One thing I’ve always despised as a journalist is the looking back stories we madly produce at the end of each year.
That’s not to say follow up is not important. In our need to fill a very slow news hole during the holidays, we often try to guess at what’s important to revisit and often settle for the easiest to tell.
As my own news tastes change with technology, I find myself tiring of reviews, and I spend more and more time looking for previews.
I can’t be alone in this.
I’ve worked hard the last few years to try to divorce myself from the myopic viewpoint journalists often take. I’ve tried to think in terms of someone from my own generation who is busy beyond words and without time to comb through dozens of news sites each day.
I don’t watch television news, and I don’t subscribe to a daily newspaper. I do listen to a lot of public radio, which helps me stay up-to-date on world affairs. Twitter informs me about the rest, including breaking news. And Facebook connects me into other news sources as rated important by my friends and family.
Lately I’ve used a series of news apps to find highly curated articles that I’d have to dig for myself. And again, I can’t be alone in my news consumption habits.
All of this makes me want to reform not how we consume news but how we gather news. In every media format I’ve worked in, newspaper, television and radio, 90 percent of our energy was expended on a traditional format that was shedding viewers and listeners like a bad sitcom.
Thus the looking back stories at the end of each year, which serve only to fill holiday space rather than truly inform the public.
One story that took a long look back at an avalanche that occurred more than a year ago in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, caught my attention. Not because it looked back at something I didn’t know about, but because of the way it looked back.
Using a slick interface that blends multimedia seamlessly with text, the New York Times has created not just a masterpiece of storytelling, but a massive move forward in the way that stories will likely be consumed on handheld devices in the future.
Even though the story wasn’t forward looking, the way in which it was told was.
When I pulled Snowfall up on my iPad on Christmas Day, I couldn’t put the story down. It was too engaging. And even though I had read the prolific news reports a year before, I was completely drawn into the story’s many elements from inline multimedia graphics to videos and the timeline feel of the layout.
This is my kind of looking back story.