Trapped (in a good story)

What’s the logical next step after working for NOAA, the National Park Service and freelancing for The New York Times?

Pen a piece that serves as the kernel for an award-winning documentary.

Joe Spring is the online editor — among other talents — at Outside magazine. I spoke with him a few weeks ago for my magazine editing class. The magazine’s website recorded 2 million views last month, and Spring says people are spending time with Outside‘s long-form pieces.

“Again and again, whether it’s an online feature or a feature from the magazine, if we put up a story that’s well written and well reported, people will stay on the site.”

The print magazine has a tradition of publishing narrative journalism, stories which often find their way into the big city via Hollywood lore: Aron Ralston’s “Trapped” or Sebastian Junger’s “The Storm.”

But it’s sites like Byliner and Longreads that have allowed the multiple-click articles to thrive on a medium that can accommodate any word count.

The Internet didn’t kill 5,000-word profiles, and Twitter hasn’t replaced gripping 10,000-word narratives.

What the Internet has done is enable people who want to find lengthy journalism, Spring says. “I see those types of sites as a confirmation that people are wiling to read long-form stories on the Web.”

Like plenty of people from the industry I’ve spoken with or listened to, Spring reiterated that the medium is less important than the story being told.

“There are more options and more media for telling a good story now, but you still have to be able to do the core things: report well, interview well, take the material you’ve gathered and turn it into a good story.”

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