Archive — How They Did It


How They Did It: Symbolia

Tablet technology has captivated the journalism world with its seemingly endless possibilities for expanding the form, yet most tablet-based publications are still cribbing from the traditional magazine format. Enter Symbolia, a visual cure for the common news story. In their own words:

Symbolia is a tablet magazine of illustrated journalism that pairs incendiary reporting with thoughtful illustration and comics. Our goal is to provide an immersive, engaging experience for a new generation of newshounds.

The brainchild of Erin Polgreen, Symbolia is poised to redefine how we understand journalism, particularly from a visual perspective. ONA caught up with Polgreen over email to get the scoop on Symbolia’s origin story.

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How They (Almost) Did It: The People’s Production House Reticulator Project

Examining the People’s Production House’s Reticulator Project provides a unique opportunity to unlock a project going through growing pains. When ONA first learned about the project (through our own Jeanne Brooks, a PPH board member), it was moving through the creation and submission process for the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media & Learning Project, which, unfortunately, did not select the Reticulator as one of the winning projects. So what do the folks at PPH think happened? Read on.

Idea

The Reticulator is a website plug-in that encourages users to rate and rank the media they consume. With the ability to rank a piece based on effectiveness, reporting, craft, accuracy, inclusion and collaboration, the Reticulator was poised to be a valuable tool in the fight for media literacy. Created by The People’s Production House, the Reticulator idea managed to work in both cutting-edge technologies and social justice principles.

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How They Did It: PressPass.me

Canadian-born entrepreneurs who packed up and headed to Dubai, David Haddad and Valencio Cardoso dreamed of a way to connect journalists and the public at large. Their end result, PressPass.me, leverages Twitter to connect journalists with tipsters and other members of their community. Currently in the initial phases of launch, Press Pass is already planning its first pivot — to focus less on aggregating journalist tweets and instead have an open directory of journalists across the globe, including media stars like Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow and David Pogue, segmented by media outlet, beat and region. ONA caught up with co-founder Valencio Cardoso to discuss how the platform improves upon Twitter, the benefit to targeting the U.S. market, and “pleasant discoverability experiences.”

Who do you think is the ideal user for this service?

I see people who need help in getting their message to the public through press coverage and the news utilizing the directory –- startups, small businesses, Kickstarter projects, artists, non-profits, etc.

That being said, once we start adding journalists from different countries, I can also see it being used by journalists themselves to find and reach out to other reporters in regions they’re interested in covering.

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How They Did It: “Hunger in Los Angeles”

City noise fills the street as you wait in line for a small box of food. An argument breaks out over the last of the food distributions. A man collapses right in front of you, and you stand there suspended in time. You can’t do a thing to help.

Created by Nonny de la Peña, “Hunger in Los Angeles” is a 3D retelling of a scene outside of a Los Angeles food bank housed in a church. It’s the kind of scene we read about every day in newspapers, but the virtual audio and visual put you right into the world, seemingly while it is happening.

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11 lessons from a site launch

This is part of a series of blog posts from the first ONA class of MJ Bear Fellows describing their experiences and sharing their knowledge with the community. Fellow Laura Amico, along with her husband, Chris, is the founder and editor of Homicide Watch D.C. in Washington, D.C., a website that covers every homicide in the nation’s capital, and includes news, obituaries, profiles, court documents and memorials.

Last week, Chris and I presented Homicide Watch at ONA’s DC meetup. You can watch the video here. In it, we discuss a lot of the technical and editorial specifics of what we do every day.

Our kicker from the presentation is the subject of this blog post (minute 35 on the video). These 11 “lessons learned” are meant to be somewhat inspirational, both for those going it alone, like I am, and for those in traditional settings.

I expand on each below, but in brief:

  • Do what you can — now.
  • Use what you can — now.
  • Build what you can — now.
  • Take risks.
  • Evaluate.
  • Be public.
  • Think creatively.
  • Trust that things will fall into place.
  • But do what you can to make them fall into the right places.
  • Never stop looking forward.
  • Find your purpose, define it, and live by it.
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How They Did It: The Center for Social Media’s fair use guides

More and more journalists are using images and other types of materials found on the web to create stories and multimedia packages. Without a dedicated media department, independent journalists in particular can easily run afoul of existing copyright laws. Fair Use provides a small haven by allowing exceptions to strict copyright laws for reasons of critique or news reporting. But how many reporters or media makers truly understand their rights? Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media at American University, recently co-authored Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright and agreed to speak with ONA about free speech rights, documentary filmmaking and SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act).

