All too often we hear about the slow but sure fall of the printed news media in the 21st century. While this is debatable as a phenomenon, digital media is readily growing into 'traditional' media. Traditional media has reinvented itself so much that the two are inseparable and the gnarled boughs of printed media is worked in with the temporality of social media, the internet and multimedia.
Today I saw a superbly made multimedia project by +The New York Times reporting a story that really went to the heart of the story. Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek by John Branch reads like a novel at times in its composure and thorough research into its subject. Using current web design to integrate the multimedia components really helped with understanding the story which is epic in scale and tragedy. Fly-throughs of the mountain, simulations, videos and an assortment of bite sized supplements to the story really lend support to this feature.
The reporting for this article on the Feb. 19 avalanche at Tunnel Creek was done over six months. It involved interviews with every survivor, the families of the deceased, first responders at Tunnel Creek, officials at Stevens Pass and snow-science experts. It also included the examination of reports by the police, the medical examiner and the Stevens Pass Ski Patrol, as well as 40 calls to 911 made in the aftermath of the avalanche. The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research provided a computer-generated simulation of the avalanche, based on data accumulated from the Stevens Pass accident report and witness accounts. Additional sources are: LIDAR data from King County GIS Center; Iowa Environmental Mesonet, Iowa State University; Mark Moore, U.S. Forest Service; National Avalanche Center.As well as being a rare effort to report content that the likes of social media couldn't access, this project has an unusually long timeline. Keeping in mind that traditional media hardly ever breaks the news as news any more (that is if you utilise the hyperconnectivity of internet/social media), this is really breaking the box a bit - does traditional media, and its newer form on the digital platforms, allow this slow-cooked information to become a key part of its arsenal in the digital, fast-paced world?
A friend has an interesting observation. After reading the first line he immediately had the impression that it was a piece of fiction writing. Although the drama and writing is captivating, you wonder whether or not it is dramatised beyond belief. If only they put an acknowledgement of the real event and its seriousness before the drama kicked it. As you read on, each of the people's photos show up on the side, a nice touch that links it back to personal reality.
It could be said that only big media reputations could pull such a thing off. The sheer force of the name and the resources in the background offer a unique position to explore issues that deserve more than the double spread feature. And they look like they're milking this experimental format - an e-book is also available for purchase. It seems this media giant is treading a thin line, but which line is it?