News21: Next-Gen Storytelling for the Multimedia Age
From frontlines to bylines, or what the future of journalism has to do with a countryside ranch.
By Maria Popova
A few weeks ago, Neil Burgess, former head of Magnum Photos, caused quite a stir by declaring photojournalism dead. While his argument had a handful of strong points reagarding the economics of photographic storytelling, it was held together by a rather narrow and traditional definition of photojournalism as a genre within print and news media. Today, we look at an inspired project that holds promise for the future of photojournalism in a way that makes Burgess’ argument crumble.
News21 is national education initiative pushing for new forms of investigative reporting and multimedia storytelling. Led by a dozen of America’s leading research universities and backed by the Carnegie-Knight Task Force, the project aims to approach journalism education from all angles — curriculum, policymaking, hands-on experience, cross-disciplinary collaboration.
Since 2006, News21 has been initiating annual projects grouped under umbrella themes that change every year — Liberty vs. Security in 2006, Faces of Faith in America in 2007, What’s at Stake around the 2008 Election and Changing America in 2009. This year, the project tackles a complex, multifaceted and highly controversial issue: War.
In late May, 10 journalism students spanning the entire spectrum of print-online, broadcast, graphics and photography staked out in a bunkhouse ranch in northeastern Washington state, where for six weeks they tasked themselves with getting to know the area’s thriving community of war veterans. The team set out to explore the consequences of war — from PTSD, to divorce to criminal activity to suicide — through the rich human stories of the veterans.
From an infographic map of veteran population to an interactive gallery bespeaking the diversity of a group so often addressed as a lump-sum monolith, the results are brimming with beautifully crafted photojournalism, meticulously edited multimedia storytelling, and thoughtful art direction.
One hidden yet priceless piece of the project we’d like to point you to is the Innovation Lessons section, culled from News21’s experience-gleaned insights. From the dynamics of team reporting to the importance of visual thinking to the intricacies of non-linear storytelling, the section is a deluge of invaluable practical guidance applicable to any loosely defined journalist, from the professional magazine editor to the blogger to the photojournalist.
Follow @news21 on Twitter for updates on the project and an altogether excellent feed of next-gen journalism.
Published August 24, 2010