As attention spans grow shorter, one type of news coverage is looking really long in the tooth: the multipart newspaper series, the bloated beast that lumbers onto the front page every so often and tries to persuade us to spend a few days, sometimes a whole week, in its company.
It's not a very enticing invitation. Few readers go to newspapers in search of long-form storytelling -- that's what magazines are for. And too often these projects have a sweaty-palmed, trying-too-hard quality that leaves you feeling that you're reading not a newspaper but a Pulitzer entry form.
Even when one comes along that really makes a splash and has everyone-in-the-know buzzing, it can be hard to find people who have actually read the thing. For chattering purposes, it's enough to know about that "incredible" series in The New York Times or The Washington Post, and to reference a few choice particulars.
Which is a shame, because some topics are especially well suited to the form, none more so than the high-profile political career. The pursuit of political power, and the naked groping it entails, jibes perfectly with the bald, rat-a-tat narrative style of the broadsheet serial.
Earlier this week, I spent half a day plowing through two recent gargantuan investigations, the much-ballyhooed Washington Post series about the vice presidency of Dick Cheney, and the less-ballyhooed but also excellent Boston Globe series about the life and career of Mitt Romney. I had read bits and pieces of each previously, but nothing close to the complete product.