Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady
Post courtesy of Erica Nunez
New York Magazine - On the day Barack Obama was elected, a strange new feature appeared on the website of the New York Times. Called the Word Train, it asked a simple question: What one word describes your current state of mind? Readers could enter an adjective or select from a menu of options. They could specify whether they supported McCain or Obama. Below, the results appeared in six rows of adjectives, scrolling left to right, coded red or blue, descending in size of font. The larger the word, the more people felt that way.
All day long, the answers flowed by, a river of emotion—anonymous, uncheckable, hypnotic. You could click from Obama to McCain and watch the letters shift gradually from blue to red, the mood changing from giddy, energized, proud, and overwhelmed to horrified, ambivalent, disgusted, and numb.
It was a kind of poll. It was a kind of art piece. It was a kind of journalism, but what kind?
This past year has been catastrophic for the New York Times. Advertising dropped off a cliff. The stock sank by 60 percent, and by fall, the paper had been rated a junk investment, announced plans to mortgage its new building, slashed dividends, and, as of last week, was printing ads on the front page. So dire had the situation become, observers began to entertain thoughts about whether the enterprise might dissolve entirely—Michael Hirschorn just published a piece in The Atlantic imagining an end date of (gulp) May. As this bad news crashed down, the jackals of Times hatred—right-wing ideologues and new-media hecklers alike—ate it up, finding confirmation of what they’d said all along: that the paper was a dinosaur, incapable of change, maddeningly assured as it sank beneath the weight of its own false authority.
And yet, even as the financial pages wrote the paper’s obit, deep within that fancy Renzo Piano palace across from the Port Authority, something hopeful has been going on: a kind of evolution. Each day, peculiar wings and gills poke up on the Times’ website—video, audio, “drillable” graphics. Beneath Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed column, there’s a link to his blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and YouTube videos. Coverage of Gaza features a time line linking to earlier reporting, video coverage, and an encyclopedic entry on Hamas.http://nymag.com/news/features/all-new/53344/
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