3 GREAT STORIES: The “riding the wave of long-form writing” edition

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Seems like the pendulum, in the written world, is heading back towards long-form journalism.

Major web sites — including ones that generally traffic in web clicks, like Slate and BuzzFeed — have devoted entire sections to long reads. One web site even calls itself “LongReads” and commits itself strictly to long-form work.

This excites me. I have made plain my love for this brand of storytelling.

But I especially appreciate its current, if brief, resurgence, because it comes at a time of quick hits, snippets, and an overall overload of online content.

Here now, three great long-form stories from this past week:

Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet (1/6/14, Pacific Standard): This article has been getting a lot of attention this week … and rightly so.

Amanda Hess dives into the topic of Internet abuse, specifically as it relates to women, who receive a disproportionately high amount of it. She mixes her own experience with those of countless other female journalists and bloggers; she exposes the potential logistical issues in reporting abuse and counteracting it; and she buttresses everything with sobering statistics.

Consider this paragraph, where Hess breaks down what one might experience should she bring her claims of abuse to the police:

The Internet is a global network, but when you pick up the phone to report an online threat, whether you are in London or Palm Springs, you end up face-to-face with a cop who patrols a comparatively puny jurisdiction. And your cop will probably be a man: According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2008, only 6.5 percent of state police officers and 19 percent of FBI agents were women. The numbers get smaller in smaller agencies. And in many locales, police work is still a largely analog affair: 911 calls are immediately routed to the local police force; the closest officer is dispatched to respond; he takes notes with pen and paper.

The hidden man (12/29/13, Los Angeles Times): I find myself slightly breaking my own rule here; while I read this article last week, it actually ran a week earlier.

Regardless, this piece is riveting.

Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard pens a profile of Capt. Stephen Hill, who famous received boos at a 2011 Republican debate when he outed himself and asked the candidates, via YouTube, for their opinions on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Rarely does an article’s sub-headline perfectly capture the spirit of the piece, but in this case, it does. “America saw Stephen Hill’s face for 15 seconds,” reads the sub-headline. “It took him a lifetime to show it.”

Goffard recounts Hill’s journey as a gay man and a soldier — and the conflicts that arose when Hill tried to mix the two. As in Hess’ article, Goffard does not pull punches here; he tells Hill’s story in a way that makes you feel every aching, upsetting moment.

Sabre rattler (1/6/14, Sports On Earth): Let’s wrap it up with a fun one.

In 1974, the Buffalo Sabres hockey team decided it would have some fun during the NHL Draft.

By fun, I mean, the team drafted a fake player.

The Sabres, in the 11th round, selected Taro Tsujimoto, an international prospect formerly of the Tokyo Katanas in Japan. They listed Tsujimoto on their roster and received a fair amount of coverage for their selection. Months later, they revealed that Tsujimoto did not actually exist.

The story reverberates in Buffalo today — I know from experience after living there for nearly four years — and is classic hockey lore.

In this article, Alan Siegel catches up with the brains behind the prank — and many others, apparently — and puts together a great profile. Paul Wieland is the PR czar who had a Bill Veeck-like presence in the Sabres’ organization, and Siegel recounts Wieland’s greatest hits (and one notable miss) on the prank front.

For a long-form read, Siegel effortlessly keeps my attention here … maybe because his material, and his subject, are so purely fascinating.


Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com.

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