A long-form narrative essay about long-form narrative, making the case for a non-narrative future for journalism and arguing with The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach, who needs to go sit in the car and think about things before he writes any more articles. In keeping with this theme, I've added a three-page, home-printer-optimized PDF for those of you who prefer to read long-form essays on paper, plus a shorter, semi-structured online summary.
I was sitting in a downtown Charleston coffee shop with Ken Hawkins last week when in walked Sally and Gary Smith. For those of you who don't know them, Ken is the guy behind TheDigitel, which just made news by announcing some new investment and out-of-town expansion plans, and Gary is the celebrated Sports Illustrated writer who on Thursday became the Washington Post's poster child for long-form narrative.
It struck me as symbolic.
On the one hand, there's Ken and his product, relentlessly chewing through newsfeeds and Twitterstreams and hashtags looking for anything of relevance and interest to local readers, summarizing and linking and enhancing it, and then grinding on. TheDigitel is as good a local news aggregator site as you'll find, but it's a restless, twitchy beast that cycles through more content than it can display, each item neatly summarized and updated in chunks that rarely exceed 300 words before being blown off the front by the next one..
On the other, Gary. He earns a sweet living south of Calhoun Street producing four beautifully written magazine stories a year.