No matter how many GIFs, videos, bells and whistles the internet throws at us, words and pictures are still the only way to tell some stories. And if 2017 had anything, it was stories.
If, like us, your browser is full of articles you’ve been meaning-but-haven’t-quite-got-around-to reading, now’s the time to clear the clutter.
These are the longer pieces we made time for this year, and are glad we did.
Inside China's Vast New Experiment In Social Ranking – Wired
I’ve never truly worried about social media, smartphones and all the new things society will eventually adjust to as we once did with books, radio and television. This, though? This is different. China has introduced a social ranking system that could be lifted from Black Mirror or Gary Shteyngart’s 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story. Right now, citizens are being constantly monitored and ranked according to how “good” they are. “Bad" citizens get penalised everywhere they go, from paying special deposits for car hire to enduring extra security checks at airports. This is a riveting and utterly terrifying read.
– Nick Connellan, Broadsheet directory editor
Layers of Deceit – Slate
Crushing failure smells like raw onion. Every time a recipe tells me to “brown onions” for five minutes and I’m still there 20 minutes later waiting for the bastards to brown, I feel like a genuine fool. How is it possible to be so far behind schedule in step one of a recipe? I work at Broadsheet! This is embarrassing! What I didn’t know is browning onions quickly is a conspiracy by the recipe-writing world, designed to make us feel incompetent. Tom Scocca shines a light on the biggest lie the food industry has seen since we found out that Roll Ups are not, in fact, “real fruit, flat out”.
– Emily Naismith, branded content director
Hellfire –Sydney Review of Books
I could suggest any number of articles by the always-formidable Richard Cooke, but this one about Sydney’s Luna Park seems appropriate to suggest to Broadsheet readers. “‘Just for Fun’ is Luna Park’s motto, but to any Sydneysider the phrase sounds more like an entreaty than a declaration. Few cities place their fun-fairs so prominently, but Luna Park’s position – under the Harbour Bridge, facing the Opera House – is a misdirect in a city with such an uneasy relationship with pleasure.” For more from one of this country’s great writers, check out his work in the Monthly.
– Sarah Norris, editor, Broadsheet Sydney
Where Millennials Come From – The New Yorker
There have been far too many hot takes on millennials. This one from Jia Tolentino zooms out from discussions of entitlement and our high-class taste for avocado to look at the historical, social and economic context we’ve grown up in. Insightful, well written and grimly funny.
– Daniela Frangos, editor, Broadsheet Adelaide
What the Fuck Is a Beach Read, Anyway? – Electric Literature
I love this, and don't think there's a more appropriate inclusion for a summer reading guide. Electric Literature asked eight authors whose books had appeared in summer reading round-ups to “define “beach read” – that elusive, inane, possibly brilliant label". It's not technically a longread but, if you're reading it between beach naps or pool dips, it could be.
– Katya Wachtel, editor, Broadsheet Melbourne
Death, Taxes, And Pop: It’s Time Gregg Popovich Finally Has His Moment – Uproxx
Jeff Weiss is the finest rap journalist in the world. I’m biased because he’s a friend, but point Google to scan 2005 to 2017 and the internet has my back. Here, though, the LA-based Weiss tackles his second great love: basketball. In particular, he does a classic write-around on Gregg “Pop” Popovich – basketball coach, Jethro Tull fan and professional sport’s most vocal critic of US President Donald Trump. Popovich, typically a man of very few syllables, has at various times in 2017 been quoted as calling Trump “delusional”, a “pathological liar” and, most pointedly, a “soulless coward”. Coming from a man who has built a minor basketball dynasty out of discipline, selflessness and restraint, it’s been thrilling to witness. Weiss goes deep into Pop’s background as the son of migrant parents, the half-decade he spent in the armed forces and the years he spent coaching college basketball before he graduated to take the San Antonio Spurs to five NBA championships. It’s an exhaustive and frequently very funny read and will probably make you a Spurs fan. Fair warning.
