A graphic novel approach to recount a disaster from 100 years ago

100 years ago last Friday, the passenger ship SS Eastland rolled over while tied to a dock in the Chicago River.


The Eastland was to take Western Electric employees and their families to a company picnic across Lake Michigan. Already a topheavy vessel, the ship was loaded with 2,500 passengers shifting around on deck. The ship rolled over, drowning passengers mere feet away from the dock.

844 people were killed, including 22 entire families.

Rick Tuma and Ryan Marx of the Chicago Tribune teamed up to present the story in graphic novel style, done digitally with parallax scrolling — inaccurately but admittedly better known as Snowfall-style web design.


While the page itself scrolls downward with the story, Rick’s drawings themselves are static. And beautifully rendered.


Rick writes in the presentation’s credits page:

Many of the details of the Eastland disaster have been lost to time. Accounts and news reports in the immediate aftermath of the event — many by this newspaper — were conflicting and, at times, not accurate.

From storyboarding to the final illustrations, I have made every effort to be as faithful as possible to what has been verified or reasonably believed to be true. The scale of everything I’ve drawn is estimated, and the visual depictions of most characters are not based on real people on the boat.


The illustrations are pencil on smooth Strathmore 2-ply bristol. Pencils ranged from 3B through 6B, but the 4B did most of the work. I love using pencil because it drops extra steps from the process — a very good thing when you have tight news deadlines — and makes it easier to retain the energy of initial sketches. Carefully boosting the contrast in Phototshop gives the drawings a brush and ink appearance.


Rick writes that he chose to keep the color palette for the project low key. He took a cue from the Chicago River itself, using only two blue-greens, two yellow-greens and one grey brown.

He writes:

Choosing a limited palette gave me the freedom to maintain areas of clean white, something of which I am fond. Not every face needed color; buildings could be white and the sky light green.


Midway through the coloring stage, I started to believe the panels needed one more color to tie the illustrations together. Recalling initial brainstorming sessions where one proposal was to create a soft water-stained background, I knew what to do: ‘age’ the edges of the panels with yellow. Risking a somewhat cliche solution, we are very pleased with the results.


In addition, Rick was kind enough to answer a few questions for us:

Q. How long ago did you and Ryan begin working on this project?

A. Ryan and I began looking for a second narrative to develop soon after we published the Harsh Treatment graphic essay.

There were three major graphic components to the Tribune‘s enormous Harsh Treatment project:

1. In Her Words


2. …Unsafe Haven, and…


3. …Fight and Flight.


Click on any of the links to see the pieces.

Rick continues:

Harsh Treatment was a visual companion to hard hitting investigative reporting. With Eastland Disaster we were considering a enterprise project that might stand on its own.

Harsh Treatment wrapped up late November and Eastland Disaster was born early December 2014.

Q. How much time do you suppose you put into it?

A. Start to finish, seven months.

Anyone in news will realize that there’s no way we had the entire seven months to work exclusively on this new project! In fact, progress was so stop and start that Graphics editors Jonathon Berlin and Ryan Marx made the determination to dedicate June and July to exclusively working on Eastland.

Q. Did you write it first and then do the artwork (screenplay style)? Or did you develop the visuals and then write around them (Marvel comics style)?

A. Having learned a few things with the first narrative I broke the project into stages.

First stage was a no-brainer: research. As I gained greater knowledge of the event I began to move into the second stage: note-taking and doodling in a spiral bound 9″ x 12″ sketch book.

Stage three was my storyboard. Some false starts in the beginning, but I soon had a story.

Eastland graphic essay story boards

I’m pretty sure that the story formed during my story board penciling. I can’t find a serious outline in my sketch book. Each panel led into the next until everything was said.

Q. Was this assigned to you, or did you pitch the idea? (And if you pitched it — was it hard to sell?)

A. I guess I’ve mostly answered this in number one.

Gathering a consensus to move forward required a good hard look at value for the time required. We discovered that the disaster was approaching its first centennial and found out that Metro and photo were planning coverage, so that helped.

Regardless, the project was a risk. Even after we began the enterprise, there was still concern over its value.

Q. What advice can you give a young artist who wants to try this at their own newspaper?

A. These require intense amounts of work! I would encourage the artist to be absolutely certain that she or he has chosen a topic that their skills can handle.

