Sports Journalism + Comics = A Win for the New York Times

What do you get when you merge stellar storytelling skills, the suspense of a blockbuster film, the narrative quality of a gripping crime magazine piece and vivid illustrations? The New York Times‘ latest experiment with multimedia reporting — “Tomato Can Blues.”

Wednesday morning when my Twitter feed starting blowing up with accolades about the long multimedia piece, which chronicles how an amateur cage fighter pretended to be dead in order to escape his circumstances (owing lots of money to scary, Mafia-related drug dealers, etc.), I knew I had to set aside some time to see what all this fuss was about.

“Tomato Can Blues” debuted on the Times‘ online sports page conveniently on its 162nd birthday, and the piece is a dazzler from beginning to end. From the first comic graphic, you pick up that this is not a typical sports feature. The comics move as you scroll through the narrative, really helping the already super-dynamic story to come alive. It’s action-packed enough to keep you on your toes with a thorough read, but I recommend that everyone listen to the audio version, too, read by “Boardwalk Empire”’s Bobby Cannavale.

This, of course, is not the first time the New York Times has done something to prove that they are truly on the cutting edge of multimedia journalism. They most recently made waves inside the industry with the amazing “Snowfall.” And the Seattle Times has been impressing with its “Sea Change” story, a multipart-piece on the issue of ocean acidification and climate change, which uses video, photography, animation and incredibly astute reporting to create a stunning package.

If this is what the future of journalism online looks like, I’m on board. Are you? What’d you think of “Tomato Can Blues?”

Screenshot from Twitter, illustration by Attila Futaki

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