Attention Spans

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Steve Engelberg and Raney Aronson talk about long-form journalism in a short form world. Deb Olin Unferth talks about dropping out of college to join the Sandinistas. Adam Rapp, Julianne Nicholson and Louis Cancelmi talk about "The Hallway Trilogy." Rodney Crowell on his memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks.

Long On Words, Short on Time

Pro-Publica managing editor Steve Engelberg and Frontline’s Raney Aronson discuss how to do long-form storytelling in a short attention span world. They’ll debate whether or not the Internet really has shortened readers’ attention spans, how new technologies could contribute to a revitalization of the form, and the all-important question of who will actually pay for these longer, more labor-intensive pieces.

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The Revolution is Over

Young, idealistic, and in love, at the age of 18, Deb Olin Unferth ran away from college with her Christian boyfriend and followed him to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas. In Revolution: The Year I Fell In Love and Went to Join the War, Unferth recounts her struggles to find “revolution jobs”, the subsequent disillusionment, and the eventual end of the Cold War in this rumination of what happens to a country and its people after the revolution is over.

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The Hallway Trilogy

Writer/director Adam Rapp and actors Julianne Nicholson and Louis Cancelmi discuss their roles in “The Hallway Trilogy”, which is currently playing at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Each play in the trilogy is staged by a different director (Rapp directs the first play, “Rose”) and are set 50 years apart—in 1953, after the death of Eugene O’Neil; in 2003, after the New York City blackout; and in 2053, when disease has been eradicated from New York and young men and women in need of money are injected with viruses for the public’s amusement.

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Rodney Crowell on Country Music

Grammy Award-winning country music singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell discusses his memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks. In the book, he recounts his hardscrabble upbringing in rural Texas with his hard-drinking father and long-suffering mother, his marriage to—and eventual divorce from—Roseanne Cash, and his long-running love affair with country music.

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Just What Is A Nuclear Meltdown, Anyway?

In the wake of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan, the country's nuclear plants have been in a state of emergency. As of this writing, at least three nuclear reactors were experiencing partial meltdowns, with the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station reportedly experiencing the worst radiation disaster since Chernobyl. Over the weekend, I was keeping an eye on the disaster, but after each news report, I'd been left with one burning, unanswered question: just what exactly happens during a nuclear meltdown?

Thankfully, my dad—who is a physicist—was kind enough to answer my question, even as he gave me a look that said "I told you that you shouldn't have changed your major from chemistry to literature." His response, as well as supplemental information from some of the Lopate Show's past coverage of nuclear energy, is after the jump.


Your Favorite Pieces of Long-Form Journalism

Today, Leonard spoke to ProPublica's Steve Engelberg and Frontline's Raney Aronson about long-form storytelling in a short attention span world. Part of the discussion centered on sites like Longreads and, which aggregate good long-form pieces, new and old. Here at the Lopate Show, we thought we'd share some of our own favorite pieces of long-form reporting—both pieces that we've discussed and others—and ask you, our listeners, to tell us your favorites. Let us know in the comments below!

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