No one equates story-length with quality. Let’s start with that concession.
But still. Story-length is hardly meaningless when you consider what it takes to explain complex problems, like say, the financial crisis, to the broader public. Or when you consider what it takes to lay out the evidence needed to properly support a story that makes explosive allegations against a powerful institution. It takes space.
Put another way, there’s a reason David Barstow’s landmark expose of bribery and high-level cover-ups at WalMart ran to more than 7,000 words.
So, all in all, it’s more than instructive to check in on longform newspaper writing, and the start of a new year isn’t a bad time to do it.
And it’s pretty to shocking to see what’s become of the time-honored form since the newspaper industry’s great unraveling started a decade ago.
The Los Angeles Times, for instance, published 256 stories longer than 2,000 words last year, compared to 1,776 in 2003—a drop of 86 percent, according to searches of the Factiva database. The Washington Post published 1,378 stories over 2,000 words last year, about half as many as 2003 when it published 2,755. The Wall Street Journal, which pioneered the longform narrative in American newspapers, published 35 percent fewer stories over 2,000 words last year from a decade ago, 468 from 721.
Major papers' longform meltdown : Columbia Journalism Review