Storytelling apps to try from ONA13

coding, Journalism

As part of the UGA ONA group that attended the Online News Association conference in Atlanta this past week, we all covered a few sessions. I really enjoyed this one about new storytelling apps that are free and easy. Posting here for my benefit, but feel free to peruse and use as well.


Innovative Storytelling on a Shoestring #lowcosttools

11:45 am Friday

(Covered by Carolyn Crist)

Christopher Wink, Technically

Tiffany Shackelford, executive director of Association of Alternative Newsmedia

Christopher Wink ‏@christopherwink17 Oct

New ways to tell stories … Tomorrow @tiffanyshack and I are sharing ideas for inspiration. Yours? #lowcosttools #ona13

Christopher Wink ‏@christopherwink18 Oct

@ONAConf Our list of Innovative Storytelling Ideas can be found here … Would love to hear more #lowcosttools #ONA13

Rebecca Aguilar ‏@RebeccaAguilar19h

Tweets from #ONA13 #LowCostTools for News  #storify #lowcosttools #ona13 @newstreadmill

We’re not going to talk about: citizen journalists, Knight Foundation money, highly technical examples

Amy Z. Quinn ‏@AmyZQuinn18 Oct

What @christopherwink @tiffanyshack aren’t going to talk about: citizen journalists, getting grants, or unworkable high-tech. #lowcosttools

Crowdsourcing doesn’t have to suck. Partnerships can work.


#1 Partnerships — easily translated to waste of time

You can’t start with revenue.

WHYY Newsworks Philly NPR affiliate, going through budget mess — how many times can you write that story? Q&A with humor and trying to explain charter schools (use local comedian to promote her stuff but also explain their news in a funny way)

Amy Z. Quinn ‏@AmyZQuinn18 Oct

Partnerships: they don’t have to suck. But they can’t be about revenue, has to be storytelling, says @christopherwink  #lowcosttools


The Media Consortium, Assoc Alt News Media story about Plan B approved for OTC use — WordPress site that pulls in past reporting about update


Graphic artist wanted publicity, instead get artist to cover conference and draw a Web comic about a startup event — different way to tell a story and later he became a paid freelancer for themTeresa Gorman ‏@gteresa18 Oct

@christopherwink says – ‘remember what your mission is.’ What does your audience NEED? #lowcosttools

#2 Crowdsourcing — feels like making out with lot of people don’t know

sherylrockin ‏@sherylrockin18 Oct

“Crowd-sourcing can feel like making out with a bunch of people you don’t know”- if you don’t do it right. Key. #ONA13 #lowcosttools


Curating your community, not speaking to.

Embed strategy of tweets, instagram

#MyMadisonDay from Wisconsin paper, use hashtag to talk about their day, putting it together get a taste of the community, compelling look at mundane to interesting, been one of most popular stories

Brian Creech ‏@brcreech18 Oct

Running theme of #ONA13 : pay attention to the people, human stories behind the digital tools. #lowcosttools


Wikipedia is largest crowdsourced site. Have a Wikipedia day and source yourself because it’ll tell stories in new way, why not share what you’ve been doing.


#3 Technology — VCR? 🙂 Doesn’t have to suck or be intimidating. Create interactive infographics. More visual data content



ZooBurst — digital storytelling tool to create 3D pop-up book

Teresa Gorman ‏@gteresa18 Oct

@tiffanyshack says stop just looking at other news orgs for ideas of what to do. Take off the blinders #lowcosttools #ona13


Take off blinders. Look for ideas and tools outside of journalism. Look for ones dedicated to educators. Some are easier than ones for journalists.


Know why you’re trying to tell a story.

Mila Sanina ‏@pgMila18 Oct

. @tiffanyshack thought that there needed to be a pop-up book explaining the #governmentshutdown  #lowcosttools

#4 Staff – Know what they do and use it.

Musicians, artists, infographics

Charleston City Paper — writer is blacksmith, took photos of his friends in crafting community


What about your people didn’t come on the resume?

Paul Berry ‏@pauleberry18 Oct

Flexible staff: Learn what your staff wants to do outside of their roles. This requires getting to know your coworkers. #lowcosttools #ona13

#5 Formats — What is news, anyway?

Ignore limits.