In my case, for example, I love to draw people. My excitement cools a bit when I have to draw machines and buildings. Someone else might struggle to make their people drawings look confident but totally score a win drawing machines and/or buildings. Choose a topic that plays to your strengths.

If you are going to make thirty, forty, or one hundreds illustrated panels you’d better attempt something you love.

Determine what this is going to look like. This can be choices like realistic drawings vs. loose styles. Black and white panels or color-added? How will it be published? Print or only online?

Ours began as online only, but we were asked to make a version for print. That required a ‘Reader’s Digest’ style, condensed version, removing half the panels.


In addition to retelling the basic story of what happened that day, Rick also spent some of his time focusing in on one family: The Aanstads. Here, mom has a premonition that something bad could happen onboard the ship.


As disaster strikes and the ship rolls over, Mom, Dad and their two little girls cling for life to a railing.


And there they stay until help comes.


Rick and Ryan also mention the oldest living survivor of the wreck…


…and go into detail about how, over the course of days, bodies were recovered from the Eastland and taken to a makeshift morgue.


Yes, that really happened. What’s more: The site of that morgue is now Harpo Studios: Oprah Winfrey’s TV production facility.


Rick wrote on the credits page:

I could not have anticipated how deeply this story has affected me. Sadness and sorrow frequently ambushed me during research and even as I was drawing. I rarely walk past the corner of Wacker Drive and Clark Street without being haunted by the tragedy and courage of the Eastland passengers.

Find the Tribune‘s retelling of the Eastland disaster here.

A graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Rick Tuma has worked for the Tribune since 1983.


A couple of years ago, Rick walked us through how he created wonderful business-page portraits on deadline.

Rick also runs a free-lance studio on the side. Find his web site here and his Twitter feed here.


A 2002 graduate of Lawrence University, Ryan Marx spent two-and-a-half years as presentation editor of the News-Enterprise of Elizabethtown, Ky., and then five-and-a-half years at the Times of Northwest Indiana in Munster — first as display editor and then as graphics editor.

He moved to the Tribune in 2010 as business graphics coordinator and was named assistant graphics editor in 2013.

Average daily circulation of the Chicago Tribune is 414,590.

Behind that cool illustration afront Sunday’s KC Star

Charles Gooch, A1 designer for the Kansas City Star, took time Sunday to tell us about his paper’s big presentation on domestic terrorism.

He tells us:

I really liked the way that the whole package came together.

The story itself was a nearly year-long enterprise project by Judy Thomas that started after a tragic shooting spree at the Johnson County Jewish Community Center by white supremacist F. Glenn Miller in 2014.

Sunday was day one of the series (it will conclude next Sunday) and dealt mainly with how, 20 years after the Oklahoma City bombings, federal authorities have failed to prevent recent attacks from domestic extremists and how the threat from those sort of attacks is growing.

The cover itself came out of a series of sketches by the great Hector Casanova, who singled in on the concept of terror groups “metastasizing” inside of the U.S. like cancer cells would inside of a person.


The concept of his watercolor illo of blue and red cells making up an American flag growing and fighting paired well with the project title “Ignoring the terror within.”

As for the page itself, Mike Fannin (our editor) and Greg Branson (AME of presentation and innovation) had been planning on going big with this from the beginning. (After all, the story and its sidebars fill five full inside pages.)

Once Hector’s illustration started coming together, we realized that we’d need the entire width of our page (and most of the depth) to do it justice. The scope and feel of the page (and inside as well) is definitely a departure from our norm. We felt it was a story that commanded the attention of the readers and deserved a visual approach that could push that idea forward.

Here are the inside jump pages 16 and 17. Click for a larger, readable view:


Here are pages 18 and 19:


Page 20 shows the 52 people killed by domestic terrorism in the U.S. since 9/11.


As the intro copy notes, this does not include victims of the Boston bombings or the shootings at Fort Hood. The FBI does not consider “copycat” incidents such as these to be true terrorism.

Charles adds:

In addition to the print component, there’s also a very nice digital build that was put together by our programmer Jay Pilgreen.


A 1998 graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, Hector Casanova spent six years as an artist for the Star. He left in 2005 to work as a comics artist, an art gallery director and an instructor at his alma mater.

