While I much lament what I feel is the demise of essential elements of journalism – shoe-leather and insightful reporting – I will not lament the loss of physical newspapers, should that eventuality come to pass. I remember my grandfather showing me how to fold The New York Times so as to manage the size and page turns, but I never learned to like the feel of newsprint nor the ink it left on my hands.
What I am enjoying these days is the online incarnation of some newspapers, particularly those that employ multimedia and narrative writing. One of my mentors, Tom French, has done several huge serial reports for the St Petersburg Times*, but the one-off stories such as the March 8th New York Times article Riding The Rails are just as inspiring and more easily consumable when pressed for time. This piece is an interesting short-form narrative, well-reported with occasional first-person interjections for that being-there-with-you feel. The multimedia portion includes images of the amazing landscapes seen while rolling across country and short video clips that allow us to meet some fellow travelers. Is it really just coincidental that only a few days ago I spoke of wanting to travel cross country by train?
Of course multimedia need not be reserved only for narratives. It is not surprising that art reviews are greatly enchanced by visuals. I still refer friends to the slides accompanying a review of Calder works at the Whitney — Calder at Play: Finding Whimsy in Simple Wire (October 2008).
More recently a March 5th New York Times article “The Unheralded Pieces in the American Puzzle” caught my attention, perhaps because last weekend I went to The Getty Museum for the first time in eons and found myself wondering how I might manage to visit there much more often (but that rumination is for another blog post). While the slides with this particular article are fewer and less intriguing to me than those of Calder, I did “discover” artists unfamiliar to me. My favorite is slide number 5, a 1911 painting by George Bellows titled “New York” with this description: “crowded with buildings, vehicles and people in the street, it is thought to depict Union Square in the snow, slightly reimagined and looking west toward the Sixth Avenue El.” Apparently Bellows died young (age 42). His wikipedia entry says “Bellows’ urban New York scenes depicted the crudity and chaos of working-class people and neighborhoods, and also satirized the upper classes.” Had he been of our generations, I wonder what his canvases would portray of life today.