Tutorial: Taxonomy of Digital Story Packages
IntroductionOnline story packages usually contain multiple sections or formats and they take a variety of forms on the Internet. Some borrow heavily from old media conventions, while others try to define what kinds of storytelling are native to a digital format:
- Some stories are presented in a linear fashion similar to narratives in traditional media like TV or radio. They may be divided into segments or chapters like a multi-part newspaper story, but the user is expected to go through the segments in a predetermined sequence. Alternatively, non-linear stories are sliced into topical segments and it’s up to the user to decide how to navigate the package.
- Placing multimedia elements in a story is approached several different ways. Sometimes text drives the story and multimedia components like video, graphics or photo slideshows are placed put off to the side. In other cases multimedia is embedded inside a text story (or even embedded in a video story as interactive elements in the video) or are part of an immersive experience.
- In many stories one type of media is dominant, usually text or video or photo slideshows with audio, but sometimes data, graphics or games, and other media forms are secondary. Other story packages draw on many different media forms equally, with different parts of the story told in the type of media most appropriate to that kind of content.
Story Packages SectionThis first section explores different approaches to organizing a package of stories, such as linear or non-linear, embedded or ancillary multimedia, comprehensive or immersive, and the different ways multimedia is integrated into each package.
Linear StoriesThese packages use a traditional narrative structure with a beginning, middle and end to the story, although they are often divided into chronological “chapters” or “parts.” Stories that re-create events are most often told in this format. Here are some examples: Uprooted Uprooted is a six-part story done by the San Jose Mercury News in December 2007 on mobile home dwellers who were forced to relocate after a developer purchased their mobile home park.
Christmas TreeThe Christmas Tree refers to a form of multimedia storytelling in which the main story is text presented as a linear narrative, while links to multimedia elements like videos, photo slideshows, maps and graphics are just add-ons, placed to the side of the main text story like ornaments hung on a tree (credit to Regina McCombs, formerly a multimedia producer with the Minneapolis Star Tribune and now with the Poynter Institute, who first used the term “Christmas Tree” in describing this kind of story). Because the multimedia is stacked on the side, it isn’t designed to be read in an integrated way with the text narrative (unless links to the multimedia are also embedded in the text story). So the multimedia is usually viewed after reading the main text story. Thus multimedia is placed a secondary role as a decoration for the main text story. Here are some examples: Blackhawk Down The Philadelphia Inquirer published the Blackhawk Down series in 1997 on the ill-fated U.S. military mission to Somalia. The text stories are in a column on the right, while the multimedia elements – video, audio, maps and graphics – are hung on the left (although links to the multimedia also are embedded in the text stories, so this story package is an early version of the embedded multimedia approach as well). A Toxic Pipeline is a Pulitzer-prize-winning series published by the New York Times in 2008 about poisonous pharmaceutical products being exported out of China. The print stories are in the main column on the left, while the multimedia – videos, graphics and a map – are stacked on the right. Fracking is a series of stories that ProPublica, the investigative journalism project, has done on the environmental threat posed by this form of natural gas drilling. The main stories are text and are in the wide center column on the page. The multimedia elements are stacked in the column on the left (scroll down the page to see them). Other investigative series published by ProPublica usually follow the same format. Sloppy investigations leave abuse of disabled unsolved is part of a series by the Center for Investigative Reporting on the failure of police at state institutions for the developmentally disabled to properly investigate patient abuse. The stories were published on CIR’s California Watch website. The multimedia is in a column on the right, along with links to related stories and to versions of the article publshed at other online news sites. Frontline, the public television documentary show, uses the Christmas Tree structure for its stories, but the video is the main element or trunk on the page. Select a video story and below it you’ll see additional multimedia segments, such as interactive maps or graphics, photo slideshows, other videos or text stories.
