In the 1960s and ‘70s, journalists started doing something new. Writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, Truman Capote, Joan Didion, and Tom Wolfe (just to name a few) shucked the even-handed and cold approach to journalistic “objectivity” and replaced it with literary sensibility. Devices once reserved for fictional work began to crop up in newspapers. Basic reportage gave way to artful storytelling.
In 1973, Tom Wolfe edited an anthology of “new journalism” with E.W Johnson, including his own manifesto celebrating this new style, aptly titled The New Journalism.
Since the 1970s, a number of technological advances have changed the way producers produce and consumers consume the news.
Dark rooms have been phased out of newsrooms and have been replaced with digital production offices. Readers are more likely to get their news online than from a newspaper, and with the rise of smartphones and tablets, news organizations are increasingly taking advantage of mobile apps.
But even as the news cycle spins faster and faster, there’s still a place for good, old-fashioned storytelling. The only thing that has changed is its form.
Firstly, a number of multimedia platforms give consumers a more active role in the news-making process. Facebook is a prime example of how everyone can share and comment on the news, but some websites take this idea even further by collecting people’s personal stories as part of journalistic storytelling. Some websites are more curatorial in nature, but others seek to present an overarching narrative or even offer interpretation. A mix of citizen journalism and New Journalism, we’re beginning to see the stories of our time presented in a new way … yet again.
In 2005, Robert S. Boynton published The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft, a book based on his interviews with several journalists he believed extended New Journalism ideals into the 21st century.
I’m not sure what to call the new, new, new (new?) journalism on the horizon, but here’s a look at a few platforms hoping to make journalism more visual, literary or participatory.
Cowbird’s model puts the “journal” in journalism. Through a simple storytelling tool, which incorporates text, audio, photos, maps, etc., Cowbird invites everyday people to catalogue their experiences and create a rich, multimedia journal. According to its site, you can use Cowbird “to keep a diary of your life and to help us document the major sagas taking place in the world.”
Essentially, you can use Cowbird as a ruminative social site, “a public library of human experience,” or if you’re a journalist, you can use it to capture a multifaceted story.
Recently, National Geographic partnered with Cowbird to create an unfiltered account of life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The resulting collection of stories is not only more interactive and exploratory for the reader, but it also allows its storytellers, the people of Pine Ridge Reservation, to speak for themselves.
Zeega takes advantage of open sourcing and collaboration in its quest to “remake the Internet.” According to its site, Zeega is “an open-source, HTML5 platform for inventing new forms of interactive storytelling.”
Nieman Journalism Lab praised Zeega for the “drag-and-drop ease” it affords journalists when creating multimedia projects, sometimes out of found materials such as Flickr images, YouTube Videos, and music.
A sort of media-remix tool, Zeega could potentially make journalism easier for everyday citizens to take part in. No longer would every aspiring journalist need to learn code to create a visually appealing story.
If Zeega has its way, the Internet might become a more beautiful place.
Narratively aims to slow down the news cycle by presenting “local, original, organic, and in-depth” stories from New York City. Harkening back to New Journalism ideas, Narratively launched with an emphasis on storytelling and human-interest pieces, organized in a different way.
Each week, Narratively explores a different theme. Some stories are presented as articles, photo essays, or short documentaries, but the stories are always engaging … especially if you’re a New Yorker.