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4 Observations From The Atlantic‘s “100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism”

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 12.27.23 PMDon’t worry — longform storytelling isn’t going anywhere, thankfully, and The Atlantic writer and journalist Conor Friedersdorf has released his take on the best nonfiction journalism of 2013.

If you don’t follow Friedersdorf or receive his The Best of Journalism newsletter, you’re missing out, because he takes the time to scour the web for terrific journalism and serves it to you right on a silver platter (AKA your email inbox).

Anyway, the final list has a few more than 100 pieces of reported works. Here’s what I noted from taking a closer look at it:

1. Digitally native pubs have a nice showing. 

Sites like The Awl, Aeon, Pacific Standard and Gawker that find their homes on the web are producing some really nice journalism. Even BuzzFeed made Friedersdorf’s list twice. Grantland, The Verge, Medium and Slate had a presence on the list, too — an encouraging fact for those of us committed to doing quality writing and reporting online. Friedersdorf also took a moment to applaud Glenn Greenwald and his team for their reporting on the NSA’s mass surveillance.

2. The East Coast media establishment is strong as ever. 

Not that Friedersdorf is the ultimate authority on what’s worth reading, because there are inevitably a number of factors influencing what goes on the list. Though time may not be a constraint for his inclusions, he didn’t add any piece behind a paywall, which is bound to knock some great ones off. Still, eight pieces from the New York Times landed on the list, along with six from the New Yorker, seven from the Washington Post‘s team and three from New York Magazine. Austin-based Texas Monthly, a highly decorated magazine touting dozens of National Magazine Awards, only made the list twice. Meanwhile, nonfiction writing from the Los Angeles Times showed up three times. Clearly, it seems, the media establishment’s foundation is in New York City and the surrounding areas. But startups like The New New South are looking to redirect the attention down South.

3. Regional and local publications have work to do.

Pubs like Orange Coast, Riverfront Times and the Seattle Times (despite its mention for the beautiful “Sea Change”) still struggle to produce the kind of celebrated writing the Times is known for consistently. With local newsrooms working so hard to keep up with the day-to-day and often lacking the technology and time necessary for “Snowfall”-type pieces, places like the Times will keep besting them.

4. Journalists should be reading all of these outlets.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve never read The American Scholar or literary print and digital magazine n+1. There’s incredible value in reading everything you can get your hands on, even if it doesn’t particularly interest you, though. Even Outside and Smithsonian magazines are on my list now. What’s your favorite obscure publication for discovering longform journalism?

Check out the full list here.

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