'The future of journalism'? Or a long-overdue past?

Friday, December 21, 2012
The future of journalism? To read the glowing praise that accompanied the publication online of this New York Times feature, "Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek," you'd think so.

But why? Just because it doesn't condemn all its multimedia assets to one ghetto or sidebar column, or toss them simultaneously in readers' faces on an overstuffed landing page?

This isn't the future of journalism. It's the past that should have been but hasn't been, so far. In 2009, University of Maryland journalism professor Ronald A. Yaros advised this in an American Journalism Review piece called "Mastering Multimedia":
It's not enough to post some text and then simply throw some video into the mix. To keep readers' attention and enhance the audience's understanding, it's critical that each ingredient in a rich multimedia stew is placed precisely where it makes the most sense.
(Emphasis mine.)

In other words, the Times is winning heaps of praise for finally doing something at the end of 2012 many of us have been championing since the last decade. (I remember advocating this approach at the Chicago Tribune in the mid-2000s.)

That this entirely sensible and reader-centric awakening has taken newsrooms so long strikes me as reason more for head-shaking concern than for celebration.

People with blogs have been presenting content this way for years. Newspaper Web sites, their editors and their content-management system architects just couldn't have been bothered.

Good work on this one, NYT. Make it standard operating procedure, and then let's figure out what's really next.

See also:
The Atlantic: 'Snow Fall' Isn't the Future of Journalism
GigaOM: The good -- and bad -- about the NYT's 'Snow Fall' feature
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