Embedded MultimediaIn this form of storytelling, there is a main story, usually text, told in a linear fashion, and with multimedia elements integrated into the main story so they’re viewed at appropriate points in the narrative. The multimedia usually is embedded in the story rather than being pushed to the side. Thus the multimedia is designed to be viewed while the story is being read, not afterward. The result is a more seamless transition between text and video or graphics and back to text, with the multimedia a part of the narrative, rather than separated out. Here are some examples of embedded multimedia stories, all drawn from the New York Times, that show the evolution of this form: The Times published two stories on a Mexico bribery case involving the Wal-Mart company in which multimedia was integrated into the main story. first story published in April 2012, links to documents are embedded in the main text story. In the second part published in December 2012, the main story again is text but with many more multimedia elements – photos, an interactive map, text documents – added in a column to the right. And unlike the Christmas tree approach in which the multimedia is just stacked in a column, as you scroll through this story each of the multimedia elements appears on the right at the relevant point in the main narrative. A preview video also is included at the top of this story. A slightly different approach was taken in the story package Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North, published in July 2011. The multimedia was displayed in a stack to the left of the story and at the top. But as you scroll down through the story different multimedia elements open up, so you can view them at relevant points in the story. In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real, published in August 2012, links to multimedia such as videos or graphics are embedded in the main text story. Punched Out, a story package published in December 2011 about a hockey player “enforcer” who suffered brain damage and drug addiction and died, relied not on text for the main narrative but instead on a series of videos. Other multimedia elements, such as a slideshow, graphics or shorter videos, are highlighted as the main video plays. If you click on these other multimedia elements, the main video will pause so you can view the secondary multimedia and then resume play of the main video. Finally there’s Climbing Kilimanjaro, an interactive graphic the Times produced in October 2007. The graphic is a fly-over views of the Tanzanian mountain on which multimedia elements like videos or photos with audio are keyed to different points on the climb up to the peak. Snow Fall All of these different approaches to multimedia culminated in Snow Fall, a story the New York Times published in December 2012 about an avalanche in the state of Washington that killed a group of skiers. In this story the multimedia was thoroughly integrated into a long text narrative. The story was widely praised for how it carefully blended the multimedia into the text narrative. The multimedia was designed to be viewed while reading the main story, rather than afterward (which is the Christmas Tree approach). Thus animations and other graphics would slowly appear at relevant points in the text story as you scrolled through it. In some cases the background color of the text story would gradually change to match the color of a graphic that would load as you scrolled down through the narrative. The goal was to “find ways to allow readers to read into, and then through multimedia, and then out of multimedia. So it didn’t feel like you were taking a detour, but the multimedia was part of the one narrative flow,” New York Times Graphics Director Steve Duenes explained in an interview with Poynter Online. Snow Fall won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Peabody Award. There were a number of inspirations for Snow Fall:
- an ESPN story on former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Doc Ellis, which used the curtain.js jquery library to embed graphics in a text story (one of our students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism also picked up on the curtain.js jquery library and used it to integrate photos and graphics into a long text story on homelessness in Richmond, California). The Doc Ellis story also used parallax scrolling, in which the foreground scrolls by more quickly than the background, creating a sense of three dimensional depth (the technique has been used previously in animations and video games).
- a text and photo essay called Glitter in the Dark published at the Pitchfork music site
- a wedding announcement by a couple of designers/graphic artists in New York
- What the New York Times’s ‘Snow Fall’ Means to Online Journalism’s Future – Rebecca Greenfield, Atlantic Wire, 12/20/2012
- How The New York Times’ ‘Snow Fall’ project unifies text, multimedia – Jeff Sonderman, Poynter, 12/20/2012
- ‘Snow Fall’ Isn’t the Future of Journalism – Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, 12/21/2012
- ‘Snow Fall’ Tells a Story About an Avalanche and a Newspaper’s Digital Progress – Public Editor’s Journal, New York Times, 12/27/2012
- How We Made Snow Fall: A Q&A with the New York Times team – Source, 1/1/2013
- Inside “Snow Fall,” the New York Times multimedia storytelling sensation – Nieman Storyboard, 3/29/2013
- Why Design Matters: If Snow Fall Were Published in a Standard Template – Aron Pilhofer, aronpilhofer.com, 5/10/2013
- Sorry, ‘Snow Fall’ isn’t going to save the New York Times – Pandodaily 5/13/2013
- Newsweek.com Redesign Aims to Be ‘Snow Fall’ on a Weekly Basis – Ad Age, 5/15/2013
- The New York Times Told Me to Take This Down – Cody Brown, 5/21/2013. Cody Brown put up a YouTube video demonstrating how he used a tool called scroll kit to build a replica of the Snow Fall multimedia package in about an hour, prompting copyright and other objections from the New York Times.
