My old boss Michael Kinsley had a theory about group awards. Tell people two or three of the recipients, Kinsley wrote, and they could often fill out the rest of the list, without knowing what the award is.
I feel the same about a lot of longform awards. Spot me Taffy Brodesser-Akner and Pamela Colloff and I’ll give you Jia Tolentino and Reeves Wiedeman and…what was this for again?
The best thing about longform, in the post-magazine age, is that the term has become meaningless. It doesn’t just mean a magazine-y story with a kicker placed just so. It can be a long interview. A longer-than-usual column or “think piece.” It can be an odd investigation. To me, longform doesn’t even have to involve text—any true accounting of the week’s best stuff includes podcasts and TV interviews that mimic the work of print journalists.
As long as we’re inventing rules for longform lists, I want to make one more. I like a “great story,” that evergreen piece that briefly alights on your computer screen before making its way to a movie studio. You know the one: The sun was high in the noon sky when Don plopped his canoe into the LA River… But for every one of those stories, a good list ought to include more stories that are located in the present. That seem less like movie treatments and more like imperfect attempts to make sense of news, culture, sports, and (especially if you’re a nut like me) the 2020 campaign. Folks, I say in my best candidate voice, give a round of applause for these...
The best kind of loopy investigation. Bernie Sanders is currently 78 years old. But he turned 78, in the spiritual-physical sense, much earlier. Decades earlier. Using C-SPAN stills and other forensic evidence, Schwedel set out to isolate the moment. Upon reaching her conclusion, she notes, “I think the evidence speaks for itself.”
If you caught Part 1, you already want to read this. This is Cohen in peak Air Mail mode—which is to say, peak old Vanity Fair mode—telling a story of a troubled marriage, a large fortune, a serial waterskier, and a South American mistress. The only way to tell a story that sounds like pulp fiction is to attack it with a certain glossy-magazine panache. Part 1 was the story’s set-up; Part 2 is when things fall apart. And when you're done with this, here's Part 3.
The LA Times is still rebuilding, but at least two parts of it work exactly like a newspaper should: Bill Plaschke’s sports column and Steve Lopez’s city column. (When Andy McCullough was writing Dodgers gamers, there were three.) Read Lopez on Columbine shooting victim Richard Castaldo, who’s paralyzed from the waist down and now living in a convalescent home in LA. There are no weighty themes, no Pulitzer-thirsty sentences. Just a messy, well-observed slice of life.
You might’ve read a lot about Stephen Miller, Donald Trump’s immigration (well, anti-immigration) apparatchik. Blitzer’s profile is good at explaining how Miller wields power. It’s a combination of lying in the weeds (Miller spoke to Blitzer off the record) and exercising an information advantage over staffers and even Trump himself. After a November meeting on asylum seekers, Miller told staffers, “[T]his is all I care about. I don’t have a family. I don’t have anything else. This is my life.”
From Slate’s human guinea pig Peters, who recently subjected himself to CBD products and Joe Rogan. Mike Bloomberg’s omnipresent ads are something in between—part rabble-rousing, part soothing balm. Peters thinks they’re better when Bloomberg isn’t in them.
Amy and her husband, Aaron, didn’t have health insurance. Aaron broke his ankle. So they went to the clinics of Tijuana, Mexico, “the closest thing that America has to affordable health care,” to shop for a surgeon. The fact that it’s a personal story—with Aaron demanding pain meds in a clinic where the toilet has backed up—is part of what makes it powerful.
Your typical master-on-fellow-master essay, in which The New Yorker cartoonist Spiegelman writes about Rube Goldberg, “the Christopher Columbus of the screwball contraption.” In the second half, Spiegelman offers a tour of vanished screwball comics from Krazy Kat to Mad magazine.
Come for the excruciating details. Beilein, the former head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, lost his hold over his team in January when he called his players “thugs” during a meeting. (Beilein unconvincingly insisted he meant to say “slugs.”) Since then, The Athletic reveals, Cavs players roasted Beilein by playing “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and “Thugz Mansion” whenever he was nearby. Now Beilein is unemployed.
Jenkins was a Texas exceptionalist (who isn’t?), a trader of the state’s rare antiquities, and an alleged swindler. O’Connell re-traces his history (a path trod by Calvin Trillin and others) and then asks: How did Jenkins’ body come to be found in the Colorado River?
Daniel “Car Bomb” Carcillo led the NHL in penalty minutes—and, by his own admission, indulged in racist taunts against teammates. After he retired, he opened an account to collect stories of hockey’s hazing and abuse. Now, Klemko asks, what does he do with them?
A fine example of the reluctant promotional interview. “This is literally the first time I’ve lifted a finger to fucking promote the record or the tour,” singer-songwriter Simpson tells Hyden (full disclosure: a former and occasionally current teammate). Hyden wisely doesn’t get hung up on Simpson’s publicity-shyness and keeps digging for the good stuff.
In which a runner and would-be investigator named Derek Murphy embarks on a quest to catch marathon cheats. His hobby sounds pretty noble until one of his targets, Frank Meza, killed himself. For more on Meza, see Los Angeles Magazine.
A riff on how terms like “parallel path” have seeped into office life. Young writes: “[I]t has always been obvious that if everyone agreed to use language in the way that it is normally used, which is to communicate, the workday would be two hours shorter.”
An absurdly close reading of a ’90s movie? Yeah, yeah. I read that piece already. Wait, what? Space Jam—the Michael Jordan-Bugs Bunny buddy comedy—was about labor? Daffy Duck and Porky Pig were anthropomorphic shop stewards? “Cartoon characters often appear to be voicing the perspectives of animation artists in relation to their bosses,” an academic tells Steven Perlberg. I’m there.
