A Facebook story: gimmick or necessary?

The Washington Post published a human interest story yesterday about a mother, the birth of her baby, and her family and friend’s reactions as she became ill.

Told primarily through screenshots of Facebook status updates and wall posts, the article begs the question of whether or not the use of quotes through visuals instead of typical text attribution is a gimmick or simply another storytelling tool.

My take is that the FB statuses were effective. Not revolutionary or sensational, but a useful tool to have. After all, it beats having a succession of quotes that no one will read through. The visual keeps people’s attention, and, I imagine, from an editor’s and designer’s perspective, is a good way to test out page hits/longevity so as to plan future layouts that may or may not include screenshots.

Since the story itself is a somewhat sappy human interest story with no real news hook besides perhaps the accessibility of communication technology to those otherwise isolated from the world, I can see how the use of FB statuses might be taken to be a gimmick to get people to read something that otherwise wouldn’t really stand out. But in the context of the story, it’s also very relevant and practical since saying “as posted on Facebook” over and over would destroy copy.  And human interest stories generally are overlooked by staunch hard-newsers anyway, so whatever. We need more slice-of-life stories, especially as the average news quote is so cleaned-up and polished as is, so I feel this is a welcome submission.

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