A good example of journalism harnessing digital's inherent power

A good example of journalism harnessing digital's inherent power

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We all are familiar with how journalism is being transformed by the digitally networked world in which most of us live. Journalists tweet breaking news (Robert Costa's insight into the thinking, plotting and planning by House Republicans during this shutdown is an important example); smartphone video relays to us events around the globe of note; in many cases, we link to stories via news aggregators or other hyper-linked portals that take us directly to a story rather than discovering it as part of a comprehensive perusal of a publication, say the New York Times, which change in delivery of content causes genuine anxiety about the long-term viability of these publications. Still, when we read a story online, the format of that story - headline, byline, text, inline pics - is much the same as we would read in the physical paper. Indeed, there is something reassuring about this format stability for most all of the news that we read. On the other hand, it is refreshing to see a really good, really effective bit of journalism that, in its format and mode of delivering the story, can only be described as born digital. This article on the M10 highway in Russia connecting St. Petersburg and Moscow, its crumbling state of repair and echoes of its decay found in the surrounding countryside is a bit of journalism - a reporter's notebook or travelogue - that lodged itself into this reader's consciousness with a particular forcefulness because of the sequencing of the narrative: context-setting map at the beginning of the story and a dynamic roadmap with placenames in the left margin that progress south to Moscow as one progress south through the article text, with embedded video and/or pictures carrying a good deal of narrative freight. Obviously this type of storytelling takes an entire team, with the producers (Mike Bostock, Shan Carter and Leslye Davis) equalling in number the team of reporter, photographer and videographer (Ellen Barry, Dmitry Kostyukov, Ben C. Solomon) who collected the story, but the result - good storytelling and good journalism - seems worth it. Literally worth it, as in worth the subscription I pay for the privilege of unlimited reading of the NYTimes every month. Maybe there is hope yet...

Hey, if you miss the Smithsonian during this blighted government shutdown, content yourself with this decent digilog of the Freer (yeah, I know analog should be the proper term; I'm trying something here!)

Quint