“When we’d not get a piece from him for a while, I would sometimes say, ‘John, next week we’re publishing a wonderful, wonderful piece of writing by a new young writer I’m really excited about.’ Which would be true—some young writer had just appeared—and he would say, ‘Really, really—well, luck to that!’ And about two weeks later, I’d get another story from Updike—cross my heart.”
— Roger Angell on how he extracted copy from John Updike
The LA Times’ Dylan Hernandez sat down with Yu Darvish, the former Dodgers pitcher who got throttled in the 2017 World Series by the sign-stealing Astros. “If I was on the Astros...I think I would say I personally wasn’t worthy of the World Series title.
“There’s not even a hint of that. If anything, it’s like they think that because they’ve been attacked, they should be left alone now.”
Ain't nobody don't like Charles Portis, who was ushered to his reward last week at the age of 86. The novelist-journalist is best known for his novels True Grit and Norwood, but when I get around to drinking a beer in honor of his death it will be this memoiresque thing he wrote 20 years ago about growing up in Arkansas in the 1940s. How best to describe the Portis style? I think Ed Park got it right in an essay titled "Like Cormac McCarthy, But Funny."
Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.
Author Marlon James and his editor Jake Morrissey, have great chemistry, have read a ton of books, and have a lot of strong opinions. It’s a good combination! I’d poke around and just find a topic that interests you, but the episode in which they talk about which books they’d bring with them to a desert island is a good introduction to their show and their sensibility.
Jody Avirgan is a podcast host and producer, most recently with 30 for 30 Podcasts and FiveThirtyEight. You can find his work and newsletter at jodyavirgan.com.
New York Times opinion writer Margaret Renkl asked this past week if photos of suffering children still have the power to elicit compassion and spur action. As if in response to her column, “When a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Tears,” Anadolu Agency photographer Muhammed Said shared a stirring photo on Feb. 18 while covering displaced families fleeing violence in Syria. Three mischievous children, bundled for warmth in sub-zero temperatures, peek from their makeshift, mud-splattered shelter in an overcrowded camp, seemingly impervious to the danger. Only the older boy standing above them shows a trace of concern. Do images of the helpless still have the capacity to stir help? In our polarized, image-saturated times, the empathy triggered by a single, powerful photograph may be the one thing humans can still agree upon.
Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he worked from 1987 to 2019. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.
A non-text submission from ESPN’s Outside the Lines. Why? Because it’s the sports story of the week that isn’t about the Astros. In November, Garrett, a Cleveland Browns defensive end, swung his helmet at quarterback Mason Rudolph. Here Garrett repeats the charge that Rudolph called him the n-word—a charge that Rudolph fiercely denies. There’s a reason this is a TV piece. A great print story—like Mina would write—wouldn’t let us see Garrett’s face and hear his voice when he talks. We may never know the truth about what happened, but here we can try to decide for ourselves.
Another non-text submission for another explosive interview. Peter Kostis was a longtime golf commentator who got cashiered by CBS last fall. He went on the No Laying Up podcast and delivered a long interview that begins with Kostis recounting his fateful call from CBS management. An excellent window into one of my favorite subjects: how sports TV really works.
I try to reserve this space for stories about, well, comic book stories - the comics themselves, basically. Like the old transaction pages in the sports sections of yore, there are always plenty of comings and goings in the comic book industry. But this feels like a big one - probably because it is. Dan DiDio - the longtime Co-Publisher and Executive Editor of DC Comics, is no longer with the publisher, as THR confirmed on Friday. Though polarizing to some fans, DiDio managed to carve out a place for himself at DC Comics over two decades, first as the captain of DC’s main “DC Universe” titles and later as Co-Publisher alongside superstar artist Jim Lee. During their time co-captaining the ship, DC experienced a line-wide reboot with the massive “The New 52” event and the follow-up/remix, “DC Universe Rebirth.” Dan also managed to write a few comics himself.
I’ll spare you a bullet-pointed recap of Dan’s resume, since it’s in the story - but suffice to day, Dan loved comics and the passion and energy showed in his approach to every aspect of his job, from the convention circuit, editorial meetings, retailer roadshows and more. A Brooklyn guy who, despite the move west, never lost his NY swagger, I don’t think it’s a stretch for me to say he was a unique, fiery, and intense guy. While the details of his departure are still unclear - and may remain so - I’m sure he’ll land somewhere interesting. I just hope it’s in the comics field, a medium he’s always been exceedingly passionate about.
Quick note: I worked in the DC Comics’ PR department and interacted with Dan frequently during my two stints with the company, and consider him a friend.
Alex Segura is an acclaimed author, a comic book writer written various comic books, including The Archies, Archie Meets Ramones, and Archie Meets KISS. He is also the co-creator and co-writer of the Lethal Lit podcast from iHeart Radio, which was named one of the Five Best Podcasts of 2018 by The New York Times. By day, Alex is Co-President of Archie Comics. You can find him at www.alexsegura.com.
Out of the many memorable paragraphs in this story, this one sticks out:
"I messaged u/jokes_on_you, who helped me debunk the faked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez foot pic last year, if he'd be willing to lend his trained eyes to the investigation of Bezos' feet. He asked me to send my own foot pics in exchange for information, which in a non-journalistic context might be a fair price to ask. But according to Motherboard editor-in-chief Jason Koebler, trading quid-pro-quo foot pics with a source would set a bad precedent.'"
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