The Sunday Long Read (with Dan Zak), 4/18/21

Thanks for coming back for another week of outstanding journalism! Tomorrow marks two years since SLR contributor Lyra McKee, an intrepid Northern Irish journalist, was killed while covering a riot in her home country. Lyra was a proud member of our team. Our thoughts are with her family and friends on this difficult day.

Today, we’re handing things over to guest editor Dan Zak. Dan is a reporter for The Washington Post, where he has recently written about Andrew Cuomo, Josh Hawley and various moments in the wild year we just endured. He’s also the author of a nonfiction book titled “Almighty,” which is about activists who broke into a nuclear-weapons facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

And now, The SLR is Dan’s!

I am 37 years old and I finally feel my cart coming off the tracks. What are substacks? What is an NFT? Is there a substack that can teach me about NFTs? How do you clock 26 years on a police force and mistake your pistol for a taser (allegedly)? We’ve spent 20 years in Afghanistan, and what? I’ve spent 12 years on Twitter, and what? It’s a week after my second Pfizer shot; why does it feel like nothing’s changed? I watched the HBO docuseries “Into the Storm,” and I wish I hadn’t; the more I learn of the world, the less I feel a part of it. Is this a condition of aging, of mass media becoming total media, or has 13 months of quarantine just filed me down to a blind and nervous little nub?

This is when I look in the mirror and say “Snap out of it!” Disorientation is a side effect of grappling with reality and one’s place in it. The best kind of journalism disorients, then orients. It shows you what you’ve missed, misunderstood or ignored, then sends you in a truer direction. In a year like we’ve had—in a week like we’ve had—a story can help us get our bearings while simultaneously unmooring us from the canal of the mind where we’ve run aground. In between mass shootings, I read some pieces this week that tugboated me back on track.

Click here to read them in this week’s edition of the Sunday Long Read.