James Fallows on the Gawkerization of The Atlantic

As a journalist who has done a Q & A or two in his career, this Fishie hates to say it, but we’re pretty sure the traditional journalistic Q & A is nearing its demise. Because Reddit’s Ask Me Anything question sessions tend to be so much better these days. Yes, that goes for the Woody Harrelson debacle too, which made for great theater.

The Atlantic‘s James Fallows did a great AMA today where he answered questions on everything from home brews to China to the Gawkerization of his magazine. His answer to the latter we found particularly interesting.

Obviously this is a question we take very seriously here, and think about every day.

I have worked for the Atlantic longer, probably, than most people asking questions here have been alive. I started when I left the Carter Administration (when I was in my 20s) in 1979. What I’ve learned over that time is the balance between, on the one hand, the way the magazine HAS to keep changing, continually — and on the other, the crucial importance of its standards, intelligence, judgment, and so on. If you look back through our bound volumes, you see how dramatically the magazine has changed, and how often, through its existence. While still having some sensibility that makes us think: here is an Atlantic treatment, and not one from (name your other mag).

I wrote last year about the way journalism had to, and could, balance the imperatives of the click-maximizing era with its longer-standing opportunities and responsibilities. And I think that on balance we have done a good job of extending our pre-existing identity into our new, much higher volume and higher velocity web presence.

The extension isn’t perfect, and there are things on the site each day that are not perfect or even “good enough.” But as a whole, I think the Atlantic’s online existence is a quite good early-21st-century extension of what the mid-19th-century founders would have had in mind.

OK, good question and decent response. Standard interview fare. But instead of moving on, as a lone journalist with limited space might, Reddit’s hivemind calls bullshit on Fallows’ answer. “This month’s magazine involved writer Wayne Curtis trying to get fucked up on Nutmeg. If that’s not Gawkerish, I don’t know what is.”

Great stuff. Fallows is forced to come back.

There are exchanges like this littered throughout. Almost all are tough, but respectful, on both sides. Makes for great reading. We can’t say enough good things about AMA right now. Which sucks. Because that’s probably money out of our freelance pocket in the long run.

Publish date: February 8, 2012 https://stage.adweek.com/digital/james-fallows-on-the-gawkerization-of-the-atlantic/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT