November 8, 2013

In an effort to make its storytelling even more web-optimized, NPR is combining its interactive news applications desk and multimedia desk into a new “good Internet team.”

That’s not what it’ll officially be called, said Brian Boyer, the news apps editor who will oversee the as-yet-unnamed visuals desk. Each day, the team will aim to answer the question, “What’s the right way to tell this story online and visually?”

Sometimes, Boyer explained to Poynter via phone, that means a Tumblr blog like Dear Mr. President, or a gallery of animated gifs that needs to live outside the content management system, or a searchable database like Lobbying Missouri. The best storytelling solution isn’t always something produced by a programmer, but combines the news apps team’s web-savviness with the multimedia team’s visual acumen to streamline the workflow and produce a better product.

When NPR’s news apps desk was created, it absorbed the graphics desk, leaving the multimedia desk — photographers and videographers — separate. Merging the teams to make a 14-person staff makes sense at NPR, which can afford to marshal all its visual resources in one unit because it doesn’t have a newspaper to put out every day, Boyer said.

“At newspapers, the graphics desk has a beast to feed every day, and it’s not the web,” said Boyer, who founded NPR’s interactive news apps team last year after leaving the Chicago Tribune. “In my experience, the graphics desk has a difficult time finding the time to be more webby because making something for print is frequently very different.”

NPR has no print product keeping the web from being the priority when it comes to visuals of any kind, Boyer said. “Merging teams together will allow us to think about photography and video in a more web-first way.”

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Sam Kirkland is Poynter's digital media fellow, focusing on mobile and social media trends. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times as a digital editor,…
Sam Kirkland

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