Blogs > HNN > A Note on Length

Mar 26, 2012 12:36 pm

A Note on Length

On the home page this week is a wonderful article that was sent over to me by Mark Selden at JapanFocus: New York, Nuke York: Nuclear Holocaust in the American Imagination from Hiroshima to 9/11 by Mike Broderick and Robert Jacobs. It's exactly what it says on the tin. I personally love this subject -- I remember writing a paper I was particularly proud of about the 1945 Life Magazine spread that Broderick and Jacobs briefly talk about.

It is however, essentially an academic article, and HNN does not, as a rule, publish or reprint academic articles. There are a variety of reasons for this: we don't do peer review; we value brevity and clarity; our research shows that the majority of readers click out of an article after around 2,000 words (except for interviews, which tend to be less dense); and academic articles often go into extreme and, for our purposes, unnecessary detail and can often fall into the habit of repeating a single point endlessly, on and on and on, completely oblivious to the fact that the readers got the point the first time, and they don't need to have an idea pounded into their heads over and over and over...

Uh, anyway...

So why did we publish in full Nuke York, New York, an article with 49 footnotes and 7,000 words (the equivalent of nearly 35 pages of 12-pont, double-spaced font), not the most subtle of analysis, and certainly guilty of the sin of repetitiveness?

Two reasons: 1) it's on a modern pop culture topic, which tends to attract more readers than, say, an socio-historical analysis of the proverbial underwater basket weaving; and more importantly 2) It has great pictures. If you don't want to slog your way through 7,000 words, just look at the pictures in sequence -- they provide, in sum, a wonderful photographic history of the atomic age. That alone makes it exactly the kind of academic paper that has the potential for broad appeal.

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