- Everyone Secretly Hates “Snow Fall” – Choire Sicha, The Awl, 5/22/2013
- A Whole Lot of Bells, Way Too Many Whistles: Multimedia-laden features like “Snow Fall” and “The Jockey” are bad for the Web and bad for readers – Farhad Manjoo, Slate, 5/15/2013
- Snowfallen: Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should – Bobbie Johnson, Medium, 7/13/2013
- Snow Fail: Do Readers Really Prefer Parallax Web Design? – Eric Jaffe, Fast Company, 12/19/2013
More Embedded Multimedia Stories: The Snow Fall Effect Takes OffAfter the publication of Snow Fall, other media organizations produced a number of multimedia stories that built on the Times project. incorporating some of the same devices and adding new techniques. They included: Cycling’s Road Forward – Washington Post Cycling’s Road Forward is a five-part Washington Post story published on February 27, 2013, about a cycling phenom working to overcome the shadow cast on the sport by discredited cyclist Lance Armstrong. The story is presented in a format similar to the New York Times’ Snow Fall project with multimedia elements embedded in a long text piece, although the interactivity is not nearly as sophisticated and the transitions between text and multimedia not as elegant as in the New York Times piece. Poynter did an interview with Post information designer Wilson Andrews about the project. Six : 01 – Memphis Commercial Appeal Six : 01, produced by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, is the story of the 32 hours leading up to the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee in April 1968. The story is told on a single page as a long vertical scroll of text, which gives a sense of movement through the story as you scroll down. Photos and videos are integrated as elements that appear in the flow of the text. The story also has an element of the timeline approach to storytelling, with a countdown of the hours/minutes leading up to the assasination displayed in a column on the left as you scroll down through the story. The story was published on April 4, 2013, the 45th anniversary of the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. Sources and Resources for Six : 01
- Design isn’t just for the big guys: In Memphis, the Commercial Appeal retells MLK’s last 32 hours – Nieman Journalism Lab, 4/9/2013
- WBUR partners with Atavist to tell the story of Whitey Bulger and templatize feature presentation – Justin Ellis, Nieman Journalism Lab, 6/5/2013
- New York Times Weaves Custom Ads Into ‘Snow Fall’-Like ‘The Jockey’ – Ad Age, 8/13/2013
NSA Files: Decoded is a six-part online news story published by The Guardian on November 1, 2013, on the NSA files leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The narrative combines text with more than 30 short video interviews that autoplay as you scroll through the story. There also are a number of interactive or animated graphics, data visualizations and original source material documents embedded in the narrative.
“This piece was designed to be read, or consumed, as a whole. You can’t take the writing out of it and have it work the same. You can’t take the videos out of it and have it work. You can’t take out the graphics and have it work. It’s meant to be consumed as an entire project, with all these different parts being seen, seamlessly, to one another.”
– Gabriel Dance, interactive editor at The Guardian. Source: Nieman Journalism Lab
The NSA Files project also provides more opportunities for readers to intereact with the story, such as by manipulating some of the graphics.
Sources and Resources for NSA Files: Decoded:
- The Guardian’s “NSA Files Decoded” and Multimedia Journalism – Khoi Vinh, Subtraction, 11/1/2013
- Q&A: The Guardian’s Gabriel Dance on new tools for story and cultivating interactive journalism – Nieman Journalism Lab, 11/25/2013
- The Guardian’s NSA Files Decoded: Did You Really Read It? – Threespot Media blog, 12/4/2013
A Game of Shark and Minnow is a multimedia story published by the New York Times Magazine on October 17, 2013, about a garrison of eight Fillipino troops on a World War II era ship run aground on a reef. They are stationed there in a face-off against China as part of a geopolitical struggle over the region. The presentation featured full-screen videos and maps embedded in the eight part text story.
