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September 7, 2008

The Slow Journalism Movement -- heard of it?

I can't take credit for the phrase, but I am wondering if there are readers out there who could add to the idea of Slow Journalism. Here's how it came to me...

Naka Nathaniel of the New York Times spoke to the Specialized Journalism students at USC Annenberg School for Communication about two weeks ago. His video reporting on dangerous, wartorn places -- a refugee camp in Rwanda, the slave trade in Cambodia, a wedding in a bomb shelter in Israel and genocide in Darfur, for example-- are usually accompanied by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nick Kristof's heart of darkness texts and narration and they hold their place as art.

Nathaniel's framing is void of sentiment, pity or looky-loo giddiness. There's no shred of journalistic competitiveness -- "We got the story and you didn't, CNN. Take that." Rather, as if Nathaniel and Kristoff were the arm of Human Rights Watch, their gutsy scrupulousness pervades. What could be an ignoble intrusion into the lives of desperate people on hospital beds and in other dispiriting situations they render transcendent. Poverty is more important for us to see than for us to see them seeing it. Make sense?

Hard not to respect Nathaniel and Kristof's advocacy and work. 

Then Nathaniel, sort of off the cuff, threw out to the USC students that what he was doing was part of the Slow Journalism Movement and that instead of being motivated to "feed the beast" and break news, he was more interested in his audience. "Why do a hundred photographers try to get the same shot of Michael Phelps? Why not stop competing with each other and share resources? One or two photographers will do the trick? Send the rest out for other stories," he argued.

Peculiarly, a couple of days later crackerjack blogger and one of my favorite journalists, Mr. Jalopy of Hooptyrides, said that what he was doing was not unrelated to the Slow Food Movement. He, the author of the Maker's Bill of Rights, is a major player in the DIY movement. Mark Frauenfelder, his friend and boing-boing journalism colleague, he said, was deep into tending his garden and practicing Slow Food habits, while also editing the succesful niche magazine, MAKE. Frauenfelder might be the living proof that Slow Food and Slow Journalism are cohabitating genially in real time.

Simultaneously...Slow Food USA is an organization in Brooklyn that's going gangbusters, spawned in part by the ideology of Alice Waters. Waters influenced opera and theater director Peter Sellars, who wove the political, philosophical and gastronomic pleasures of Slow Food into his New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna in late 2006. 

So, what's up? Have you jumped on the SloJo SloFo bandwagon? Maybe jumped is too active, let's say...sauntered over and sat down, setting your competitive ego aside to absorb, notice and deeply care about what's around you. To heck with deadlines or breaking the news -- these are things of the past. Distinguished journalists and artists have better things to do.

September 7, 2008 10:43 PM | | Comments (1)

1 Comments

Good memories of sharing a stage with Naka a fair way back and exchanging thoughts.

Great guy. Much respected.

Broadly, there are journos who have to turn news around on the wheel and those who can set their own agenda, delivering pieces without such strict time regimes in this cheek by jowl media market.

If you're as experienced as Naka, then as an editor you'll trust he'll have something special in the can on assignment.

Within the video journalism movement circa 1994 we id'ed two broad formats: VJ for TV and VJ for VJ.

We turned over daily news pieces, but unless we had front row seats or exclusives on the day's news agenda, it was easy to feel unfulfilled.

However when we left the agenda, working a 7 day fortnight we could "slow burn" our feature stories.[ see article here.

Naka's point is equally instructive for anyone with media ambitions considering setting up a news network.

david
Viewmagazine.tv, London

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