This Month in The Atlantic: Size Matters
Following a recommendation by the Daily Beast’s Tina Brown on NPR last week, I picked up a copy of this month’s Atlantic Monthly to read Michael Kinsley’s piece “This Article is Too Long!” Kinsley’s task is to convince us that print journalism should follow the lead of online journalism in making their articles sharper, shorter and to the point–all without making his article too long, or indulging in overcomplicated run-on sentences like this one. As the title states, Kinsley fails to make his point within his own space requirements, but then he is writing for print and he has the burden of quoting several bloated NYT passages as evidence. But this article is more than a measuring-stick: Kinsley gets at a fundamental shift in print journalism that has occurred in the past decade–from criticism to heavy-handed even-handedness. He cites a Times reporter whose story, though it reveals it’s angle in the headline, is bogged down by quotes from “experts” who we’ve never heard of and extra verbiage dedicated to establishing their expertise. Instead of trusting the view of the journalist, because she has her editor to answer to, and the Times, because ideally they have their readers to answer to, we’re supposed to trust Joe Blow. The implication here is that these doomed attempts at absolute even-handedness do nothing but compare/contrast, and that the critical evaluation of events (the reason many of us read the news in the first place) is lost or denatured. Kinsley’s article should be a conversation piece, not just about online vs. print journalism but about the role of the critical eye in journalism itself.
Other articles of note from The Atlantic:
“What Makes a Great Teacher” by Amanda Ripley
Teach for America is about to release a decade’s worth of research on what makes an effective teacher. And it’s not what you’s think. The article is short on actual prescription but it promises a new system of evaluation in which teachers would judged based on the performance of their students–but wait, isn’t that the old system?
“Divine Proportions” by Wayne Curtis
It’s not the size of the cocktail but the spirit that counts. Curtis makes a case for the return of the small cocktail which “should be like tapas, intense hits of well-balanced flavors in small proportions that leave one wanting more.” He name-checks the Pegu Club, where I recently had the best cocktail I’ve ever tasted, The French Kiss, with muddled mint, lime, gin and anise, that is as amazing to smell as it is to sip. Sadly the new NY City law banning raw egg in drinks (though the city seems to be fine with lukewarm mayo) has meant the death of Pegu’s Earl Grey Martini, of which I’ve heard but sadly never tasted.
“The Catastrophist: The Haunting Science Fiction of J.G. Ballard” by Christopher Hitchens
…and don’t miss a standoff in the Letters section, between author Michael Scammell and Hitchens, who recently reviewed Scammell’s biography of Arthur Koestler.
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