He returned to the Star in 2008 but continued to handle freelance assignments for clients such as Sprint, Andrews & McNeel, Scholastic Books, MTV and Coca-Cola.

Hector has drawn two graphic novels: The Lurkers (in 2006 with writer Steve Niles) and Screamland (in 2008 with writer Harold Sipe).

A few samples of his work from my collection:





Find Hector’s portfolio site here and his Facebook fan page here. Find an extensive Q&A with him here.

Average daily circulation for the Kansas City Star is 200,365.

Erica Smith named digital news editor of the Virginian-Pilot

Longtime Midwest-based print and digital journalist Erica Smith is moving to the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va.


She tells us:

The digital news editor (that’s me!) is going to help push the Pilot from being an excellent newspaper to being an excellent media company. That means we’re going to be trying some new things online.

She starts April 27, she says.

A 1999 graduate of Northwest Missouri State University, Erica spent three years as a designer for the Times of Munster, Ind., before moving to the News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., for a year. She returned to Munster as design editor in 2004 and moved to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a news designer in 2006. She slid over to the interactive side in 2008 as a multimedia producer and then was named social media editor in 2010.

She left newspapers in 2012 to become “curator in chief” for Infuz, a digital marketing agency in St. Louis. She moved to Real Time STL in 2013 and then to her current position last summer as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio.

Erica has run a number of other sites, too. Among them:

  • Paper Cuts, which tracks the number and locations of newspaper layoffs across the U.S.
  • The Story of Man, where she collects headlines that say “man did this” or “man does that.” Funny stuff.
  • Live & Kern, a general interest blog. “Wisdom and whimsy in generous doses,” she calls it.

Find her personal web site here and her Twitter feed here.

Behind the Washington Post’s fun NCAA emoji page

The Bracket Monday page that seemed to create the most buzz yesterday — and deservedly so — was this one masterminded by Dan Worthington of the Washington Post.


Click that for a much larger look.

Dan wrote Monday via Facebook that he…

…spent an unhealthy amount of time with emoji in my life after Brian Gross said [back in January] “what about emoji?” for our NCAA special section.

Found an amazing illustrator in Julia Heffernan who has a special talent for creating emoji. Cover design and art direction was me. Headline by David Larimer.

Those little emoji icons are cute as can be. Spend some time with them and you’ll find some you love.

One of my favorites is the Alabama-Birmingham Dragon…


…although I might argue the Iowa State Cy looks an awful lot like the Louisville Cardinal.


You gotta love that UC Irvine Anteater, though. Zot!

The Duke University Dookie sure looks as if he’s up to something, doesn’t he?


Also, the Oregon Duck made me smile…


…as did the all-feline Villanova vs. Lafayette matchup…


…and the canines vs. felines N.C. State vs. LSU bracket.


Wonderful illustrations, made even better by the Post‘s eagerness to give them away so fans could add them to their text messages, social media feeds and whatnot.



And if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, you’ll find the “bubble” teams that had emojis drawn up but then didn’t find their way into the tournament.


Hey, why let perfectly good emojis go to waste, right?

Find the entire set here.

Naturally, the presentation had its naysayers. Indiana fans, in particular, seemed displeased with the emoji that represented their team — as you see here, reported by the Indianapolis Star.


That’s supposed to be a basketball fan with her face painted for a game. Indiana fans complained about the rendering. Never mind no one seems able to explain just what is a “Hoosier” in the first place.

When I think of Indiana basketball, I think of chairs being flung onto the court. But that’s why the Post didn’t hire me to draw the emojis.

The wonderfully talented artist who did draw the icons — as Dan mentioned — is New York-based illustrator Julia Heffernan. Here’s a self-portrait, drawn in emoji style.


Julia specializes in emoji art. Here are a few examples of her work.


Naturally, she does other types of illustration as well:




Julia seemed delighted to get a byline on the front of Monday’s sports front.


Find her web site here, her blog here and her Twitter feed here.

A graduate of Western Illinois University, Dan Worthington spent a year-and-a-half as assistant sports editor of the Daily Review Atlas of Monmouth, Ill. before moving to the Beaufort (S.C.) Gazette and the (Hilton Head) Island Packet in 2008.


He moved to a sports design position with the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., in 2009 and was promoted to assistant sports editor a year later. He moved to the Post in 2013.

