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10 Inspirational New York Times multimedia and interactive features

The New York Times, often lauded as one of the greatest producers of multimedia journalism, is inspirational not just because of the dazzling technologies that it uses to bring stories to life (Flash, databases, slideshows), but because of the selected stories themselves. While it has been said before on this site that there are a great many other news services creating amazing work, the Times remains a forerunner in the marriage of technology and journalism. Here are few of the Times’ most impressive recent works:

1. How Do You Feel About the Economy?

Beginning in March of this year, The New York Times asked online readers to submit their personal reactions to the failing economy in a single word. The adjectives from both the employed and unemployed scroll across the screen in a simple interface that shows just how Americans are feeling about the financial crisis.

Similar projects were created to monitor the Twitter chatter during this year’s Super Bowl and to visualize Americans’ hopes for the incoming Obama administration.

2. The Ebb and Flow of Movies

Many movies have appeared and disappeared from box office charts over the years, some making a bigger splash than others. For this project, the Times team took on the daunting task of visually representing the movies that topped the charts — from 2008′s Alvin and the Chipmunks to 1986′s Out of Africa. Best of all, by clicking on the shapes, one can read more of the Times’ coverage of that particular movie, including summaries, reviews and trailers.

3. One in 8 Million

The New York Times at it’s core is a newspaper about New York City and its millions of inhabitants. For the elegantly styled audio slideshow series “One in 8 Million,” the Times turned its lens not to the newsmakers of the city but to the (not-so) average citizens who make the city the unique metropolis that it is.

4. The Water Dance

The web is filled with tens of thousands of audio slideshows, so for one in particular to stand out from the rest is a remarkable feat. “The Water Dance,” a slideshow narrated by Times photographer Bill Cunningham, takes a simple idea — New Yorkers navigating the huge puddles of rain that line the city’s curbs — and turns it into three and a half minutes of whimsy. The humorous photos are underscored by Cunningham’s cheerful and amused voice that encourages the viewer to indulge in the humor as well.

5. New York City Homicides Map

The Times’ recently released visual database of homicides over the span of six years not only concentrates on specific incidents over statistics, but it also encourages users to find patterns within the data and report them to the staff. The map is navigable down to street level and the information can be sorted by a number of contributing factors, including race, sex, age and weapon used.

6. Going to the End of the Line

Another multimedia story in the paper’s tradition of finding news in people or places that are often overlooked, “End of the Line” is a collection of slideshows that highlight the last subway stop on various train lines — some of which many New Yorkers will never see. These places aren’t no man’s lands either; they are often thriving communities worthy of the beautiful reporting and photography.

7. Casualties of War

In recognition of the men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq, the Times aggregated statistics and the stories behind them in a three-part multimedia story. The first, “Faces of the Dead,” combines a unique visual navigation tool and a traditional search function to identify each person killed in the region. The second portion groups the servicemen and women by demographic, including age, race, branch and the location of their death. The third uses audio to tell the stories of nine soldiers who were killed, using the voices of those who served alongside them.

8. Passing the Torch: An Evolution of Form

The likely unsung hero of the Olympic Games is the Olympic torch itself. The symbol of the Games travels throughout the world until it arrives at its final destination and is a symbol of peace and athleticism. The torch itself has changed over the years and this interactive gallery shows the dramatic revisions it has undergone.

9. Inaugural Words – 1789 to the Present

To commemorate the 2009 inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, the Times brought together the inaugural speeches of every U.S. president in one interactive story. The full text of each address is available for reading, but for those history buffs in a hurry, each speech is represented in word clouds, which gives a quicker synopsis of the issues of the day.

Also worth checking out are the Times’ annotated video of Obama’s inaugural speech and “Obama’s People,” a
photo story centered around the incoming administration.

10. Fold-Ins, Past and Present

Finally, as proof that not all multimedia or interactive stories have to be heavy and serious, the Times presented a series of fold-ins from Mad Magazine in interactive form. Users were invited to relive their childhoods and discover the messages hidden in the iconic back page, no creasing necessary.

For more on the team behind many of the aforementioned projects, check out the New York Magazine article on the paper’s “renegades.”


Also on 10,000 Words:

Where to find the best in Flash journalism
New York City, a mecca of multimedia journalism
Create brilliant multimedia projects from the mundane
Great online journalism from non-traditional journalists

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