Slow journalism: Something to add to your summer reading list


Eight and a half years in the past, Paul Salopek set out on an extended stroll: 21,000 miles throughout 4 continents. He’s nonetheless strolling.

His goal was to duplicate, so far as doable, the migration route that carried early people from Africa by means of Asia and to the Americas.

The journey took our species maybe 50,000 years. Salopek, a California-born journalist, figured he may do it in seven.

He’s in China now, roughly midway. He estimates he’ll want six extra years to achieve his objective: Tierra del Fuego, on the tip of South America.

“And that’s OK,” he instructed me in a name from Shanghai. “This venture has turn into my life. It’s what I’m now. I’m privileged to have the ability to do it.”

The reward, he stated, has been assembly different people of just about infinite selection: cattle-herding nomads in Ethiopia, farmers in Pakistan, a cobbler in Afghanistan, an ox-cart maker in Myanmar.

Paul Salopek with a family of oxcart makers in northern Myanmar.

Paul Salopek with a household of oxcart makers in northern Myanmar.

(Out of Eden Stroll)

And migrants, tens of millions of migrants — some pushed by battle or dysfunction; others by financial disaster or local weather change.

“Motion is mankind’s oldest survival technique,” he wrote in certainly one of his articles from the highway for Nationwide Geographic.

“Sitting down” — that’s, settling in a single place — “is comparatively latest,” he instructed me. “Transferring round is in our limbic reminiscence.”

Even the COVID-19 pandemic, which formally closed borders all over the world, didn’t finish casual migration. “The thought that you could block migrants with a wall is foolish,” he stated. “It’s an Iron Age response to a 21st century drawback.”

In his journey, he has run into 5 wars — in Ethiopia, the West Financial institution, Syria, Kurdistan and Afghanistan — and a army coup in Myanmar. He has been ambushed twice and stopped by police or troopers greater than 100 instances.

And but he has taken constructive classes to date: A lot of the world is at peace, and most people are good.

Paul Salopek with a bearded cop at a checkpoint in northern Pakistan.

Paul Salopek with a bearded cop at a checkpoint in northern Pakistan.

(Out of Eden Stroll)

“5 wars is plenty of wars to stroll by means of, however there’s an terrible lot of peace in between,” he stated. “This can sound Pollyannaish, I do know.”

Salopek has a tip for vacationers (past investing in good sneakers): Pack good studying materials.

“I should have greater than 200 books in my Kindle,” he stated. He simply completed rereading “Chernobyl Prayer” by Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, a set of interviews with survivors of the 1986 nuclear accident.

“Breathtaking,” he stated.

Salopek could also be among the many world’s most devoted practitioners of “gradual journalism”: the idea that slowing down, reporting particulars in depth and writing at size can produce higher and extra correct descriptions of the world, even within the Web Age.

Particularly within the Web Age.

“There’s a typical media assemble that compresses actuality and produces tales which are digestible, and that’s comprehensible, as a result of there’s a lot info on the market to soak up,” he stated. “However this stroll has jogged my memory how synthetic that’s.”

Paul Salopek walks with students in red jumpers while visiting a school in Bihar, India.

Paul Salopek walks with college students in purple jumpers whereas visiting a faculty in Bihar, India. Salopek is with strolling associate Bhavita Bhatia.

As a veteran of that normal media assemble, I can attest that he’s proper. That’s why, like Salopek, I usually make room on my studying record for gradual journalism, generally referred to by the less-evocative time period “longform.”

Maybe surprisingly, we’re within the midst of a increase in longform journalism — helped by the truth that the web gives writers extra methods to publish their work, even when it doesn’t at all times make it simpler for them to earn a dwelling.

Salopek, like many severe readers, is a fan of the Atlantic and the New Yorker, venerable magazines (based in 1857 and 1925, respectively) which have prospered within the digital age by reinventing themselves whereas nonetheless specializing in high quality.

Conventional newspapers, like this one, have additionally discovered that longform journalism is a necessary a part of their franchise — as a result of readers need it. Column One, the common longform function of the Los Angeles Occasions, was revived early in 2019 after two bleak years of absence.

In case you’re searching for summer season nonfiction studying, you’re in luck. There may be not solely a increase in longform journalism; there’s one thing of a increase in newsletters that assist readers discover the most effective work on the market.

I’m keen on the Sunday Lengthy Learn, a weekly digest produced by journalists and visitor editors that has a chatty, personalised really feel. It’s additionally value Longreads, which gives articles from an eclectic mixture of mainstream, not-quite-mainstream and downright obscure sources. For one thing a bit of extra intellectual, there’s the Browser, a sensible British aggregator that pulls on sources throughout the English-speaking world.

There’s nonetheless sufficient summer season left to enhance your studying record. Completely satisfied shopping.

Paul Salopek at a salt mine in Rajasthan, India.

Paul Salopek at a salt mine in Rajasthan, India.

(Out of Eden Stroll)


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