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6 Exceptional multimedia student projects

Journalism classes and schools, like professional newsrooms, have the opportunity to create large-scale multimedia projects that are the product of a collaboration between participants. These projects focus on a single subject or issue and tell one story in multiple ways.

The label “student journalist” for some may conjure up images of second-rate work that is not ready for prime time. However, the projects below show just how great the multimedia journalism produced by J-schools students are and the potential student groups have to create interesting, vibrant, and diverse multimedia news stories.

1. Hunger in the Golden State

A project of the USC Annenberg School for Journalism & Communication and California Watch, Hunger in the Golden State explores the problem of food scarcity and waste among California residents and what’s being done about it. The humanity of the stories included on the site is augmented by the different ways they are told: the site includes print stories, slideshows, radio broadcasts, and social media components.

2. BARThood

Students at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism tell the stories of the patrons of BART — the San Francisco Bay Area transit system — in this comprehensive online news package. Among the text stories and slideshows that are common to this type of project, is an interesting data component for each BART station. A stylish data visualization appears on each page that illustrates statistics like the ethnicity and income level of riders and mode of transportation to the station.

3. Greening the Grid

Greening the Grid, a 2009 project of the students of the University of Miami School of Communication (look for online journalism titan Greg Linch among its participants), documents sustainable energy projects in the Czech Republic and the United States. Among the individual stories is this video that illustrates a farm powered by cow manure and this one documenting a 1981 Mercedes Benz powered by discarded vegetable oil.

4. Streets of Dreams: People and Places of Downtown Phoenix

The students of ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications encourage you to follow along as they explore the passions of the residents of Phoenix, Arizona and the city they call home. The story of several Phoenix neighborhoods and the unique people who live there are illustrated by video, photo, and text stories.

5. Multimedia Standards

Unlike the previously mentioned projects, Multimedia Standards, also produced by University of Miami students focuses on the craft of journalism itself. Participants questioned leaders in online/digital journalism about the state of the industry and presented the recorded answers in an easily navigable grid. The site also includes a useful “Resources” page with links to RSS feeds to some of the top journalism blogs on the web.

6. Powering a Nation: The Truth About Energy

News21, a collaborative initiative of several universities across the United States, produces several outstanding multimedia projects every year. UNC Chapel Hill’s “Powering a Nation” is one of several standouts and tackles the issue of energy in the United States. Like other News21 projects, the site features print stories, interactive elements, and more. The students pushed the story even further by creating interactive news games that invite readers to solve real problems like balancing carbon emissions and energy use.

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7 Interactive guides to the Gulf Coast oil spill

With hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil being pumped into the waters just off the Louisiana coast, the first questions many ask is exactly how much is oil is in the water and how far is it spreading. Several news organizations aimed to answer those questions with interactive, multimedia packages that not only show the spread and threat of the spill, but the potential damage it can cause to the environment and nearby ecosystems.

USA Today, like many other news media, created a Flash-based interactive graphic for which the viewer the viewer can use a slider to view the timeline of the spill. The interactivity is complemented by various level of information, including existing barriers and satellite imagery.



The New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, and the Times-Picayune each took a similar approach to visualizing the oil spill, using an interactive map and graphics indicating the size of the spill over time.



The (UK) Guardian not only includes a map of the spill in its presentation, but also incorporates photos of the wildlife that will likely be affected. Various images of ducks, whales, and turtles can be viewed by clicking on the camera icons.



The Associated Press also includes photos in its multimedia explanation of the threat. The AP interactive includes a photo slideshow of the downed rig and various other heart-stopping photos, as well as an interactive timeline of major oil rig accidents, dating back to the 1960s.



Currently the oil spill is still spreading out of control so it is safe to say that many of the above interactives will require continual updating. It will be interesting to see how the aforementioned news media will stay abreast of an ongoing problem and keep their projects fresh with the latest information available.


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How online news media covered the 2010 Winter Olympics

The Olympic athletes weren’t the only ones working hard during this year’s Winter Olympic Games. News organizations around the world created innovative online projects to capture the power and performances at the Games. Here are a few of those gold medal-level projects:

Perhaps the most interesting part of NBC’s Olympic coverage was its Olympic Tracker, a tree map of recent tweets about the Olympic Games. The visualization was created by Stamen Design, the company behind MTV’s VMA Tweet Tracker and San Francisco Crimespotting.

