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True stories : literary journalism and the making of social knowledge Keats-Osborn, William 2018

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           TRUE STORIES: LITERARY JOURNALISM AND THE MAKING OF SOCIAL KNOWLEDGE  by  William Keats-Osborn   B.A., The University of British Columbia, 2007 M.A., Simon Fraser University, 2010   A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF   DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY  in  THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES  (Sociology)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA  (Vancouver)   August 2018  © William Keats-Osborn, 2018    - ii -  The following individuals certify that they have read, and recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for acceptance, the dissertation entitled:  True Stories: Literary Journalism and the Making of Social Knowledge  submitted by William Keats-Osborn  in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology  Examining Committee: Neil Gross Co-supervisor Tom Kemple Co-supervisor  Amy Hanser Supervisory Committee Member Seth Abrutyn University Examiner Mary Lynn Young University Examiner   Additional Supervisory Committee Members: Deborah Campbell Supervisory Committee Member Shyon Baumann Supervisory Committee Member   - iii - ABSTRACT One way of thinking about culture is as a means through which structured relationships between people, objects, or meanings are reproduced over time. Using the case of literary journalism, I examine this process by investigating how members of the social world involved in producing literary magazine features collaborate to anticipate the responses and criticisms of an as-yet-unknown public audience by theorizing about the principles and methods particular readers will likely use to make sense of the article once it’s published. This project is based on forty-three primary and over a hundred and seventy-four secondary interviews, in addition to a variety of lectures, articles, panel discussions, and archival materials, selected instrumentally for their capacity to illuminate typical cases, and analyzed using an abductive logic. It traces the production of a typical magazine feature from conception to publication, through the activities of reporting, writing, editing, and fact-checking. I highlight that although reporters and editors develop an embodied capacity for doing their work in roughly the correct way through experience as contributory members of the social world, each member’s idiosyncratic background leads to divergent conceptions of right and wrong in any given interaction; solutions to these disparities have to be negotiated by reference to social objects that are understood to be commonplace among members (including “rules” of genre, structure, fairness, identity, and facticity). As members work toward a consensus, the text-in-progress is revised to account for the members’ divergent ways of seeing, and it develops a capacity to withstand an increasingly diverse range of potential readings; at the same time, any individual’s conception of the rules is clarified. By the time the text is published, and the response of a public readership can be observed, the piece can be read in conjunction with the public response as evidence of the existence and nature of cultural schemas that were purported to have governed its development, - iv - thus providing a resource for applying the rules correctly to future projects. This approach highlights how the form and content of even a true account of reality is structured by the obdurate character of social accountability.  - v - LAY SUMMARY This project examines the production of literary journalism, using a magazine feature as a typical case. It involves a detailed investigation of the day-to-day work involved in reporting, writing, editing, and fact-checking such an article, with particular attention paid to the way the people involved in the process do their work with the expectations of their peers in mind. Considering magazine features as literary works whose production emphasizes their fidelity to the empirical world, a closer look at how these articles are made can illuminate links between the production of knowledge and the production of culture. Understanding the practical details of collaborative work like this provides a way of thinking about the relationship between specialized research methods and their consumption by a public audience, where the researchers serve as a focus group of sorts whose job it is to anticipate a wide range of public interpretations.  - vi - PREFACE This dissertation is an original intellectual product of the author, Will Keats-Osborn. The fieldwork reported in Chapters 4 through 7 was covered by the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board certificate H14-02769.  Ira Glass’s show notes in Chapter 5, under the heading “Structuring in Practice,” are courtesy of Andy Orin at the blog Lifehacker. The photograph of Robert Caro’s office in the same section is courtesy of Martine Fougeron / Getty.  - vii - TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT ............................................................................................................................. iiiLAY SUMMARY ..................................................................................................................... iiiPREFACE ................................................................................................................................. viTABLE OF CONTENTS ......................................................................................................... viiLIST OF FIGURES .................................................................................................................. xiGLOSSARY ............................................................................................................................ xiiACKNOWLEDGEMENTS......................................................................................................xivDEDICATION .........................................................................................................................xviCHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................1Literary Journalism? ................................................................................................................5A Brief History ........................................................................................................................9The “World” of Literary Journalism ...................................................................................... 18Puzzling Out the Rules .......................................................................................................... 23Literary Journalism and the Public Record ............................................................................. 29The Structure of this Dissertation ........................................................................................... 34CHAPTER 2: THEORIES AND LITERATURE ...................................................................... 38Journalism as a Sociological Problem .................................................................................... 41Genre as a Social World ........................................................................................................ 46Sociology of Knowledge ....................................................................................................... 51Culture as a Local, Everyday Process .................................................................................... 56Summary ............................................................................................................................... 63CHAPTER 3: METHODS ........................................................................................................ 67Core Cases............................................................................................................................. 68Magazines .......................................................................................................................... 69People ................................................................................................................................ 73Interviews .............................................................................................................................. 80Privacy and Identification ...................................................................................................... 83Additional Data Sources ........................................................................................................ 86Interviews and Practices ........................................................................................................ 90Analysis ................................................................................................................................ 93- viii - CHAPTER 4: REPORTING ..................................................................................................... 97Structure ................................................................................................................................ 99Structuring as you go ....................................................................................................... 106Choosing a Subject .............................................................................................................. 110Topics and cases .............................................................................................................. 110Aligning cases with topics ................................................................................................ 115Preserving a subject's agency ........................................................................................... 120Gaining Access .................................................................................................................... 123Aligning interests ............................................................................................................. 123Negotiating rules .............................................................................................................. 129Establishing trust.............................................................................................................. 132Access issues ................................................................................................................... 135Rendering Material .............................................................................................................. 143Types of sources .............................................................................................................. 143Rendering ........................................................................................................................ 147Using the situation ........................................................................................................... 150Presentation of self ........................................................................................................... 155Managing social distance ................................................................................................. 160Naturalism ....................................................................................................................... 165Preparing material records ................................................................................................ 172Deciding When to Stop ........................................................................................................ 179CHAPTER 5: WRITING ........................................................................................................ 186Reading Contextual Clues.................................................................................................... 190Structuring in Practice ......................................................................................................... 200Considering Readers ............................................................................................................ 208Responsibility and Stewardship ........................................................................................... 214The Mechanics of Writing ................................................................................................... 220Writing as Work .................................................................................................................. 