I’m graduating in May in hopes of becoming a journalist. I’ve had internships and I’ve worked for my university’s online news source. Can you steer a terrified senior in a direction? Where should I look? What should I be looking for? What should I work on?” — Helena
We get questions like this fairly frequently and there’s no exact answer. But with yesterday’s announcement of the 2012 Peabody Award winners we’re seeing the incredible range of today’s journalism.This isn’t to say that you can’t quibble with this story winning over that story, or say they could chose more innovative work, but it is to say that if you look at the winners from the Web, radio, television and documentary you see a wild diversity of storytelling approaches and ideas.
And reviewing some of the winners, I think, is a great place to start.
Start with the Web and The New York Times win for “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” a multimedia feature using aerial photography, video and words while taking advantage of contemporary presentation techniques such as responsive design and parallax in order to augment and further drive the story forward.
SCOTUSBlog is the other Web winner. There are no bells and whistles. Instead, it’s pretty much a text only blog that’s become a go to resource for stories, background and explainers on all things that have to do with the US Supreme Court. Here, deep, thorough, consistent reporting and analysis wins out.
Radio, I think, is in a golden age and the reason I think this is is because of the launch of iTunes back in 2001. This allowed people to easily subscribe to podcasts — and by extension radio programming — that we previously didn’t have access to. Yes, RSS already existed but iTunes gave us an easy interface to either hear or distribute programming. While your local public radio station might not carry it, you can now hear everything from the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent to The Moth Radio Hour, 99% Invisible and Radiolab among a host of other exceptional programming.
Each of these programs uses different techniques and styles. By listening and analyzing, we learn new tricks that expand our understanding of what’s possible in audio storytelling.
One of this year’s radio winners comes from Radio Diaries, is called “Teen Contender” and follows the 16-year-old Olympic boxer Claressa Shields in a first person narrative from Flint, Michigan to London. Here’s a great breakdown by Julia Barton on the techniques used and how this created great radio.
Other radio winners include WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show, a “traditional” hosted show about New York’s political and cultural life; This American Life’s “What Happened at Dos Erres,” an incredible radio documentary about a Guatemalan immigrant in Boston “who learns that the man he believed to be his father actually led the massacre of his village”; and NPR for its hard news reporting in Syria by Kelly McEvers and Deborah Amos.
I’ll leave it at this and with the recommendation to explore different types of journalism awards across magazines, multimedia, photography, documentary, radio and the rest. Through it, you’ll come across work that brings about an “Aha!” moment, one that makes you say, “This is what I want to do.” And then start positioning yourself and aiming towards doing it by applying for work — or learning the skills needed to apply for work — in that area.
Hope this helps. — Michael
Have a question? Ask away.
Designers, especially those transitioning from print to web, yearn for [a consistent canvas size]. We’re lucky to have it on phones, but the varying sizes of desktop browsers throw us in a loop. Despite that, I was bullish on keeping the width of the desktop text at a comfortable 65-70 characters per line no matter how long your browser becomes. I was steadfast in keeping the content on top—not hugged by filters, settings, search bars and ads. More space in your window doesn’t mean you have to fill it.
Mig Reyes, designer, 37signals, on redesigning the Signal vs Noise blog (but don’t call it a blog). 37signals, The Typography and Layout behind the new Signal vs. Noise redesign.
Let’s repeat: More space in your window doesn’t mean you have to fill it.
The ongoing death of newspapers is not about changes in journalism, or the need for them. It is about a business model that has ceased to be relevant in the face of present technology. It used to be a poorly kept secret, but amid a vast array of competing histories, it’s been forgotten like last year’s canceled NBC sitcoms: What made newspapers successful was never the news. Newspapers provided vital services in people’s lives: their connections with their hometown, the notices of local events, the daily topics of conversation, the latest thoughts hovering over Snoopy’s head as he snored atop his doghouse. Many of these services were syndicated, and those that were not - like the classified ads - were intensely well managed. The front page, and the headlines therein, were merely the container…
…The Internet commandeered the services that newspapers once championed and delivered each of these services on an a la carte basis. In an earlier era, it made sense to bundle these services in a single package - the newspaper - and deliver it fully assembled. Today, the Web itself is the package, and each of the services now competes against other similar services in separate, often healthy, markets. And this is as it should be - this is not somehow wrong…
…There is no rational business model that can be formed around solely the production of news, just as many artists will attest that there is no stable business model around just an artist producing art that does not involve dying first. News must be bundled with a service. And that’s a problem, because the Web model is to unbundle everything, reduce every service to its basic and fundamental form, and present it to you as a site or, more recently, as an app. If you ask southern California venture capitalists what types of investments they’re searching for, they’ll tell you they’re looking for that one thing - not six things bundled together, not three existing things that complement one another. One disruptive thing.
And that thing tends to omit the word “news.