VR and Journalistic Standards

The other weekend our Sunday New York Times arrived with something extra. Attached to the usual plastic bag was a cardboard box from Google with some Velcro tabs. Once unfolded, and with an iPhone inserted, it became a virtual reality viewer. (Yes, you are reading that correctly: I went from cardboard box to virtual reality in the same sentence.) Obviously, a new age is upon us.

The Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote a thoughtful piece discussing the new standards for news gathering that are necessary for virtual reality reporting. (Yes, you are reading that correctly: I just wrote “virtual reality reporting” and meant for you to take it seriously.)

The VR camera sees in 360 degrees, so there’s pretty much no way that you can direct a scene and shoot it at the time time. You have to tell your subjects what to do and then get out of the way. The technical demands of the medium mean that you have to get a lot more Hollywood than the “fly on the wall” technique that has long …

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Digital Readership and Narrative

The New York Times finds itself in trouble with it. Huffington Post and Buzzfeed are thriving in it. Quartz and Circa are breaking it and remaking it.

What is it? It’s narrative.

Narrative is changing.

Narrative, particularly journalistic narrative, is being reshaped. It’s kind of a mess, pushed by readers on one side, tech on the other. Let me see if I can find my machete, or maybe a backhoe, and thrash my way through it with you.

Narrative has found a comfy, traditional long form home on, of all places, television. When you watch the writers of ‘Mad Men’ or ‘Breaking Bad,’ or ‘The Good Wife’ spool out longass story threads, episode after episode, that’s long form narrative. Do I really have to wait a year for ‘Mad Men’ to finish? Yes, apparently, and since I am willing to wait, that is the power of long form narrative in action.

For many years the New York Times has dominated in the one-off, long form narrative that digs deep and lasts. Another way to put this is to say that …

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