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THE ATAVIST

 

After releasing four nonfiction stories in four months, the Atavist, a San Francisco­–conceived mobile publisher, is earning its stripes as a harbinger of superlative tabletized journalism, though it also demonstrates that the future is not here yet. The project’s creator was Evan Ratliff, the Wired star who recently left the Bay Area for Brooklyn, and its advisers include former Wired editor-in-chief Katrina Heron and Douglas McGray of Pop-Up magazine. Their approach is a refreshing throwback to an era when readers had the attention span for a 10,000-word piece—no small feat, considering the number of reporting outfits dropping like flies in the age of Twitter. Ratliff’s own story “Lifted” artfully unravels a Mission Impossible–style $150 million robbery scheme; David Wolman’s “Instigators” tags along with Egypt’s cyber activists. Some of the multimedia bells and whistles are spot-on—the cool infographic of events that led to revolution in Egypt is not to be missed—but others are stuck in without much thought. Still, the project’s focus on long, careful stories would set it apart from its peers—if it had any. The app store is still full of what amount to clunky PDFs of print magazines, whereas the Atavist’s interface makes the reading experience feel as intuitive as when you’re curling up with a good old book or magazine. The Atavist is being talked about as revolutionary—OMG, literary reportage for $2.99 on my tablet! So far, though, it’s mostly just doing what the best narrative journalism has always done. A-