Sometimes, people just want to read. They don’t want bells and whistles. They don’t want multipart graphics or clickable maps that reveal levels of rich, comparative data. They just want words that tell a compelling story.
When you leave the printed page and enter the online environment, for some journalists, the temptation may be too great not to throw in a few extraneous graphic elements to bolster a story.
Where’s the balance?
Last year, The New York Times published “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” by John Branch to widespread critical acclaim.
It had drama. It had depth. It was a multimedia story that made sense, that was easy to comprehend why all the different pieces were there.
This year, The Times published “The Jockey”, a long profile of Russell Baze, the world’s winningest equestrian.
“It’s always great to have collaboration on a story,” said Barry Bearak, the reporter who interviewed Baze and wrote the 10,000 word story the formed the core of the project.
Bearak is fortunate in his collaborators:
- Photographer Chang W. Lee provides some stunning visuals of life at and around Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco.
- Sports Editor Jason Stallman oversaw the project.
- Associate Managing Editor Steve Duenes led the multimedia team of Xaquín G.V., graphics editor; Catherine Spangler, video journalist; Jon Huang, graphics editor; Andrew Kueneman, deputy digital design director; and Graham Roberts, graphics editor.
Mention should be made of two videos in particular. One is just a sustained shot of Baze standing against a dark background. As he turns, text appears to document the many injuries he sustained over a lifetime of racing. It’s simple, dramatic.
The other video is of an actual horse race shot with multiple cameras around the track — there’s even one on Baze.
I’ve never seen a video quite like it. I felt like I was in the race.
“The Jockey” is a story that at first seems too light to support the gravitas of The Times‘ multimedia treatment.
Sure, the story could’ve been told just in text — and Bearak does write a compelling narrative and even voices the introductions to the videos.
But with all its pieces taken together, “The Jockey” is big and bold and exciting to read.