Move-and-skim is the mood you’re in

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Photo courtesy Sports Illustrated

“A story curls you back into yourself,” says celebrated sportswriter Gary Smith, “and you need a special time and place and setting and mode for that. If it becomes all one smear with your work life and checking your e-mail, your Facebook, it’s lost all its reason for being.”

Smith is 55 years old, and writes very long stories for a living. They run to 8,000 words. His work has been heavily anthologised, notes Joel Achenback in the Washington Post.  He crafts four of them a year for Sports Illustrated. He is a throwback, a spinner of yarns in what we will call for the millionth time the Age of Twitter. Narrative these days competes against incrementalised information — data, chatter, noise. Smith doesn’t think he’s a dinosaur, but he does fear that the long-form narrative doesn’t quite work on a computer screen, especially with all the endless talk in the news media about the next killer app. Maybe Twitter really will change the world. Maybe the next big thing will be just an algorithm, like Google’s citation-ranking equation. But Smith is betting that there will still be a market, somehow, for what he does. Narrative isn’t merely a technique for communicating; it’s how we make sense of the world. The storytellers know this.

They know that the story is the original killer app.

And good stories take time to craft. Good writers, editors, copy editors, photographers, etc., all expect a living wage. The real question in the months and years ahead is whether there’s a business model that can support good stories. Norman Sims, journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst: “The great stories will survive. But the question is who’s going to pay for them. . . . This is not fast food. This is slow food. And it’s expensive.”

Read full article at the Washington Post

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