Jun 10

In praise of length and depth (especially when writing about tribes)

I saw a blogpost or tweet just now which said: “who says print is dead when a Rolling Stone story can topple McChrystal?” The question misses the point. That story would have sent General McChrystal into retirement whether in print or online.

What’s significant is that the printed publication that carried the story wasn’t a daily paper but a magazine. That’s the crux: what scores is length and depth. The allocation of time and money to dig a little deeper.

Maybe Rolling Stone’s writer Michael Hastings got lucky when McChrystal’s team got stuck under the volcano ash and went out and got drunk in Paris, unleashing a string of revelatory quotations which gave the piece its kick. But I’d guess it was something more.

Hastings was quoted as saying that he was suspicious of the very good press McChrystal had been given by the newspaper reporters who had been given extensive access to him. He thought that they were perhaps going easy because they wanted stories and background in the future (useful commentary here from a correspondent who used to cover the Pentagon). Hastings, as a magazine writer, didn’t need any future with the General.

Continue reading →