One of the hardest things about “thinking digitally” in the newsroom is that it’s almost impossible to fully keep up with all of the new storytelling tools and techniques. We can try, but we’ll inevitably fail.
How do I know? Well, I’ve been primarily a “print guy” for more than two decades, an era when one new story form after another has challenged my creativity in presenting the news.
First, believe it or not, was photography. Just as the commercial web was emerging, so was digital photography — cheap, mobile, ready for posting. There was more of it, so we used more of it, both in print and online. That alone was like learning a new journalism language.
Then came blogging, microblogging and later live-tweeting. Now we were also doing audio, feature video, livestreams and animated data visualizations. We’re even letting computers write some articles now.
Today, our imaginations are going wild thinking about the possibilities of 360 video, drone photography and augmented reality. Just as we start figuring out what works and doesn’t work with each of these new forms — and just as we come to terms with the ethical dilemmas they pose — other innovations won’t be far behind.
So, it seems to me that the best any media mortal can do is to keep an open mind, embrace experimentation and be prepared to fail a lot. That line of thinking has become cliche in Silicon Valley, but maybe that’s because the tech world has been absorbing change at a pace that the media world is only now appreciating.