231Using Exemplars ................................................................................................................. 234CHAPTER 6: EDITING ......................................................................................................... 241Organizational Identity ........................................................................................................ 245- ix - Story and style niches....................................................................................................... 247Readership niches ............................................................................................................ 255Identity as social technology ............................................................................................ 264Managing Risk .................................................................................................................... 272Building relationships ...................................................................................................... 272Considering ideas ............................................................................................................. 278Choosing writers .............................................................................................................. 282Working together ............................................................................................................. 287Editing Stories ..................................................................................................................... 289Taking account of reactions.............................................................................................. 289Negotiating changes ......................................................................................................... 297CHAPTER 7: FACT CHECKING .......................................................................................... 303Why Bother with Checking? ................................................................................................ 304The record ........................................................................................................................ 304Reputation as capital ........................................................................................................ 309Identifying Facts .................................................................................................................. 314Changing conventions ...................................................................................................... 314The checker's regress ....................................................................................................... 321Transparency about sourcing ............................................................................................ 327Negotiating changes ......................................................................................................... 330Checking all the facts ....................................................................................................... 333Sourcing .............................................................................................................................. 339Working with subjects...................................................................................................... 339Triangulation and intersubjectivity ................................................................................... 343CHAPTER 8: CONCLUSION ................................................................................................ 352Discovering properties of the world ................................................................................. 354Refining one’s social instincts .......................................................................................... 356Developing mutuality ....................................................................................................... 359Theorizing a range of readings ......................................................................................... 362Reading for evidence of propriety .................................................................................... 364The Upshot .......................................................................................................................... 366- x - Future Directions ................................................................................................................. 374REFERENCES ....................................................................................................................... 380APPENDIX A: SAMPLE RECRUITMENT EMAIL .............................................................. 400APPENDIX B: CONSENT FORM ......................................................................................... 401APPENDIX C: CODE LIST ................................................................................................... 404 - xi - LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Data Sources Summary .............................................................................................. 89Figure 2: Freytag's Pyramid ..................................................................................................... 101Figure 3: Ira Glass's show notes from This American Life (Orin 2014) .................................... 205Figure 4: Robert Caro's outline for his multi-volume book project The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Fougeron 2012) .......................................................................................................... 206- xii - GLOSSARY Case - The specific, idiosyncratic person, place, event, series of events, and so on, that a feature story portrays.  Character - A subject as they’re depicted in a story.  Copy editor - The editor responsible for stylistic issues in a draft, including adherence to a house style guide, grammaticality, and internal consistency. Editor or editor-peer - One of the many people involved in a professional capacity in suggesting revisions to a writer’s draft, including a story editor, a fact checker, a copy editor, a top editor, and an editor-in-chief. Editor-in-chief - The editor responsible for the overall artistic or editorial vision of a magazine, as the formal leader of the editorial side of the organization. The EIC typically has the last say on what will be published in a magazine.  Fact checker - The editor responsible for evaluating a story’s sourcing and determining what factual claims are warrantable based on the sourcing.  Journalist - A catch-all term referring to a reporter, writer, editor, or fact checker. Note that this is a nonstandard use of the term—opinions vary regarding who counts as a journalist.  Magazine - A catch-all term for the editorial staff plus the reporter or writer, as a collective.  Material - The potential building blocks out of which a story is structured, usually consisting of material traces of empirical objects or events (e.g., notes, recordings, clippings, computer files, etc.) before they’re mobilized into a structure.  Reporter - Someone doing research for a magazine feature, who intends to later write the story.  Source - A person or other resource (e.g., a book, document, lecture, photograph, etc.) that provides material for the story but does not necessarily appear as a character in the story.  - xiii - Story - A combination of a case and a topic, usually structured as a narrative, where the story illustrates a topic using an empirical case.  Story editor - The editor who serves as a point person for managing the production of a story in collaboration with a reporter or writer. A story editor will often (but not always) present a story idea or pitch to their peers prior to an assignment, provide support to the reporter while they’re in the field, provide feedback on the first few drafts, enforce deadlines, and decide when a draft is good enough to share with their superior editors.  Story elements - The scenes, dialogues, quotes, passages of exposition, facts, descriptions, and other components that constitute the building blocks of a written story.  Structure - The sequential arrangement of elements in a story.  Subject - A person a reporter uses as a source, and who figures into the story as a character.  Top editor - An editor above the story editor but below the EIC in the institutional hierarchy; may include associate editors, senior editors, or deputy editors, depending on the organization.  Topic - The broader conceptual point, idea, or theme that a case illustrates.  Writer - Someone responsible for structuring and rendering in prose the material they gathered earlier while reporting.  - xiv - ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This research was generously supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada with a Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship. The Killam family also provided an immense boost of confidence in the form of an honorary Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, for which I am immensely grateful.   The Urban Democracy Lab at New York University graciously hosted me during my fieldwork in New York—special thanks to Gianpaolo Baiocchi for accepting me there and Rebecca Amato for making me feel welcome.  This work wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work that others have done in the genre of what Ted Conover once called “meta-journalism,” and I’m beholden to all of them. In particular, Max Linsky, Aaron Lammer, and Evan Ratliff of The Longform Podcast; Robert Boynton with his book The New New Journalism; the folks at Nieman Storyboard, especially Elon Green and Paige Williams; David Abrahamson at Northwestern University; along with the folks at MediaBistro, Paris Review, NYU Primary Sources, and The New Yorker Festival, have been instrumental. Ted Conover deserves special thanks for his comment in The New New Journalism about how anthropology “dovetails with journalism in fascinating and productive ways,” which planted the seed of this whole project when I read it in a Utah campground many years ago. Special thanks of course to all my participants, many of whom remain unnamed, but all of whom contributed something indispensable to my understanding of their world. Many were especially generous in opening up their Rolodexes to make that understanding even deeper.   - xv - Thanks to my supervisor, Neil Gross, and the rest of my committee—Amy Hanser, Tom Kemple, and Deborah Campbell—for the helpful feedback, positive reinforcement, bureaucratic derring-do, and time they’ve dedicated to helping me.  Thanks to my partner, andrea bennett, for her unflagging support and relentless vigilance for jargon.  Special thanks as well to the folks responsible for Thesaurus.com, which has been open in a browser tab on my computer for at least two solid years. - xvi - DEDICATION To Sinclair, of course.         - 1 - CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION In the autumn of 1964, the writer James Lord sat down in Alberto Giacometti’s Paris studio to have his portrait painted. Lord had been a friend and admirer of Giacometti’s for over a decade; at the time, he had written a few articles about the artist and he was corresponding with a friend in New York about their time together as part of what would turn out, twenty years later, to be preparation for Lord’s authoritative Giacometti biography. What was supposed to be a quick sketch, expected to take an hour or two one afternoon, quickly telescoped into an eighteen-day effort as Giacometti struggled to achieve on canvas what he was seeing with his eyes. Because of the way they were positioned, Lord couldn’t see what Giacometti was doing on the canvas during the sitting. Often, at the end of each session, upon seeing the day’s progress for the first time, Lord would remark how certain he was that only an hour or two of additional detail work would be needed to complete the painting—only to be dismayed the next day when he saw the painter erasing the last day’s work with a series of broad strokes over the middle of the canvas. In the hours they spent together, Giacometti’s struggle to reproduce what he was seeing was a recurring theme of their conversation:   “It seems simple [Giacometti said]. What I’m trying to do is just to reproduce on canvas or in clay what I see.” “Sure. But the point is that you see things in a different way from others, because you see them exactly as they appear to you and not at all as others have already seen them.” “It’s true that people see things very much in terms of what others have seen,” he said. “It’s simply a question of the originality of a person’s vision, which is to see, for example, and really to see, a landscape instead of seeing a Pissarro. That’s not as easy as it sounds, either.” (1980, 89)  - 2 - The notes Lord made during the creation of the painting became A Giacometti Portrait, published the following year by the Museum of Modern Art, and billed on the cover as a look inside the mysterious process of creating a work of art.  