Stuff I Love: Creative News Interactives

On Saturday after I spoke on a panel called “News as Infotainment,” two lovely ladies from Frontline (FRONTLINE!) came up and asked me for examples of interactive and “infotainmenty” news presentations I really loved. I didn’t have time to go over them in person, so here you go, ladies:

New York Magazine: It’s Time to Play ‘Sheen, Beck, or Qaddafi?’


The ramblings and rantings of the actor, the pundit and the dictator have collectively compelled us as a nation, and while the three men are from vastly different backgrounds, the words that come out of their mouths are strangely similar. As the magazine wrote, “To demonstrate just what a struggle it is to distinguish between the mad ramblings of an entertainer, a despot, and a newsman another entertainer, we’ve put together this quiz. If you get them all right, you are some kind of savant.”

 

Vanity Fair: Qad Libs

Qaddafi is leading to all sorts of creative inspiration. Vanity Fair’s “Qad Libs,” based on the childhood word game “Mad Libs”, allowed readers to “create a realistic hard-line speech by inserting your own bizarre words into the colonel’s actual defiant address.” The magazine allowed readers to fill in a string of nouns, adverbs and adjectives in their interactive form to create their own Qaddafi rants. Amazingly, every customizable rant seemed right on.

 

Budget Puzzles, by The New York Times, Sacramento Bee, American Public Media, and more


In response to the nations gazillion trillion dollar deficit, and the frightening shortfalls of state governments around the country, media companies have followed in The Times’ footsteps with interactive budget puzzles that allow the user to find ways to balance the budget. Poynter’s recent piece discusses the limitations of these puzzles (the game writers get to set the parameters of what to cut or revenue to increase) but this is a great way to make real the budget troubles of governments, teach readers about the decisions that have to be made and allow for audiences to prioritize what they think is important.

 

The Chillout Song, by Ze Frank (my hero)

Frank’s project teaches us a beautiful lesson about how technology and social sharing can enable human connection. As you’ll read in the story he lays out, he received an email from a girl named Laura who was stressed out and felt hopeless; she asked for a song to help calm her nerves. Frank asked her to describe her feelings, which then led to a sketch of a song that he then asked his audience to record themselves singing. It led to a gorgeous result, no pitch correction required, that you can now purchase online.

AAJA 2010: Digital Reporting Tools and Techniques

3:56pm: Here we are at the Digital Reporting Tools and Techniques panel, helmed by the esteemed Olivia Ma of YouTube, Jennifer 8 Lee of the Knight News Challenge and David Sarno and Jon Healey of the LA Times.

3:57pm: We’re talking about free tools available in the cloud. Scribd is getting a lot of conversation right now – Lee, who used to be with the NYTimes, says Scribd is interested in partnering with news orgs so they’ll let you customize your Scribd browser. “Even though it’s being powered by Scribd, it’s your brand all the time.”

4:04pm: Comic Sans should be banned from Powerpoint. WORD!

4:06pm: Use Listorious to found a connected network of people who are interested in or write about a specific topic. If you follow these groups, it’s another kind of heat map about what communities say about certain topics, says Soren.

4:07pm: When a keyword is meaningful to you or relatively unique, you can use Twitter alerts (which sort of works like Google News Alerts) to get updates on “Particularly useful for discrete events you are covering for a limited time period. You wouldn’t want to follow “music”, but maybe you would follow “MGMT”.”

4:09pm: And the Powerpoint crashes just before the YouTube maven begins talking about her tools. She goes on anyway, introducing YouTube Direct, and YouTube Moderator, which “are meant to help news organizations engage with their audiences.” Trivia: YouTube staff doesn’t use the term ‘citizen journalism’ and prefers ‘citizen reporter,’ since “journalists” are professionals or have specific training/experience. “Citizen Reporters” can document, provide real value in terms of showing what’s happening, even if they can’t put it in a broader context. Example: Kayaking in the Street during Nashville Flooding

4:14pm: YouTube’s been partnering with various news organizations to help them engage their communities and get the community involved. PBS’  ‘Video Your Vote”, CNN’s YouTube Presidential Debate. YouTube Direct is partnering with ABC7 in the Bay Area, inviting audience to upload video of stories happening in their communities. They’re starting to see momentum in getting the community to show their stories and getting them told. Editors and producers get a moderation panel to review the submissions and approve it for their own page.

4:16pm: YouTube Moderator is a product that lets news orgs crowdsource, host video of newsmakers, and then let audiences rank questions or the responses up or down. (This is totally new to me, I have no idea how it works yet but I want to find out.)

4:19pm: Now the panelists are talking about how awesome the ProPublica data crowdsourcing has been. I second that. “Every journalist should have a peopledex, that you can consult, so if you start building it now, you can recall it for many different purposes,” said Sarno.

4:21pm: Jennifer 8 Lee’s turn to talk. Her “five tools to remember” for digital future: Ushahidi, Kickstarter, Tableau, DocumentCloud, and DavisWiki, which is the most successful local wiki in the country, if not the world. One out of every seven people in Davis, California uses DavisWiki. You can find lost pets, do I need a roomate. (DAVIS WIKI IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF THE FUTURE OF CONTEXT. See earlier post.)

4:24pm: “Communities, when given the right tools and the right platforms, can inform themselves,” said Lee. Knight’s given the Davis people a tool called “localwiki”, to help other communities get this platform and start using it.

Ushahidi: A crowd-sourced mapping platform that came out of Kenya, where people were reporting their rapes and other violence. Got a lot of publicity in Haiti, in which needs for water or medical help were getting mapped on Ushahidi. Free, open-source. WashPo used it for #snowmaggedon last year.

4:27pm: Ascendancy of raw material as a form of real journalism. WikiLeaks, for example. The threat to journalism is not big brother, but little brother. The threat is that the individuals that surround us can report really well. So use tools like Document Cloud, to give people access.

4:28pm: You could do a six month investigation about use of force in schools, or you can show them a 30 second video of a teacher beating a kid in a school. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video’s worth 10,000 words.

4:30pm: The reporting process is becoming public. Instead of hoarding information and dropping a massive investigation, we now report it out one part at a time, let people weigh in and help inform or shape the next chapter, then report the next part. It’s a journey. (I love the quest narrative.)

4:32pm: “Governments are all excited about opening up their data, or putting data sets online, but raw data is actually really ugly,” said Lee. Where it becomes valuable is when it’s visualized. When you can play with it or see it in various ways, that’s where it becomes interesting.

4:36pm: “Ask your audiences more for their participation. The more news orgs value that, more of the audience will feel ownership,” said Ma. Use computers to build a human network. The more you use your human/social network, the more likely your sources are likely to come to you.

4:43pm: Lee, to a questioner- Are you asking, what are the other problems that need to be solved, in the suckiness of the current news organization? One of the things we’re really interested in at Knight right now is how publishers can effectively use Facebook. The other thing we’re interested in in is mobile.

OK that’s all for this panel. I hope I didn’t miss anything huge.