What Makes a Great Read?
It’s narrative writing that’s elegant, jumps off the page, and isn’t necessarily tied to the headlines of the day. These are stories with a beginning, middle and end, with a storytelling style or subject that feels rich and surprising. Sometimes it’s a profile that stands out; sometimes it’s a personal essay or a piece of critique.
Do you choose articles before or after they are published?
Ideally sooner. I browse The Times’ content management system, where reporters write stories, desk by desk, to see what’s in the works. It’s best if a reporter or editor contacts me to say, “Hey, this story is coming up, what do you think?” Sometimes it’s perfect for a Great Read. And sometimes I can suggest edits to make it work.
How involved are you in the editing of the articles?
More often than not, the stories come to me already edited. But if editors introduce me earlier in the process rather than later, then there’s a chance to try a slightly different lead, or not give all the information in the fifth paragraph, but put it off a bit and it story more of a narrative or playful structure.
Do you take visual elements into account when making your selections?
The goal of The Great Read has always been to keep the focus on the writing – there are other places on the site where we can highlight photo or video components of a story.
Is there a minimum word count for a Great Read?
I generally look at stories over 1,000 words. It was an adaptation from the magazine, where I was dealing with stories of 12,000 words, and a short story was 3,500 words! But you can write a really rich narrative story in 2500 words, which doesn’t require the same commitment from the reader.