Friday, November 26, 2010

Are long-form multimedia stories newsworthy?

By Reshma Kirpalani

A debate exists as to the newsworthiness of many long-form multimedia stories. for example, The New York Times series, One in 8 Million, received an Emmy Award in the "new approaches to news and documentary programming" category this year. The series is a collection of stories told via audio and visuals that portray every day New Yorkers.

The series has not only received acclaim amongst critics, but casual bloggers - a forum for the everyday man - have also praised the site. For example, Wordpress blogger Adam Westbrook says on his site, "It’s not so much the content of each story I like (in fact, I’ve only watched a couple), but the way all the stories collectively create this living breathing tapestry of modern New York. And I love the presentation: a slick fluid carousel running along the bottom of the screen. Choosing a story is like picking a delicious sushi from the conveyor belt."

But are these delicious stories news?

In the New York Times Lens blog, James Estrin interviewed three of the series' producers: staff photographer Todd Heisler, the senior multimedia producer Sarah Kramer, and Deputy Photo Editor Meaghan Looram. Estrin asked each if they thought the series was considered "news," even though the the category they won was called, "new approaches to news and documentary programming."

Heisler responded that the One in 8 Million series is not news.

"That's the point... It's not beholden to any event or anything that's in the news. It's timeless."

Deputy Photo Editor Meaghan Looram offered, "Whether or not there is breaking news element, these are the lives lived in the city. And in that way, it's documenting what is happening here."

This begs the question, if series like One in 8 Million are not news, then what are they?

The seamless collection of stories is certainly relevant - with 3,535 likes on Facebook. Perhaps Looram defined the series when she included the word "document." Or Heisler did when he used the word, "timeless."

Regardless, this series proves that long-form multimedia stories do not have to be newsworthy to be relevant and even, celebrated.

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