Last year, I tested that hypothesis with a nine-part series on health care in Massachusetts that attempted to be analytical and comprehensive, but broke the subject into more digestible segments of roughly 1,200 words each. I tried to report until I had a clear sense of what I thought about the key elements of the Massachusetts plan, then let those conclusions, and an explanation of how I arrived at them, drive my stories. The series became a running commentary on the state’s health-care system.

This approach worked in a way that a one-off, six-thousand-word piece would not have. Those blog posts got at the concerns of state residents, many of whom were not happy with the way health reform was affecting them—small business owners slapped with very high rate increases, older people paying several hundred dollars more for their coverage than younger ones, patients facing long waits to see a doctor—and allowed me to keep revisiting the issues, adding new context and new ideas as my thinking evolved with my reporting. Immediate feedback—another useful aspect of the Web—suggested that my readers benefited from this steady stream of more manageable bites, which is ultimately the point of what we do.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

 

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.