Vanity Fair editor, Graydon Carter:
"In general, a magazine article needs at least one of three basic ingredients: access, disclosure or narrative. A great article has to have at least two of these components, and a memorable one has all three – along with a distinctive style and a fresh way of looking at its subject. Business-class travel for the writer doesn't hurt, either.
Access lays the groundwork for one of the most satisfying experiences a reader can have – the sensation that he has entered a world foreign to his own, a realm rich in detail and character. Access doesn't necessarily mean the cooperation of a subject. In a war zone, for example, it can mean entering an area that journalists have yet to penetrate. While large news organisations can deploy teams of reporters to cover a major event, there is something to be said for the power of a single, intrepid journalist...
Disclosure, that key second element, is the result of great reporting or interviewing techniques and can result in a story breaking news. It can also attend an article that advances the scholarship on a particular subject.
Then comes narrative. Anyone can relay a sequence of events. But only the best writers have an instinct for telling a story: building suspense, fleshing out characters, shaping the narrative arc of the tale at hand. A great article transcends reportage. In the right hands, narrative journalism can be as insightful and stirring as a novel."
(via The Dubliner >)