A Blogger Defends Long-form

A refreshing bit of thoughtfulness from Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic, and one of that magazine’s better bloggers. My guess is that not many people are taking the time to think through the differences between long-form journalism and blogging, and the necessity of having both, but Coates is.

As someone who loves magazine writing, I’m grateful to have him saying this about a piece by Jim Fallows (perhaps America’s greatest journalist):

It may seem like a drag, but I found that writing down the basic elements of your thinking–even the most mundane parts–forces [our] thinking. Writing lays it all bare, and the writer will find that things he or she has assumed aren’t actually true, or aren’t true in the way that the argument needs them to be. Long-form writing forces you to show your work in a way that I don’t think blogs or op-eds do. In fact, it’s worse in op-eds because, on paper, there are no hyperlinks, and I’ve found that often the writers aren’t interested in any kind of re-thinking.

And here is the money element of Coates’ thinking on the topic, which I heartily support.

My point is that I think long-form can not only make you a better writer, it can make you a better, more nuanced and more precise, thinker. I urge all up and coming bloggers to fight for the opportunity to try it. And I urge all my readers to subscribe to the magazine, and reap the rewards of all of this hard thinking.

That bit of cheerleading at the end aside, Coates doesn’t really attempt to address the reader’s side of the equation. Increasingly the public’s attention is so sliced and diced by proliferating media opportunities that it is perhaps only the writer benefits from long-form journalism. I really hope that’s not true. Because long-form won’t survive without them, whether it’s a healthy part of the writer’s diet or not.

Still, it’s good to have a good young writer thinking this way.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.