By Christopher B. Daly
Without much fanfare, the New York Times has been engaging in an interesting experiment that revisiting old news stories to address the ageless qusetion: “Oh, yeah . . . whatever happened to that?”
The service is a partnership between the Times video section and a private non-profit called “RetroReport.” (It’s not that easy to find on the Times site, but here is the link to the page that lists all seven such reports done to date.) According to the partner’s website, RetroReport’s mission is to produce video follow-ups to big stories from a decade or more ago that dropped off the radar of the news business. Recent examples include revisiting the Tawana Brawley case, the Biosphere 2 experiment, and the Y2K hubbub. The folks at RetroReport seem to be a mix of young documentarians and some heavy-hitting alumni of top-shelf operations like 60 Minutes, the Ken Burns films, and PBS.
This is a potentially great idea that brings the Times into the realm of creating the second draft of history as well as the first. In a sense, the Times has entered the field
of historical revisionism, giving its audience the chance to re-evaluate stories that once seemed to have one point or significance only to find that new evidence or new concerns have cast the recent past in a different light.
One theme that emerges from these early versions: a lot of stories are wrong the first time around.
Another theme: Despite the predictions, the sky rarely falls.
History keeps happening.