The New York Times has been developing a fine form of digital storytelling. It’s a kind of journalism that uses a mix of maps, visualizations, images, video, and text to explore a topic in depth. “The Russia Left Behind” is a fine example.
The story takes a reporter (and the reader/viewer) along the road running south from St. Petersburg to Moscow, stopping at several towns to learn about their experiences. It’s sad, even heartbreaking stuff, describing personal and infrastructure stagnation and decline.
As a digital story, “Russia Left Behind” presents some fascinating features.
The road trip structure appears throughout the document in the form of a sketch map perpetually fastened to the screen’s left margin (see above). It highlights and centers on the location being discussed to the right.
Video and photos, often edited into video clips, complement the text by portraying individuals and their environments, enhancing or adding to textual content.
“Russia Left Behind” is primarily about these people, letting their stories appear briefly but potently in only a few details.
Two questions come to my mind.
- Is there a name for this kind of storytelling? “Multimedia journalism” is far too broad. “Multimedia HTML” is technically accurate, but not very helpful.
- Is there an authoring tool which will let individuals lacking the New York Times’ capital base create these kind of documents? HTML5 requires coding, and Flash now has serious hardware limitations.