The New York Times' miraculous mega-multi-media feature "Snow Fall" is a triumph of reporting, design, and creativity. It was immediately hailed by much of the Internet as the "future of journalism." It's not. And that's okay.
If you haven't read the feature yet, do. It's something like magic -- a visceral adventure story about a deadly avalanche that feels more like an interactive documentary that happens to have paragraphs than a newspaper story that happens to have interactives. Particularly ingenious is a section where a map traces doomed skiers' paths down the mountain face as you scroll down the corresponding paragraphs. Further along, an animated video follows the contours of the avalanche sweeping down the same glade, with a clicking sound whose frequency indicates the changing speed of the barreling snow pack. Not just clever. Utterly ingenious.
It's also exhaustively labor-intensive and rare for a reason. The project took six months for John Branch to report. The credits (like I said, it's more like a textual documentary than a news story) include a graphics and design team of 11, a photographer, three video people, and a researcher. As Andrew Kueneman, deputy director of digital design at the Times, told the Atlantic Wire's Rebecca Greenfield, "This story was not produced in our normal CMS ... We don't have the luxury of doing this type of design typically on the web. Now we just have more options and more tools."