The (Gradual) Rise of Slow Journalism

Al Jazeera and the Telegraph have both recently reported on what they describe as a ‘new movement’ in journalism. ‘Slow Journalism’ sets itself in opposition to the ideas that news is only relevant if it happening somewhere in the world right now, and that being the first to publish a news story is more important than publishing the right news story.

Paolo Ganino of Al Jazeera’s ‘The Listening Post’ reports on a number of publications which put a journalistic emphasis on thorough and thoughtful reporting of news stories that were once breaking, but can perhaps be better understood once the details surrounding a story have had time to surface. He points to publications like Serial, which examined a story that had already been reported on but by allowing journalists and listeners the luxury of time to fully understand the facts of the story and the events happening on the sideline, they could draw expanded conclusions.

Other publications championing the slow journalism movement include Long Play who are based in Finland, De Correspondent in Amsterdam, and Delayed Gratification in London.

The Telegraph’s Monty Munford believes this approach to storytelling is part of a wider ‘slow’ movement which started with the slow food in the 1980’s, and expanded into slow films, slow thinking and slow TV.

This approach to journalism, or even this approach to reading, may only appeal to a generation of people brought up on newsprint, but it is to be welcomed in the age of multi-screens, future eye problems and accelerated machine control. Even the digital natives might appreciate it. Thinking slow, watching slow, reading slow and even reporting slow are trends that appeal not only to the reflective, but also to the intelligent. While watching a pole roll down a hill or a seven-hour Norwegian train journey may not set the pulse racing, perhaps slowing down that pulse is the whole point.

Whilst Mumford might mistrust the rise in digital and social media, blaming it’s immediacy for encouraging a ‘publish first correct later’ attitude, the National Geographic has an interesting insight into how digital media can in fact support slow journalism.

The President of the National Geographic Society Gary Knell, explained to International Innovation why he thinks the slow journalism debate was sparked three years ago by his society, when writer and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek began a seven year walk around the world. Using Twitter, Skype and blogging, Salopek shares stories of what he sees on the ground with an international audience, as he walks across multiple continents.

Starting two years ago in Ethiopia, Salopek – a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner – began an epic 21,000-mile journey to retrace on foot and with minimal logistical support the path of early human migration. He is creating a digital storytelling laboratory that combines the Walk’s prehistoric, migratory perspective with intimate, present-day reporting along the route, capturing the nuances of ordinary life that are often missed when chasing the immediacy of daily news headlines.