- His Saving Grace – Chicago Tribune, 2/14/2013
- Out in the Great Alone – Grantland, ESPN, 5/9/2013
- Machines for Life – Pitchfork, 5/14/2013
- Greenland Melting – Rolling Stone, 7/25/2013
- The perils at Great Falls – Washington Post, 8/10/2013
- One Dream – Time, 8/15/2013
- Gorgeous Glimpses of Calamity: Man-made perils to the universe’s garden of life are evident from space – New York Times, 8/16/2013. An opinion section story.
- The Road: Albemarle County’s three-decade fight over the Western Bypass isn’t over yet – c-ville, 8/28/2013
- The Geeks on the Front Lines – Rolling Stone, 9/10/2013
- Sea Change: The Pacific’s Perilous Turn – Seattle Times, 9/11/2013
- China’s Maritime Disputes – Council on Foreign Relations, 9/15/2013
- How Detroit went broke: The answers may surprise you – and don’t blame Coleman Young – Detroit Free Press, 9/15/2013. In this story a lot of data visualizations and graphics are embedded in the story, along with some videos and photos.
- Concrete Risks – Los Angeles Times, 10/13/2013
- Ring of Fire: Why Our Military’s Toxic Burn Pits are Making Soldiers Sick – The Verge, 10/28/2013
Non-Linear Multimedia NarrativesThis approach to storytelling emphasizes the non-linear, interactive nature of the online experience – on the Internet people value having choices. So instead of a single linear narrative that leads someone through a story, the story is broken up into topical segments. Thus a story package may include profiles, background information, history, financial implications, etc., as well as a main narrative. The user gets to choose how to navigate the story by selecting the segments of most interest. Each segment still has its own narrative structure. And in most cases each section is told in the type of media most appropriate for the content in that segment (for example, video for a segment of a story in which there’s a lot of action). Here are some examples: Touching Hearts Touching Hearts was a story package published by the Durham Herald Sun in 2001 about a medical team from Duke University that went to Nicaragua to perform surgeries on children. The winner of a 2001 Online News Association award, it was produced in Flash by Joe Weiss, a photographer who later created the SoundSlides application to make the production of photo/audio slide shows much easier. The project has three parts:
- The Mission – background on the surgeons’ mission to Nicaragua told mostly in text and graphics
- Stories – photo slideshows with audio that tell the emotional stories of the doctors efforts to treat the children
- People – quick profiles of the medical team and the children done in text, with thumbnail photos of the children
- Overview – a video introduction to the election and the Iraqi voters
- Timeline – interactive timeline of the events leading up to the election
- The Election – graphic with text explaining the process for voting
- The Politics – text with thumbnail photos of the main parties and candidates
- Vote Voices – video interviews with voters
- Results – a graphic showing the results of the election
- Crisis Guide: Iran – MediaStorm, 10/4/2011. A description by MediaStorm of how it created this multimedia project for the Council on Foreign Relations.
In-Depth Packages – The Kitchen SinkThese are story packages, usually organized as non-linear multimedia narratives, which are extremely comprehensive and include many different aspects of the story and different types of content. This approach can be very valuable for people with a particular interest in an issue or for setting the agenda with an in-depth package on a topic of general interest to a community. But good organization is critical to an in-depth package, as it can add so many elements – the kitchen sink problem – that it seems overwhelming and difficult to navigate for people unfamiliar with or who have only a passing interest in the topic. Here are some examples: Empty Cradles Empty Cradles is a news package on infant deaths done by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in January 2011 that won several major national awards. It includes eight main topical sections, eight multimedia elements including charts, maps, a quiz, a panorama and a timeline, 13 videos or photo galleries, a blog, personal stories by readers, opinion columns, editorials, and more. Sources and Resources for Empty Cradles:
- Behind the scenes of JSOnline’s “Empty Cradles” – Innovative Interactivity, 9/27/2011
- Globe and Mail Series Uses Multimedia to Engage Readers – Editor & Publisher, 3/6/2013
- Hollow: An Interactive Documentary Made While In School, But It’s No Student Film – PBS POV Blog, 9/6/2013
- Transition to Digital Storytelling: Games and Immersive Environments – Berkeley Advanced Media Institute tutorial
- Moments of innovation – Immersion – a history of immersive storytelling produced by the IDFA Doclab at MIT
Narrative FormsThis next section explores the many different narrative forms being used to tell stories. The narrative forms range from visual narratives, interactive videos, interactive audio and illustrations and games, to graphics, data visualizations, timelines and maps. Usually different forms are used for different elements of a story package, such as the main story (liner or non-linear), embedded multimedia in linear story package or different segments of a non-linear package. In some cases the entire story is told in a single narrative form.