NPR did Today in 1963. Live events that happened 50 years ago. Powerful and compelling experience and cost them nothing. What has happened in your community that you can do?


Annotated guide to 2011 – Washington City Paper

Alphabetized at top, blurbs of what happened, was popular and great way to wrap up year — know what happened in the year in 10 minutes, linked to old stories so use old work

Melody Kramer ‏@mkramer18 Oct

Good way to encapsulate year: annotate it, like @wcp did: … #lowcosttools #ona13

#6 Evergreen — What about content that lasts? It could help with sponsorships!

By the numbers: How the Treasure Valley’s school district adds up

Go through public data and make long list of numbers

Boise, Idaho paper did graphics about school money spent on textbooks, gifted numbers, percent of students who take advanced math classes


The Road

Albemarle County’s three-decade fight over the Western Bypass, Charlottesville, VA bypass

(partnered with small technology shop to do Snowfall-like scrolling page and maps and more)

Sara Clarke ‏@seclarke18 Oct

“Snowfall can suck it.” – @tiffanyshack at #lowcosttools #ONA13


Disclosures are important if you help organize a city council hearing or introduce a weeklong event and then cover it — Baltimore Innovation Week


Long island Press — special report Ripple Effect

cool presentation and storytelling but then no one looked at it, bar listings more popular


Sometimes when you’re trying to do a story on broccoli, it’s just broccoli.

Chris March ‏@marchmcfly18 Oct

#Lowcosttools Takeaway: Failing is okay. If you try something new and no one cares, move on, and try something else. But keep trying #ONA13

cristcarolyn ‏@cristcarolyn18 Oct

Once again, in a #ONA13 session being spammed on Twitter. Good job #lowcosttools.



ONA13 techs me up, I’m zooming through Codecademy

coding, Journalism

The Online News Association 2013 conference in Atlanta really hammered the idea I’ve been thinking for some time — I need to freaking know how to code. So I came home Saturday and immediately started working on Codecademy. I’ve completed the HTML and CSS sections (refreshing what I learned a few years ago) and am now learning Javascript. I even laughed about infinite loops last night and posted about it on Facebook.

See here? Nerd.

javascript laugh

This pairs nicely with my favorite session from ONA — discussing what new story formats are. Are articles considered particles, waves, or things? I even tweeted with David Cohn of during the session. What a way to meet people online!

Here you go:

Optimizing Your Narrative: An Exploration of New Story Formats #evolvingnarratives

10:30 am Friday

(Covered by Carolyn Crist)

Zach Seward – Senior Editor, Quartz

Pablo Mercado – VP of Technology, Vox Media

Trei Brundrett – Chief Product Officer, Vox Media

Alfred Hermida ‏@Hermida18 Oct

Packed room for #evolvingnarratives at #ONA13 with @clockwerks @odacrem and  @zseward

Trei –

Big idea: How do we cover evolving narratives?

Stories are evolving through social and search and are always unfolding.

What type of experience is valuable for users?

Use media to keep people updated as they unfold.

Marena Galluccio ‏@MarenaGalluccio18 Oct

Not important: how we think about it, but rather how we portray and use it #evolvingnarratives #ONA13


And how do we organize content? Topic pages was it for awhile.

Liveblogs for some stories.

Articles. Let’s blow that up.

Martha Kang ‏@Martha_Kang18 Oct

.@clockwerks How do we cover evolving narratives? And what type of experience is valuable for users?  #evolvingnarratives #ONA13


The idea of “StoryStreams”


Pablo –

Particles or waves?

Let’s back up to the 1800s when folks were figuring out the nature of life. There was an idea that light was a particle, but it was then also understood as a wave motion. For a long time, people thought it was one thing, but then it was useful to think about it in other terms. That paradigm shift led to advances, and we’re experiencing a similar shift in news now.


We need to adapt our thinking and our systems to account for this paradigm shift in news.

Phil Tenser ‏@pstenser18 Oct

Attending first formal #ona13 session of my day, #evolvingnarratives. Are stories particles or waves?

dana lacey ‏@danalacey18 Oct

Metaphor! Science accepted that light = particles. Then someone realized it also = waves, opening up massive innovation. #evolvingnarratives



Trei –

Every night is Election Night in the sports department.

