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Public editor: When 500 words aren’t enough to tell the story

Feature writer Craig Offman’s article on Toronto neurosurgeon Michael Tymianski’s crusade to develop an effective stroke drug is a great example of long-form journalism.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Online is a great medium for short breaking news or interesting tidbits. But it's also an easy way to read great long-form pieces that are packaged more like a magazine article.

This is a great example of long-form journalism by feature writer Craig Offman on a Toronto neurosurgeon's relentless and heroic crusade to develop an effective stroke drug.

A reader and medical writer, Terry Murray, wrote to say she was planning a piece for her blog about the edict last week from the editor of Reuters America that most stories should be no more than 500 words long. "Then I saw the feature in Saturday's Globe on Dr. Michael Tymianski and his experimental stroke drug, starting on the first page of the Focus section and turning *twice*! … "

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"I decided to look it up online to see just how long the piece was, and found that it was more than 5,000 words. Now I'm going to include a mention of this piece in my blog piece as an excellent example of a newspaper article that needed more than 500 words to tell an engaging story."

Ms. Murray also noticed something new on the piece: "Reading time: 17 minutes" the article notes. She wondered how often the Globe posts an estimated reading time and how the editors decide which stories to flag in this way and why.

The editors tell me it is a new feature to help readers because this piece is a single page as opposed to a series of paginated page numbers at the bottom.

You will see this article also includes a magazine-style layout organized by chapters, information graphics such as one showing the different types of strokes and embedded video, and so it is useful to have an idea of the time you will need to invest.

You will see the reading estimate only on longer pieces that should be read to the end.

I understand the Reuters imperative to have shorter stories for many news pieces. It takes real skill to write short intriguing pieces that don't waste the readers' time. However, there also needs to be room for important in-depth pieces such as this one.

I'm always happy to hear from any readers at publiceditor@globeandmail.com.

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