Visual NarrativesThese are stories in which the main narrative is either a video or a photo slideshow with audio. The story can be a single video or slideshow or it can be divided into multiple parts. Either way it is almost always presented as a linear narrative. Here are some examples:
The Serengeti Lion is a National Geographic feature produced on August 2, 2013, that is a series of full screen photos about 24 different aspects of the life of the African lion. You scroll horizontally through the photos, each of which can be clicked on to display a photo gallery or play a video or audio clip with more information about that part of the lion’s life. Text is limited to just headers for each segment.Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt
- Collaborating on the T-Shirt Project – Source, 12/2/2013
- How and Why Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration Rocks – Source, 1/2/2014
- The MediaStorm Approach to Storytelling – Brian Storm, Transom, 11/13/2012
Interactive VideoThese are video stories in which you can see or click on other multimedia elements that complement the main video story as it plays. Here are some examples: Quenching Las Vegas’ Thirst Quenching Las Vegas’ Thirst is a video done in June 2008 by Zach Weiss for the Las Vegas Sun. As the video plays, the box below changes to display maps or graphics that expand on what is being shown in the video. A Perfect Terrorist A Perfect Terrorist is a video done for FRONTLINE/ProPublica in November 2011 in which the narrator “draws” items on the screen, and the user then can click on the drawings to get additional information. The video pauses when an item is selected, and then can be resumed by the user when he/she is done reading the information in the item. Punched Out Punched Out is a story package published by the New York Times in December 2011 about a hockey player “enforcer” who suffered brain damage and drug addiction and died. The story is told with a series of three videos as the main narrative, and other multimedia elements, such as a slideshow, graphics or shorter videos, below the videos. As the main video plays, different multimedia elements are highlighted. If you click on the highlighted element, the main video will pause so you can view the secondary multimedia and then resume play of the main video. Alma Alma, A Tale of Violence by Miquel Dewever-Plana and Isabelle Fougère is a documentary produced in 2012 that is based on an interview with a female member of a brutal Guatemalan gang. But as the interview plays, you can scroll up to see video clips, photos and animations showing gang life, street scenes, the violence and other images. Deepwater Horizon Deepwater Horizon: Surviving the oil spill is an interactive video produced by the BBC in 2013 that looks at the impact of the U.S. Gulf Coast oil spill three years later. As the video plays, pop-up boxes appear that you can select to see graphics or other videos that provide additional information on specific topics raised in the main video. As you explore the graphics or other videos, the main video pauses. Prescribed Prescribed: A Personalized Tour of ‘Obamacare’ produced by the Wall Street Journal in 2013 is an interactive video that explains the federal Affordable Care Act on health care from the perspectives of ordinary people affected by it (using a make-shift helmet cam to provide a first-person experience). As the video plays, you can click on interactive elements – charts of text or data, an audio clip, videos – that provide more details on issues raised in the video (which pauses when you select any of the interactive elements). Sources and Resources for Prescribed:
- New approaches to online video at the Wall Street Journal – Journalism.co.uk, 7/24/2013
- How newsrooms are experimenting with interactive video online – IJNet, 7/30/2013
- a diagram of the object, such as a geometric shape, a waveform , an aerodynamic graphic
- a mathematical formula associated with the object
Just a Reflektor is an interactive music video of the song, Reflektor, by the band Arcade Fire. Released in September 2013 and produced by Vincent Morisset in collaboration with Google Creative Lab, the video plays on a website designed for display on a computer using the Google Chrome browser.
At the website you can connect your cellphone to your computer’s webcam and then use your cellphone to control special effects in the video as it plays on your computer.
Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone” Interactive Video
The Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone” Interactive Video is a music video of the classic Dylan song, but with 16 different “TV channels” of video that the viewer can select as the song plays. Each channel is an American television format in which the actors lip-synch the lyrics to the song. The video was produced by bobdylan.com in November 2013 using a technology platform created by digital media company Interlude.
