Thursday, December 10, 2009

Slow Journalism

        I had a conversation yesterday with a journalist who talked faster than I could think.

        This is significant to me because I don't consider myself a slow thinking person by any means. I tend to follow lectures, movies, and most human to human interactions with a stable comprehension and understanding of the corresponding theme, storyline, and social undercurrent. I also, in most cases, have the ability to share my thoughts with those present (the sharing of thoughts tends to follow the process of thinking...) In the case of the conversation mentioned above, thinking was nearly impossible to fit between the space where one sentence ended and the next began.

        The conversation ended quite abruptly, with a glance at the watch, a quick explanation, and a departure, the sum of which lasted all of five seconds. The backlog of thinking that took place after the reporter (who happens to be covering the U.N conference for a major newspaper) left, put me in a state of self doubt about my ability to exist in a culture of fast-paced, spot news, journalism that looks for 'content' as opposed to stories.

       Upon further reflection I came to the conclusion that good journalism is often slow. I suppose in depth journalism could be referred to as documentary, but in my few years of calling myself a documentary photographer I have constantly had to explain that I am not a documentary film-maker. I work with still images to document my subject matter, which might take months of work. Unfortunately for me, film owns the word documentary. Maybe the photographers, audio documentarians, and writers, who avoid spot news and try their best to tell stories that take time to tell, should call themselves slow journalists.

       Actually, the term slow journalism has been around for a while. An incredible article written earlier this year by veteran reporter Candy Cooper titled “The Death of Slow Journalism” isn't too hopeful about the state of storytelling in newspapers. She compares herself to a dinosaur who's bones will end up in the 'museum of journalism' along with typewriters and newsprint.

        Though I do feel Cooper's style of journalism has all but vanished from newspapers, it is alive and well in other media. Burn Magazine, an online photographic publication run by one of the great Magnum photographers, David Allan Harvey, runs incredibly in-depth photo essays and slow journalism is also alive and well on public radio stations, at least in the United States. Look at the success of This American Life.

         Hopefully, the resurgence of story telling is upon us.

No comments:

Post a Comment