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Slate experiments with form
February 8, 2001 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Slate experiments with form in its new series "Seed" aka "Genius Babies", a long-form investigative report by David Plotz that will unfold on the web as he interviews and collates sources. The editorial concept is a deliberate attempt to bring 5000+ word pieces to web journalism, while opening it up to the possibilities of the medium.
posted by dhartung (10 comments total)

 
(FYI, I suggest this item be about the form of the piece, rather than its subject matter. If you'd like to start another item on eugenics, sperm banks, and test-tube babies, by all means be my guest.)

In a sense this will be a magazine-piece-by-weblog, with readers tracking the story while looking over the writer's shoulder. If there's a dead end, they'll get caught up short too. If a new direction develops, apparently they'll get to share in that as well. What implications does this have for online journalism? Or weblogs? Will other journalists follow? Or is watching reporting like seeing sausage (or legislation, heh) being made?
posted by dhartung at 1:02 PM on February 8, 2001


Absolutely fascinating. I've never been a Slate reader (no reason, just hasn't been on my radar), but this will draw me in for a while.

I'm especially interested to see how readers acting as informants works out. I can't imagine the system won't be abused--probably quite intentionally--dragging some hapless reporter on a wild-goose chase.

In fact, that sounds like a bit of fun.... ;-)
posted by frykitty at 1:12 PM on February 8, 2001


Journalism is much duller to watch than sausage-making, although the percentage of anuses involved in the process is much, much higher.

5000 words on the web? That's when I hit the print button, and take the page to a comfy chair with good lighting.
posted by lileks at 1:13 PM on February 8, 2001


5000 words on the web? That's when I hit the print button, and take the page to a comfy chair with good lighting.

But that's the point; by producing this piece in digest/weblog version, we only have to digest (sorry) bite-sized pieces ::groan::

I think that there is an audience for online journalists who want to produce long, lush stories. If the piece is compelling enough, Slate will have effectively created digital crack, and will be one of the few dealers out there.
posted by Avogadro at 1:20 PM on February 8, 2001


This isn't the first experiment Slate's attempted. They've got Matt Cooper's regular streaming video pieces, replete with pauses and humor without a laughtrack, and notably the Breakfast Table section of duelling e-mails (which always makes me feel like I've walked in halfway through a conversation).

By contrast Salon's got forums and that's about it, at least recently.
posted by dhartung at 1:27 PM on February 8, 2001


I'm especially interested to see how readers acting as informants work out. I can't imagine the system won't be abused--probably quite intentionally--dragging some hapless reporter on a wild-goose chase.

Not only will there be opportunities for abuse, but the very fact that the people interviewed by Plotz will know beforehand developments in the story will most certainly affect how they will offer information (using the Heisenberg uncertainty principle to apply to human interactions).
posted by Avogadro at 1:32 PM on February 8, 2001


As much as I loathe certain parts of slate (the editorials, the general tone), they have done some pretty cool things and this could be one of them.

Does anyone think this will succeed on a 'mainstream' level?
posted by cell divide at 2:21 PM on February 8, 2001


Hasn't Salon been doing this concept already with the Free Software Project? Andrew Leonard has been posting chapters of his book on Linux/open source software, and participates in discussion threads with readers.
posted by dnash at 2:36 PM on February 8, 2001


this looks fascinating. I'm looking forward to seeing what transpires.

rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 3:04 PM on February 8, 2001


This sounds just like what "Voices from Hellmouth" over at slashdot.org is. I much prefer to read longer pieces by the people that actually know and have an interest in the subject at hand. I wonder if this will become anything more than a slow slashdot thread.
posted by valintin23 at 12:37 AM on February 9, 2001


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