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Oct. 2, 2018, 4:34 p.m.
Reporting & Production

Why The New York Times TL;DR’d its own 14,218-word Trump investigation

“It seemed appropriate to do a still not short, but way more digestible, on-the-run version of the story.”

You could certainly read The New York Times’ massive investigation (14,128 words, by my count) into how Trump’s “self-made” fortune is not only not self-made but also involves tax fraud. But the Times knows that not everybody is going to do that. So on Tuesday afternoon, at the same time that it published the investigation that was a year in the making, it also aggregated itself — publishing “11 takeaways from the Times’s investigation into Trump’s wealth.” The TL;DR version is by the same authors as the full investigation (Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and David Barstow), and, at over 2,500 words, it’s pretty much a longread of its own. There’s also this much shorter interactive version, with audio and video.

“This is one of the longest stories that we’ve ever run in the news pages of the Times, one of the longest investigative stories we’ve run period,” said Paul Fishleder, who edited the story and who leads the Times’ political investigations unit (which was just formed back in May). “It’s a big, long, complicated story with many parts, and obviously we hope everyone reads it to the end, but we also know everyone’s not going to read it to the end. It seemed appropriate to do a still not short, but way more digestible, on-the-run version of the story.”

The Times has other plans to promote the story as well. On Tuesday afternoon, its reporters were tweet-threading the juiciest chunks, and the Times’ email alert included much of the story’s text.

The full story will run in (eight pages of) Wednesday’s print paper. As for the decision to publish on Tuesday afternoon, Fishleder said, “Needless to say, with a story this long, you don’t want to run it in the face of the fiercest news cycle, if that’s possible these days. We decided to do it at a time when we felt there was space for it to get maximum attention.”

Laura Hazard Owen is the editor of Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email (laura_owen@harvard.edu) or Twitter DM (@laurahazardowen).
POSTED     Oct. 2, 2018, 4:34 p.m.
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