There’s a new player entering the longform non-fiction revolution taking place online.
Only, rather than a traditional gatekeeper — an editor — making decisions about what gets published on this digital platform, the readers accept the responsibility. But more on that later.
Introducing… The Big Roundtable. The brainchild of longtime reporter and Columbia journalism school professor Michael Shapiro, The Big Roundtable (BRT) is a site that promises to bring together authors, known or unknown, with readers hungry for good stories. Its name (which invokes such a distinct image, doesn’t it?) was inspired by the old group of New York writers and creatives, self-dubbed the Algonquin Round Table, who lunched and discussed their crafts at the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s. In the same way that members of the Algonquin group reportedly swapped stories, BRT hopes to do the same on the Web.
Shapiro, founder of BRT, launched a Kickstarter with a $5,000 goal and came away with $19,219 after 28 days, indicating to the folks at BRT that their idea to connect readers and quality stories was popular even outside their circle. As a former National Magazine Award judge, Shapiro told Nieman Storyboard he got tired of reading formulaic writing. A writer’s work should radiate a burning desire to tell his story, Shapiro maintains.
His (small) team’s original timeline slated The Big Roundtable’s launch for late August, but it’s already up and running.
BRT’s site design is clean and elegant, its typography and black-and-white cartoonish story art a bit reminiscent of The New Yorker‘s signature look. Six stories by authors like Anna Hiatt (also BRT’s Product Manager and Managing Editor) and Katherine B. Olson grace the site’s home page, along with the video BRT used to promote its Kickstarter campaign.
Shapiro was kind enough to answer some questions about BRT.