As newspapers fade to the wayside, people look increasingly to their computer, phones, and tablets for the news — but not necessarily for the same old news story.
As the medium changes, it no longer makes sense to tell a story as if a written article were the only way. Students at the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University are taking new media elements that already turned traditional journalism on its head through videos, interactive graphics, Twitter, and are crafting a new kind of story that allows the reader to decide the narrative.
Dana Coester and Joel Beeson (pictured above), both professors at Perley Isaac Reed, co-teach a multimedia reporting class, which started in Spring 2011, called “Envisioning Race.” Through the course, students explore the issues of race and class that face the local community, but they also explore the fundamentals of journalism. In order for the communication of the story to be as dynamic as the story itself, students have to learn to create a new way for the readers to participate in its telling. They have done this with a kind of storytelling they call “quantum journalism,” where journalists do not actually tell the story.
By telling a story through database narrative, which uses tags to organize content by different themes and types, the readers can shape the arc of the narrative. Each student contributes 20 pieces of content — a map, census data, a photograph — to the larger project. They then determine how the content fits together, assigning
each piece metadata to control how the items, which are connected by theme and relationship, are presented to the audience. As readers interact with the content, they can take a non-linear path to find the story.
The class has had a steep learning curve for journalism students, most of whom are used to approaching storytelling from a completely different way. But as the technology for tablets and phones evolves, journalism has to keep up if it wants to stay relevant. Our love for the touch screen shouldn’t be met with a static article, because nowadays there are even better ways to tell the story.