Quite some time later, waiting in the hallway of a New York publishing house while the editor I was interviewing took a private call, I came across A Giacometti Portrait while browsing through the bookshelves there. I had been talking to the editor about the work of editing nonfiction, in pursuit of my own inside look at the mysterious process of producing a work of literary journalism, and it struck me that Lord’s curiosity about Giacometti was similar to my curiosity about the work that editor and I had been discussing. Many of the same problems seemed to be at issue: How does anyone render their subjective experience into a material form that’s faithful to what they saw?1 And how does anyone take stock of how other people see so the object they’re producing is both original and intelligible? In both cases, the link between the experience and its reproduction is fairly arbitrary. In both cases, the experience is arduous and uncertain. In both cases, the bulk of the work is of trial and error, largely a matter of stumbling half-blind through an unfamiliar world trying to make sense of something that might have seemed, at first, to be exceedingly simple. Both cases highlight that the work of making sense of one’s world is not just a domain of science, but that it’s part of the daily life of any curious person, both the Giacomettis and the Lords alike—even if the Giacomettis and the Lords go about that work in a very different way.  The sociologist Howard Becker made this point deftly in his 2007 book Telling About Society, pointing out that all kinds of people use all manner of representations of reality to                          1 They is used here and on occasion throughout this thesis in the singular. Widely proscribed by style manuals on logical grounds, singular they has been ubiquitous in spoken and written English for several hundred years, since well before sociocultural factors entered the debate on the propriety of its usage. See, for example, Balhorn 2004; University of Chicago 1993.  - 3 - communicate to others what they know about society—maps, novels, plays, photographs, poems, songs. None of these representations take everything into account, but they’re all “nevertheless adequate for some purpose” (2007, 3). A representation’s adequacy for the purpose at hand depends on what the producer and consumer wish to accomplish with it. A person who wants to communicate what they know to a specific audience, for instance, has to think about who that audience consists of, and what they’re like, and how the work can take into account what they’re like, so they can produce an object that has the desired impact. In his 1982 book Art Worlds, in fact, Becker carefully explored the ways that this type of interaction extends far beyond just the artist and their audience; the production of any artwork, he argued, was an accomplishment of a multitude of people all coordinating their day-to-day work to produce an object they all could agree was an artwork. In Giacometti’s case, his models—most often his brother Diego and his wife Annette—provided the physical forms (usually their heads) that he tried to reproduce; his dealers sold enough paintings to enough galleries and art collectors for him to rent a studio from a Parisian landlord; his audience, including a cohort of critics and curators, were enthusiastic enough about his work to render it valuable; his sources of canvas, paint, brushes, plaster, and other media supplied the raw materials he used for his representations; Diego also set up armatures and casts for Giacometti’s sculptures, which various foundry workers took charge of casting. No matter how original Giacometti’s vision may have been, he never worked within a vacuum; he was a component part of an art world, and his paintings and sculptures were ultimately traces of the collective work of its members.  As Becker took pains to point out, the cooperative nature of the work in an art world puts an onus on individuals to anticipate the expectations of their peers, to pay close attention to how their peers do what they do, so that they can do their own work the right way for their peers to - 4 - make use of it. Literary journalists do this every day, whether it’s a reporter thinking about what their editor wants in a pitch, or thinking about how a reader might react to a dramatic turn of events, or an editor thinking about how a reader might distinguish the voice of their magazine from those of other publications, or a fact checker thinking about how an expert might try to dispute their claims. Predicting how your peers will consume your work, based on what you know about them and what you know about the social world you’re both a part of, is a necessary part of collaborating to produce an artwork that’s recognizable as “the kind of art works that art world is noted for,” as Becker describes it (1982, x). In this situation, seeing things in a particular way might provide the basis for an original work—a “real” landscape instead of a Pissarro—but it also provides the basis for a series of difficult problems, when people come together with divergent understandings of what’s going on.  The aim of the following account is to explore the way that people within the world of literary journalism work out these differences by trying to figure out as they go along the commonplaces that appear to define and govern their shared endeavour—to create something original that they and their ultimate audience can recognize as both an artistic and journalistic achievement. Although Becker explained how knowledge of one’s social world is key for anyone’s ability to coordinate their work with their peers, it’s sometimes easy to forget in a discussion about art that knowledge is something that’s produced and possessed by everyone, albeit in vastly different forms from one person to the next.2 For this reason, literary journalism is an auspicious case: it’s an aesthetic achievement as much as it’s an empirical one. Making literary journalism is a matter of making knowledge as much as it’s a matter of making art. In                          2 Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann made this argument in their book The Social Construction of Reality, in which they took the unusual step of considering the knowledge of the everyday “man in the street” (1966, 13), rather than just those cohorts of society, like scientists and philosophers, whose job is to produce formal knowledge. - 5 - science as in any of the art forms described by Becker in Telling About Society, knowledge is not just a product of people’s investigations; it’s also a component part of the process that people use to ensure that the product is a true representation of the reality it’s intended to reflect. Working out the differences between different people’s ways of seeing takes what might have been an artifact of an individual’s perspective, and adjusts it sufficiently so that multiple members can agree that it represents their ways of seeing as well. In this process, ways of seeing—understandings of what’s real—influence how the organization of the social world evolves, as alliances are formed or broken, disputes are raised or resolved, reputations are built up or eroded. The configurations that shake out from the production of a given artwork provide the starting point, the present state of affairs, from which collaborations on the next artwork begin. Ultimately, it’s a process of a world of people deciding what they can agree, collectively, is true about the world, and what’s not, by considering both the reality within their social world and the reality outside it.   Literary Journalism? For the purpose of this thesis, literary journalism is a style of writing that combines the empirical commitments of journalism with the aesthetic ambitions of literature. As the communication scholar John Hartsock puts it, literary journalism is writing that “reads like a novel or short story except that it is true or makes a truth claim to phenomenal experience” (2001, 1). This definition is close to being sufficient for the purposes at hand, and I will explain in more detail in the next chapter why a more exacting definition produces as many problems as it solves when the implications of a commitment to “truth” and “empiricism” are unpacked. For the moment, it will be worth expounding, in particular, on the role of literary journalism’s aesthetic component in - 6 - distinguishing literary journalism from news journalism, keeping in mind that such a distinction is not something that even members of the literary and news journalism worlds necessarily agree on.  If all canonical examples of literary journalism really did read through like novels or short stories, Hartsock’s definition would be more straightforward to use. In fact, the narrative and other aesthetic devices a reader would expect in a novel or short story often play only a circumscribed role in a feature article or nonfiction book. The journalism historian Kathy Roberts Forde puts it this way:   I am not comfortable with a definition of literary journalism that does not acknowledge the newsgathering that supports all journalism and insists that all literary journalism must read throughout like a novel or short story. Narrative is a key element in such works, but it need not be the only representational or discursive strategy employed. (2008, 7)  On the contrary, literary journalists tend to pick and choose literary and rhetorical devices depending on what they aim to achieve with any given piece, and often the segments that read like a novel or short story might make up only a small percentage of the total word count. Considering that the distinction between literary and daily news journalism typically hinges on the former’s use of literary devices such as narrative, Hartsock’s definition might seem too vague to be useful if Forde’s caveat is taken to heart, especially when daily news journalists increasingly turn to narrative devices in their own writing, and not only for features in Sunday supplements and other traditional bastions of feature writing within the news world. Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that, regardless of the exceptions that may exist, the world of literary journalism can be usefully distinguished from the world of daily news - 7 - journalism by keeping in mind not just the works that they respectively produce, but also the people who produce those works, and the way their beliefs and their work habits influence the form that their completed products take.  