscript, I just cut more than 11,000 words out of Public Parts that I either shouldn’t have written or wrote only to think something through until I found the right expression of an idea.
When I used to write for publications, I tried to write 20% long and then it was in the editing and cutting that I really wrote, exchanging a better word for one only good enough, organizing more efficiently, getting rid of repetition,
excising excess. I certainly don’t always succeed but that’s the goal. That’s a key benefit of print (yes, there are benefits): The scarcity of space forces economy of thought. We don’t have that scarcity here online (what I find scarce is time to write).
I dread unleashing writers to believe that they can now be as long as they want and that that is the measure of their quality. Save us! I fear the label alone — long-form journalism, long-form writing — will encourage words for their own sake.
We need another description that better conveys the value and the goal.
Heavy journalism. No, that’s not too enticing.
Thick journalism. Triple entendre.
Perspective journalism. That means the journalist has to have one. Oh, no, that leads to whole ‘nother fight.
Analysis. I never much liked that, either. It says that the journalist can figure out things we can’t figure out. It also for too long has been used to excuse the journalist from the collection of facts.
Value-added journalism. In advertising terms, “value-added” is a pejorative that actually means less value (it ought to be a Britishism). Too bad. I like the requirement the journalist has to add value.
Narrative journalism. No, it needn’t tell a story. I’ve also questioned the notion that journalists are necessarily story-tellers.
Smart journalism. No, that label must be applied only by the reader, never the writer.
Thoughtful journalism. Maybe. That says one must do more than regurgitate to make an article worthwhile.
I fear I’ve failed and I risk going on for too long. What do you think we ought to call it?