June 28, 2024

Lonform founders Evan Ratliff, Aaron Lammer, and Max Linsky

For the past decade, I’ve been listening to Lonform, the podcast started by three journalists, Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky, and Evan Ratliff. From its beginning — a microphone on a table in a spare room at The Atavist, the magazine Ratliff co-founded — they invited creative nonfiction writers to talk about their work and themselves. Some were veterans, others young writers working for online start-ups. At one point, I calculated they had talked to every staff writer and contributor at The New Yorker. At a time when journalism, in general, felt like an endangered species, Longform took it very seriously.

Highlights over the years included interviews with The New Yorker’s Susan Orlean, Pulitzer Prize-winner Kathryn Schulz, and Michael Schulman, who explained in detail his reporting and interviewing of Succession star Jeremy Strong.  Essayist/memoirist Leslie Jamison, Killers of the Flower Moon author David Grann, and financial journalist Michael Lewis. Pulitzer Prize winner Caitlin Flanagan and investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe.  I’ve listened many times to Evan Ratliff’s interview with popular science/humour writer Mary Roach, without a doubt the funniest Longform episode.

Why shutter this wonderful podcast now? Is it that AI, among other pressures, has made longform journalism untenable? The founders say it has more to do with their age — they’re in their 40s — and have families as well as a desire to pursue their own work. Ratliff, for example, will continue his feature writing career and is launching a podcast called Shell Game  The depressing state of the industry is, according to Ratliff, nothing new. He told The New York Times, “For most of my career people have been saying that long-form journalism was dying or already dead.”



June 25, 2024