Leave it to Gay Talese to find a new angle on an old story. In a video for the Big Think, Talese declared that technology hasn’t merely hurt the longstanding economic model that supported narrative nonfiction writing; it also compromises the quality of the journalism itself. Talese describes the resources it took to write “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” one of the seminal pieces in longform nonfiction—and why, long before the Web came along, the tape recorder was “the worst thing to ever happen” to serious nonfiction writing.
Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.