In general terms, the distinction between news and literary journalism is often grounded in the way that literary journalism is purported to achieve journalism’s stated role in democracy by imparting beliefs about reality among public readers. Granting that journalists aim to distribute information about reality to a public for the purposes of democratic decision-making, literary journalists and news journalists tend to pursue this goal differently by packaging the information they’ve gathered into different forms. News journalists tend to provide what they consider the most important information in the lead; the who, what, where, when, and why all come in the first few lines of a news story, which means that reading through the rest of the article is optional depending on the reader’s interest in the topic. This format purports to present just information—it informs the reader, in other words, rather than enlightening them. Literary journalists generally argue, in contrast, that by putting the information into a more or less narrative form, readers can be compelled to read about something they might otherwise find uninteresting. Forde links this commitment directly to John Dewey’s suggestion in The Public and Its Problems that journalists presenting their work in a form that has “direct popular appeal” would facilitate public conversation:   Presentation is fundamentally important, and presentation is a question of art. . . . The freeing of the artist in literary presentation is as much a precondition of the desirable creation of adequate opinion on public matters as is the freeing of social enquiry. (1927, 183)  - 8 - In this view, literary journalism is entertaining and engrossing and emotionally evocative in its own right, like literature, but with the added benefit that the reader comes away having learned something about the real world. Literary journalists, in other words, are a cohort of journalists who consider literary devices as resources that can permit them to achieve a particular purpose through their work that would not be achievable using the resources of daily news. Whether or not it’s true that literary journalism actually permits more effective democratic decision-making by virtue of this form is beyond the scope of this dissertation; it’s not my intent to treat literary journalism as an independent variable whose impact on the functioning of democracy can be measured. But the use of aesthetic forms as a way of engaging a reader is arguably a defining commitment that can distinguish literary journalists at least in a heuristic way. The point of keeping this distinction in mind is to avoid the risk of assuming that the way literary journalists do their work is transferable to the way daily news journalists do theirs, in the same way it would be a mistake to assume that the way Giacometti’s social world works to produce a Giacometti painting is the same as the work involved in a mason’s laying a brick wall that’s both level and true, despite the dependence of both activities on materials and craftsmanship. There are many similarities, of course, between literary journalism and daily news, both in terms of practice and outcome, but the differences are close to the heart of the following account.  As Forde’s caveat suggests, the exact criteria that can be used to identify the form and the label used to denote it is a matter of considerable contention. Works I would associate with literary journalism have variously been called, for example, literary reportage, narrative journalism, narrative nonfiction, longform journalism, nonfiction novels, New Journalism, creative nonfiction, and even “faction.” Writers and scholars concerned with these definitional - 9 - debates worry that different labels have objectionable implications: longform is too inclusive and says nothing more substantial about the genre than that its works are long; creative nonfiction suggests that authors have too much of a role in “creating” what are supposed to be rigorously factual accounts; narrative journalism suggests that the pieces are necessarily narrative, whereas many works tend to emphasize discursive, expository, descriptive, or argumentative elements over narrative ones; nonfiction defines the form only in terms of what it’s not, rather than what it is. Often, the debate is an existential one, most immediately because many journalists perceive an obligation to present to the public true accounts of reality, and the label communicates the substance of this contract to readers.  It’s not my intention to weigh in on this debate, as attempts to advocate for one term or another are examples of the boundary work (Gieryn 1983; 1999) that members do to make sense of their social world and their position in it. The important point is that a belief about the role of journalism in society, and the way members of this world attempt to realize this role by doing their work in a particular way, is a useful way of distinguishing literary journalism—and the people who make it—from other forms of journalism and other forms of social research. It’s not an essential quality, nor is it universal among members; rather, it’s a heuristic resource for thinking about the collaborative work that goes into creating this kind of account of reality, as opposed to any other.  A Brief History One way of thinking about literary journalism as a cohort of practitioners who share a set of beliefs, rather than simply as a genre with particular textual features, is to consider today’s literary journalism genealogically, as a descendant of particular literary forms from the past. - 10 - John C. Hartsock (2001) traces the history of the American tradition of literary nonfiction as far back as the period following the Civil War, to writers like Mark Twain and David Thoreau, both of whom narrated their personal experiences in essays that were purported to be nonfictional. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that feature-style magazine writing as we know it, based specifically on journalistic reporting rather than personal narrative, was inaugurated by magazines like McClure’s and Collier’s. At those magazines, early muckrakers like Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens pioneered the techniques we now associate with investigative journalism, taking the results of in-depth documentary and interview research and presenting it in long, narrative feature stories that were often serialized over subsequent issues of the magazines.  Steffens, for his part, had an abiding interest in municipal corruption, and a series of McClure’s stories he wrote about corruption in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia were published in 1904 as The Shame of the Cities. These essays used many of the literary features now associated with literary journalism, including scene-setting, dialogue, and plot, but with a concern for facticity that was unusual for the time. In the introduction, Steffens makes a case for the literary presentation of these facts:   This is all very unscientific, but then, I am not a scientist. I am a journalist. I did not gather with indifference all the facts and arrange them patiently for permanent preservation and laboratory analysis. I did not want to preserve, I wanted to destroy the facts. My purpose was no more scientific than the spirit of my investigation and reports; it was . . . to see if the shameful facts, spread out in all their shame, would not burn through our civic shamelessness and set fire to American pride. That was the journalism of it. I wanted to move and convince. (1904, 17)  - 11 - The form has evolved considerably since then. (“A lot of it was kind of boring,” one journalist told me; “a lot of it doesn’t hold up especially well over time, because it’s not very well structured—they didn’t really know what they were doing at that point.”) But the same impetus—to pique a reader’s interest and evoke an emotional response through the selection and arrangement of factual material—is familiar among today’s literary journalists. Take Pam Colloff, describing the motivation behind her Texas Monthly story “The Innocent Man” (December 2012), about a man wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife:   My interest in taking it on was to try to do what I think only long-form journalism can do: that is, to both delve into the rich, intricate details of a case and to overlay those details with the sort of storytelling that evokes a visceral response. I wanted this piece to really hit readers in the gut. (Williams 2013d)  In spite of the merits professed by Steffens at the turn of the century, mainstream journalism tended to move in the opposite direction over the first half of the 1900s, toward a more “scientific” model ostensibly driven by the norm of objectivity, as Michael Schudson describes in his book Discovering the News (1978). Leaving the Deweyan concern for the artistic presentation of knowledge to niche literary publications, mainstream journalism tended more toward a model espoused by Walter Lippmann, who questioned the ability of the fried-peas-and-nuts public to take account of the vast breadth of human knowledge in a way that would permit the kinds of informed decisions that effective governance requires. In his ideal, governance would be left to a class of technocrats with the expertise to make informed decisions, and the role of journalism would be to convey only the facts that the masses would need to vote the technocrats into or out of office.  - 12 - Whether or not Lippmann was a progenitor or merely an amplifier of the values of objectivity and professionalization in journalism, he was certainly an outspoken advocate of them, and by the 1930s, according to Schudson, objectivity was “an articulate value of journalism” (1978, 157). (The journalism scholar Ben Yagoda quotes H. L. Mencken, who “wrote that when he was on the staff of the Baltimore Sun in the early years of this century, he and his fellow reporters felt ‘hobbled by the paper’s craze for mathematical accuracy,’ which resulted in reporters ‘who tended to write like bookkeepers’” (2000, 202).) Although Schudson questions the degree to which working journalists came to accept objectivity as an attainable goal, it had certainly become a dominant talking point in the middle of the 20th century, particularly as a resource for members of the journalism world wishing to establish their legitimacy or cachet (as it remains today). In Forde’s view, “Lippmann’s vision of professional journalism came to dominate daily newspaper and public culture while Dewey’s vision of journalism as art lived on in niche publications, muted and chastened” (2008, 15).  The muted and chastened publications who published works like George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938), John Hersey’s Hiroshima (1946), or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor (1955) carried the mantle of Collier’s and McClure’s through World War II, but in the middle part of the century the pendulum was far enough on the side of objective and scientific journalism in the mainstream that certain writers who began in the 1960s to experiment, or re-experiment, with literary forms of journalism perceived a sort of radicalism in their approach. The novelty perceived in the work of writers like Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, and Gay Talese was pronounced enough that Capote’s 1966 book In Cold Blood was billed both by its author and its publisher as the inauguration of “a serious new literary form: the Non-fiction Novel” (Kauffmann 1966); Tom - 13 - Wolfe brought his own work and that of his contemporaries under the umbrella term “The New Journalism” in a 1973 anthology he edited with E. W. Johnson.  According to Wolfe, New Journalists were enacting an explicit challenge to the Lippmannian mainstream in their use of scenes, dialogue, point of view, character, metaphor, and other literary devices. “Really stylish reporting was something no one knew how to deal with, since no one was used to thinking of reporting as having an esthetic dimension,” he said (1973, 24). Wolfe himself discovered the possibilities of the genre when he submitted his field notes to an editor at Esquire for a story about custom car culture, and the editor printed them as-is, under the title “There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy-Kolored (Thphhhhhh!) Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (Rahghhh!) Around the Bend (Brummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm)....” Naturally, this was something of a contrast to the work produced by “paralyzing snore-mongers” like Walter Lippmann, who, in Wolfe’s view, did “nothing more than ingest the Times every morning, turn it over in his ponderous cud for a few days, and then methodically egest it in the form of a drop of mush on the foreheads of several hundred thousand readers of other newspapers in the days thereafter” (1973, 25).  Although Wolfe is rarely credited with having invented a new form of writing as he claims to have done along with his contemporaries, he is often credited with bringing greater attention to the form, and making more room for it in an attention space dominated, on the journalism side, by actuarial approach to facticity, and on the literary side, by an abiding concern for the novel, which tended to deemphasize facticity. The writer John McPhee, for instance, noted that partly as a result of Wolfe’s advocacy for New Journalism, “in a general way, nonfiction writing began to be regarded as more than something for wrapping fish. It acquired various forms of respectability” within literary circles (Hessler 2010).  - 14 - The experimental approach to reported literature associated with Wolfe and his contemporaries in the 1960s and 70s effectively propelled magazines like Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and New York into mainstream American culture (or, at least, counterculture), and editors like Clay Felker, Graydon Carter, and Jann Wenner achieved the magazine industry’s closest analogue to stardom. One effect of this ascendance was to provide another generation, referred to by Robert Boynton as the “new new journalists”  (2007), with a fertile set of influences and mentors upon whose foundation they could hone the reporting and storytelling techniques that now form the basis of the journalism published in today’s magazines.  