Stories longer than 2,000 words down 86 percent at the LAT since 2003, 50 percent at WaPo, etc.

By Dean Starkman


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.

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