Snow Fall and The Jockey

There once was a little newspaper who thought big and tried new things. Overtime, they started a following. It turns out that solid reporting, interesting stories, and innovation was what “the people” wanted.

Enter The New York Times multimedia stories “Snow Fall” and “The Jockey.” Read/watch/investigate them here, if you haven’t already:

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/#/?part=tunnel-creek

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/the-jockey/?pagewanted=all&_r=0#/?chapt=introduction

It is interesting about the backlash on Snow Fall on one side and the adoration for it on the other.  What brings this up today is this article from Slate: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/08/snow_fall_the_jockey_the_scourge_of_the_new_york_times_bell_and_whistle.html

I do love the GIF in his story.

In the end, I think it comes down to telling the best story possible in the best ways possible.

I’m oldish (at almost 39). I personally don’t like video stories on the web much. I prefer to read stories and look at infographics and GIFs. And I don’t like automation of video or audio in general. Probably because I don’t have headphones glued into my ears and I’m usually trying to do something else and stealthily read a story while my kids are watching videos and playing interactive games on their ipads. Still, I like interactivity and innovation and people trying. Success comes out of trying… and repeated failures, improving on what we’ve done before.

Younger folks generally prefer video, or so studies keep telling us. They’re too lazy, as a group, (we’re told) to read boring old words sans motion. And when you look at social media with the most engagement – video trumps everything.

I think the NYT should be applauded for trying new things and embracing innovation. Like all really good things, there is give and take in the initial versions of experiments. But they have to start somewhere.

On “The Jockey”…

After reading and watching the opening section, if they were my students working on a group project I’d tell them:

“This first video would be so much stronger if you skipped the track! You could really bring viewers/readers in and grab them with this opportunity. But the track feels false the way it is done here. Good try for innovation though. Keep with this idea in your future work. And the shots are beautiful.”

The voiceover sounds amateurish. (Read not practiced, uncomfortable and out of place. There is a reason most authors don’t read their own audio books. Reading well, out loud and recorded, takes skill, effort and practice.) And they left a beat too much silence at the top. They totally lost me. I would have quit there if not interested in seeing what else is ahead.

Screen shot 2013-08-16 at 11.30.52 AM

Screenshot of NYT “The Jockey” as you scroll from text to video portion of introduction.

And the voiceovers don’t get better. If this was a student, ok. But it is the NYT. If there’s going to be track it should be good track. And they don’t need all that background music. The sounds of what they are doing could really raise the level of impact of the video. They have so much good stuff to work with.

And then there’s the staging of the video where they clearly asked the jockey to turn and pose for the video that shows all of his injuries. I like what they did with that video and if it is part of his workout to do such poses, okay. If it was computer generated completely, great. Nice job. But I doubt it. Looks more like fashion shoot stuff on a green screen then news photography.

I think students doing a critique on this might be perfect for TV news class and other journalism classes. What do they like and not like? Why? What works for them?

This is the kind of thing TV stations should be doing on their websites. The video pros know how to use video for impact but for some reason can’t seem to approach newspapers’ quality online.  One day they will all realize this is their future.

Meantime the reporter, Bearak, is a Pulitzer winning journo and former visiting prof at Columbia. His story is good. The videos are good minus my above critique. I don’t find any of it distracting. I think it is cool. Everyone involved on the project should be applauded. I look forward to future projects and innovations of this nature. I’m sure they’ll get even better with time.

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