Of course, the new new journalists and their peers had the dubious distinction of being one of the last generations of literary journalists to come of age in an industry exclusively concerned with print. There’s no doubt that in the years since the turn of the millennium, the internet and associated forms of digital publishing and distribution have had a colossal impact on the publishing industry. Magazines that distribute paper copies through the mail are now spoken of, with a hint of pejoration, as “legacy” media, and almost every magazine has been forced to figure out how to develop a presence online in order to maintain a remunerative audience.  One effect of this development is that feature stories now commonly travel across the internet independently of the rest of the magazine’s text. Traditionally, print magazines have placed their stories in a feature well bookended by front- and back-of-book elements like letters to the editor, listings, reviews, columns, and other short pieces. Now, stories that would show up in the well of a print issue, once posted online, might get shared on Twitter or Facebook, bookmarked by a service like Pocket or Instapaper, curated by a service like Longform, or shared digitally with one’s friends and family members, all independently of whatever else might have appeared alongside it in the print issue. Aside from divorcing features from the mix that a print - 15 - editor typically envisions as a thread that ties together the pieces in a given issue, digital distribution has also upset the association between those pieces and the advertising infrastructure intended to fund them. As a response, some organizations have tried to develop publications based solely on the distribution of single features; Byliner, for instance, published an “e-single” in 2011 by Jon Krakauer, the bestselling author of Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, that quickly rocketed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list, briefly igniting hope in a new model of magazine publishing—hopes that were dashed when Byliner folded in 2014 (Owen 2014). Organizations that continue to publish features independently of a print magazine tend now to do so as only part of an integrated media organization, like BuzzFeed subsidizing their journalistic work with custom native advertising campaigns, or The Atavist Magazine subsidizing their journalistic work with sales of a digital publishing platform, or Deca making feature stories in the context of a journalistic cooperative modelled after photographic organizations like Magnum.   A second, related effect is that revenue sources that have traditionally funded longform reporting and writing are undergoing a major shift. Print advertising in general has plummeted catastrophically, and much of the concern over the future of journalism is often linked to the precipitous decline in print advertising revenue for newspapers in particular. The 2015 report of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Kilman 2015), for instance, indicated that print advertising revenue at North American newspapers decreased by 28 percent in just the previous five years. Similarly, the American Society of News Editors, in the decade before 2015, reported a total loss from American newsrooms of over 20,000 jobs—a contraction of nearly 40 percent (American Society of News Editors 2017). Not surprisingly, trends in the magazine industry have largely followed suit: according to Pew, overall ad pages among American news magazines dropped by 36 percent between 2003 and 2012 (Matsa 2013). - 16 - Virtually all legacy magazines have developed digital platforms of one kind or another for their editorial content, in order to raise revenue through things like digital advertising and paywalls, but rapid changes in technology and industry have made it difficult for digital publications to secure the kind of reliable revenue that print advertising provided over the latter half of the 20th century3. Ad blockers and the tiny screens on mobile devices continuously challenge the efficacy of display advertising, while at the same time, distributing articles as “singles” makes it difficult for publications to rely on the distribution power of Google and Facebook without ceding ad revenue to those platforms. Subscription sales have remained relatively stable, but readers do not appear willing to pay for subscriptions what it costs to produce the material those subscriptions entitle them to read, nor have they been since the invention of the penny press in the 1830s. As digital revenue becomes a larger and larger cross-section of any magazine’s income, figuring out how to keep abreast of broader changes in the advertising industry, in order to hold on to that subsidy, becomes a continuous challenge.  It’s an open question whether the apparent decline of print presents an existential threat to the genre of literary journalism, however. Many writers and editors acknowledge that producing literary journalism has almost always been a money-losing proposition—the audiences are simply too niche for either subscriptions or ad sales to provide much of a viable business model. “It’s a crap shoot,” says the journalist William Langewiesche. “We know it. But we are the people who decided we weren’t going to become doctors and lawyers. So it’s a very difficult road to walk. Always has been. Always will be” (Boyd 2007). It’s practically a tradition for publications with a particularly artistic bent to barely scrape by. Harper’s, perhaps the best example of this phenomenon, was purchased by the newly formed Harper’s Magazine                          3 Marc Weingarten (2005) suggests that access to copious advertising income was partly, if not largely, responsible for the bold and risky editorial decisions made by Felker, Carter, and Wenner that made it possible for Tom Wolfe-era New Journalists to gain widespread popularity.  - 17 - Foundation in 1980, when it was losing $2 million per year (Manning 2000), and it has continued to lose money since then. But it lives on largely through the dedication of its patron, John R. “Rick” MacArthur and his family’s charitable foundation (Clifford 2010). Besides, one of the cornerstones of journalism, as I’ll explain in a moment, has been to try as much as possible to ignore what goes on on the business side of any publication, which means that a lack of job security has rarely stopped young writers who feel dedicated to the form from accepting very low pay for whatever amount of time it takes to develop the skills and connections needed to earn a living wage. As one editor told me, “It’s such an amazing moment, because print is dying . . . and nobody can figure out how to make money on the internet, but there is more good stuff right now than at any point in my career. There are so many good young writers out there, making nothing.” Although fears about how the internet is changing the world of literary journalism certainly abound—people I spoke to regularly complained that standards of editing are eroding, that the training infrastructure of the print industry has evaporated, that digital publication is too ephemeral, that writing is becoming formulaic, that pieces are getting shorter and the pace is increasing—it’s not clear that these types of complaints wouldn’t have been aired at any other time in the history of literary journalism, especially with the introduction of any new technology4. There have always been bad editors and good editors, there have always been long pieces and short pieces, and there have always been reputable publications and dubious ones.                          4 “Has ever a literary movement's demise been more frequently hailed than New Journalism's?” asks Robert Boynton (2005):    ‘Whatever happened to the New Journalism?’ wondered Thomas Powers in a 1975 issue of Commonweal. In 1981, Joe Nocera published a postmortem in the Washington Monthly blaming its demise on the journalistic liberties taken by Hunter S. Thompson. Regardless of the culprit, less than a decade after Tom Wolfe's 1973 New Journalism anthology, the consensus was that New Journalism was dead. - 18 - Profitable magazines, with the possible exception of The New Yorker, have rarely been the ones with the most cultural cachet. Complaints like these do not necessarily indicate that the social world of literary journalism is coming to an end, only that its members are taking account of changes within the world in much the same way they always have.   The “World” of Literary Journalism Becker’s idea of an art world highlights that generic distinctions cannot easily be separated from the social organization of the people responsible for producing generic work. A central theme of the following account will be an exploration of how the social world of literary journalists is shot through with ideas about genre—how beliefs about what makes for good literary journalism influence how a journalist approaches the work they do with their peers, and in turn, how the outcome of that work influences beliefs about the “rules” of good literary journalism. The abridged history of literary journalism I just recounted shows, on one hand, how writers can identify themselves as a certain kind of writer by referring to genetic precedents for the work they’re doing—Tom Wolfe, for instance, clearly identified with the artistic freedom of the novelists he was reading rather than the buttoned-down news analysis of Lippmannian snore-mongers. It also shows, on the other hand, that organizational conditions—notably, the access to a magazine infrastructure with reliable advertising income—can accommodate certain kinds of writing better than others. These examples suggest that an account of the world of literary journalism such as this one has to go beyond textual attributes of the genre in defining its scope, to consider how the social organization of the world produces attributes that members of the social world can agree, more or less, are the attributes that mark works of literary journalism as members of a discrete genre.  - 19 - Of course, the utility of a clear generic definition is that it provides a rationale for excluding peripheral cases; Becker’s conception of an art world provides no such rationale. For Becker, an art world is never clearly demarcated in practice, and only achieves analytical utility by virtue of a judgment about how closely members are involved in cooperating to produce the kind of work the art world is known for. It’s a collective attention to the “conventional ways of doing things,” Becker says (1982, 57), that permit members of a social world to cooperate, so the scope of an art world can only be discerned by examining the work that members do together—how they themselves make sense of the work of their collaborators, and vice versa:   Art worlds do not have boundaries around them, so that we can say that these people belong to a particular art world while those people do not. . . . Instead, we look for groups of people who cooperate to produce things that they, at least, call art; having found them, we look for other people who are also necessary to that production, gradually building up as complete a picture as we can of the entire cooperating network that radiates out from the work in question. The world exists in the cooperative activity of those people, not as a structure or organization. (1982, 35)  Identifying people involved in the production of a literary journalistic magazine feature in this way is not particularly difficult; the difficulty is in deciding whom to exclude. One way to make this decision, as Becker suggests, is to refer to the distinctions that members of the social world make for the purposes of their own work.  A crucial distinction that emerges from even a cursory look at the literary journalism world is the distinction that its members make between the editorial and business sides of a magazine (and of the industry as a whole). A magazine’s masthead provides a useful schematic for the social organization of a given publication, and the division of labour involved in - 20 - producing it, and magazine mastheads often make this distinction fairly conspicuous. It’s a conceptual distinction—often denoted in a printed masthead by a line separating the respective staffs—but it is also in many ways a physical and practical distinction as well. The editorial staff will usually occupy a distinct office space and carry out face-to-face work to the exclusion of the business staff, and vice versa. At many magazines (as I’ll discuss in Chapter 6), the division of labour might be fairly absolute, and the staff will work to keep it that way in defense of the magazine’s reputation for editorial independence.  