How New York Times tracked down people in image from Boston explosion

The New York Times

The New York Times’ Lede Blog published a call for help last Wednesday: “Are you visible in any part of this image recorded on Monday afternoon or do you know someone who was there?”

“We got about 10-15 responses from the public call-out,” says Times Sports Editor Jason Stallman via email. The resulting piece, “4:09:43,” lets readers click on a name of someone who was at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and in some cases hear their stories. They couldn’t use some of the responses: “We committed to featuring only those individuals who were in the specific 4:09:43 image,” he writes. “Some people who reached out to us were just outside the frame.”

The project features photos of people from the image, along with audio.


Katie Carmona, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, told the Times she’d go to another marathon but “I don’t know that I’d bring my children.” Boston Globe reporter David Abel emotionally describes the scene from his vantage point: “It was the worst thing I’d ever seen,” he says.

You may notice that the audio for the interviews is unusually high quality. In a follow-up phone call, Stallman explained how the reporters on the piece used “tape-sync”ing to capture high-quality audio from subjects all over the country. Photographers assigned to shoot the subjects would sit with them while a Times reporter interviewed them over the phone; they then uploaded the audio to the Times, which edited it.

The Times let loose “15 or 16 of us” on the project, Stallman writes. He doesn’t have a particular favorite — “each time a different one charms me,” he writes. “From its conception — Amy Zerba proposed the idea on Tuesday night — we’ve believed that the true value of the project would be in the collection of vantage points. Each individual piece is very good; all of them together is far more powerful.”

Related: “It’s become a verb in our newsroom … People are now saying, ‘can we snowfall this story?’” (MultimediaShooter)

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  • http://www.rmurthy.com/ Rekha Murthy

    I found this NYT feature simple and powerful – a great way to bring together multiple experiences and perspectives into one place at a time when they are proliferating, independently, all over the media.

    If Jason Stallman is reading the comments, I’d be curious to know why you went with photographs and audio rather than video? As an audiophile (and former radio producer), I know why *I* would, but would like to know your thinking. Thanks.