An Evening with the Atavist

The Atavist
Last week I went to “An Evening with the Atavist” hosted by NYU at 20 Cooper Square. The room was filled mostly with bespectacled and bearded literary reportage students, and I was there with a fellow comrade from the magazine program. I’d heard a few good things about the Atavist, and it never hurts to crash another program’s free dinner. On top of the free food and wine (or perhaps because of it), it turned into inspiring evening with a panel of journalists from the Atavist, including Evan Ratliff, co-founder, Alissa Quart, editor, and Matthew Power, contributing writer of Issue No. 9, Island of Secrets.

The Atavist is a publication for narrative content “as long or longer than the longest magazine articles”, but too short to be published as a book. Every issue features just one story, and is crammed with interactive multimedia bits. It’s especially interesting that they’ve come up with issues that are made especially for eReaders. That’s not only good news for iPad, Nook and Kindle junkies, but for journalists looking for new ways to tell stories.

So far, they’ve done that with some pretty interesting ways. In one issue they developed the diary of a seven-year-old girl into an interactive copy, where readers could experience the visual of her handwriting and the sensation of flipping through the pages on the touch screen. Another issue included a opening chapter that was done by a graphic artist, although, as Ratliff pointed out, not everyone is an early adopter. (He gladly scrolled to a comment from a user who wished he could read the original story instead of “this crap”)  Stories also include music, maps, videos and linked bios for main characters which pull up a photo and a short description. Also, every eReader version of the story has been voiced over by the author, so even when you don’t feel like interacting you can just kick back and listen– the perfect commuter-sized news snack.

The Atavist has published 12 issues with subjects ranging from the rain forest to the moon.  Each issue is available for download online for $2 and on eReaders for $3. I suggest you check out the most recent story by Joe Kloc. He follows Joseph Gutheinz, the NASA investigator who has dedicated his life to reclaiming some of the 850 pounds of moon rock that were given away to nations by the US after they were brought back on the Apollo 11 and 17. Look below for a  sample video from that issue and click here for the recording of An Evening with the Atavist at NYU.

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