Earlier this week, a list of some of the best magazine stories of all time bounced its way around Twitter, paying tribute to some of literary journalism's pioneers, including Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe.
Of course, those kinds of stories -- thousands of words meticulously placed after dozens of hours of reporting, eagerly lapped up by a much-less-harried reading public -- are fewer and farther between these days (although they certainly still happen.) That got us thinking: What would some of those stories look like if they were written today?
We picked six of our favorites, and reworked them for today's audiences. Should you be bored, you're encouraged to rework your own favorites in the comments.
"Superman Comes to the Supermarket," by Norman Mailer. Esquire, 1960
What it Was: Part psycho-analysis of a country, part political dispatch, Mailer's story about the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles is Esquire's most famous piece of political reporting.
What it Would Look Like Today: A list, destined to be eviscerated by commenters on Digg: "LA. Still Sucks, and 9 Other Things I Learned at the DNC."
"The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved," by Hunter Thompson. Scanlan's, 1970
What it Was: Vintage Doctor, spilling over with whiskey and love.
What it Would Look Like Today: A slideshow: "Photos from the Kentucky Derby (NSFW).
"What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now," by Richard Ben Cramer. Esquire, 1986
What it Would Look Like Today: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TED WILLIAMS NOW," by Drew Magary. Deadspin, 2010.
"The Silent Season of a Hero," by Gay Talese. Esquire, 1966
What it Was: Among the best pieces of sportswriting of all time, and proud owner of one of the great Joe DiMaggio-Marilyn Monroe anecdotes:
She appeared on 10 occasions before 100,000 servicemen, and when she returned, she said, "It was so wonderful, Joe. You never heard such cheering."
"Yes, I have," he said.
What it Would Look Like Today: A video on TMZ, with DiMaggio trying to pick up his luggage at SFO while an orange-tinted intern shoved a camera in his face and faux-politely asked about his marriage to Marilyn. Headline: "Boltin Joe -- DiMaggio leaving Marilyn for Idol runner-up."
"Shadow of a Nation," by Gary Smith. Sports Illustrated, 1991
What it Was: A deeply reported, expertly constructed tale of otherwise forgotten high school basketball players in Montana, read in its entirety by one full-time copy editor, three journalism students and the guy who edits Best American Sportswriting.
What it Would Look Like Today: A deeply reported, expertly constructed tale of otherwise forgotten high school badminton players in Harlem, read in its entirety by one part-time copy editor and three PR students. (The guy who edits Best American Sportswriting would almost finish it, but would love the story so much he would Tweet about it halfway through and forget to finish it.)
"Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," by Gay Talese. Esquire, 1966
What it Was: Considered the best magazine story of all time, Talese's story helped make Esquire the dream workplace of every wannabe-literary journalism student who graduated between 1966 and 2002. (Now it's Slate, I guess. Or maybe Barnes and Noble.)
What it Would Look Like Today: "@GayTaleseEsq RT @OldBlueEyes: I'm feeling kind of sniffly. Think I may be coming down with something."