When was the last time an article gripped you? Pulled you in from the first sentence and kept your attention ‘til the last?
For me, it was Kate Fagan’s account of University of Pennsylvania track star Madison Holleran’s suicide. I was sitting in my car after finishing a trail run and clicked the link on Facebook. Then I just sat there—key unturned in the ignition—as I read the whole thing. It hit a nerve. Holleran was a runner and a perfectionist, and she attended school in Pennsylvania, my home state.
Fagan’s description of the stark differences between Holleran’s cheerful social media posts and her real-life struggles felt all too familiar when I considered my own experiences and those of my friends. Even so, I couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable with the portrayal. I followed the coverage closely as commentators pointed out Fagan hadn’t stuck to Associated Press guidelines for responsible reporting on suicide.
It’s not every day an in-depth article rises above the fray of clickbait to capture my undivided attention, but when it does, it feels like a little miracle. I wanted to know when it last happened to the Pivot team (and selfishly, I wanted more reading material), so I asked them: What was the last article you read start-to-finish? Here’s what they said:
Ashly Myers: The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence
by Tim Urban, Wait But Why
This is the longest-form thing I’ve read recently that isn’t a textbook or a professional journal. It’s really long. And full disclosure: I’m still digesting it in pieces, making note where I stop each time so I can pick it back up the next time I have a few minutes.
I like its in-depth analysis of a topic that’s both timely and fundamentally important to our success as an advanced society. The accelerating pace of change of technology is something we, as mere humans, can’t fully comprehend, but it foreshadows the inevitable emergence of intelligent—perhaps even self-aware—computers, the probable future convergence of man and machine into awesomely formidable hybrids, and even the possibility of living forever as a cyber consciousness, even after our bodies have given up. The potential both excites and unnerves me. I look forward to watching the transformation of our species play out over my lifetime.
Carrie Karl: Can Adderall Save the Boomers?
by Sandy Hingston, Philadelphia Magazine
I think I liked this article because, like me, the author wasn’t afraid of using drugs if they could benefit people. I struggled with the question big time before deciding to medicate my son daily with Adderall. It is a guarded topic for me because many people have strong opinions about medicating children for ADHD.
It’s interesting to me that so many kids take it to increase cognitive ability in high school and college. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. My knowledge of Adderall is the other end of the spectrum. My son has significant cognitive and executive functioning weaknesses, but a year on the drug allowed his brain to focus enough to read and write with everyday one-on-one help. He still struggles and has dyslexia, and I don’t credit all his success to the drug, but I believe it contributed.
If I keep him on it throughout school (which is unlikely because body chemistry, hormonal, and metabolic changes influence so much of a drug’s effectiveness), will he have an advantage in high school because he’s taking a cognitive-enhancing medication, or will it just level the playing field?
Dawn Olsen: An Unbelievable Story of Rape
by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, and Ken Armstrong, The Marshall Project
It covers a difficult subject, but this piece has stuck with me. Here’s why: This story, co-published by ProPublica and The Marshall Project, documents the hunt for a serial rapist. It’s heavy. It’s honest. And it’s why co-authors T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong got the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting.
Ken’s a fellow Purdue Exponent alumni and a damn fine writer (he has four Pulitzers now). For this story, he and ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller shared a narrative about law enforcement’s enduring failures to investigate rape properly. For me, it’s journalism at its finest. It’s investigative and emotional, and the story will leave you compelled, sad, startled, stunned, angry.
Jenn Hoffman: Prayers for Richard
by David Ramsey, Oxford American
I read this article from Oxford American about Little Richard start-to-finish after I stumbled across it on social media somewhere last year. I didn’t know much about Little Richard, and I can’t say I had a burning desire to learn. So I was surprised when Ramsey’s writing drew me into the subject completely.
I have a tendency to skim when I read articles, especially online, but not this one. Every word is like a beautiful breadcrumb that has to be followed. This snippet sums up the theme: “Richard was often torn between his life as a Christian and his life as a rock & roll sinner. ‘I would get up off an orgy and go pick up my Bible,’ he once explained. ‘Sometimes I would have the Bible right by me.’”
Jordan Hunt: The Secret History of Tiger Woods
by Wright Thompson, ESPN
Tiger Woods reached a level that very few athletes ever do (Michael Jordan and maybe Steph Curry compare). Vintage Tiger transcended the game of golf. Then it all disappeared, and he hasn’t returned to form since. We all know he had his issues (publicly starting with the events of Black Friday 2009), but this article explains how his downfall really all started when Tiger’s father died. Tiger started making many of the same mistakes as his father, and in memory of his father, he became obsessed with military training, which injured him.
Basically, this is the story of one of the most fascinating downfalls of an athlete, and it still doesn’t answer all of the questions. Tiger is such a private person, so it’s a small window into what happened. We still may never know the full story. I can’t help but feel like I—as a fan—missed out on a few more years of greatness.
Josh Taylor: Military Strategist Explains Why Donald Trump Leads—And How He Will Fail
by Dan McLaughlin, The Federalist
While I don’t normally invest the time to read online articles with word counts over 10,000, this article about Donald Trump’s tactics was both entirely engrossing and painfully prophetic. Comparing Trump’s electoral tactics to military strategy might seem a little overwrought at first, but thinking about the decision-making process behind tactical actions was incredibly interesting.
At the time I read it, I already thought Trump had a pretty strong advantage that corresponds with the ambiguity that McLaughlin was describing. Analyzing it and then watching it happen in real time over the next few months was enlightening. While McLaughlin’s political analysis didn’t ultimately play out exactly as he suggested, one could only expect that, given his thesis. I shouldn’t have been so surprised that military strategy and politics has so much in common. As Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz noted, war is “a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.”
Sabreena Sorrell: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives
by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
I had a hard time choosing just one of my favorites on Brain Pickings, a blog written by the brilliant Maria Popova. Her topics vary, but the articles are always so engaging and relevant that they entice me to read them in their entirety. The overarching theme is self-discovery and the intricate details that make up the human experience.
When I read this article, I was fascinated by the idea that our mindsets have the power to shape our conscious and unconscious thoughts, beliefs, and decisions. It was interesting to see how that impacts every aspect of our lives: our capacity for growth, our interpersonal relationships, and our overall happiness and wellbeing.
What about you? Tell us about the last time you read an article start-to-finish and why it gripped you by tweeting @pivotmarketing.