The beauty of Snow Fall

Snow in the Woods

Snow in the Woods

The Old Gray Lady surprised me by featuring a piece of journalism that I adored. Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek by John Branch not only caught my attention, but hunted for it. My interest was the prey and Snow Fall was the predator, and it took me down in its jaws.

One of the aesthetic aspects I appreciated in Snow Fall was the simplicity of the presentation. Black text on a white background. Georgia/Times Jew Roman font. Every once in a while a small thumbnail would appear on the side. Some of the pictures featured movement, and you flowed into and through the graphics, rather than being hit over the head by them.

Another thing that “blew me away” about the story was the story-telling itself. This may sound like a no-brainer, but at times it was like reading engrossing fiction- it drew me in, even though I really didn’t want to be reading it in the first place. The sheer volume of research required to gain as much depth as Snow Fall is staggering to me. It’s one thing to create what you want while writing fiction. But as an act of journalism, having the detail that Snow Fall drowns in really does blow me away.

I’m not sure one makes this “act of journalism” so remarkable, though a few people have an opinion or two. Perhaps I am (sadly) not well-versed in current journalism trends, but if this isn’t a widespread way of telling long-form stories, than it should be. I suppose me saying that is makes this story remarkable to.

This story connects back to the Virtual300 because it is peppered with multimedia elements. Though if I wrote an article half-this size, I’m pretty sure my professor would flip, though if I had 1/10 of the multimedia she would cry tears of joy. I’ll have to think about that. In class we have learned of the importance of multimedia, and I think the captivating graphics in Snow Fall demonstrate that, if done right, multimedia can enhance your story on a cosmic level.

Snow Fall is inspiring in the sense that it tells me that it can be done. What I mean is that Snow Fall told a story that is engrossing, even entertaining, while remaining real in its tragic glory. The whole project involved more than just John Branch, and it took six month. It is a huge undertaking, and Branch deserves recognition for it. As for what I can do with it, I could use Snow Fall to inspire me to go the extra mile, interview people with the right questions to get enough details, and to include better multimedia elements.

There weren’t any real negatives in Snow Fall. It’s a very long story, so it isn’t practical, necessary, or even good for ALL news stories to be like Snow Fall. However, it does serve as a guide for integrating multimedia into a story. It shows that multimedia can really enhance the story, and not only bring understand and context, but feeling. When someone takes this approach to a story on, I will be first in line. Also, as I wrote earlier, the story was packaged in a simple format that flowed smoothly, which I really appreciated. At first I didn’t realize that there would be more to the story in the tabs towards the top (TO THE PEAK, or DECENT BEGINS, etc.), though by the time I did notice them, I wanted to read them.

The real (and final) question is how Snow Fall will influence my writing in this class and beyond. It will always be in the back of my mind, and I think I will probably bookmark it. It’s a great style, a unique (though sad) story, and a superb guide to my story-telling. The next month will not find me putting out 8,000 word articles, though I bet they’ll be better than ever.

*Also, after discussing it just before class, I think we should get Adele to re-record her single “Skyfall” and make it “Snow Fall.” That was the only thing missing in the story.

#Hallelujah – The Week in Review I

It was a New Year. The last of the ice was melting away, revealing the old soggy earth beneath its fading grip. Slowly, the world began to wake. Men and women shuffled about their business, some nursing head pains, all burdened with added girth, from the weeks of festivities previous. The Linden trees stood silently as the structures they guarded began to ebb and flow with the people they housed. On that particular morning, I found myself in a dungeon in Spellmann. I had yet to break my fast. Yet in a dark room, some lady spoke a singular phrase that made my stomach churn. Bird language at this hour?

The word tweet still doesn’t sit well with me, unless you are talking about birds. The idea that my twitter account  is necessary for my personal brand is understandable, but a bit painful as well. Tweet Tweet. Oh boy.

That being said, this is probably the best J-Term class I have taken. Just ignore all the talk about soggy earth and dark dungeons. While some of it may seem like “busy work,” it is actually just consistent practice and becoming familiar with new things. Any class with an allusion to Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches has my vote (#PBandJterm all the way).

WordPress and Consistency

One of the more important things I did in class this week, in my mind, is start to use this good ol’ blog on a consistent basis. I have used WordPress in the past at a slightly different URL, but after a week of this class, I feel much more motivated to continue on my own, to keep carving my personal brand into something that represents who I am.

In addition to WordPress, PBandJterm also forced me to do something about my LinkedIn account (it’s still a work in progress, so no link for ya). Now I have synopsis, and some updated information on there, in addition to joining different groups and making some more LinkedIn connections.


Despite my earlier griping, the uses of twitter slowly began to dawn on me. By following certain individuals, figuring how who follows them, deciding who may be interested in my twitter feed, following those people, and finally talking about what they may be interested in that I know about; that’s one way to gain more exposure for my brand. Twitter seems great for shout-outs, and definitely a more appropriate place for hashtags then it’s cousin, Facebook.

Other Things

There were many subjects discussed/taught this past week in class. Some of the most significant bits I already knew, though knowing is not the same as doing.

Everything we do online is going to continue forever, unless we have some apocalypse from Cormac McCarthy’s dreams.  With this in mind, doing things with intention is essential to anyone who wants to have an effective personal brand. Professor Falk talked about this on several occasions. Are we forming our online personal brand just through daily living, or are we consciously building it, molding it, guiding it to become something more? It could be assumed that many want to guide their branding ship, but are adrift at sea. And no one wants to be that guy.

Don’t be that guy. Take the time to consciously build your brand (Photo via

My own ship was mostly fit to sail, but lacked an itinerary. This class is helping me patch up the hull and prepare for another voyage. I’ll try to stop with the marine analogies before we all get cabin fever. This class has forced me to face some hard questions. What do I want people to see? Am I about telling stories? Then I should tell my stories. Am I building my brand with intention, or am I far to careless? I had mixed feelings about the answers. During the week, I found a blog from the Harvard Business Review called “The Future of You,” by Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

It contained some valuable insights. It said the future involved the three things: Self-BrandingEntrepreneurship, and Hyperconnectivity.

Our class is all about self-branding and hyperconnectivity, but I believe the entrepreneurial mindset (and will) is just as important. The Doctor put it well when he said: “Entrepreneurship is about adding value to society by disrupting it and improving the order of things: it is turning the present into the past by creating a better future.

As for next week, I will continue to add a unique perspective to class discussion. I consume a wide variety of content on a regular basis- philosophy, health, politics, techie stuff, and more. I will endeavor to tell more stories, and to make more connections with my classmates.

No one knows what will happen in the future, but having a developed personal online brand, an eternal legacy, is definitely not a negative option. After this week, I can emerge from Spellmann’s dungeon with a bit of swagger in my step, because the seeds I am now sowing will bring in quite a significant harvest in my future. Even the word “tweet” stopped bothering me. I cannot think of a better twitter hashtag for that besides #Hallelujah.