Mixed Media

The Future of Newspapers?

On December 23, 2012, The New York Times published in its Sunday edition a piece called “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” an extraordinary 14-page section on an avalanche that killed three expert skiers last winter at a Washington State resort. Journalist John Branch provides a subtle portrayal of how even mature, high-level athletes could bow to group pressure and go down a slope when they knew the risk of death was far too high. The full section also appeared online as a multimedia marvel that combines interactive maps, video interviews, and actual footage taken by skiers in the group. Be patient viewing it online, it may take a moment to load the video portions.

The article has gone on to become the most-viewed piece of sports-journalism on the Times website, displaying what the newspaper of the future might look like—if dared to go beyond merely posting articles. But the heart of the piece remains solid journalism and an empathetic presentation of the frailties of human judgment.

About the Author

Otto Selles teaches French at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., and attends Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.