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The Long Lede

The Long Lede Initiative

Developing the next generation of longform writers

The Long Lede Initiative

Developing the next generation of longform writers
Straddling both the media and publishing worlds, longform factual writing plays an important role in reflecting and developing the Australian consciousness.

Longform factual writing appears in magazines, books, periodicals, newspapers, newspaper magazines and inserts, and online publications. What distinguishes it from other types of writing is not word count alone, but also the length and complexity of the process behind the word count.
Longform writing does not just report the who, what, when and where – it also explores the how and the why. Good longform writers step out of the daily news cycle and extract meaning from information.

They piece together complicated histories and conflicting viewpoints, wade through masses of data, seek out hard-to-access knowledge and people, travel to unfamiliar and sometimes remote locations, conduct in-depth interviews with a variety of sources and, most importantly, distil their hard work into a neat, finished product that is accessible for a popular audience.
But longform writing must be more than accessible. Because of its length — generally over 3000 words — it must also be gripping, to compel readers to go the distance. An arresting lede, a smart structure, narrative interludes, changes of scenery and carefully placed pauses all play their part in keeping a reader hooked until the end.

With so many elements, it is no wonder that the prospect of attempting factual longform is intimidating to new writers. And no wonder that longform writing isn’t cheap to produce.

But the market for longform is well and truly alive.

In an increasingly bewildering news cycle, editors and publishers recognise readers’ hunger for pieces that do more than provide information and report facts. They want writing that makes sense of the world. Longform prose can achieve this in ways that other formats cannot. Longform is also versatile – what starts as a brilliantly researched article can later become a podcast, a documentary, a book or a TV series.

Who's the program for?

We are looking for early to mid-career writers. Writing and journalism need not necessarily be your main pursuit, or main source of income, but you should have been published before, and you should have a desire to keep
publishing – especially to longer lengths of at least 3000 words.

Applicants must be Australian residents.

Applicants can submit ideas on any topic of their choosing.

Keep in mind that longform factual writing, while sometimes written in the first person, is not opinion writing, and it is not primarily autobiographical. It borrows devices from fiction writing but what distinguishes it is that it is based in fact and heavily researched.

Apply now

Visit our application page and apply before 30 June 2022. Masterclasses will take place in Sydney at JNI's headquarters on 7 and 8 October 2022, with travel and accommodation costs to be covered by the program. Mentoring will take place between October 2022 and April 2023.

Applications have now closed

Why are we investing in longform?

Over the last two decades there has been less time, money and resources available for longform. Crucially, there is less time and opportunity to induct new journalists, many of whom may have only ever published short news stories to tight deadlines, into the world of longform.

And it’s not just journalists: the Australian longform writing scene comprises all sorts. Academics, think tankers, novelists, researchers, politicians, poets, artists, scientists, medical professionals – all kinds of people can and do contribute their writing to Australian longform, and we are all the richer for it.

But finding one’s way into longform is not easy. This is why the Judith Neilson Institute, in collaboration with Penguin Random House Australia and Copyright Agency, have developed the Long Lede Initiative.

What is the Long Lede Initiative?

The Long Lede Initiative is a mentoring program aimed at pairing 10 aspiring writers with 10 seasoned mentors to develop a piece of longform factual writing, 5000 words in length. Mentees will develop their skills in crafting and pitching ideas, conducting research, interviewing subjects, fact checking, structuring and editing. Mentees will also attend a series of classes taught by masters of longform.

At the end of the process, mentees will have the opportunity to publish their 5000-word piece in a Penguin Random House anthology. By participating in the program, mentees will develop the skills, contacts and confidence to forge ahead with their longform portfolio.

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