I first heard about the concept of slow journalism in Slow Media, by Jennifer Rauch. Whether or not the term is just a re-branding of the best ideals of what journalism has always strived to be is up for debate, but focusing on accurate and ethical reporting instead of first and fastest seems an admirable aim in the age of the 24 hour news cycle, and something I’d very much like to support.
So, I sought out and subscribed to Delayed Gratification, one of the more prominent slow journalism periodicals. It was an idea I wanted to know more about, and I think of it as an antidote to the onslaught of social media reactionary nobody-actually-reads-the-article-they-just-read-the-headline-and-skip-to-the-comments-to-learn-what-their-opinion-should-be “news” we are hyper-addicted to.
The somewhat ironic poetry of subscribing to this magazine was that I had to wait kind of a long time for the first issue to arrive. Delayed Gratification publishes quarterly, and each issue covers a three month period of time. While waiting I had to fight back thoughts of getting in touch with the publisher to see when the issue was scheduled to arrive. Every time I wanted to email or call to check on my first issue’s status, I remembered a time a few months back at the bookshop where I work: a rabid Ayn Rand fan was complaining about the price of a rare hardcover edition of The Fountainhead. As I explained the basics of the free market, their own dogma, to them I will never forget the moment their righteous indignation slipped into self-pity as they observed their own lack of self-awareness. Remembering what the title of the magazine was, and motivated by a desire to never be that person, I shelved the idea of calling and resigned myself to waiting patiently for the magazine to arrive. Already the magazine was helping me to slow down.
Delayed Gratification seems particularly aimed toward those who have grown up with social media and have never been exposed to long-form journalism. They’ve never read a newspaper, or any weekly or monthly periodicals that have historically taken this slower approach to news reportage. The index has articles labelled as either frivolous or serious. There are relevant, informative pieces on recent enough events, comfortably nestled between lighthearted infographics that relate interestingly to major events during the three month period covered. In addition to slow journalism, I’ve heard it described as fast history.
My first issue of Delayed Gratification covered January to March, 2019. Something that added value to my enjoyment of this issue: during those months, I was actively writing in a journal everyday. Because of this, I discovered some interesting things that happened around the world while I was preoccupied with the subtle frustrations and pleasures of my own life. The same day that a recently discovered, possible lost Michaelangelo painting was stolen from a Belgian church, I was listing my house for rent. A month later, on February 15th, when 10,000 UK students skipped classes and took to the streets to protest their government’s non-handling of climate change, I was showing the house to a family that would eventually end up renting it. And the month after that, while I was gushing about the animation style of Netflix’s Love, Death, and Robots, Elisa Jorge was clinging to a tree for her life as cyclone Idai made landfall in Beira, Mozambique. The first of two cyclones to devastate the area that year of only nine in recorded history. Two of nine ever. Both in the same year. Both outside of their storm season.
“Last to Breaking News”
I was on the internet a lot during the three months covered in this issue, reading news articles, skimming through twitter and Instagram. Generally thinking I was informed about the world around me. However, all three of these stories were things I had zero knowledge of. These were important global events. Why didn’t I hear about them? My thinking is that a large chunk of the news we’re bombarded with day in and day out, might not be all that useful or even informative. It’s all too soon, too quick for any kind of perspective. I understand the importance of chronicling every small step made by politicians in my country as it slowly slides into authoritarianism, but is it actually useful for me to personally monitor these steps in real time, or do they collectively act as noise, obscuring the more accurate picture that can be shown just a few months removed, when we all have a little more perspective? I understand the trajectory of things right now and I’m doing all I can. I don’t think it’s important or healthy for me to be constantly reminded of it a hundred times a day. Once a day maybe, but not a hundred. My cup of news is full. Attempting to pour more into it does nothing to increase the capacity of the cup.
When there are millions of people actively monitoring events around the world in real time, driving themselves to the ragged edge, it may not be such a bad idea for some of us to take a step back with a different approach. When there are so many ways to get breaking news, I think Delayed Gratification’s approach is a breath of fresh air, and summed up beautifully by their motto printed on the spine of every issue: “Last to breaking news.”
Nine or so months have passed since my first issue arrived. In that time I’ve learned all kinds of interesting things in subsequent issues. These are events that have expanded my worldview, all of which I learned very little to nothing about from my usual news sources.