On the editorial side of this division, there will usually be a hierarchy of editors—the editor-in-chief at the top, followed by a deputy editor or two, maybe an executive editor, a few senior editors, a few associate editors, and a managing editor responsible for the day-to-day management of the editorial staff. Fact checkers or researchers, as well as copy editors and proofreaders, will usually be responsible for honing drafts as they approach publication. Editorial interns will often work with the staff editors in a mentorship capacity. Typically, an art director will direct a staff of editors in charge of the visual aspects of the magazine—illustrations, photographs, design and layout—in consultation with the text-based editors. Frequently, one group of staff members will be assigned to print production, while another will be assigned to digital, although the arrangement and permeability of this distinction varies widely; similarly, some editors may focus on the feature well, while others may be concerned more with the front or back of the book. Of course, a group of staff writers or contributing editors will report and write many of the pieces that the editorial staff will be responsible for selecting, editing, and arranging, while freelancers will be responsible for most of the rest.  On the publishing or business side of the organization are the people responsible for executing the publication of the editorial materials produced by the other side of the office. A - 21 - president and one or more vice presidents may oversee the process, developing business strategies, identifying sources and methods of financing, managing costs, keeping abreast of and adapting to changes in the industry as a whole, and representing the magazine to the industry and to potential customers. A sales staff will be tasked with selling print and digital advertising space, as well as subscriptions. Circulation staff will keep track of and communicate with subscribers. Some staffers will be responsible for communications, some for accounting, some for keeping the office running and managing clerical tasks.  Speaking in terms of Becker’s art worlds, there are many people outside of the magazine office who play an imperative role in the functioning of the literary journalism world as well, if not directly in the production of magazine features. Advertisers, in many cases, provide much of a magazine’s revenue, while subscribers provide a good part of the rest. Printers and distributors are needed to realize the magazine’s physical form and to distribute it to retailers and readers. Literary agents may in some cases involve themselves in the management of payment and rights; lawyers may be consulted with respect to questions of libel. Critics may play a role, however circumscribed, in the ebb and flow of certain careers, and so may audiences, with whom reporters and editors ostensibly communicate through their work, and whose interest may serve to attract or dissuade an advertiser’s or other revenue source’s involvement with the publication.  In spite of the wide range of people involved in the literary journalism world, it is hard to overstate the importance of editorial independence in the minds of the people on the editorial side of this equation. Perhaps as a legacy of the move toward scientific accuracy described by Schudson (1978; 2001), or perhaps as a matter of artistic freedom, writers and editors who identify strongly with the democratic value of journalism or the aesthetic value of literature tend to perceive any impingement of commercial influence on their work as a grave moral - 22 - transgression, as it threatens the putative purity of literary journalism with respect to the faithfulness of its representation either of empirical reality (i.e., facticity) or timeless, transcendental reality (i.e., the kind of truth associated with literature). For this reason, it’s extremely common for people on the editorial side of the masthead to ignore the existence of the more distal portions of the literary journalism world as much as possible, regardless of the frequency or intensity of the social ties that connect them. This phenomenon may become even more pronounced the more feature articles become separable from the magazine as a physical object thanks to digital modes of publishing. Consider the perspective of one participant I spoke to who had worked quite extensively both as reporter and editor, and now works exclusively for a digital publication:   What do you really need to do a story? You don’t need a whole magazine infrastructure. You just need a great writer who can also report, you need a fact checker, you need a copy editor, you need an editor, and maybe a top editor to second guess the editor. That’s literally all you need, all it takes to assemble that.  Literally, of course, it takes many more people than that, but to the extent that editorial independence of literary journalists is to be a real phenomenon, these are the people whose work must be carved out from the world as a whole, both conceptually and practically. Thinking of this work as distinct, and acting on that belief, is one of the “conventional ways of doing things” that permit people in those five roles to cooperate in producing articles that are recognizable as instances of the genre.  This is the reason I’ve chosen to focus on these particular roles in the following account, rather than treating literary journalism as a product of a broader and more diffuse world that - 23 - Becker might have been tempted to investigate. This account is based on a narrow reading of Becker’s search for “groups of people who cooperate to produce things that they, at least, call art”; if a person on the business side thinks of a feature article as “content” to be “optimized” for delivery to an “end-user,” rather than strictly as literature or journalism, that’s a discrepancy that’s relevant for the distinction I’m making in delimiting the scope of this project. While the editorial roles I examine certainly comprise a sub-world within a much larger world of cooperative activity, close examination of these roles allows for a more granular look at how the collective work of a social world is tied to the conceptual resources that allow the existence of the world to be discerned. The examination of these kinds of conventions—both in the way they govern world members’ day-to-day practice, and in the reification of the conventions through that day-to-day practice—is permitted by viewing literary journalism as a world rather than as something else, like a field, structure, or institution. As Becker argued in a dialogue with Alain Pessin (2006), the use of the world concept aims to do away with the idea that people act on the basis of invisible, abstract forces that operate on them from above, and rather treats people as agents proceeding through their lives step by step, speculating about what to do, guessing at what people expect of them, and adjusting their lines of action according to how their peers respond. Even if a focus on a sub-world such as this one fails to provide a complete picture of cooperative action writ large, it nevertheless holds some promise for understanding cooperative work in concrete terms, rather than primarily through the use of abstractions.   Puzzling Out the Rules So what does it mean for the members of a social world to use conventions of practice to govern their work, while at the same time discovering those conventions through their work? Members - 24 - of a magazine’s editorial staff, at the beginning of any project or assignment, face a complicated task: they have to produce an accurate account of reality that “hits readers in the gut,” and they have to do it by coordinating with a variety of people whose ideas of what’s accurate and what’s evocative might vary widely. Members of the editorial team have to decide as a group how readers will likely make sense of the finished text, in other words, so their work will have the desired impact. In general terms, this is the simple problem of literary journalism, and it’s a problem that sociologists of various stripes have attempted to grapple with in various domains of social life for many years. As Jack Katz puts it, the problem is a matter of “taking into account, at Time 1, how others will respond at Time 2”:  When composing music, working on an assembly line, or preparing food, people may be alone in the sense of executing sequences of behavior independent of others’ interventions or monitoring, but they are shaping their behavior in anticipation of how others will pick it up: writing music for instruments that musicians know how to play; restricting output so that managers do not adjust the piece-work rate down; preparing food in such ways that the children will relish eating it. (2016, 697)  The simple problem of literary journalism is complicated by the collective nature of the work: rather than one person merely anticipating another’s responses, as in the case of a parent cooking a meal for their child, the collective problem requires that a multitude of people anticipate an array of potential responses, and that they reconcile any discrepancies between their individual predictions, so that the product of the collective work appears credible to a wide range of consumers. In the complex problem of literary journalism, actions taken at Time 1 have to account not just for the reactions of the immediate consumer at Time 2 (as in, say, a reporter producing a draft for their story editor), but they also have to take into account the more distant - 25 - consumer at Time 3 or 4 or 5 (as in a reporter producing a draft that also satisfies a fact checker, copy editor, and lawyer). Any of the actions a member of the editorial staff takes in the course of their work, in other words, has to produce something that effectively anticipates a range of possible responses among their immediate peers; only if those interactions go well will the piece achieve publishability and find its way to a public audience. The solution to the complex problem permits the members of the team to produce a piece that hits readers in the gut, thus realizing the promise of the genre—but how exactly is the solution found prior to publication? How does a group of peers effectively predict the impact of the finished product on a range of public readers just by working things out among themselves? By looking at literary journalism as an accomplishment of a social world, my intent is to inspect the work that’s hidden by the commonsense picture of literary journalism as merely a matter of reporters at an upstream location uncovering facts that they proceed to communicate to a downstream audience—the public—in an entertaining or engaging way. This picture, while not inaccurate from afar, has little to offer any endeavour to understand either literature or journalism as a social process, because it removes from the picture the multitude of interactions that fall outside of the linear relationship between reporter and reader, which only occurs as a result of those interactions being navigated successfully.  