We’ve been hard at work these past few months on an ambitious series about the 1910 forest fires that consumed huge swaths of the Inland Northwest. The series, titled Flame and Ruin: The fires of 1910, launched Sunday, and I encourage you to explore it. It’s a treat for history buffs and lovers of the outdoors.
My favorite parts of the online package are the above video scripted by Jim Kershner and produced by Colin Mulvany and a then-and-now presentation inspired by the New York Times featuring photographs by Christopher Anderson and a Django+jQuery app by Ryan Pitts and Mike Tigas.
But I certainly don’t want to overlook the reporting and writing that went into this package. I especially recommend Jim Kershner’s opening narrative and Becky Kramer’s story about Ed Pulaski, the tunnel in which he saved his fire crew, and that tunnel’s discovery in 1979. It runs Tuesday and will be found on the main page of the special series.
Same song, second verse. Yesterday I posted about looking to other sources to embed a slideshow of my Flickr photos (proud pro account holder for one month!).
Here are the same photos I posted yesterday but in a Flickr skin:
I like the look, the share features, and the full-screen toggle.
This tool is a digital SLR to Slide.com’s Polaroid camera: the latter still has campy appeal and a distinctive effect, but the former is a lot more practical and professional. Of course, that metaphor breaks down at the cash register. Both Flickr and Slide provide free accounts.
With blessings from above, I slipped away for a dinner break with my dad, who was in town briefly. Afterward, I went back to work to help with the Web coverage. We had three reporters and three photographers in the field.
My boss whipped up a slicker version of our slideshow tool, which I fed with incoming images. I figured I was pretty much done after I finished linking up related content.
But the news wasn’t finished. I helped the City Desk by taking dictation from one of our reporters in the field, who fed me details about an emergency of declaration by Gov. Chris Gregoire. I threw it into a file and shipped it to the copy desk, where it had been promised as a breakout on the jump page. It was nice to interact with my former co-workers.
Friday morning I’ll be back in the newsroom at 7 a.m., filling in for our morning breaking news editor. I’m sure there will be plenty to follow up on.
Just got a new iMac. It’s speedy and has a much bigger monitor than I’ve been using. If you want a gushy description, I’ll just refer you to Apple.
In the picture below, my 2004 iBook sits above the new machine.
Here’s a little eye candy after my more pensive post the other day. I took this from a cliff on Spokane’s lower South Hill (see map below) with my simple-but-reliable 6-megapixel Sony Cybershot. For WordPress geeks out there who use Flickr, I posted it using a recently acquired plugin called “WordPress Media Flickr” and designed by Yu Ji.
There’s an astounding investigative piece in the New York Times today about who the Pentagon used the analysts hired by TV networks to control the messages about military affairs in the post-Sept. 11 world.
In many cases, David Barstow documents, these retired officers echoed Pentagon talking points on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and other networks. In exchange for their allegiance, the analysts were given royal treatment at the Pentagon, special tours in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, and extensive access to contacts within the military. As many of the analysts received income from firms involved in military contracting, such contacts were likely quite lucrative.
It’s a compelling story with a good outrage factor. But the Times also did a tremendous job putting together multimedia to accompany it. (Click here to check it out.)
I like that the presentation, divided into three chapters, forms a narrative. Occasionally, flash-based presentations leave me trying to piece together a story from linked video, audio and documents. Here, David Barstow walks viewers through one part of his story: the Pentagon’s response to so-called Generals’ Revolt against then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Narrated by Barstow, the piece combines static images, video, audio and documents to good effect.
I would love to be able to pull this kind of project off someday.
One of the great things about my job is its flexibility. When things are slow, I can pretty much work on whatever I want. So recently I started taking an idea I’ve had for months and practicing it: daily slideshows of compelling and newsworthy photographs from around the world. (Click here or on the image below to see an example.)
Here’s some advice for those looking to do the same:
- Search the Associated Press photo feed with the term “aptopix” and you’ll get AP editors’ choices of the best shots from the day’s takes.
- Use the AP’s frequent news digests to look for stories that have photos.
- Go for variety. Use the photo of the scene of a car bombing in Karbala, Iraq, but don’t neglect interesting profiles, weather shots and even the occasional baby animal. With fewer limits on space compared with the printed products, including these fluffier items can’t be considered pandering to less-serious appetites.
- Take the time to edit cutlines. If applicable, find the corresponding story and flesh out the details or add background. This is added value.
I can hear the objections waiting in the wings. When I was in graduate school, the journal articles and trade publications I read nearly all said a local newspaper website should be about local news. Why replicate content that is available all over the Internet, more so now than ever thanks to news aggregators.
I think this prejudice kept from exploiting the slideshow idea for a long time. But here’s why I chose to pursue it. First, my newspaper’s homepage often needs some good art, especially in the middle of the day. A slideshow teaser displaying one of the images helps that. Second, visual content is rich content, and I had a hunch that a collection of images would draw viewers. Third, I still think there’s a place for nonlocal content on a local news site when editors use what news aggregators lack: judgment.
For example, instead of kicking over the 10 latest images off the AP wire, I’ll look through the day’s offerings, often using the AP’s news digest to alert me to stories that might have strong photographs. Additionally, I can offer variety, both in terms of geography and style (features versus hard news, for instance).
I’ve been doing this a little over the week, and the results are encouraging. I’ve watched pageviews climb from about 500 a day to more than 1,000 on Monday. Granted in our system each photo in a set will register as a separate view, but I’m sure our online advertising people wouldn’t slice it that thin.