Good reads: Eggers, Shirky, old New Journalism

Thought I’d round up some long-form stories I’ve come across in recent weeks that take a few steps back, profile a leading figure or otherwise tackle topics in media and journalism that go beyond the immediacy of a standard blog post. Good for some weekend reading:

• Novelist and McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers‘ hopes for the future of print media:

“I think newspapers shouldn’t try to compete directly with the Web, and should do what they can do better, which may be long-form journalism and using photos and art, and making connections with large-form graphics and really enhancing the tactile experience of paper. . . It’s hard to find papers these days that really do anything to appeal to anyone under 18, and the paper used to do that all the time. I think there will always be — if not the same audience and not as wide an audience — a dedicated audience that can keep print journalism alive.”

Another Clay Shirky riff on his continuing theme that this change thing isn’t just temporary:

“The change we’re living through isn’t an upgrade, it’s a upheaval, and it will be decades before anyone can really sort out the value of what’s been lost versus what’s been gained.”

(link via Chris Krewson)

Remembering longtime Atlanta journalist and author Paul Hemphill, who chronicled the changing post-World War II South:

“It was called ‘new journalism’ and Hemphill wanted in on the action. After newspaper jobs in Birmingham, Augusta and Tampa, he found his way to Atlanta and the news pages. Finally, he was hitting home runs, but with a typewriter instead of a bat. Paul Hemphill soon became known as the Jimmy Breslin of the South.”

One of the lions of that New Journalism wave, Gay Talese, didn’t possess the same advantages as some of his peers:

“Well I didn’t have great confidence in myself because I had nobody, really, who had confidence in me. I always think of John Updike, who had tremendous confidence in himself because his mother said, You’re the greatest little shit in the world. You’re so wonderful, wonderful, wonderful—and he believed it. David Halberstam too—his mother told him he was the greatest shit in the world and he believed it. He had a tremendous sense of self. In his mind he was Charles de Gaulle. My mother never told me I was the greatest, my father never did either. They were very critical. I felt that I had to prove something to them. Neither they nor anyone else gave me the sense that I was gifted.”

(link via Simon Owens)

The path that Hemphill, Talese and others have taken from daily journalism is a well-traveled one:

“Rough-and-ready newspaper journalism — exploring crack houses, chatting up cops and prosecutors on their off hours, touring a tent city with a veteran public-health nurse, studying the body language of CEOs and labour bosses — imparts marvelous powers of observation of the human condition, as Halberstam fondly recalls of his beginnings as a newspaper cop-shop reporter. But by longstanding tradition, a great many of the best journalists – from Mark Twain to Margaret Mitchell to Tom Wolfe have ‘graduated’ to magazines, books, and screenwriting. Their newspapers could not or would not accommodate their longer stories that needed telling.”

Got any other good reads you’d like to share? Send your links to me at and I’ll post them every Friday for some future good weekend reading.


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