the kicker

The Times Magazine Drops its 13,000-Word Story

August 27, 2009

When New York Times Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati, in the course of pondering the future of long-form journalism in a Q&A with readers, mentioned this week that the magazine was about to publish a 13,000-word story that cost an estimated $400,000 to produce, it was impossible not to wonder what the article would be about.

Readers more attuned to the calendar probably could have guessed: on the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the piece, written by Sheri Fink and co-published by ProPublica, explores the “deadly choices” made in the storm’s wake at New Orleans’s Memorial Medical Center. The story is now up here and here. In a related editor’s note, Marzorati notes that some of the funds that helped pay for the piece came from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has come to play a significant role when it comes to underwriting science and medical reporting.

So, in a media world in which time and money are ever more precious, does Fink’s article deliver on the resources invested in it? I’ll be on a plane Saturday morning, and I intend to find out then. Regardless, it’s encouraging that there are still a few places where stories of such grand ambition can be realized.

Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.