Choking goats, sucking thumbs

A conversation with a colleague prompted me to draw an important distinction in long-form journalism between the thumbsucker and the goat-choker.

The thumbsucker, long a journalistic staple, is the article that tells you What It's All About. Thumbsuckers flourish on Sundays, because Saturdays are generally slow news days and the increased space of Sunday editions is an open invitation to pontificate about the how and why and what next of some development during the week.

The Republican debates and primaries, for example, have generated thumbsuckers too numerous for human patience to count. 

The goat-choker, a term long favored in The Baltimore Sun's newsroom, is less an analysis of events than an example of traditional long-form journalism. It is typically an article in which the writer has been given his or her head to proceed at length and at will. It will start on a section front and occupy two or three full pages inside the section. The quality distinguishing the goat-choker from examples of long-form journalism is that it requires of the reader a steely determination, an effort of will to plow through the entire text. 

Many readers  are found wanting.  

And who among us can blame them?

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