Snow Fall explores multimedia possibilities

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Snow Fall by John Branch, from The New York Times, tells a fascinating story about a 2012 avalanche in Washington, and explores new possibilities for multimedia elements in a story.

Branch creates such a strong narrative and immediately drew me into the story by starting with the avalanche. The feeling of tension is created right at the beginning.  Despite knowing that all of the build up will result in the avalanche, I was interested in seeing how everything played out.

Screen shot 2015-03-03 at 10.38.31 AMThe graphics in this story are designed to impress. Reading this story is an investment, because of its length and the amount of extra content, but the additional multimedia enhanced the story. Reading it became an experience itself. The video clips especially worked for this. It was cool to hear and see the people who had lived through this talking about what happened. Sometimes just reading, the names blend together, but the videos turned characters in a narrative into people, for me.

The graphics are also helpful. I had trouble picturing some of the places or routes described in the story, and the animations were placed often enough to remind me, or explain to me, what was happening in the narrative and who the characters are. This works well in such a long piece, where it’s easy to forget parts. Screen shot 2015-03-03 at 10.38.11 AM

The use of multimedia made me more engaged in the story. It was helpful to provide detail about what causes an avalanche with how the snow builds up. Using graphics to show the different layers, for example, was a smart choice here, since it’s a concept better explained visually.

I’m curious about the process of putting this piece together. Were the multimedia elements part of the original idea or did they come after the story?

It’s easy looking at a piece like this to get caught up in all of the animations, videos and graphics, but the writing and reporting should also be recognized (and were with a 2013 Pulitzer). Snow Fall presents the possibilities for using multimedia to really enhance a story. I don’t know that this would work in every case, but it’s an interesting concept to consider.


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