Sources and Resources for Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone” Interactive Video:
- Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ Released As Groundbreaking Interactive Video – bobdylan.com, 11/19/2013. The news release for the video.
Interactive AudioAn interactive audio story is one in which an audio clip or clips is the main story, and other multimedia elements enhance what you hear. Interactive audio stories are rare and often use raw audio from some incident or event rather than a narrated or edited audio story (thus audio-photo slideshow stories are classified here as visual narratives, rather that interactive audio, because the audio and photos are integrated into a single experience and neither of the two media forms dominate the story) Here are some examples: The 9/11 Tapes The 9/11 Tapes produced by the New York Times in September 2011 is a series of audio recordings of conversations between air traffic controllers and pilots of aircraft in the skies during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As the audio clips play, an interactive map shows the flight paths of the hijacked planes being referenced in the audio tapes. A transcript of what’s being said also scrolls as the tapes play. Boston EMS Radio Traffic Boston EMS radio traffic published in August 2013 was put together by Boston Emergency Medical Services, which took 6 minutes of video footage of the Boston Marathon bombing scene shot by the Boston Globe’s Steve Silva and synchronized it with the audio of the emergency radio traffic at the time. The project was done to reassess what happened and for use in training sessions, but it also was posted on the Globe’s Boston.com website.
Animations & IllustrationsSome journalists are using various forms of animation and/or illustrations to tell stories online. The Center for Investigative Reporting, has used a form of animation it calls “illustrated storytelling” to produce pieces on topics ranging from the price of gas to the environmental and other costs of eating hamburgers. Another form of animation is known as kinetic typography – essentially text in motion. These stories are often created with the Adobe After Effects program, or sometimes the Flash animation program. News organizations have experimented with kinetic typography because it is a more engaging or entertaining storytelling experience than a simple text presentation. It can be particularly effective as a way of highlighting important data or statistics. Here are some examples of animated or illustrated stories: The Price of Gas The Price of Gas was produced in June 2011 by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s California Watch project to tell the story of the environmental and health impacts of using gasoline-powered vehicles. The CIR has done other animations, including:
- In Jennifer’s Room
- The Hidden Costs of Hamburgers
- Suspect America
- Who Owns the Fish?
- The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden
- Kinetic typography as a storytelling technique – Lauren Rabaino, 10,000 Words, 10/14/2010
- Warning: This Article Contains Graphic Journalism – Truthout, 8/10/2011
- News organizations experiment with ‘illustrated storytelling’ — a new way to tell serious stories – Al Tompkins, Poynter, 3/20/2013
- How news can compete with cat videos: 6 lessons for multimedia journalists – Carrie Ching, Poynter, 4/5/2013
CollagesA collage is usually a fast paced story told primarily with photos and video clips that appear side-by-side on the screen. The collage is often used to tell a story in which movement or activity is an essential characteristic. Here are some examples: The Fair The Fair by Jason Rayles is about a day at a county fair. Produced in April 2004 in Flash, it is very fast paced with multiple images appearing simultaneously on the screen that mimic the activity and excitement of the fair. Rayles is a radio reporter who took photos at the fair and narrated the story.
Vox PopSome digital stories are collections of interviews with regular people talking about specific topics – a variant on the classic vox pop or man-on-the-street interview. The interviews are usually short videos or photos with audio and often are presented in a tiled format in which several rows of still frames linking to the videos are stacked on a web page. The videos are usually raw – that is they don’t include narration or b-roll, but just the people speaking their minds as classic “voice of the people.” Balloons of Bhutan In Balloons of Bhutan produced in October 2011, Jonathan Harris interviewed people in the country of Bhutan about happiness, a trademark characteristic of their nation. The interviews were presented as scores of photos, either small portrait shots or pictures of the hands of the people, that were tiled on a web page. Each picture linked to an audio recording of an interview with the person. The balloons reference comes from Harris’ giving the people colored balloons that signified their levels of happiness and that then were strung across a mountain pass.
