The age in which we find ourselves — with virtually unlimited access to the digital space, an abundance of devices on which to consume our stories, the sheer prevalence of lengthy nonfiction narratives and the platforms that host them — could be described as a renaissance. The phrase “a golden age” has been tossed around quite a bit in association with today’s journalism/reporting, but whether those two terms belong together has yet to be determined.
While we’re navigating the murky waters of longform reporting and how to monetize it sustainably, you might check out what The New New South (NNS) is doing. A brand new venture focusing on longform multimedia journalism, the NNS thinks the Southern states so rich with stories to tell that they’re going to release long pieces of nonfiction to readers looking specifically for stories about the South and from the South.
NNS founder and editor-in-chief Andrew Park hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina but was once a reporter at the Austin American-Statesman and a BusinessWeek correspondent. His reasoning for launching the NNS? He’s from the South and simply thinks we (I say we because I’m a Texan through and through) need more good longform journalism coming out of this part of this country. With the majority of big-name news organizations and publications being run on the East Coast, particularly New York, stories pertaining to life below the Mason-Dixon get lost in the shuffle.
“We have great writers in this region, a long tradition of storytelling, and no shortage of interesting things happening. But, as we all know, that kind of work is disappearing from local newspapers and magazines. There are only a handful of outlets that can be counted on to produce great, in-depth journalism about the South on a regular basis — the Oxford American, Texas Monthly, Atlanta and a few others — and their primary focus is print,” Park explained to me in an email.
Inspired in part by The Atavist and its success, Park developed the idea for the NNS after reaching out to Atavist cofounders Nick Thompson (Park had worked under him at Wired) and Evan Ratliff.
“[The Atavist’s] success has shown that there’s a business model for producing these kinds of stories digitally, one at a time,” Park said.
So far, so good at the NNS — the site’s first product “For the Public Good” by Belle Boggs chronicles the story of victims of forced sterilization in North Carolina and their journey toward compensation from the state. For now, the platform (which is being run as a Tumblr site) is offering the piece as a Kindle Single, but Park said the full, multimedia version constructed with Creativist software (of Atavist brain power) will be released in the coming weeks.
Future goals for the NNS include content expansion and stepping outside the e-reader singles vein, Park said. But in the meantime, he continues to look for Southern-themed stories needing to be told. Freelance magazine writer and National Magazine Award winner Barry Yeoman’s name is on the NNS masthead as a contributor, and he’ll also deliver his first piece for the digital publisher in October. Yeoman took to Indiegogo to raise money for the reporting of his forthcoming story about New Orleans bluesman Little Freddie King. He came away with $7,000-plus to cover his traveling/interviewing costs — not a bad start, I’d say.
Let’s hear it, readers: what do you think of a regional longform narrative platform being exclusively online? Will non-Southerners want to read? And will The New New South start a new trend in digital publishing — area-specific streaming reading services?