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Email: / Phone: +31 (0)20 673 4774 / Mobile: +31 (0)6 520 66 499

Is journalism about news or story-telling?

Can you call yourself a journalist if you are allergic to breaking news? The future of journalism is no longer about multimedia, interactivity or curating. No, all of that goes without saying. Now the discussion is back to online basics: long-form story-telling versus breaking news.

According to former NYT multimedia journalist Zach Wise, long-form journalism is on its way back. Wise, who has won various awards for his work, was guest speaker at the Dutch journalist association’s New Year get-together in Amsterdam recently hosted by U2Media trainer Mark Fuller.

Wise says the trend back towards longer online stories is partly driven by the growing importance of mobiles and tablets which mean you no longer have to sit upright behind a computer when you’re reading.

Entice readers

While I certainly agree that where and how people read influences how much they’re willing to read, I’m still not convinced that most stories are written in a compelling enough way to entice readers to plough through endless text.

The exception to the KISS (Keep It Short & Simple) rule is of course when you are an amazing story-teller with an amazing story to tell. But then how many of us are potential Pullitzer prize winners?

Despite being “allergic to breaking news” there’s no doubt that Wise is a great journalist – and he’s got a Pulitzer prize to prove it. The story that won him the Pulitzer in 2008 was about construction deaths (nine in 16 months) on the so-called Strip in Las Vegas which houses the city’s famous hotels and casinos. It’s probably a terrific story but at 4,355 words I didn’t read to the end.

As a consumer I’m still addicted to speed and the beauty of an eight-word headline that says it all. And as a journalist I love the challenge of KISSing and the poetry of a 140 character tweet. But perhaps Wise is right – we can have both.

Highlights of Wise’s work can be seen at Wise is assistant professor at Medill School of Journalism in Chicago and is involved in the Knight Lab which combines journalism and computer science to work on cutting-edge media innovation.

By Abi Daruvalla