Well-Crafted Longform Can Resonate With Readers on Both Sides of the Poltical Aisle

According to a CJR study, longform wins the day.

Fans of longform narrative, and this writer counts herself as one, tend to herald (with proof) all sorts of great and wonderful things longform enables and exemplifies: The pinnacle of craft! Sustained reader engagement! Funding!

But longform as a form that can cut away at the trend of siloed, partisan-based news consumption, however, was an idea that seemed beyond the capabilities even of those wholly engrossing, satisfying reads. Not [always] so, says a joint study by Columbia Journalism Review and the George T. Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism.

The study used a real longform piece, from California Sunday Magazine, that it attributed to two made-up magazines, one liberal, one conservative, when distributing the article to the subjects of its study. The result?

The study found that readers were equally likely to trust the story no matter where it had been published. On average, readers of both publications and from both parties also rated the credibility of the reporter and her sources within a similar range. The results suggest that people across the political spectrum are equally likely to trust a long narrative story, regardless of whether they read it in a publication whose political leanings align with or differ from their own.

One of the possible explanations is that empathy, which character-centric longform pieces tend to elicit from readers, can override partisan considerations.

For more on the study and the results, read the full report.