Monday, March 7, 2011

Marzorati on the future of long-form journalism

Last month, Gerry Marzorati, formerly the editor of The New York Times Magazine, told journalist and author Mark Danner some things he sees on the long-form horizon. In a post by Lois Beckett on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog, a partial transcript of the conversation, which took place at UC Berkeley's journalism school, is online and worth reading.

As he has in the past, Marzorati mentioned that the longest pieces in the magazine during his tenure were often the most read and most e-mailed. It's a good sign—the statistics invalidate the idea that people just don't want to read the long stuff anymore.

An issue Marzorati did acknowledge is the falling number of outlets interested in publishing such work. "The problem," Marzorati told Danner, "is who’s going to pay to have these pieces reported. That’s the problem. That’s really the crisis. You have fewer and fewer news outlets, you have fewer and fewer magazines, willing to have a journalist report for five or six or eight months, or send them to the edge of the world—and then have the edifice in place to edit and fact-check these pieces. There is a feeling among these magazines that they don’t have to fund these pieces to create readership. It’s a really, really big problem."

Marzorati went on to share several ideas that could help draw attention to and funding for long-form journalism. For instance, he said, a publication could have a writer following a story tweet occasional updates on her progress and build suspense and interest in the final product.

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