This post is part of a series recommending longform, narrative nonfiction (as well as other worthwhile writings).
The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens by Elspeth Reeve, The New Republic
The subtitle to this story sums it up best: “That feeling when you hit a million followers, make more money than your mom, push a diet pill scheme, lose your blog, and turn 16.” This story traces the online histories of several high-profile Tumblr users who figured out how to work the ad system to monetize their blogs to ridiculous degrees. Apart from the writing, which kept things moving quickly, I was struck by the web design and illustration of the piece. The background and sidebars images change with the content to reflect what you’re reading. Well done.
The Dragnet: How a man accused of million-dollar fraud uncovered a never before seen, secret surveillance device by Russell Brandom, The Verge
A prison sentence gives you a lot of time to fill. If you’re the main character of this story (who goes by many names), you use that time to find out how you got busted in the first place. A crime story, but who is the true criminal? This story raises questions of privacy and justice — something familiar in our world of rising terror.
FOIA requests are a journalist’s headache. Yes, it’s good the Freedom of Information Act is a thing and you can file with government agencies and whatnot for records that could lead to stories. But, let’s be honest, it’s a pain. And quick responses are practically nonexistent. If you’re Jason Leopold, however, FOIA is a lifesaver, because without it, who knows if he’d ever been back in the writing game.