– Matt Shea, editor, Broadsheet Brisbane
The Burning Desire for Hot Chicken – The Ringer
At its best, food writing can reveal details about our history, our culture and society. And it can start with something as seemingly simple as fried chicken. Danny Chau’s 5000-word piece on Nashville’s iconic dish is pure fun. It’s also informative as hell, segueing from the surprisingly volatile origin story to racial segregation to hot chicken’s growing popularity among white, middle class diners. Chau takes his quest seriously, and why shouldn’t he? He’s no aloof, impartial critic, either. His feelings are clearly laid out: “The lines that separate love and hate, pleasure and pain, expectation and reality – they dissolve when you eat hot chicken,” he writes. “If you do it right, it will hurt. You might cry. And you will spend the next week thinking about when you might have it again.” Straight fire. Just like the best hot chicken.
The Gender Pay Gap Won’t Budge As Long As We Keep Talking About “Merit” – Sydney Morning Herald
This article articulated my feelings around how distracting the “merit” argument about gender equality can be – and how it’s actually part of the problem.
How the Sandwich Consumed Britain – The Guardian
This isn’t about the Earl of Sandwich and his mythical “bit of beef between two slices of toasted bread” (although that bit’s in there). For the most part Sam Knight instead tackles the UK’s modern sandwich industry, starting with department store Marks & Spencer’s 1980 decision to sell “triangles of white bread in plastic cartons.” Since then, packaged sandwiches have grown into an industrial behemoth worth $8 billion a year in the UK alone. Knight tells that story, taking his time to flex the kind of reporting skills every decent journalist aspires to. A ripping yarn about sandwiches; true story.
Roger Ebert, Wikipedia Editor – Guernica
Roger Ebert is as much a part of the American film pantheon as the directors and stars he wrote about. He was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, and the first to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So, "why would the most influential critic of his generation post opinions anonymously in a distant corner of the Internet?" That's the crux of Quenton Miller's essay in Guernica. It's not only a completely absorbing and revealing profile of one of the most important English-language cultural writers of our time (who may have had a Wikipedia-editing habit). It's also a look into the world of Wikipedia, and film, and the digital media revolution. Guernica is an American literary magazine but Miller grew up in Australia, so there's at least one reference to Margaret and David in there.
How Europe’s Far Right Fell In Love With Australia’s Immigration Policy – The Guardian.
It’s easy to get caught up in America’s politics over our own. There’s such theatricality to it. I’ve lost count of the number of profiles I’ve read on Trump and members of his administration (most of them long gone). It’s easy because it’s in our face. In Australia, things are kept a little quieter, but Europe's far-right has been listening. Sasha Polakow-Suransky looks at the influence our immigration policy has had on European nationalists and reflects on how we got to this point – starting with the marked change in discourse during the Howard era.
Notes About The Trailer For ‘Best Friend From Heaven,’ A Film About A Ghost Dog Wedding Planner – Uproxx
Everything you need to find your next favourite holiday movie. Step aside, Love Actually.
– Tim Fisher, editorial director
Where the Small-Town American Dream Lives On – The New Yorker
Larissa MacFarquhar’s writing in this piece is so efficient it almost dares you to put it down. The story it tells is important on a couple of different levels. First, it’s just a flat-out great, in-depth look at an isolated American community that has thrived while others have stagnated. MacFarquhar methodically pulls apart Orange City, Iowa, discovering the social and political mechanisms that make it tick. But on a more meta level, this works as the liberal “elite media” – heavily criticised after the 2016 US election for being out of touch with wider America – travelling to a small-“c” conservative town to figure out how it thinks. And the lessons are there, sometimes written between the lines. Perhaps most telling was how it illustrated a modern trait of heavily urbanised countries: that people from small places understand big places much better than vice versa. Why? Because they travel and live there, when the opposite is rarely true. Consider this story a tiny corrective.