A few samples of his work:



1403DanWorthingtonNuSample01   1403DanWorthingtonNuSample04



Find Dan’s web site here, his YouTube channel here and his Twitter feed here.

A collection of newspaper tributes to Leonard Nimoy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this weekend, then you’ve probably heard that Leonard Nimoy — the actor who played the iconic science fiction character of Mr. Spock on Star Trek — died. He was 83.

Nimoy was originally from Boston and it reportedly took him years to ditch his Bahhstahhn accent. Astronaut Terry Virts tweeted this little tribute from the International Space Station — high above Boston on Saturday.


That, of course, is the Vulcan hand salute, typically used when one wishes another to “live long and prosper.”

I spent this past week in Fargo, N.D., where I taught staffers of the Forum newspaper company. Among the topics we talked about were ways to have fun with skyboxes and when to alter the paper’s nameplate. After my week was over and I returned to my hotel Friday night, I nearly fell out of my chair when I spotted this little gem on Twitter.


Sure enough, that was the Forum’s nameplate Saturday. Outstanding.

Several papers paid homage to Nimoy Saturday or today. Most looked rather like this one, on teh front of Saturday’s Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader.


The Associated Press moved that portrait of Nimoy, shot just a few years ago before his health began to fall off. Note the secondary photo of Nimoy, shot during an appearance at Eastern Kentucky University in 1978, around the time the first Star Trek movie was being made.

Also, note the downpage interview with Walter Koening, who played Star Trek‘s Ensign Chekov,

My favorite front page of the day was this one by the Hartford Courant.


That is essentially a centerpiece promo to a story inside. But it was clearly assembled by someone who had a lot of love for Nimoy and for Star Trek.

The Staten Island Advance led Saturday’s front page with a collection of ten “pithy sayings” from Nimoy’s character.


Here’s a closer look:


The folks in Pensacola, Fla., received the benefit of some great timing: There was a comic book/scifi convention in town this weekend. Sending someone to poll the folks there about the loss of Nimoy was a no-brainer.


My friends at the Villages Daily Sun in Florida went out and asked locals about Nimoy and Spock.


It’s great if you have a science fiction crowd in town. But this proves you didn’t really need one. Nearly everyone loved Star Trek and Mr. Spock.

The two major New York City tabloids were regional twins yesterday. The Daily News used that AP portrait with a rather obvious “Beam me up” headline….


…while the New York Post wrote a similar headline but stuck with a vintage 50-year-old photo from the original TV series.


My former colleagues at the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif., pushed back whatever they had planned for Sunday’s Focus page and spent their Friday putting together this nice page on the career of Leonard Nimoy.


Jeff Goertzen and Kurt Snibbe get brownie points for pulling out a picture of Nimoy singing. Ugh!


Kurt drew this little bit down the right side of the page showing three seemingly mystical aspects — or abilities — of the Spock character.


The Los Angeles Times Saturday led page one with a fairly recent portrait of Nimoy — shot through a window, for some reason — and a very nice obit.


I didn’t quite understand the little graphic at the bottom of the package, though. Here’s that same little graphic, from the web site.


This turned out to be a little refer to a fun online listing of all of Nimoy’s onscreen appearances as Spock, created by Javier Zarracina. There’s a little icon of Spock for every episode in which he appeared.


Mouse over each to find out what episode it was and when it was broadcast.

As you continue to scroll down, you see variations in Spock’s wardrobe for the odd episode here and there — like, for instance, the dungarees and stocking cap he wore when he and Kirk visited Earth in the 1930s in the episode City on the Edge of Forever (upper right). Or his fighting stance in Amok Time (second row, second from left). Or the “evil” alternate-universe Spock from Mirror, Mirror (second row, far right).


The little figures are animated, which is guaranteed to make you smile. Especially the Amok Time figure.

As you scroll to the early 1970s, you find icons for the animated Star Trek series from that era…


…and then the Star Trek movie series, which debuted my last year in high school.


Here, you see the final original Star Trek movie in which Spock appeared, his two appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation and then his surprise appearance in the Star Trek reboot movie in 2009. Note the 18-year time gap.


I didn’t quite understand the little figure in 2012 until I read up on it: That year, Nimoy voiced a vintage Spock action figure in an episode of Big Bang Theory.

Fun, fun stuff. Go here to see it for yourself.