–Explosion of social sources

–Rapid acceleration of news cycle

–Social and search discovery

–Increasing mobile consumption

Ariella Monti ‏@AriellaM18 Oct

Every night is Election Night in the Sports Department because something is always happening #evolvingnarratives #ONA13



In the past, AP would write an article and then push out another article. Our blogger mentality was to put an update at the bottom of the post. But we needed a new native format for these.

–Organize around stories and not topics

–Atomic unit of content is not the article

–Reverse chronological is familiar format for blogging

–Quick, in line publishing

–Include search


Kelly Chen ‏@chenkx18 Oct

Organize around stories, not topic because that was the story unforming. People want stories. #evolvingnarratives #ona13


Updates are pushed to you in the app. Launched as StoryStreams in 2009, and Google did Living Stories experiment for a story that keeps evolving. So many companies are trying this. has done this with mobile app chunking, and the workflow is designed to create stories in this way.

Karen Workman ‏@KarenWorkman18 Oct

“So when you come into a story, you find yourself in a stream of content.” — @clockwerks #evolvingnarratives


Workflow questions

When do you create a stream?

Who creates a stream?

Multiple authors in the stream?

Original writing vs. curating

Chienyi Cheri Hung ‏@cyhung18 Oct

news stream – As w/ everything, there are workflow Qs: when? who? multiauthors? Original vs curating? – @odacrem #evolvingnarratives #ona13



Streams for each team on SBNation. Nice to see all of those bloom, about 300 of them.


Pablo –

When trying to deal with new formats and cover stories in a way more like a wave, you have to consider workflow issues.



What order? (Give reader the option to switch it?)

Indication of sequence? Time?

Updates of equal importance?

Brief vs. in-depth

Summarizing current status

Sidebars that tell you where you are in the story? Live updates pop up while you read story?

Sebastian Horn ‏@herrhorn18 Oct

Another big challenge for news streams: how to present and summarize the story to readers who just joined in?  #evolvingnarratives




Everything at one URL?

Updates on individual URLs?

How does Google see this content?

All updates distributed to RSS/Facebook/Twitter?

David Smydra ‏@smydrad18 Oct

“How does Google see this content?” Admittedly, not as cleanly as static articles; but we’re getting better. #evolvingnarratives #ONA13



Zach – Verge (created 2012)

Things. I want to push back and make an argument for particles. There’s a fundamental tension here.

Matt Frehner ‏@mattfrehner18 Oct

Crux of discussion at #evolvingnarratives: what is the atomic unit of a story? The article page, or something more fundamental? #ONA13



There’s no demand for landing pages.

There’s no demand for packages.

There’s no demand for articles.

*May even argue there’s no demand for news.


I don’t think anyone has ever said, “I really love this landing page.”


Rachel Nixon ‏@rachelnixon18 Oct

Controversial… No demand for landing pages, story packages or even possibly articles says @zseward in #evolvingnarratives session #ONA13

Sebastian Horn ‏@herrhorn18 Oct

“Nobody ever says ‘I really love this landing page'” @zseward  #evolvingnarratives



We know the supply side we can do. What about demand?

PEW shows that not long ago people were equally divided between not having a news habit and having news habits at breakfast or checking at their desks at lunch.


The new news habit it no habit at all.

Jesse Rutledge ‏@jesserutledge18 Oct

“The new news habit is no habit at all.” #ONA13 #evolvingnarratives



Push vs. pull media (grab a paper vs get from CNN), how dramatically different news consumption habits have changed in a very short period of time. That forces us to think about things quite differently. When you’re pulling, there’s more room for packages. When pushing, there’s a tendency toward as much atomization as possible and distilling into “things.”


They’re diffuse constellation of sources than anything else.

Split among social media, news sites, direct, search


Things are the grist of the social web

They are the stuff people share: “Hey look at this thing.”

Headline style of “six trends to watch for” and “the chart Tim Cook doesn’t want you to see”

Articles are something that can be passed around and frame them as that.

dana lacey ‏@danalacey18 Oct

Majority of @Qz traffic comes via the side door — social media. #evolvingnarratives #ONA13



Quartz traffic comes from side door — social media

Facebook is most shared news stories — most are satellite photos or Steve Jobs patent interactive, letters by Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs’ sister — visuals, raw statements


NPR piece on inside joke on Arrested Development — flabbergasting in its scope

complete history of Twitter as told through New York Times

Kyle Stokes ‏@kystokes18 Oct

The @nprapps Arrested Development inside jokes viz gets a shout-out at #ona13. Here it is:  #evolvingnarratives



“Thing” is authoritative take on subject — sells you a bit promise, things don’t have to be short but have to be surprising fact, chart, photo, authoritative feature, exclusive bit of news, strong argument, good headline, quip

… Things are always just one thing.

