Monday, September 12, 2011

A hyperlocal multimedia approach on the 10th anniversary of 9/11

Associated Press file photo
When my assignment for our coverage of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 was doled out, I couldn't help but think, "There's got to be a more powerful way to tell this story."

My assignment was to gather "Where were you" stories from our readers.

I thought about getting people on video. Sure seemed like a whole lot of work and in the end, a well done video would have only sound bytes from a wide variety of people. Maybe photos as B-roll. A lot of shooting. A lot of editing. And the finished product, would it be worth it? Would people want to watch a bunch of people they don't know talking about where they were when the planes crashed? I wasn't sure that video was the best fit for this project.

So I turned to audio instead. Voices can be so powerful.

Here's what I did:
1) I read tips on using Google Voice from Michelle Rogers, an ideaLab member from our Heritage newspapers group.
2) I set up a Google Voice account and left it unattached to any other phones.
3) I set up my Google Voice message to say, "Thank you for taking part in The Oakland Press' coverage of the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. You will have 2 minutes to leave a message with your memory of day. Please also leave your name and the community you reside in."
4) I wrote a brief for print asking people to contribute and gave them directions on how to do so. I put the same instructions on Facebook, put an item on our website and Tweeted the link to it.
5) I got a total of about 15 messages.
6) I downloaded the messages (sometimes, tears welling up just listening to them) to my desktop, imported them to garageband and shared them to my iTunes library. From there, I opened iMovie and began plunking down AP photos (from with different chunks of the messages.
7) When I was done, I shared it with a group of video trainers here at JRC and got an excellent tip on slowing down the time & movement of the photos.
8) Here's the final product:

Some of the audio stories couldn't be broken down for this video. Some just needed to stand alone. This took my story in a very cool direction.

Basically, the text article included a graf or two about someone's experience. In the online version, I made a link that said, Listen to so-and-so recall the story of ...

Clicking the link brought you to a different story box. For text, I just re-used the couple grafs used in the master version of the story. The nice part, though, is that as soon as the page loads, the audio begins playing. So it truly was a click to listen — not a click, then another click ...

Why didn't I just include each audio piece by the relevant text, you ask? Good question. It can't be done with our current CMS. Only one audio piece can be uploaded with each story and it automatically goes to the top of the story box. So this was a workaround, and it was a good one — it aided SEO because of the quality hyperlinks, it broke up the story content to make it easier on the eyes, and it was good for pageviews too.

For those who actually plan to click the link and check out the story, please note that the first video box is a video of a guy talking about where he was — exactly what I said in the beginning of this post was not a good fit for this story. To be clear, he was the lede to my story. I sat down with him for an interview and felt video, just of him, was appropriate and worth the time and effort.

The story: County residents recall terrifying moments of 9-11 attacks

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