And then there’s this fine tribute to Nimoy by the Washington Post — which I would have never seen had it not been for my monitoring Twitter during my travel layover Saturday at O’Hare.

First, there’s this great headline atop the job of Nimoy’s obit in Saturday’s paper.


But the truly outstanding part was this fabulous illustration on the front of Saturday’s Style section.


That was created by London-based freelance illustrator Noma Bar.

Noma writes, on his web site:

I am after maximum communication with minimum elements.


Right. Well, he certainly pulled it off with this Spock piece.


Find Noma’s Twitter feed here.

A look at the Washington Post’s ‘N-word’ presentation

In case you missed it: The Washington Post‘s page-one centerpiece Monday was on a certain racial slur you’ve all heard.

Click this for a larger view.


Design director Greg Manifold tells us:

Emmet Smith worked with illustrator Craig Ward on the A1 piece. We had a pair of pair of concepts from Craig – as well as a strong in-house version – but all agreed on the one that appeared on A-1.

That second concept from Craig may be this one he posted on his web site:


Craig is a prolific freelancer. In addition to the Post, he’s worked for Nike, MTV, Calvin Klein, Macy’s, Sony/BMG, the NFL, the Economist, the Guardian, Wired, GQ, Maxim and the New York Times Magazine. Find his portfolio here.

Greg was particularly complimentary of the video-driven online version of the story. According to the intro:

After the National Football League made the controversial decision to ban [the N-word] on the field this year, a team of Washington Post journalists explored the history of the word, its evolution and its place in American vernacular today.

When you first open the story, you see a brief video prelude of the subjects of the story preparing to hold their conversations.


You’re then presented with four commonly heard viewpoints on the slur in question.


You’re asked to pick three of the four. The site then pieces together segments of video to give you a somewhat customized experience.


It’s a lot like those “choose your adventure” children’s books. Except with real, live meaningful content.


Interesting stuff. Find it here.

That front page is from the Newseum. Of course.

A look at Fort Lauderdale’s story about a NASCAR racing medical student

Rachel Schallom of the South Florida Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale writes…

I wanted to let you know about a project we published [Sunday]…

Driven is the story of a 24-year-old man from South Florida who graduated from Harvard and is now in medical school at the University of Miami. In January, he decided to take a year off of medical school to chase his dream of being a NASCAR driver.


Local columnist Michael Mayo and photographer and videographer Mike Stocker told his story beautifully.

The story started with this expanded centerpiece tease on page one.


Click this — or any other page here — for a larger look.

Rachel continues:

We requested six additional pages in the A section. Design director David Schutz thought ahead and knew it would be unlikely we would get consecutive color pages so he proposed we do the print pages as a black and white package. To be honest, I was hesitant, but it turned out really nicely.

The package picks up on pages 14 and 15…


…pages 16 and 17…


…and concludes on pages 18 and 19.


Of his seven starts since last August, five have resulted in top-ten finishes. This includes a win in Irwindale, Calif. — just east of Pasadena — in March.


Rachel tells us:

Online, we complemented the story with a 30-minute documentary by videographer Mike Stocker and video editor Sarah Dussault.


I handled the web design and development. We wanted to capture the motion and excitement of NASCAR. This is the first time we’ve implemented HTML5 video.


Find the online version here.

Average daily circulation for the Sun Sentinel is 147,860.

The Boston Globe’s Chiqui Esteban on everything from mouseovers to responsive design

Over the holiday weekend, Jonathon Berlin of the Chicago Tribune and the Society for News Design posted a nice Q&A with Chiqui Esteban, graphics director of the Boston Globe, about the interactive work the Globe has been doing lately.

An excerpt:

Alexa McMahon, our BostonGlobe.com Arts producer told me the new issue of the “Most Stylish Bostonians,” a yearly special section, was coming together and she was wondering if we could do something for the site to present the featured people. I started thinking about what we could do, since there is not much information common to all and the only important thing was how they dressed and who they were.

Talking with Alexa she told me that the photo shoot was yet do be done, so if I needed something from it, I could ask for it. So that’s when I had the idea. We asked our great photographer Dina Rudick to take at least two photographs of each of the “awarded” Bostonians.
One posing and the other doing something crazy like jumping, raising a hand.


