Snow-blind: The challenge of voice and vision in multi-media storytelling

winter snowy background blizzard, frost

There has been no American feature story more honored – or over-praised – than “Snow Fall” by the New York Times. I don’t want the key word in that last sentence – over-praised – to detract from the story’s historic achievement. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for feature writing; it set a standard for multi-media reporting at a time when we were wondering about the viability of that form of storytelling; and it attracted attention from far and wide, lending encouragement that journalism in the digital age has an exciting future.

Cheers to the writer, John Branch, to graphics director Steve Duenes, and to the team that created it.

Much of the original praise for the work was worshipful and, I believe, superficial. The dazzling visual effects were there for all to see and left potential critics, dare I use the term, snow-blind. Read more

Interactive Media

Explore the makings of interactive journalism

At some point, every journalist grapples with figuring out what his or her story is about – particularly if that story involves complex data sets or government documents, and the end result will be an interactive project rather than a straightforward narrative.

Perhaps Andrew DeVigal can help.

DeVigal is director of content strategy at Second Story and the former multimedia editor at The New York Times. In a phone interview, he shared the steps he takes when starting an interactive project to ensure the results form a cogent story.

The first question he asks himself is a deceptively simple one: “What does the content want to be?” It is a question he attributes to a former colleague at The Times, Steve Duenes, AME for graphics.

DeVigal, a self-described “natural organizer,” likes to partition the information into buckets to understand the different pieces of the story. Read more

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New Vice series animates journalists’ stories

When Carrie Ching recorded Mimi Chakarova telling the story of how she posed as a prostitute to research her film, The Price of Sex, she turned the lights out. “I wanted it to feel really intimate. Like a confessional,” Ching said in an interview with Poynter.

Working in the dark “really helped” convey Chakarova’s story, Ching said. “I Posed as a Prostitute in a Turkish Brothel” is the first installment of her “Correspondent Confidential” series, produced in partnership with Vice, the hipster culture conglomerate, and it draws on some of the lessons Ching learned as multimedia producer at the Center for Investigative Reporting, which she left this past spring.

While there, Ching helped produce “In Jennifer’s Room,” a video that accompanied Ryan Gabrielson’s story about the abuse and rape of a mentally disabled former patient at the Sonoma Developmental Center in California. Read more


How ongoing teamwork fueled The Guardian’s Firestorm interactive

How did The Guardian find a focus for its new multimedia piece, Firestorm?

The project began with inspiration: a striking photograph of a woman and her grandchildren taking shelter from a raging fire in the water under a jetty. The photograph came to represent what Australian officials refer to as “The Angry Summer,” the hottest season on record in that nation’s history. That season affected thousands of people in Tasmania, and has become a talking point about climate change.

Feature writer Jon Henley and video producer Laurence Topham went to Tasmania to find the story behind that photo and others. When they returned, they worked with the Guardian’s multimedia and interactive teams to fuse words, video footage, pictures and audio into a rich interactive feature. Read more


New AP interactive editor: Multimedia needs to be ‘central to developing the story,’ not an afterthought

As the Associated Press’ new interactive editor, Troy Thibodeaux brings to the role the varied experience you’d expect of a former travel writer, English teacher and member of the and Times-Picayune team that won a Pulitzer for Hurricane Katrina coverage.

As AP Global Interactive Editor Paul Cheung explained in a memo to the staff, “Thibodeaux will lead a team of programmer-journalists to create groundbreaking journalism with a focus on newsroom tools, data-driven stories and interactive features. There will be a strong emphasis on working on global investigative stories, in alliance with news leaders and journalists across the company.”

We asked Thibodeaux a few questions about his new role, his plans for the future of AP multimedia and how rank-and-file journalists can get involved in interactive projects. Read more


Latest issue of Swallow Magazine features the smells of Mexico City

The New York Times | Swallow Magazine

The latest edition of Swallow Magazine, a rarely published food periodical founded in 2009, features a novel way to experience the smells of Mexico City’s culinary scene: Scratch and sniff stickers.

Maria Newman writes on the New York Times’ Diner’s Journal blog that the new issue, the title’s third in four years, will contain 20 stickers that use the familiar microencapsulation technique to stimulate readers’ olfactory senses. Editor James Casey decided to use the work of Sissel Tolaas, a Norwegian “odor artist” who re-created the smells of 200 Mexico City neighborhoods. Read more


How news can compete with cat videos: 6 lessons for multimedia journalists

Necessity is the mother of invention. That’s certainly been the case with the multimedia work I do. As senior multimedia producer at the Center for Investigative Reporting, I led digital storytelling projects for six years. We were often working with very dense, complex subjects and translating them for a younger, Web-savvy audience with a notoriously short attention span. That wasn’t easy. But the larger challenge was pushing new ideas forward in a traditional news environment.

Breaking out of traditional journalism formats can be difficult—even unpleasant. New methods are often perceived as a threat. But you can’t just slap TV and newspaper stories onto the Web or mobile or tablets and call that “digital” journalism. The content itself needs to change.

If journalism is going to survive, it can’t be driven by formulas—especially formulas built for platforms that are losing relevance and audience. Read more

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Twitter research shows how multimedia increases engagement

To update an old saying for the Twitter era: A picture is worth a thousand characters.

Research by Twitter shows that tweets that include a photo or video receive 3 to 4 times more engagement (retweets, replies, etc.) than those that don’t. Read more


How The Washington Post created a breakout experience for cycling story

The Washington Post on Thursday became the latest news organization to take the increasingly fashionable step of blowing up its article template to present a feature story in a unique, immersive format.

In December, The New York Times blew some minds with its special multimedia presentation of “Snow Fall” — a six-part narrative about skiers trapped in an avalanche.

The Washington Post invented a similarly innovative presentation for sportswriter Rick Maese’s profile of professional cyclist Joe Dombrowski, a talented 21-year-old from the D.C. area who some hope will redeem the sport in a post-Armstrong era.

One section of the story has an interactive map of a cycling route, matched to audio interview clips and Dombrowski’s physical performance data from the ride.

The article presentation is notable for several reasons. Read more


How The New York Times’ ‘Snow Fall’ project unifies text, multimedia

The New York Times is pushing multimedia storytelling in an exciting direction with a new project drawing deservedly high praise.

Snow Fall tells the story of skiers and snowboarders trapped beneath an avalanche in Washington state’s Cascade Mountains.

And it tells that story through text, photos, videos and interactive graphics that blend seamlessly and come alive on the Web page. Read more

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