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Expanding boundaries in multimodal journalism: a 2012 'best of' list

Written by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl
January 02, 2013

Like many others, I was entranced by the New York Times publication of Snow Fall, the multimedia longform story of the avalanche at Tunnel Creek.  Snow Fall demonstrated that online, interactive—digital!— writing could find a place in journalism outlets. I could imagine wonderful conversations with students about such publications, particularly in the context of pushing beyond the narrow definitions of non-fiction showing up in Common Core discussions.

Josh Stearns, who works at Free Press and blogs at Groundswell, invited his Twitter followers to help him make a list of some of the best graphic and interactive journalism of 2012. Read the full, and growing, post at Groundswell. One of the suggestions was Symbolia, a new iPad magzine devoted to graphic journalism. It currently carries a series of stories which are very much graphic novels, uh, non-fiction pieces that reminded me the zines. (I couldn’t help but subscribe.)

Here are a few of the other suggestions taken from the blog: 

California Watch – In Jennifer’s Room
Poynter described this multimedia, living graphic novel as a powerful way to address tell a challenging and emotional story of abuse.
(CIR’s Cole Goins also recommended their mapped report on wait-times at veterans offices:

BBC – Superstorm USA: Caught on Camera 
Made almost entirely of crowdsourced cell phone footage, this stunning documentary was a huge undertaking in combining critical journalism with massively distributed user generated video.

Cartoon Movement / Susie Cagle – Down in Smoke
Cagle’s cartoons are layers of journalism stacked and juxtaposed, creating powerful accounts of moments in time. Cagle uses Thinglink to layer audio over her images. 

ESPN: The Long, Strange Trip of Doc Ellis
This piece was suggested by a few people as a great example of how photos, illustrations and more can be woven literally into the text in new ways. Here is some background from Nieman Lab on the ESPN piece.

Pitchfork: Glitter in the Dark
Like the ESPN piece above, this lovely Pitchfork cover story combines rich imagery with long-form text. The images seem to move, facial expressions responding to the text, and sometimes take over the whole page.

The Guardian US: America Elect!
This graphic novel treatment of the long US election rides the line between still illustrations and animation which is set to motion by the reader’s scrolling.

My New Year’s resolution is to broaden my own reading and search for more interesting models for digital texts. These examples pushed my thinking right out of 2012 and into the future.

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