Catherine Cloutier ‏@cmcloutier18 Oct

.@zseward: “Think about articles as something that can be passed around and frame them in that way.” #evolvingnarratives

Chienyi Cheri Hung ‏@cyhung18 Oct

“Things are always just one thing” but it needn’t be short. Could be long narrative too. – @zseward #ONA13  #evolvingnarratives



Trei: When do updates, may write-thru if there were tons of updates that need to be summarized, not worried about duplication. Push new pieces in and summarize if narrative has turned. If wrong, make update to point out that previous was wrong. Leave it there to reference and push out correction.


StoryStream isn’t liveblog in the sense that it doesn’t give full play-by-play and detail.


Zach: Wikipedia is good at updating news events but not a good read until after the fact. You don’t refresh the page and read through it. Pitch as “everything you need to know about xx” or “ultimate explainer of xx” rather than portraying it as a landing page. The technical differences may not be much, but in terms of demand, effect is different.


Zach on Circa: acknowledge they are experimenting, do atomize in chunks but there’s no way to liberate as individual chunks, what can spread is on story or topic level, sense as a user is you see they’ve done more news coverage that feels “thingy” lately because there’s no web component, on web and ways to spread, native app is different and more as a service, makes sense what they’re thinking, at least can’t imagine find solution for native apps works as well on web or vice versa, very different

cristcarolyn ‏@cristcarolyn18 Oct

Yes! Wish they were here to talk. More questions about @Circa at #ONA13 and how they handle atomization of news. #evolvingnarratives

David Cohn ‏@Digidave18 Oct

#evolvingnarratives panel at #ONA13 sounds like circa vocabulary (atomic units of news) getting more acceptance. @Circa narratives evolve.


Thei on Circa: Have talked to them, adding metadata to bits they have, ability to reference them and reconstitute them


Zach: Organize around obsessions. If people follow enough threads, it may make a sweater. We’re never claiming to be whole story (from ethics point of view)

cristcarolyn ‏@cristcarolyn18 OctYou know it’s a good session when #evolvingnarratives #ONA13 starts getting spammed. Good job, guys.

Front page of the Sunday ABH!


This is always fun to find when you didn’t expect it. Georgia Health News published my first class article of this semester, and then thanks to the partnership with the Athens Banner-Herald, I nabbed a front-page Sunday spot as well! Next to the football coverage — not bad.

ABH front page

Check out the story:

When Travis Smith was an undergraduate, he shadowed doctors at health clinics in the Central African nation of Zambia. He saw a need that couldn’t be met.

People lined up for days, waiting to be seen. Mothers held crying babies. Nurses quickly recorded vital signs and asked about symptoms. Sometimes antibiotics were available. Most times, nurses could only console families and urge them to drink clean water, find clean sources of food, and wait.

That was summer 2008. Now Travis plans to study emergency medicine.

Georgia Health News features my primary care story


Meet Travis and Chelsea Smith. It’s Travis’ last year of medical school, and they just got engaged. Hear how they’ve handled the wedding planning.

That’s in the video. Read the story to check out the trend in Georgia (and other states) regarding students choosing specialties. Even though they may not be going into the typical primary care disciplines, they say they’re still helping the primary care doctor shortage.

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 12.25.01 PM

Local paper showcases our health series

Athens, health

And more good news on the publishing front, this time for the whole HMJ class! Starting today, all of our stories about Access to Healthcare Network in Reno and Athens Health Network here in town are running in the Athens Banner-Herald. It’s about time the paper and college worked together to tackle a good series.

The stories all ran in Georgia Health News around May, and now they’re in the paper. Makes me proud. I’m on the front, and Jodi is on the business front, which makes for a great paper for a couple of friends. I grabbed some copies for both of us since Jodi is in Portland right now. I’m already counting down the days until class starts again!

Check it online as well.

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