Here is the first installment of Slate’s experiment in long-form journalism that editor David Plotz told the New York Observer about in January. Slate staffers were given four to six weeks off to pursue a project of their liking. These mini-sabbaticals aren’t furloughs, the journalists are being paid, and they’re allowed to do basically whatever they want, so long as they produce something.
The Tim Noah piece is a sprawling, 8-part, multi-pronged examination of post-9/11 America and how terrorism works. It’s, duh, long, but excellent. This is the first instance I can think of where an online publication has tried its hand a seriously long-form reportage. The rule of internet journalism up until now has been Politico-style breakneck pacing. If the Noah piece is any indication of the rest to come from Slate’s experiment, then I’d say it’s a ringing success.
This is a reporter’s wet dream: to be given free reign over your time and effort, to be trusted by your editor completely to produce a valuable piece of journalism, and to do a project solely of your choosing. Slate, of course, is the exception, since it’s staff is populated with the media elite of the elite media.