The photos she got were just what we needed and much of the good of this graphic comes from that amazing work. After that, the execution was easy.

Q. Talk a little about how you think about that type of interactive project in a responsive sense. I was wondering what would happen and I chuckled when I narrowed the browser and the people nudged over. Elegant solution!




A. Working responsive means that many times we work with groups of blocks that stack in different ways depending on the width. In this case that was even easier, because each person was a different block that could work individually, so we can stack them and break them wherever we considered it was necessary.

Find the entire Q&A here.

A 2002 graduate of the Universidad de Navarra, Chiqui worked at el Mundo, la Voz de Galicia, Diario de Cádiz and Publico.


In 2009, he founded de Nuevas Narrativas for LaInformacion in Madrid, Spain, which he went on to direct for three years. He moved to the Globe in 2012 and was promoted to his current position in November.

Chiqui also blogs about news graphics. Find his web site here and his Twitter feed here.

A great way of showing the depth of the oceans

Surely you’ve seen it by now: The fabulous online scrolling graphic by the Washington Post illustrating the depth of the sea where they think that Malaysian Flight MH370 went down.

The graphic — by the Post‘s Richard Johnson and Ben Chartoff — starts out by comparing the sizes of Flight MH370 — a standard Boeing 777-200 and the ship that’s towing a device searching for “pings” from the black box.


Using that same scale, the graphic then scrolls down, past the deepest point where sea creatures can be found and past the inverted depth of the world’s tallest buildings…


…past the depth reached by the pinger location device…


…and so on.


You get the idea. The depth of the sea floor in this case is just shy of three miles. Much deeper than the Titanic wreckage.

We’ve all seen these tall, scrolling graphics. Many of them are awfully gimmicky — essentially, clickbait to keep you scrolling in order to see more ads.

Not this one. The virtually unlimited depth offered by the web environment plays well with the subject matter. And it works just as well on your phone. Go check it out.

Full disclosure: I saw this Wednesday, loved it and tweeted it. But so many blog readers pointed it out to me over the course of the day that I decided I really should have written about it here. So here I am, a day later.

Side note No. 2: This WaPo piece reminds me a lot of a similar piece I praised three-and-a-half years ago by Karl Tate, formerly of the Associated Press and now with Space.com. Karl’s graphic explained in detail the depth of the sky: The different layers of our atmosphere and how the air gets thinner as you go up. Or thicker as you go down.


Find that piece here.

Washington Post’s Yuri Victor to join Ezra Klein’s new Project X

Yuri Victor, director of user experience at the Washington Post, is leaving newspapers to work on new media guru + policy wonk Ezra Klein‘s new project.


Yuri tweets this morning:


Vox Media owns such news outlets as the Verge, Eater, Racked and SB Nation.

I had no idea what Project X is, but that’s because I’m a little behind in reading the trade sites. When I asked him, Yuri helpfully sent me a link to this New York magazine article.

Wonkblog creator Ezra Klein left the WaPo a few weeks ago to start a new venture. Project X is what they’re calling it now. Klein has been hiring folks to work with him, including a number of ex-Post folks. Find a public Twitter feed here about it.

A 2005 graduate of Purdue University, Yuri served as editor-in-chief of the school’s student newspaper, the Exponent. He spent three years as an online editor for the Times of Munster, Ind., before becoming Product Design and Development Manager for Gannett corporate in McLean, Va. He moved to San Diego in 2010 to become the Union-Tribune‘s product design and development manager. He moved again to the Post in 2011.

Find Yuri’s web site here and his Twitter feed here.

Indianapolis Star hopes to #ShareTheLove with internet critics

Here’s the coolest idea I’ve seen this week…

The folks at the Indianapolis Star have taken a cue from Jimmy Kimmel‘s “Mean Tweets” segments and had staffers read some of the mean-spirited — and, sometimes, just foul-mouthed — feedback they get from readers.

Among the staffers included are investigative reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski


…columnist Matthew Tully, who got his journalism credentials from a box of Cracker Jack…


…columnist Erica D. Smith


…editorial cartoonist Gary Varvel


…and former designer Cori Faklaris, who was named the Star‘s network editor a year or so ago.


Funny stuff.

