I was in my apartment’s room when I was reading Snow Fall. The air conditioner strangely produced so much cold that Summer night, and I sort of questioned if there was any correlation between reading about a freezing cold avalanche and sitting under a cooling machine. I rushed out to turn the central ventilation system off — hoping my roommates would want the same thing — and went on with the reading on my iPad.
Snow Fall is a multimedia-rich longform story by The New York Times’ John Branch then awarded Pulitzer prize in feature writing. The influential, well-respected journalism institution invested six months to bring this project to light, hoping to fight back against sites like BuzzFeed, and its efforts paid off as Snowfall did cause a giant wave in multimedia implementation of online journalism. In fact, on Pulitzer website, Snowfall is noted as “a project enhanced by its deft integration of multimedia elements.” Ironically, Snow Fall has also made some headlines on BuzzFeed, too.
The goal of Snow Fall, I think, was to present quality journalism with an immersive responsive-multimedia platform full of smooth animations and interplay between graphics, texts and videos. The focus was more on its digital structure than its content. Of course, the content was very well written, but I personally see no innovation in how the story is structured. Somehow, Snow Fall is just a traditional longform writing married with 21st century digital technologies, which at the end turned into “the most talked about story that no one reads.”
I am a firm believer in longform journalism. I believe longform deserves a place as its roles in documenting history and policy making are far too valuable to ignore. The real problem is how to get people to go back to reading longform in the midst of BuzzFeed, and short-attention span issue.
While Snow Fall introduced technological innovations in presenting longform on digital infrastructures, innovations in writing longform has yet to be successfully discovered. For those like me, the hope for a glorified comeback of longform is steadily fed.