12 to Watch in 2012
The streets of Williamsburg saw an unusual uptick in sensible high heels last Tuesday evening, when a couple hundred journalists, writers and editors dressed in summer office casual filed out of the Bedford Avenue station and into the muggy front room of Public Assembly, forming a line out the door. They were there to attend a story-pitching clinic for female journalists, titled, somewhat preciously, “Throw Like a Girl.”
Once inside, they stood shoulder-to-shoulder, sipping beers, while New York Times reporter Amy O’Leary asked a panel of editors and writers to talk about moxie.
Why was it, Ms. O’Leary wondered, that as a young freelancer she had spent months refining every pitch while her male peers tossed off story proposals from every statistic or idea they encountered?
Welcome to 12 to Watch in 2012, a new web series profiling some of New York’s top minds doing innovative things with technology and design.
Meet Evan Ratliff, cofounder and editor of The Atavist, a publishing house that wants to take long-form nonfiction reporting into a multimedia storytelling environment. The Atavist has a dual purpose – to showcase in-depth pieces that fall between traditional magazine and book lengths, and to power the software that allows anyone to create and publish their own likeminded work to devices like the iPad, Kindle, Nook, and iPhone.
When the journalist David Dobbs first had the idea of writing an article about his mother’s love affair with a flight surgeon during World War II, he initially went the traditional route: he pitched the story to several magazines. Mr. Dobbs, who has written for The New York Times Magazine, Wired and National Geographic, usually writes about science, so the piece was a bit of a departure. The magazines he approached turned him down. He suspected at the time that the scale of the story was one problem—it was a complicated tale, hard to fit in a magazine, even at 6,000 or 8,000 words. Dedicated to his story despite the rejections, Mr. Dobbs started talking to Evan Ratliff, editor and co-founder of the online startup The Atavist, a self-described “boutique publishing house” that produces non-fiction articles for e-readers and smart phones.