The Star is attempting to turn kindness on the interwebs into a mini-meme this week. according to an unbylined story accompanying the video:

Think no one reads the mean, personal comments some people write on www.indystar.com? Believe it or not, real people are on the other side of the screen. Yet we know these kind of comments come with the territory of working at IndyStar.

Do they need to come with the territory for readers who only want to engage in meaningful, civil conversation online?

The story goes on to make this pitch:

What would the Internet be like if everyone behaved online as they do in real life? If the bravery to be a digital jerk disappeared and we treated others as we’d treat strangers in real life? (Yes, we know there are real-life jerks, too).

So we’re going to stop asking “what if” — and do something about it.


And we’re asking you to join us. Please help us #ShareTheLove online during the week of Feb. 9 through Feb. 15.

So, what’s the reaction been like? The Star‘s engagement and utility content manager Amy Bartner tells us:

Overall, it’s been great.

Our engagement and digital team spends a lot of time and energy interacting with the online community, so we knew there’d be some inevitable negativity. But that also means we know how valuable the positive comments are, as well. The campaign made it to BuzzFeed, USA Today and several local media folks in the city have helped share the message, as well.

There’s a collective feeling of, yeah, something has to happen to create a more civil environment. I wasn’t expecting so many people to feel the way we do about that — which just tells me that it’s time to for a culture change.

Go here to read the Indy Star’s story about the campaign.

And if you’ve never seen Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” segments, say goodbye to the next half-hour or so. Because you must see these:

Boston Herald’s Evelyn Lau moves to Abu Dhabi

From the other side of the planet, Evelyn Lau — for the past two-and-a-half years, a web editor for the Boston Herald — tells us she’s now…

…a features web editor for The National, an English language newspaper in Abu Dhabi!


A 2010 graduate of the University of Iowa, Evelyn worked as a sports talk show host for the campus radio station and assistant sports editor for the student newspaper. She served an internship with Athlete Interactive, where she created content to go on personal web sites of professional athletes.

After graduation, she worked a while as a substitute teacher before starting work for the Herald in 2011.

She tells us:

I left the Herald on Friday the 1st, got to Abu Dhabi Friday the 8th and I started the 9th. It’s been very crazy but sometimes with things like this, it’s almost better to not have too much time to think.

She even had time to go out and do a little exploring Saturday…


…especially at, y’know, the mall.


Find Evelyn’s Twitter feed here.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight looking to hire data visualization specialists

Don’t look now, but Nate Silver and company over at FiveThirtyEight are looking to hire a visual journalists to work in their New York newsroom.


Actually, they’re looking for what they call visual journalists and computational journalists. Different positions, actually.

The former is someone who’ll work in graphics, interactive and whatnot. They need someone who can work with the usual web presentation tools.

The latter…

…will create interactive features, models, and systems that collect, process and present real-time data and predictions about sports, politics, economics, science and lifestyle topics.

We’re looking for candidates with extensive practice building web applications. Candidates should be full-stack programmers, with experience using:

  • modern programming languages including Python, Ruby and Javascript
  • web frameworks such as Rails, Django or node.js
  • relational and document-based data stores like MySQL, Postgres or MongoDB

Hell, I don’t even know what most of that means.

A lot of you do, however. So follow the link, read the want-ad and get your applications in soon.

Inside the Boston Globe’s illustrated profile of the Tsarnaev brothers

Sunday, the Boston Globe published an epic eight-page special section that examined the lives, troubles and downfall of Tamerlan and Dzhoklar Tsarnaev, the two young men who are accused of bombing the Boston Marathon last April.

The former, you might recall, was shot dead by police and then run over by his younger brother in a chase a few days after the bombing. The latter is in custody and awaiting trial.

The Globe spent five months investigating the brothers both in the Boston area and back in the Russian republic of Dagestan. The story was written by staffers Sally Jacobs, David Filipov and Patricia Wen.

The Globe started its two stories on the front, beneath a family portrait illustrated by freelancer Josie Jammet.


Click that — or any page here today — for a larger look.

The presentation was designed by assistant managing editor Dan Zedek. This was the front of section V, where the jumps of the stories were presented.


Pages two and three reply mostly on pictures taken in Dagestan.


Pages four and five are led by more illustrations.


Notice the little silhouettes of the brothers, used in quote boxes here.

Page six, below left, wraps up the section on Tamerlan Tsarnaev.


