Reporter's Notebook

Welcome to Notes
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We’ve brought blogging back to TheAtlantic.com. Here are some thoughts from our editors on what this new section is all about.
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Calling All Dissenters

Hi, I’m Chris, the reader editor. Your emails, comments, and other contributions—which I've been workshopping lately—are going to be central to Notes, so I should detail what we have in mind and how you can get involved.

First, a little on my background, since it informs so much of what this new section is about: I worked with Andrew Sullivan and Patrick Appel on a blog called The Dish for seven years, three of those at The Atlantic. About a third of our content came from reader emails, and eventually I was editing and posting about 90% of them, usually in the form of discussion threads that lasted for weeks, months, even years. The blog never had a comments section—which, as you know, can devolve into the worst kind of discourse, taken over by trolls. Instead, the Dish constantly published dissent—the toughest, smartest, most persuasive arguments from readers. (Fallows does this especially well, while Ta-Nehisi mastered the art of a moderated comments section—and one of his most engaged readers, Yoni Appelbaum, rose to become our Politics editor.)

By the time I returned to The Atlantic last April, social media had drowned out blogging and meaningful debate in many ways. I dove deep into our comments section, Disqus, for the first time. There’s a lot of great discussion down there—Atlantic readers are a really sharp bunch—but it’s often buried in hundreds or thousands of comments that few people want to dig through. Your best writing should be elevated for everyone to see. Your strongest critiques should be engaged by our writers. It’s my job to help.

The best way to help me: Use hello@theatlantic.com, not Disqus, to voice your dissent and tell your stories. I will buttress your words with fact-checking, research, and reporting as much as I can. I will edit your contributions only for the sake of clarity and concision. If you prefer to stay anonymous, let me know. To encourage this culture of email, Notes won’t have a comments section.

Over time, you’ll see all your favorite Atlantic writers appear in Notes. It’s meant to be a communal space for airing thoughts that, with your input, will become articles. Conversely, it’s a space for bits of reporting and analysis that are left on the cutting room floor of articles. Ever miss those old-school blog debates? You’ll find some here. Notes will also be a hub for breaking news and ongoing coverage, led by my colleague Krishnadev, as well as a sandbox for our 158-year-old archive. Notes will be more of a broadcast than a magazine.

And it’s yours to shape. The staff and I have brainstormed all kinds of features for Notes, but we want to start things simple and evolve the section gradually, experimenting here and there, absorbing your criticism and suggestions along the way. We’ve already absorbed a lot of your feedback over the recent redesign and will incorporate some of it into Notes.

That’s it for now. Feel free to email any questions to hello@theatlantic.com. Have any cool ideas for Notes? Email hello@. Think this section is totally lame? Email hello@. Something on TheAtlantic.com piss you off today? Email hello@. Already know me and want to say hello? Email bodenner@.

Hello, I’m Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic’s news editor.  

The return of blogging to the site presents us with a challenge: how to quickly keep abreast of what’s happening in the world while at the same time keeping in mind the sensibility of The Atlantic. In other words, how to be both timely and interesting.

This, of course, will be a work in progress.

What you’ll see here is a mix of what’s happening in the world and what we—and, hopefully, you—find interesting. We’ll start at about 6 a.m. every day with a Note on the news we’re following. There will be a similar note every afternoon. This, we hope, will not only let our readers know the stories we have our eyes on, but also serve as a tip sheet for my colleagues through the day.

Some of the items on these Notes will lend themselves to quick, short stories; others will be the subject of longer, analytical pieces; and there will be still others that will live on solely in the Notes.

For more on what else we’re trying to achieve with Notes, do read Gould, Matt, and Chris.  

We invite you to let us know not only what you think, but also what you find interesting. Please also send us tips and stories on your radar to hello@theatlantic.com.

Heads up to new visitors of the Notes section: We posted four intros you might want to check out. First, Gould heralded the return of blogging to The Atlantic, then Matt debuted our novel thread function, Krishnadev framed our approach to news, and I invited readers to throw down the gauntlet. I’ve been long anticipating our thread function, which is our modest attempt to square the circle of blogging in the age of social media—two things increasingly at odds. Ezra Klein said it best:

[B]logging is a conversation, and conversations don’t go viral. People share things [on Facebook] their friends will understand, not things that you need to have read six other posts to understand. Blogging encourages interjections into conversations, and it thrives off of familiarity. Social media encourages content that can travel all on its own.

Thus, any of our thread-connected notes that travel around the web will carry all the related notes with them. Clicking into a note lands you at the top of the thread page, where you’ll see a brief overview of the blog conversation and—pinned right below—the note you clicked to see. If other notes were published later in time, clicking on the red box will show them instantly. Now it’s a fully displayed thread, with the newest notes at the top. (Clicking on an “oldest” toggle orders them chronologically, to catch up from the beginning.) This is all much easier to show than tell—and this note is currently in a thread as well, so look around.

So far we have two threads going: one on the new campus P.C. and one on the Notes launch (a thread you’re currently in). We can’t wait to use this function for live-blogging. Soon I’ll be adding to this thread a bunch of your emails responding to the Notes launch, but for now, here’s one email at the very top of our inbox for hello@theatlantic.com:

Hello, indeed!

I’m excited about what you guys are up to. The state of the blog and hubs and the stream and social media are an ongoing point of interest (and conversation) for me and several of my friends.

I’m not excited that I can’t find an RSS feed for just the Notes section, though. Any chance that’s a hint you guys will make happen, or do the vagaries of advertising-driven publishing simply make it not doable?

RSS is at the very top of our to-do list right now and should be live tomorrow, but we’ll keep you updated.

Finally, for this first full day of blogging, some major props are needed: Frankie Dintino and Paul Nicholsen on the incredible job building Notes, Libby Bawcombe and Darhil Crooks on design, and Clarissa Matthews and Betsy Ebersole on product direction. And one more shout-out:

Thanks, Paul’s mom. Now to regain a bunch of sleep ...