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The Art of the Story: A conversation with George Packer and Don Watson

In the digital era where “snackable” content reigns supreme, some stories still require time and space.

George Packer is an American journalist, novelist and playwright. He is best known for his writings in The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and his most recent book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In the second episode of the ‘Stories Worth Telling’ podcast series, Packer is interviewed by Australian writer Don Watson, whose articles, essays and reviews on politics, history and culture have appeared in most major Australian journals and newspapers, and have won several awards over the past 40 years.

Covering everything from the history of long-form writing to its role in contemporary journalism, two of the form’s leading exponents discuss the power and the possibilities of deeply reported journalism.

About the podcast


The Art of the Story is the second episode of the ‘Stories Worth Telling’ podcast, a new series created by the Judith Neilson Institute and Sydney Writers’ Festival.

The podcast series celebrates outstanding long-form, non-fiction writing and Indigenous reporting around the world, and provides a global outlook on the history, possibilities and future of journalism.


George Packer

Image: Michael Lionstar

George Packer is a staff writer for The Atlantic and the author of Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, which won the 2020 Los Angeles Times Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

He has published five other works of non-fiction – including The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2013, and The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, a Pulitzer finalist and winner of the Overseas Press Club Book Award and the New York Public Library Book Award in 2006 — as well as two novels and a play.

Don Watson

Over the past 40 years Don Watson’s articles, essays and reviews on politics, history and culture have appeared in most major Australian journals and newspapers. His books include the acclaimed bestsellers, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart (2002), Death Sentence (2003) and Watson’s Dictionary of Weasel Words (2004); American Journeys (2008), Bendable Learnings (2010), The Bush (2014), Worst Words (2015) and A Single Tree (2016). He wrote Enemy Within, a Quarterly Essay on the 2016 US Presidential Election. A collection of his essays, There It Is Again, was published in 2017. He has twice won The Age Book of the Year, in addition to the National Biography Award, the Courier-Mail Book of the Year, the Alfred Deakin Essay Prize, the Australian Literary Studies Association Book of the Year, a Walkley Award, the New South Wales Premier’s Award, the Queensland Literary Award, and the Independent Booksellers Book of the Year (twice). In 2011 Don was awarded the Phillip Hodgins Medal for Australian Literature. His film writing includes The Man Who Sued God (starring Billy Connolly and Judy Davis) and Passion (Barbara Hershey and Richard Roxburgh). Don Watson is a regular writer for The Monthly.