If you haven’t already seen Justin Ellis’s Nieman Lab piece on WBUR’s plans for the Whitey Bulger trial, have a look at today’s news: The Boston NPR station is partnering with The Atavist to provide immersive storytelling via Creatavist, The Atavist’s new platform. We’ve got a narrative-centric conversation with Atavist co-founder Evan Ratliff coming next week as the project rolls out maps, a timeline, character and documents, but in the meantime read why WBUR chose to go big with its overall coverage. Ellis writes:
There’s nothing simple about Bulger’s story; it spans almost 50 years, crisscrosses the country, and has a long cast of characters and victims. For news outlets covering the mobster’s trial, that means a lot of moving parts. Boston NPR station WBUR decided to give the story a fully immersive narrative treatment in “Bulger on Trial,” an interactive account of Bulger’s life that is rich with archival photos, documents, and video, in the presentational style by now almost tiresomely known as “snowfalling.”
“Bulger on Trial” is the first project under Creatavist, a web-based CMS that allows users a range of storytelling tools to publish interactive websites, apps, and ebooks, similar to the The Atavist’s own products. The company, founded in 2011 as a publisher of original narrative on digital mobile devices, developed Creatavist as it expanded from publishing to software design and licensing. In case you missed it, Ratliff visited Nieman Narrative last spring to talk about the company’s overall setup and the burgeoning storytelling possibilities. As for the Bulger application, Ellis writes:
Lisa Tobin, WBUR’s senior innovation producer, said the station wanted to find a way to provide deeper context on Bulger’s life during his trial. One benefit they had was reporter David Boeri, who’s covered Bulger for 30 years and literally has a barn full of files including documents, photos, interviews, and old video footage. “The idea was to write these stories, but complement them by trying to produce this full archive of content he’s collected for decades,” Tobin said….
Putting the site at the center of WBUR’s coverage on Bulger is an interesting step because it takes the story package outside of the statement-journalism type of environment that immersive narratives often become trapped in. “So often sites like this are gorgeous, they’re great to read, very interactive, and they go up, make a splash, and then after two days they’re gone,” she said.