Why We Fell For Clean Eating – The Guardian
I don't think any food trend or “diet” has been as pervasive as the catch-all “clean eating” phenomenon of the past five or so years. It's spawned an entire Instagram community and shaped thousands of menus. This article surveyed the trend and reminded us of the dangers of taking it too far.
– Georgia Booth, outgoing editor, Broadsheet Sydney
Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway – Politico
Amazing writing comes at you from everywhere, but more than most years, it was hard to get past the things coming out of America. Donald Trump has made it an impossible place to look away from, especially with so many US journalists responding to the challenges of his presidency by simply getting to work. Writers like Jia Tolentino and Taffy Brodesser-Akner had career-defining years, with one amazing piece of reportage (or in Taffy’s case, celebrity profile) after another. But this laser-focused insight into middle America stayed in my head long after I’d read it. It’s a companion to Matt’s example from Larissa MacFarquhar (above), one of those bits of analysis that went missing before the election. These are the people who voted for Trump, and this is why they’ll vote for him again. Terrific reporting from Politico senior writer Michael Kruse, and the kicker he holds until the very last paragraph …
Loving, 50 Years Later – The New York Times
I was so moved by this feature I shared it every way I could – social media, email, face-to-face demands to friends that they simply had to read it. It's such a simple idea, but like so much of the New York Times' digital content, is executed flawlessly. To mark the 50th anniversary of “Loving v. Virginia” – the US Supreme Court's decision to invalidate laws that forbade interracial marriage – the Times asked readers to share their experiences of being in a mixed-race relationship. I cried. I laughed. I got angry. But mostly I cried.
The World is Running Out of Sand – The New Yorker
Did you know there is such a thing as the sand mafia? Did you know the world is running out of sand? Neither did I. But man, did I enjoy learning about it. The New Yorker – keep the good times rolling.
Something Is Wrong on the Internet – Medium
A piece that made me look up and think about the assumptions we make about how Technology is changing our lives too quickly for us to make up our minds which bits of it are good, and which are bad. Birdle shows why that’s … a problem.
Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage? – The New York Times
Another from NYT, on a topic that is still mostly taboo. Susan Dominus spends a lot of time with a few couples who have open marriages – the process of making it work was very different for all of them.
Alt-White: How The Breitbart Machine Laundered Racist Hate – Buzzfeed
At a certain point this year I tuned out of everything Trump, alt-right, white-nationalist related. It was too depressing. But this showed up in my Facebook feed and, because a friend had written it, I clicked and reentered the vortex. Joe Bernstein was investigating and writing about extremism and right-wing subcultures long before Trump ran for president. This story, dense with insight into and revelations about Breitbart, Milo Yiannopoulos and the alt-right media machine, justifiably made headlines around America. This is not going to make you feel better about what's going on over there, but it will captivate you from beginning to end with its visceral close-ups of the goings-on of a publication that has helped make white nationalism a mainstream political ideology in America again. It's an important piece of journalism. If you're one of those people who sees clips of Fox News and wonders how the hell we got here, this story will answer some questions.
Bruce McWilliam: The Man Media Moguls Trust to Make Messy Problems Go Away – Good Weekend
Here’s something to remind us just how the world is really run. Described as a “consigliere”, this Good Weekend piece tells the tale of Bruce McWilliam, who has been advising Australia’s media barons for decades. It covers everything: power, influence, politics, deals and how certain people wield friendships.
Why She Broke: The Woman, Her Children and the Lake – The Monthly
Helen Garner’s piece about the tragedy of Akon Guode and her family won a deserved Walkley Award for feature writing. Garner has long been respected for her careful, unflinching and beautifully written examinations of people most of us would prefer not to think about. This stunning example reads like a gut punch.
What Do We Do With the Art of Monstrous Men? – The Paris Review
The best thing I read all year. There's been a lot of intelligent articles post-Weinstein, but this delved into the complexities, especially the murkiness surrounding the question of whether or not to support art by "monsters", in an honest, brilliant way.
My Buddy – The New Yorker.
Not a super long one but important it's not missed. Patti Smith's writing is so beautiful.