Southern GlossaryISSUE 10

Southern Glossary of 'Snowfalls': The New Format of Feature Journalism

Southern GlossaryISSUE 10

I grew up getting lost in feature articles that spanned dozens of pages in magazines like Vanity Fair, GQ, and the [now defunct] Rolling Stone.  I'll leave all the complaining about the state of print journalism to others, but there's been no shortage of attempts to replicate such expansive and expensive stories online (albeit without the full page Mercedes-Benz ads interrupting).  While they aren't lucrative, per se, the latest versions of bold feature stories are bringing cachet to the outlets who can afford to spend a little extra to execute them.  In true web fashion, these types of multimedia-rich, flowing scrolls carry a nickname.  They're called "Snowfall" journalism, a keen bit of metonymy that references the trendsetting story about an avalanche that grandpappy New York Times published last year.  


six   01   Martin Luther King  Jr.jpg

Recently the Memphis Commercial-Appeal expanded the timeline of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last 32 hours before his assassination into a birdseye view of the nation, the time, and the apparatus built around the leader.  Stylistic, detailed, and emotional, the feature incorporates plenty of photos, dossiers, and a few videos as it races towards the inevitiable.  


The Prophets of Oak Ridge   Style   Washington Post.jpg

Never one to be outdone, the Washington Post invested in a full prose and graphic re-telling of three elderly outsiders--a nun, a Vietnam veteran, and a drifter--who join forces to infiltrate the Y-12 National Security Complex in an act of protest.  The site is in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the government built the original uranium enriching plant during the years of the Manhattan Project.  The feature blends data, historical photographs, and new art.  


Wildcatting  A Stripper’s Guide to the Modern American Boomtown.jpg

Austin-based writer Susan Elizabeth Shepard unveils the microeconomy of stripping and tricking in the modern-day equivalent of an oil boomtown, Williston, North Dakota.  While North Dakota is about as far north from the Mason-Dixon Line as you can get in the US, this story casts its lowbeams into the moral fog that settles on any rural community dependent on extraction industries.  

Read a minority opinion on this format from one of the founders of the long form science mag Matter.