A few weeks ago, I helped make a magazine. I guess that would be true to say about almost every other week of my life. But this magazine was special. Longshot was written, edited, designed and produced during a single 48 hour period. I was so thrilled to be part of the Longshot team, especially since it was hosted by my favorite magazine and headed up by my favorite art director. But what I saw happen over those 48 hours gave me a new sense of respect for my fellow journalists. Other people have noticed this besides me: This week, our fearless editors, Mat Honan, Alexis Madrigal and Sarah Rich, flew to DC to pick up a prestigious Knight-Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism.
Making a magazine in 48 hours isn’t quite like anything else I’ve ever done. You can read a recap I wrote over at GOOD about how the weekend played out, from the Friday noon announcement of the theme, Comeback, to the first night of people bunking down on GOOD’s couches, to watching 503 submissions came flooding in from around the world, to dressing GOOD’s creative director up like Hulk Hogan, to those final hours when we were basically collapsing over our computers in a fit of giddiness that felt a lot like doing recreational drugs (not that I’ve ever used recreational drugs, I can just imagine what it might be like). It was kind of like a 4th grade slumber party, and kind of like summer camp, and kind of like an all-night rave (but with typing instead of dancing—although there was some dancing).
And the activities were just as varied. I went shopping for butter and bacon and fake crab (surimi, as I now know to call it) to style in a photo shoot. I Pandora DJed for almost 24 hours straight. I positioned and repositioned the webcam that we used to broadcast our process. I made a beer run. I cut dozens of paper fish to illustrate an article on salmon. I helped flow the copy into the layouts by sitting over the shoulders of the designers and pointing out typos on their monitors (which I’m sure they loved). I did whatever was needed, at any moment, loving the creative, collaborative environment where everyone was focused on making.
My favorite thing I did was write a timeline that ran across the top of each page, noting milestones that happened both within the Longshot offices and around the world. Around 2am Sunday morning I remember combing over news sites, trying to confirm exactly when Paris Hilton had been arrested for cocaine possession in Las Vegas the night before. And I was absolutely tingling with excitement. To connect what we were doing in there with the newsgathering and reporting happening around the world—well, I just can’t describe it, although I’m sure anyone who works at a newspaper is like, duh, I feel like that every day.
But somewhere between 2am and 2pm on Sunday, I realized something else. There is so much being said about how the magazine world is failing as a business model. How the industry isn’t sustainable, how it won’t survive digital age, how you can’t sell a print ad to save your life. But what about applying this specific journalistic model as a business. Longshot has proved it has the ability to collect and analyze information on a specific topic, edit and fact-check it into a cohesive narrative, and package it in a way to easily share that information with a larger audience—within in a few days. Journalists are skilled gatherers of data, but their work goes beyond that. Journalism comes infused with descriptive details, and attention to nuance, and the ability to gain emotional insight from interviewees—you don’t get that from the cold facts of a researcher.
I could see this being used by brands who needed authentic trend stories from their consumers culled from city streets. Urban planners could use it to study the use of public transit systems. Schools could use it to survey an entire district and report back on what students and teachers really think. Just imagine if teams of journalists all over the world were regularly given a call like this to cover a very specific moment or place in time. Major elections. National holidays. December 12, 2012, the supposed end of the world! Longshot’s model would provide an accurate and intelligent snapshot of what it was like. Delivered to your door within a week.
I was still coming up with ideas as I floated into bed that night, 36 hours after I had left my bed the day before. The buzz from that recreational drug-esque feeling—not that I would know!—and the thrill of being a part of this new-new something carried me all the way into the next week.
I will tell you, I have never, ever been so excited to get something in the mail. Ever.
Here’s the scandalous truth about a girl who came of age with the internet. I write my stories, ship them off as text documents, and go about my day. Or I publish something online which, although it has some finality to it, can always be changed or updated. I’ve never actually worked at a magazine. I actually know very little about how it works. That’s why I was adamant about being listed as an intern on the Longshot masthead. I worked hard—even fetched beer!—but I was also learning so much from these journalism masters.
I’ve never felt the hard-and-fast deadline of an issue close breathing down my neck—there’s only a handful of people around the world who can truly say they have. I feel like I’m part of some global fraternity of writers and designers who understand that against-the-clock quest for accuracy, beauty, finality. And now? I really, really want to experience that feeling again.
And that’s why you should really buy a copy of Longshot.
Top photo by the lovely maximolly