Chasing Bayla on the Boston Globe’s website and Finding Home: A Year in the Life of Syrian Refugees on Time Magazine’s website are two examples of finely written and technologically savvy stories I’ve come across. Both stories utilize many aspects of online journalism and, like Snow Fall, I believe they will stand the test of time and be prime examples of what an online story could be.
Chasing Bayla utilized many technical aspects that help the reader dive deeper into the story. From the whale song at the beginning, to the graphic novel-esque art style, there are many interesting choices made by the editor. The gallery on the right side of the screen works well since it scrolls along with the story as you read. The cinemagraphs work well in the vain of the story as well. The graphic novel art style chosen for display makes me think of Moby Dick, if it were illustrated. I can easily say the same for the font choices when the story gets chunked. Great photo choices along with easily readable captions round out the various multimedia elements.
Finding Home: A Year in the Life of Syrian Refugees really surprised me with it’s art direction. Right out of the gate, there is a looping video clip of newborn Heln in the background of the title and headline, sub-head, and by-line. From there, when scrolling vertically down, we are treated to a brand new way of presenting the block text: in fact there is no block text. Everything presented is entirely in iOS style message blocks. It is as if we are reading someone’s conversation. This part truly impressed me. There is also a scrolling time line on the right side of the screen is a good touch as well, but I feel as though it could be a bit more visually prominent. The maps used are a bit small for my tastes but I did enjoy the fact that they felt modern by having the geo-locater symbol, it fit well with the modern feel of the visuals. The auto-playing audio and video were startling at times, especially if you do not enjoy the sound of babies crying.
Chasing Bayla did not do well in terms of keeping the story short and sweet. It is the epitome of long-form writing. While I enjoy reading stories of that length, I feel the story could have been shortened by a hundred words or so. I did appreciate the chunking of the story though, I didn’t feel like information was omitted or in the wrong place. The writing had a nice flow to it.
Finding Home surprised me with the omission of standard block text but I highly appreciated the fact that it modernized and updated the story for today’s generation. I was also impressed that at the very top of the screen on the right hand side, you can choose whether you want to read in English or in Arabic. Very wise considering that the subjects of the story are in Syria, which is a predominately Arabic-speaking country. The entire black background helps the reader focus on what is in front of them on the screen, be it photos or instant message like text.
Online journalism is still relatively new in terms of chronological time. However, in that short span of time, there have been many striking stories that have been published. Chasing Bayla and Finding Home: A Year in the Life of Syrian Refugees are but two of these examples, but they are shining examples of what online journalism is. The various multimedia elements used in each and the quality of writing give me hope that soon, the way news is consumed will be changed drastically. No longer will we have to just read or watch, soon, all of our senses might be engaged in a single story. The future is now.