Finding new online storytelling forms

The Internet is really still in its infancy, and according to USC’s Koci Hernandez, that means journalists still have time to help mold it as a storytelling platform.

“We have small opportunity while the Internet is still a baby to change the way things are done, presented or seen on this new creative platform,” says Hernandez.  “It’s not a single canvas anymore.  It’s not about the desktop, not about mobile – it’s about all these devices at once.  It’s not a single canvas, and we have to stop thinking about it like that.”

Instead, Hernandez urges journalists to check out sites like Pitchfork and The Verge, where people like Jonathan Harris are creating masterpieces of visual journalism.

“Find inspiration in places where you wouldn’t normally look; we have to avoid copying ourselves,” Hernandez says.

National Geographic’s project on the Serengeti lion is another must view, according to Hernandez – it combines images and word together in a way that he says may help reinvent the future.

“My charge is that we must experiment.  What can story be?  This is what I’m most inspired by; the Johnny Cash Project could not have been told without the Web.”

CashProjectThe website devoted to Johnny Cash invites users to take a single image of Cash and using a custom drawing tool, they create “personal portraits,” which are then incorporated into a video of a Cash performance – the community votes images up and down and the song itself is constantly changing as more people add their views.

This combination of knowledge, information and technology is what Hernandez hopes will lead to new narrative forms.  Though he admits that the journalism business is facing some real challenges, he says it boils down to one decision for individual journalists.

“Are you in or out?  I know I’m in.  I know I’m going to be doing this until the day I die,” says Hernandez.  “It’s not that I don’t worry about [the challenges]; it’s not that I’m not being entrepreneurial enough; there’s just no room for negativity to prevent me from doing what I want to do.  Right now, we have an opportunity to change, experiment and to play.”