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Making a candidate forum interactive using the YouTube API

This post is one of a series of blog posts from the first ONA class of MJ Bear Fellows describing their experiences, projects and sharing their knowledge with the ONA community. Fellow Lucas Timmons is a data journalist and web producer for The Edmonton Journal in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

A screen shot of the Edmonton Journal's interactive candidate video player.

The Progressive Conservatives (PCs) have ruled Alberta for the past four decades. First elected in 1971, the Tories have formed the government ever since. With no legitimate threat to their power, Alberta’s provincial politics and elections can be very boring.

When Premier Ed Stelmach announced he was stepping down, the race was on for a new leader of the PCs and the new Premier. Six contenders put their names forward.

As part of the coverage for the leadership race, the Edmonton Journal decided to find out where the six candidates stood on four issues. We were looking for a way that would:

  1. Let the candidates outline their positions
  2. Allow our readers to get just the information they wanted
  3. Add to our online coverage, and bring people to our website
  4. Be interactive
  5. Look cool
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Checklist for a multimedia — and multi-nation — reporting trip

This is one of a series of blog posts from the first ONA class of MJ Bear Fellows describing their experiences and sharing their knowledge with the community. Fellow Lam Thuy Vo is a multimedia journalist based in New York. She previously worked at the Wall Street Journal, where she developed “Dissecting China’s Housing Market,” a project that won the Society of American Business Editors and Writers award.

When I was asked to teach a workshop at Hong Kong University a year ago, I consulted a friend and colleague about what he thought would be the most useful advice for print reporters venturing into the wild territory of multimedia journalism. I was to instruct print freelancers from across Asia in multimedia storytelling, a craft that’s still in its nascence on that continent.

My friend gave me very practical advice. He said that many classes he took in graduate school were very theoretical, and few gave explicit instructions and checklists to students and reporters. When you’re juggling photography, video, data research and good old-fashioned print reporting, there’s nothing that will save your overloaded mind better than a good checklist.

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10 lessons for building projects within niche sites: Homicide Watch D.C.’s Year in Review

This is part of a series of blog posts from the first ONA class of MJ Bear Fellows describing their experiences and sharing their knowledge with the community. MJ Bear Fellow Laura Amico is the founder and editor of Homicide Watch D.C. in Washington, D.C., a website that covers every homicide in the nation’s capital, and includes news, obituaries, profiles, court documents and memorials.

The query went out Nov. 2: What should Homicide Watch include in our look back on 2011?

I wanted to build a comprehensive year-in-review package that showed off the data and reporting that my team and I had done over the past 12 months and that captured the way people across D.C. felt the impact of violent crime over the year. While I had my own story list, I wanted to hear from readers about what was meaningful to them.

Almost immediately the messages, in comments, emails and Tweets, started rolling in. “Please write about my boyfriend,” wrote one woman. “His case hasn’t been closed.” “Write about transgender murder victims,” wrote someone else. “My neighbor was killed and I think that this is a problem.”

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A dozen years of homicides mapped

This is the first in a series of blog posts from the first ONA class of MJ Bear Fellows describing their experiences and sharing their knowledge with the community. Lucas Timmons, a 2011 MJ Bear Fellow, is a data journalist and web producer for The Edmonton Journal in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Edmonton homicides – 1999 – 2011

It was a particularly rough year for homicides in Edmonton. In 2011, the “City of Champions” was Canada’s homicide capital with a record-breaking 47.

As the year was wrapping up, we decided that the standard year-end wrap-up wouldn’t suffice for such a dreadful year. The Journal decided to publish a larger year-end project on homicides, and I was to supply a way to visualize it online.

This map is what I ended up creating. It fit in as a piece of the larger project.

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