GamesSome news organizations have experimented with using online games to tell stories. Games are more engaging and are especially popular with young people. Games range in sophistication from relatively simple online quizzes to sophisticated immersive environments similar to classic video games. Here are some examples: Balance The Gotham Gazette published the Balance budget game in 2009. It was an interactive quiz in which people could try to fix New York’s budget problems by making choices on spending and revenues. Gimme Props Gimme Props is an interactive quiz developed by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to inform California voters about state ballot propositions in the November 2012 election. Remembering 7th Street Remembering 7th Street was a project of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Department of Architecture published in 2008 that re-created the Oakland blues and jazz club scene of the 1940s and 1950s as an online virtual world and video game.
Graphics for StorytellingA graphic is the main element for telling the story in some digital news packages. The user clicks on sections or points on a graphic to get text information, photos or audio or video clips. Here are some examples: Loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia USA Today’s Loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia story package in February 2003 features a series of graphics that have links to information such as animations that show how the shuttle disintegrated and what caused the disaster. Other sections of the story package, which is done in Flash, include bios and photos of the crew members and photo galleries on different aspects of the story. Climbing Kilimanjaro produced by the New York Times in October 2007 tells the story of author Tom Bissell’s exhausting climb to the peak with an animated graphic that is a fly-over of the Tanzanian mountain. At points along the climb Bissell’s heat rate and oxygen levels are displayed along with videos or photos with audio in which Bissell describes the ordeal. Climbing Kilimanjaro thus is also an example of embedded multimedia. It also incorporates the mapping approach to storytelling. Connected China is a very sophisticated series of graphics that display the intricate relationships in China’s power elite. It was produced by Reuters in February 2013 and used HTML5 to create animated graphics that in the past were mainly done using Flash. You can click on the graphics to explore the relationships between members of the ruling communist party, the military and the government in modern China and read profiles of all the major leaders. A total of 30,000 relationships are documented in the database, which contains 1.5 million words. The package also includes links to text stories, videos and photos. The project took 18 months to build and the underlying data about the Chinese leaders also is regularly updated so the graphic is kept current. Sources and Resources on Connected China:
- Connecting the Dots – Reg Chua, (Re)Structuring Journalism, 3/4/2013. Chua is Editor, Data and Innovation at Thomson Reuters, and (Re)Structuring Journalism is his weblog.
- Current Connections – Reg Chua, (Re)Structuring Journalism, 3/27/2013. Chua is Editor, Data and Innovation at Thomson Reuters, and (Re)Structuring Journalism is his weblog.
- Reuters bets big on context, structure and dataviz to understand power in China – Nieman Journalism Lab, 4/24/2013
Data StoriesData is so central to some stories that the centerpiece for a news package presentation can be a data visualization, a chart or even a searchable database. A charticle, which uses a combination of graphics, text and photos in place of a traditional text narrative, can be a data story if data is a central part of the presentation. Here are some examples: A Week on Foursquare A Week on Foursquare produced by the Wall Street Journal in May 2011 used a series of charts and data visualizations to show how people use the FourSquare mobile app in New York and San Francisco. The story explored a variety of data points, including how often FourSquare is used hour by hour, where people checked in using FourSquare, the frequency with which they checked in, differences in use of FourSquare because of gender, the most popular types of places for FourSquare check-ins, etc. Dollars for Docs Dollars for Docs is a nationwide searchable database of doctors created by ProPublica that tracks payments such as meal reimbursements, speaking and consulting fees, etc., that 15 pharmaceutical companies made to the doctors. Published in 2010, it was accompanied by several investigative text stories about different aspects of the relationship between doctors, the drugs they prescribe and the pharmaceutical companies, and additional related stories have been published since then. The database also was updated in 2013, a project that took 6 months. Since it was first published, the database has had 5.74 million pageviews, according to ProPublica, and 170 news organizations around the country have published local stories based on the data. Sources and Resources for Dollars for Docs:
- Heart of Nerd Darkness: Why Updating Dollars for Docs Was So Difficult – Jeremy Merrill, ProPublica, 3/25/2013
- ProPublica at five: How the nonprofit collaborates, builds apps, and measures impact – Justin Ellis, Nieman Journalism Lab, 6/10/2013