Anatomy of Our No. 1 Story
Title TextJournalism You: Anatomy of Our No. 1 Story @JeremyGilbert
Shailesh is being very modest. He has been at the Post about four years now and before he arrived the newsroom had had a bit of a rocky relationship with the CTO. But we had managed to get four engineers in the newsroom, which we thought was this big accomplishment. In his first meetings with the editorial Shailesh asked how many engineers we needed in the newsroom to be truly innovative. We sheepishly asked for two more. Shailesh told us that wouldn't be enough. He got us 16 but promised more, many more.
When we move into our new building nine months from now, our newsroom will have 47 engineers sitting among our reporters, editors and designers — easily the most of any news media company in the world. These engineers will be embedded in everything from our Politics section to our video team. Across all platforms. The collaboration between our engineers and the traditional journalists is what allows us to innovate in the way required for modern storytelling.
And why not start right at the top with our No. 1 story. This story was part of our Post Everything series which mentioned is an opportunity for non-staffers to write for the Post but with the benefit of our editors and audience team helping to amplify the reach.
In 2007 Darlena Cunha, a former television producer turned stay-at-home mom, unexpectedly found herself pregnant with twin girls. At first it was a happy story: her husband proposed, they bought a home but then the real estate market collapsed the husband lost his job and the girls were born weighing just three pounds “barely the length of [her] shoe.”
They went from earning making $120,000 per year to $25,000. Soon the only thing left they owned outright was her husband’s 2003 Mercedes Compressor and Darlena was forced to drive it to pick food stamps that would feed her family.
Not surprisingly that story resonated with our readers.
What is also educational about this story is to look at where all those users came from. It wasn’t driven by search or links from other websites — although that helped. It was driven by social sharing. By Facebook users and Twitter influencers. By people texting and sharing with by email. Even the ‘dark social’ is social traffic — according to Facebook — it’s nearly all Facebook app traffic.
Discuss how Shelly Tan, NU alumni extraordinaire watched and re-watched every Game of Thrones episode counting every on-screen death — and the important off-screen ones to build this graphic.
After the NFL banned the use of the N-Word on the field their policy was widely analyzed and criticized. We knew this would be a highly sensitive area but also an important conversation for us to lead. Rather than do what we’ve always done — write a 5,000 word story with sidebars and graphics — we convened twenty people from all over the newsroom to explore the issue. In the end we realized that video was our primary medium because the viewers needed to hear directly from the people being interviewed.
[PLAY THE VIDEO]
After that powerful introduction users are invited to take control of the story — something that usually cannot be done.
[PLAY THE VIDEO]
In this case we built an app experience that let users tell story. By choosing three items from a series of nine prompts users created different stories specific to their point of view. The resulting ‘mini doc’ tells the story they care about.
[PAUSE TO LET VIDEO PLAY]
We also wanted to build a conversation around this explosive topic, but like most of you we’re protective of our brand and our audience so we wanted to structure these comments to prevent hateful people shutting down the dialogue. Instead of leaving text comments users were asked to pose their own questions that we moderated. And they were encouraged to share images of questions — with links back to the story — that other people had posed.
It’s a completely different video experience than television or even standard web video.
One of the most exciting storytelling opportunities, for me, comes from gamification. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of all the ways we can tell stories with a game format: quizzes, brackets. You’re going to be seeing a lot more of this in 2015. And I would suggest that you think about this for some of your own content. What we did here is break down a complicated and highly technical subject that requires a lot of scientific terms and make it fun.
[PLAY THE VIDEO] The 2014 World Cup featured some notorious flops. Our team judged the best flops and let visitors do the same. Users can scrub back and forth watching some of futbol’s best actors work. Because the flops are animated GIFs the experience is great on mobile and in social networks.
But in the end even with our engineering culture, we’re about storytelling: And the two 2014 Pulitzer Prizes for public service and explanatory reporting prove that..
The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for public service for the coverage of secret surveillance by the National Security Agency and former government contractor Edward Snowden.
Eli Saslow was awarded the prize for explanatory reporting for his food-stamps coverage, work that forced "readers to grapple with issues of poverty and dependency.”