Many online news media like USA Today and the Los Angeles Times presented many different interactive infographics that explained the sometimes complex winter games and the strength and athleticism required to compete.

The New York Times was on a roll this Winter Games, producing a slew of multimedia and interactive projects, including an awe-inspiring guide to Vancouver’s Olympic venues. Notably, the Times’ interactive guide to Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s fatal crash was criticized for offering what some saw as too intimate of a guide to his final moments.’s The Big Picture regularly presents amazing photos surrounding a number of subjects and did not disappoint with its collection of images from Vancouver. The large photos capture the majesty of the 2010 Games.

The Google Street View cameras have documented many places around the world and in honor of the Vancouver Olympics, the team used a snowmobile to present views from the top of the mountains in Whistler and allowed users to take a sneak peek inside the Olympic Village.

Fans didn’t wait for news media to create coverage they wanted to see. Some took to Facebook to create a page for the Norwegian curling team’s unique pants. The Facebook page was taken down briefly, presumably because the page was not dedicated to a company or brand as required by Facebook. However, the page is back up and at last count had more than half a million fans of the colorful pants.

While NBC carried many of the Olympic Games online, the network’s US television broadcasts were heavily criticized, mostly because of the network’s lack of live television broadcasts. The lesson learned? While yesterday’s audiences were comfortable watching events long after they first happened, today’s audience wants its news immediately and not just online.

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Spice up food journalism with multimedia and interactivity

As newspapers and magazines shrink and the resources of television and radio stations dwindle, food journalism is often the first section to get the boot. The web, however, presents a unique opportunity to explore food, recipes, and cooking in new and captivating ways.

For example, this past Thanksgiving, The New York Times served up one of its signature interactive projects that visualized what people are eating. The map illustrates what classic holiday dishes are most popular in various sections of the U.S. The Times Online tracked what Britain eats in an interactive infographic that measures the popularity of certain foods over time.

To track the location of local farmers markets, The Washington Post created an interactive online map that readers can use to track local food and produce. If you prefer your vegetables on a burger or burrito, you can also use — an interactive map of the locations of McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, and more — to satisfy your food cravings., a site for recipes and other food-related resources, also has a mix of food-related video that teach users to make food and other stuff. In just a few minutes, you can learn to how to fold a wonton, how to prevent an avocado from browning, and how to clean a cast iron pan.

Food journalism and especially recipe guides are ripe for slideshows. BBC News paired photos and audio to explore the wild, yet edible foods found in the British countryside. The Times-Picayune whipped up “12 Dishes Under $12″ a video guide to great dishes from local restaurants., the newly launched hyperlocal site covering the NYC borough of Manhattan, recently presented an interactive slideshow of dishes available during the city’s restaurant week.

Food journalism, as with all news subjects, can be invigorated with a little bit of multimedia and a lot of creativity, which in the end makes the topic more interesting for readers and viewers.

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How news media are covering the same-sex marriage debate

News media are using multimedia and interactivity to track same-sex marriage and the stories of gay men and women across the U.S. One of the most common ways online news sites are the debate is using maps that visualize where same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal. CNN and NPR have created two such maps (pictured below) that readers can click or hover over to read more about the each state’s position on the issue.


The L.A. Times also has a similar map and, in addition, has an adjacent timeline that plots landmark moments in the same-sex marriage and corresponds with the map.

The New Republic, like many other news sites, produced a slideshow that illustrates various points in the chronology of same-sex marriage.

CNN has invited couples of all sexualities to tell their own stories and submit video using iReport. The result is sort of a like niche YouTube that contains video dedicated to a specific topic.

GOOD Magazine took a unique approach to the debate by creating a flat graphic/flow chart that visualizes key arguments made for and against same-sex marriage.

Finally, KQED and The California Report have created a blog dedicated to the ongoing Prop 8 debate happening in California. The blog contains regular updates about what’s happening inside the court and includes quotes from witnesses and outside observers.

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