There are two particular ways I intend to interrupt this linearity. The first is by recognizing that members of an editorial team have to expend a great deal of effort on looking inward, at their own social world, to figure out the “rules” or “conventions” by which their peers are ostensibly operating, the better to coordinate their work. Rules and conventions of practice are rarely explicit (see, for example, Polanyi 1958; H. M. Collins 1985), and even when they are, as in the case of ethics rules or style guidelines, it’s often unclear how an explicit rule is to be - 26 - applied to a concrete situation. In the case of literary journalism, part of the criteria used to recognize a good article is its originality, both in terms of its literary value and the information it contains, and this means that even explicit rules have to be adapted to the new situations that each article involves. Figuring out how to manage novel situations requires that members of the team develop the competence—frequently through trial and error—to make decisions their peers will understand as the correct ones even for situations that have never before been encountered. A sense for the correct application of even implicit rules provides much of the basis for literary journalism’s credibility as a public good, especially when many of a piece’s empirical claims are delivered to the reader in a black box. The journalist Gideon Lewis-Kraus puts it this way:   Given our anxieties about what we can ever really know about another person, how can we ever have any confidence that the journalist’s account deserves to become official? The best we can do is make sure the journalist is playing by the rules. It’s a sociological solution, not an epistemological one, but it works fine for our purposes. (2013)  Publishing pieces that are discernable as having been made in accordance with the rules helps a publication develop the reputation it needs to afford the costs of future projects. Breaking the rules, on the other hand, even inadvertently, can erode a great deal of a magazine’s reputation, along with the reputation of the journalists and editors who work there, at one fell swoop.  The second, related way I intend to interrupt the linear picture of literary journalism is by suggesting that a large part of working out the correct applications of rules is speculating about how certain kinds of readers will evaluate a finished piece in terms of certain types of rules. This means recognizing that a magazine’s audience does not just consist of the public, as an undifferentiated Platonic ideal, but that it includes people both central and peripheral to the - 27 - literary journalism world itself—people to whom any given member of the world might be directly accountable in the present or in the future, if not as employer or employee, then as friend, idol, critic, mentor, source, or plaintiff. As participating members of the social world, this portion of the public audience is uniquely possessed of the competence to evaluate published work in terms of the conventions that all members of the social world are purported to share. Not every reader of a feature article will necessarily care about the use of a serial comma or the omission of digressions from a quote, for example, but certain readers almost certainly will if those kinds of concerns make up the nuts and bolts of their daily travails. A feature article in a magazine is what Clayton Childress might call a “thing that is many things” (2017, 4): it may be a compelling bit of entertainment to one reader, a shocking source of insight to another reader, and a grave insult to still another. Members of the team have to consider this range of possible responses by speculating about the rules that govern a range of social worlds. This means that anticipating the responses of readers with particular kinds of competence might play an outsize role in the decisions that members of the editorial team make at Time 1 with respect to post-publication outcomes, because the responses of those readers will be indicative of the team’s success in applying the rules of literary journalism correctly. Often, ideas about the Platonic public—the “typical” reader—serve as valuable conceptual resources for navigating the work of making these collective decisions face to face.  The important point is this: the correct outcome, and the correct series of actions or decisions needed to achieve it, is never clear at the outset, and puzzling out the rules of the social world—rules of structure, voice, style, evidence, ethics, accuracy, objectivity, and so on—must necessarily be done in parallel with puzzling out the empirical nature of the story under investigation, if as broad as possible a swath of the audience is to understand the story as a - 28 - legitimate instance of the genre—meaning, of course, that it recognizably meets the criteria of journalism, rises to the level of art, or, ideally, both. In spite of Becker’s exhortation of “shared conventions” as being the basis of collective action, I would argue that conventions of practice, regardless of how explicitly they’re stated, rarely provide any member of an editorial team with a clear roadmap for what to do prospectively over the course of the project, especially at time scales approaching weeks or months. The correct application of any rule is always clearer in retrospect. But one benefit of doing this work collectively is that applications of the rules can be tested, at least provisionally, with respect to certain portions of the projected audience, by using members of the editorial team as a sort of focus group that’s available to brainstorm theories of how certain stakeholders might respond to particular aspects of the piece. The outcomes of those tests can be used to inform revisions to the developing text. Each member of the team brings a set of theories about the social worlds they’re a part of, both professionally and personally, and differences in the scope of one person’s social world and another’s is a benefit when the sum of their experiences is taken. By coming to any given problem from a range of life experiences and perspectives, members of an editorial team can discover discrepancies between their respective understanding of the rules—points where conventions aren’t as commonplace as they ought to be for work to be easily coordinated—and by working out those discrepancies through revisions to the provisional text, the text gradually acquires the capability of evading critiques from a wider range of readers at the same time that rules of practice become clearer for the people involved. Only after a piece is published does the accuracy of the team members’ collective, consensual predictions finally become visible. Whether the piece draws major criticism or is widely lauded as a paragon of the genre, the published piece can be used by the social world at large to discern what other members have agreed are the rules of literary journalism. Any piece - 29 - that isn’t subsumed in scandal is a reasonable indication that things were done correctly, and can be used as an indication of how things ought to be done in the future. When a magazine publishes a feature article that withstands the scrutiny of a public audience, any member of the social world can read it “methodologically” for evidence of how other reporters typically go about gathering material or how other editors typically go about structuring stories, safe in the assumption that those ways of doing things are sanctioned by the world as a whole. And when members of the social world use the solutions to these problems as evidence for managing the needs of future interactions, the abstract rules effectively attain the status of things—not just incidentally, but because members of the social world actively work to reify them. So the cultural modes of practice are perpetuated and so they evolve. Members of a social world need to understand that there are conventional ways of doing things if they wish to coordinate their work, but the conventions need not be explicit, shared, or even static. Part of making literary journalism is discovering and reproducing the attitudes and idioms that make it possible. The more concrete the shared conceptual resources appear, the easier it will be to work collectively on the “simple” problem of bringing true stories to a public audience.  Literary Journalism and the Public Record Such a focus on “rules” does not mean that I intend to explain what the rules are, especially not in such a way that true accounts can be distinguished from false ones. In the same way that science studies scholars since the “strong programme” in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (e.g., Barnes, Bloor, and Henry 1996) have tried as much as possible to explore how scientists themselves distinguish between true and false beliefs, rather than proclaiming on the truth or - 30 - falsity of those beliefs, my intent is to explore how literary journalists work out these kinds of distinctions in practice by trying to understand the rules that govern their own work.  One of Becker’s contributions with Art Worlds was to demonstrate that art is rarely, if ever, a matter of creative individuals indulging their free-wheeling whims about what’s possible with material and labour. With the exception, perhaps, of yet-to-be-discovered folk art, for an object to attain the status of art requires that it be recognized as art by contributing members of a social world who have competence with the endemic criteria that distinguish art objects from non-art objects. However implicit they may be, these criteria limit the ease with which an original or unusual object can be widely recognized as art. A creative individual can always create whatever they wish to create if they detach themselves from the assent of the art world, but the need for widespread recognition becomes an important constraint if a creative individual wishes to achieve such accomplishments as earning an income or interacting with a public audience.  Journalists who think of their work as playing a role in democratic governance inevitably have to work within such a constraint. As journalistic works, feature articles and nonfiction books contribute to what is commonly thought of as the public record—a record of the way things really are that’s available to members of the public for the purpose of grounding debates about normative proposals for action. Journalists who wish to “hit readers in the gut” with factual accounts of the way things really are need to be able to afford the raw materials of a compelling account and they need an infrastructure that’s capable of delivering their account to a broad range of public readers. The cost of this access is operating within the rules of the worlds that can provide it.  People striving to produce credible accounts of reality have to do things in many respects by the book—they have to follow the rules of method, and do so correctly—and they - 31 - have to be seen doing things by the book by other people competent to pass judgment on how well their methods hewed to the rules. The rules are what distinguish literary journalism as a formal endeavour to develop knowledge about reality. This is an account of a literary form, but it’s also an account of a form of empirical research that purports to provide the public with reliable knowledge about the way things are. In literary journalism, these two aspects of the work may often be in tension, but they’re never separable.   One thing that might make literary journalism valuable for the sake of the public is exactly this tension in the criteria that distinguish the genre. In the absence of conventions of practice that are so commonplace and so internalized that they’re invisible, the kinds of diversity that characterize members of this social world force them to speculate over and over about how other members of their social world understand the rules they’re supposed to abide by. Concepts like “truth” and “facticity” are among the resources that members bring to bear on their day-to-day discussions about what’s publishable. For a member to express a sense that a narrative structure “feels” natural or that a depiction of a character “feels” true is ultimately to express a theory for how other members of the social world might see the same structure or character, and how they might raise an objection based on their particular way of seeing—not just the story or the character, but the way that structure or character relates to the way things are “normally” done within the world of literary journalism. When people on the team see things differently, the best they can do is to continue to articulate their viewpoints in light of more and more evidence until they can reach an intersubjective consensus about what’s probably true, considering what might happen if a powerful or expert reader happens to disagree. How much uncertainty will be tolerable, considering the risk that uncertainty might pose to the reporter, the editors, and the - 32 - magazine if a reader launches a convincing challenge? This is why it’s important for the team to work toward a state of seeing things the same way. Achieving that state takes work. When sociologists like me start digging into the work of fact-building, arguing that the objective facts that form the foundation of our democratic society are based “merely” on intersubjective agreement, it sometimes feels counterproductive or even harmful. When sociologists of scientific knowledge began poking around in scientist’s laboratories in the 1960s and 70s, it wasn’t long before scientists were blaming the crisis of public confidence in scientific knowledge on their meddling (Shapin 1995, 293). On the contrary, my aim in looking inside this black box is not to expose journalistic claims as groundless, only to get a better handle on what their grounding actually involves—the process by which members come to agree that a purported representation of reality really is well-grounded rather than spurious. A metaphysics of reality is not part of this account. Indeed, in canonical studies of scientific practice, the discovery has not necessarily been that those claims asserted as facts are or are not secured to the bedrock if you remove enough layers of topsoil. Instead, the discovery has been that a scientist’s social reality contributes as much to what Herbert Blumer called the “obdurate character of the empirical world” (1969, 22) as their material reality. Saying that claims are not rooted in the way nature “really is” is not to say that facts can be willed into existence by anyone with an idea of the way they’d like things to be; it’s simply to point out that the concrete details of social interaction are as much a part of the picture as the objective reality those interactions are attempting to describe, albeit a part of the picture that’s often ignored when the resources of knowledge building—like concepts of truth, objectivity, and ethics of fairness—are ignored as topics for sociological investigation.  - 33 - Even if this project looks under the hood of journalism more closely than some magazine journalists would be comfortable with, I would argue that a more detailed understanding of the process of knowledge building that literary journalism involves might provide some diagnostic utility in cases when journalism is expected to make an impact as a purposive social action. If a limited cohort of journalists have the resources to immerse themselves in unfamiliar worlds—like those of prison guards (Ted Conover’s Newjack), or Mormon fundamentalists (Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven) or slum dwellers in Mumbai (Katherine Boo’s Beyond the Beautiful Forevers)—and to create compelling accounts of them, while other journalists don’t, we ought to be able to distinguish between how the different groups operate if we want to decide whose claims are empirically warrantable for whatever purposes their accounts might be useful. Harry Collins and Robert Evans make a simple argument in their book Rethinking Expertise: “Other things being equal, we ought to prefer the judgments of people who ‘know what they are talking about,’” because “in spite of the fallibility of those who know that they are talking about, their advice is likely to be no worse, and may be better, than those who do not know what they are talking about” (2007, 2). Literary journalists certainly appear to know what they’re talking about, especially those who have spent months or years immersed in the worlds they write about. How do they come to know what they know? Members of this world do their work differently from other kinds of researchers, and indeed, in many cases, from each other. The approach they use enables them to develop warrants for their claims to reality that are different from those of others, and may well be better for some purposes, if not worse for others. In discovering the potential uses of their representations, and figuring out how that potential - 34 - might be realized more effectively, knowing what we’re talking about when we talk about literary journalism is crucial first step.  The Structure of this Dissertation The following account is structured loosely according to the order in which a magazine feature is produced—reporting, writing, editing, and fact checking. In most cases, reporting comes before writing, editing follows writing, and fact checking is one of the latter stages of editing. As useful as this might be for structuring a dissertation, it’s not always an accurate description of the order of events in the production of an actual article. After all, an editor is usually involved in working out the details of a story idea even before it’s assigned; writing is commonly done alongside the reporting; editing often uncovers issues that require additional reporting; and fact checking is a shared responsibility that a reporter starts and a fact checker mostly finishes, with input from various others along the way. And of course, a great deal of writing is done at every stage, regardless of whether it ever finds its way into a draft. Although this account is structured according to these four stages, it nonetheless requires a great deal of moving back and forth between different points in the process, as well as zooming in on concrete practices and back out to broad conceptual commonplaces, in order to account for the connections between different tasks and the variety of different approaches. The aim, in the end, is to provide a general overview of the process in much of its diversity and complexity.  Before I begin describing the work of reporting in Chapter 4, I provide an overview of the literature on literary journalism in Chapter 2 and a description of my methods in Chapter 3. I first explain how literary journalism fills a particular gap in the literature which emerges from a tendency in the sociology of journalism to take daily news journalism as the prototypical form of - 35 - journalism, as well as a tendency in studies of literary journalism to focus primarily on the text rather than the social interaction that goes into producing it. My approach, by contrast, sees literary journalism at the intersection of the sociology of knowledge, on one hand, and the sociology of culture, on the other—which is, in effect, to consider knowledge as a cultural object rather than an ontologically distinct category of human production, and to see culture as a process rather than merely a product or an object. Examining how a view of culture as a means for reproducing structured relationships over time opens up potential ways of seeing how cultural consumption is a prerequisite for cultural production. Then I explain how I went about producing this account—how I selected which cases to examine, how I identified and recruited participants, how I conducted interviews, which other sources of information I used, and the approach I took to managing human ethics issues.  In Chapter 4 I begin examining the practice of literary journalism by looking closely at the work of reporting. At this point, the scope of my account is limited mainly to reporters and their subjects. After explaining how dramatic structure serves as a major orienting principle for many reporters, I examine how reporters identify the empirical cases that will provide the narrative basis for their stories, and how they attempt to recruit subjects and sources. An extensive portion of this account concerns the ways that reporters interact with their “host” worlds—the things they encounter “in the field”—specifically with an eye toward rendering the material records they need to produce a substantial piece for their editors and ultimately their public readers, by doing things like managing the settings they find themselves in with their subjects, and presenting themselves in particular ways to close the social distance between themselves and their subjects. Finally, I explain how reporters convert those experiences into - 36 - material records as a way of buttressing the empirical nature of their claims, and I examine briefly how they decide when they have enough material to begin writing.  Chapter 5 concerns the act of writing—the conversion of memories and material records into text. Here I delve back into the idea of structure to explain how writers try to use conceptual clues in the text to control the way a reader will make sense of it, and how preparation for that control influences how they realize a dramatic structure out of the material they gathered. Anticipating readers means a writer must also take into account their obligations to their subjects, by carefully considering how to steward the information they receive in a way that preserves their and their magazine’s reputation for fairness. I then examine how writers go about actually producing words and phrases by alternating between creative and critical orientations to their work—first- and third-person perspectives, in other words—and I suggest ways that they consume previously published work as exemplars for informing their approach to whatever storytelling problems they’re struggling with. In its focus on early revisions to the text and how they relate to a writer’s control over the way a reader makes sense of it, this chapter highlights some of the ways a writer can “test” a reader’s potential response well before publication.  The main character in Chapter 4, the reporter, becomes the main character of Chapter 5, the writer. In Chapter 6, I finally zoom out somewhat to place the work of that character in the context of the magazine as a whole, particularly considering the magazine’s identity and the way the identity expresses a purported relationship between a magazine and the expectations of its readers; identity commonly serves as a conceptual resource that helps writers and editors work toward a common goal. Knowing that the identity of the magazine is at stake in any particular project, I then explain how editors manage the work of reproducing it—and the risk of eroding it—by developing relationships with their writers, by sifting through story ideas in light of how - 37 - they might fit with the magazine, by trying to match ideas with writers who will be capable of realizing them, and by working closely with writers through the reporting and writing stages of a project. Finally, I zoom back in and examine the work of story editing, with particular attention to the way an editor stands in for a general reader by articulating their reactions as they read along, and to how they negotiate with writers for the changes they think are necessary.  In Chapter 7 I investigate how fact checkers attempt to ensure that the claims in a piece can be warranted—which is to say, linked to the real world by chains of reference. When it’s successful, as I argue, checking realizes the journalistic goal of literary journalism, which is to provide true and accurate information to the public, while it also achieves an organizational goal of maintaining the magazine’s reputation by avoiding public disputes with powerful readers. I then move to the work of fact checking, explaining how methods of checking are inexorably linked to the checker’s understanding of readers’ expectations, and I explain how checkers attempt to discover and account for any potential weaknesses, or points of potential contention, to forestall the possibility that a reasonable or typical reader will be able to bring an effective dispute. I explain how a desire to avoid such disputes is weighed against the practical limits to anticipating all possible objections. Finally, I examine how checkers use diplomacy with a story’s subjects to maximize opportunities for the editorial team to collectively evaluate a source’s credibility.  Finally, in Chapter 8, I summarize the main themes of this account, briefly outline some potential blind spots, and suggest avenues for further research.  - 38 - CHAPTER 2: THEORIES AND LITERATURE Literary journalism is a social world that appears to occupy a liminal position between a variety of other social worlds, and it serves well, as a result, as a case example for examining liminal positions between a variety of scholarly fields as well. From an outside perspective on literary journalism, it’s difficult to avoid taking something of a third-person perspective on the work of qualitative sociology as well, considering that members of both the literary journalism and qualitative sociology worlds work to develop coherent accounts of how specific portions of the world operate, mainly by talking to native informants, reading widely, theorizing about causes and processes, and writing up results of this work to the specifications of a genre. Being concerned with credibility and accuracy in their accounts of the real world, both literary journalists and qualitative sociologists are careful to reflect regularly about what they’re doing in terms of the rules of method, to ensure that their accounts will be seen as warranted by the evidence, and yet both are rewarded for the originality of their findings. On the surface, members of both worlds are concerned with many of the same conceptual resources—facticity, truth, objectivity, consent, meaning—and both rely on