This week I’ve found something that is just cool. Very very cool.

Journey to the End of Coal takes a look at the exploding growth of China’s economy and the new energy needs that have come with it. By visiting various sites around Beijing, viewers are invited to dictate the path of two freelance journalist as they seek out the stories of the millions of Chinese coal miners who power China’s economic growth.

The “very cool” twist on the story however is that “dictate” part. If you ever read a “choose your own adventure” book as a child then the structure should feel very familiar to you. Through a series of choices in travel and how you go about asking questions the miners story is reveled.

“Your journey begins in Datong which is located just a couple hours away West from Beijing. You travel from there all around the region and visit its major coal mines, from the “best” state-owned complex to the worst private coal plants.”

It’s a unique way at seeing how journalism works, and it feels authentic.

It’s so good I find myself forgiving the blurry photos and lack of visual variety. I think it’s because I understand how difficult access was. Which brings me to a good point, as far as reporting and photography goes, the piece is lacking. We gleam a lot of knowledge by witnessing the information gathering, but in the end there is no reporting occurring, at least not in the traditional sense. I wonder if this is something the journalist behind the project recognized afterward and then came up with this ingenious idea.

Those concerns addressed however, as an experiment and an alternative story form, I think it works in a major way. For one it shows folks that there is a real issue here and the obstacles that come in the way when trying to shine a light on that issue. In another way, it uses the shortcomings of the actual reporting in a way that shows viewers what the story is really about.

Journey to the End of Coal is the closest thing to a teaching tool to show the public (and some confused college kids) what journalism is really about. Our craft isn’t TMZ, Fox news and paparazzi, it’s in-depth investigative feet-to-the-pavement walk-the-line hard work. On a good day anyway. But it’s what we strive for in between Friday night football and city council meetings.