Journalists can apply storytelling techniques to new media and make the news come to life. So concludes Paul Ford, after brooding on the collision between digital media and analog journalism.
It’s a fine call to digital storytelling:
We’ll still need professionals to organize the events of the world into narratives, and our story-craving brains will still need the narrative hooks, the cold opens, the dramatic climaxes, and that all-important “■” to help us make sense of the great glut of recent history that is dumped over us every morning. No matter what comes along streams, feeds, and walls, we will still have need of an ending.
He grounds this advice in observation of daily life, as revealed in messy power through Facebook:
I watched in real time as these people reconstructed themselves in the wake of events — altering their avatars, committing to new causes, liking and linking, boiling over in anger at dumb comments, eventually posting jokes again, or uploading new photos. Learning to take the measure of the world with new eyes. No other medium has shown me this in the same way. Even the most personal literary memoir has more distance, more compression, than these status updates. [emphasis added]
Interestingly, Ford arrives at this point by reaching back to the Whole Earth Catalog and its Freudian notion of humans as prosthetic gods.
We’ve reached a point where anyone with an SMS card or access to an Internet café can potentially be heard by billions of people. What could be more godlike… than that?