I’ve long been a fan of Robert Krulwich‘s unique form of journalism which typically involves his attempt to translate a seemingly complex concept into something understandable by those of us who are curious, but un-informed on the complex concept.
Back when I saw Krulwich primarily on TV, I was always impressed with his ability to use visual metaphors to explain all sorts of geekish topics including what I recall being one of the first attempts, back in 1999 on Nightline, to explain how product recommendations are generated on Amazon.com. (If that video is online somewhere, let me know and I’ll link it. It probably is still a relevant explanation, even if the technology has improved.)
Now that I hear him primarily on NPR (while the “R” stands for radio, I primarily hear him via the website of Nashville’s WPLN.org via NPR’s incredible iPhone news app). ((My only complaint about NPR’s iPhone app is this. I use it so much, I sometimes forget I have it running in the background — it works with the iPhone’s iOS-4’s multitask feature — and that can greatly increase the battery usage of the phone. Admittedly, that’s more a user issue, than an app issue.))
What has impressed me about Krulwich on NPR (other than his voice and style being so naturally NPR-ish) is that he’s found a way to move his metaphor-based story telling to a medium without visuals. For any type of presenter who has grown dependent on visuals, Krulwich demonstrates how to explain something without using even a good PowerPoint presentation (and, frankly, most PPT’s are incredibly bad).
Listen to this explanation I heard this morning of “How much does a hurricane weigh?” and you’ll hear what I mean.
The only term I can think of to describe it is “audio infographic.” Ironically, I think this audio infographic does a better job explaining than the clever picture-driven cartoon version appearing with the story on Krulwich’s blog on NPR.org/science.