The short and long of it

Long form? It’s alive (shameless plug).

Short form: heard of flash fiction? Twitter books?

Washingtonian EIC Garrett Graff thinks that intermediate-length stories suffer the worst damage in the Information Age.

Like medium-market newspapers and liposuction, severe cuts to magazine journalism come from the middle.

For newspapers, small locals can thrive on coverage not found anywhere else, particularly high school sports. National broadsheets have solid brands to weather the worst.

The Internet kills medium-form journalism, roughly 800 to 2500 words, according to Graff.

It’s journalism that is too long for people who aren’t intimately invested in the topic and too short for people who are absorbed and seek more depth.

The oddity is that the New Yorker has followed this model from the outset, Graff says. Articles are either short or long.

In other words, this theory negates the Goldilocks situation. It’s the extremes, or else, without a lukewarm middle. It’s worth a meditation.

Why hand readers an onerous piece of middle-ground work that could either be reported more fully or cut to better precision?

Time constraints may not always allow for this, but Internet reading habits eventually will lead to a need to report more or write less.

Short. Long. Good.

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.” 
— Blaise Pascal, Provincial Letter XVI

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