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.