Page seven, above right, is the first of two full pages on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Here’s page eight, the back page of the section.


Dan urges us all to check out the online version, which was not put behind the paywall this time:

Very cool online version, too, design and development by Elaiana Natario and Gabriel Florit.


The story is a fabulous read, of course, so I recommend it strongly.

Remember the little silhouettes? For the online version, they become a navigation tool — a way of leaping between the two parallel stories of the two brothers. Note the tiny strip across the top here.


I have to admit, though, now that I’ve taken the time to read that online version, that I don’t quite understand the backlash against the online presentation — an backlash that was documented in a Storify Sunday and Monday by Mindy McAdams.

Here’s a brief excerpt:


I told Dan:

I saw the big storified debate on that presentation today and made a mental note to go check it out when I have time.

I’ve probably read a good dozen or so “Snowfall”-like online stories and only a couple have been distracting to me. Plus, I suspect they play better on an iPad than they do on a laptop.

So, what do you think? At what point, does the “Snowfall” approach distract from the story?

What kind of feedback are you getting?

Dan replied:

Mostly positive feedback so far.

I couldn’t agree more about the distraction problem. That’s the why the Twitter chatter was so puzzling: you’ll see that ours is way simpler than most. Nothing moves unless you tell it to move (words to live by!)

Take a look and tell me what you think. It’s a long story, but pretty incredible job of reporting here and in Dagestan, I think.

I agree: While the story does have an extended vertical scroll, there is no parallax scrolling, there are no moving images or embedded video or interactives.

This really isn’t a “Snowfall”-like presentation at all, as far as I can tell.


Seems like good, old-fashioned storytelling to me. So I’m baffled by the backlash. Did Ms. Moore read the same story that I read? What am I missing?

Find the story online here.

Inside the Tampa Bay Times’ lavishly-illustrated ‘Last Voyage of the Bounty’ series

No, this was not about paper towels.

Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times of St. Petersburg gives us the story behind a special project his paper published a few weeks ago:

The Times recently wrapped up publishing The Last Voyage of the Bounty, Michael Kruse’s amazing recounting of (spoiler alert!) the sinking of the storied tall ship (the very ship in Mutiny on the Bounty and Pirates of the Caribbean).


This three-part series was a project months in the making, going all the way back to February, which is when hearings about the sinking were held.

This summer, our online team of senior designer Lee Glynn and intern Alex Sanchez (who graduated from Northwestern in June) set out to build an immersive experience that would weave together story, illustration, photography and video. During the early stages of story drafting, they met with Kruse, editor Bill Duryea, artist Don Morris and photographer/videographer Maurice Rivenbark to create an outline and establish deadlines.

Lee says:

We created what I termed a “parallel story/media flow” – side by side tracks of a story outline, identifying the key moments in the narrative where there would be illustrations, videos and graphics needed.


To tell this story this way, it was important that we were all on the same page – one script for everyone. We all needed to be looking at this as an integrated story – videos were to be like a paragraph in the story, illustrations were to be like glimpses on the pages of that critical moment in a great nautical adventure book. And because there were no surviving documentary photos of the voyage, illustrations were key to bringing to life the dynamics of the story.


We would have a final documentary-style video, but the inline videos were not to be “standalone.” They would be “quotes” or “voices” that complemented, explained and illustrated specific moments in the story…


…graphics would be updates on where the ship stood against the storm at that moment in the narrative, catalogs of how things were breaking down as conditions worsened.


Ideally, none of it was just repeating the story.

And most importantly, we were not going to do things just because we could. We wanted the story to drive the experience. The media was not to distract but to help tell the story.

Immersive, but not intrusive.

The mobile presentation was a top priority for our online team, and it worked tirelessly to ensure the experience translated to phones and tablets.

Lee says:

As we went along, the responsiveness of every element had to be considered – is this something that would size down well, at which point would it no longer be effective, does this make sense for someone on a phone?


Then, via media queries and detecting user agents, we tried to serve the best they could for the majority of users on each platform. It is not perfect, but we hope it adapts fairly for most viewers.


Load speed was a concern, naturally, but then this type of media-rich experience is a commitment both for the producers and for the viewers. We sized down images…


…and trimmed the code at various points but also conceded (and hoped) that most folks invested in going through a presentation this immersive would not expect it to load in -0.2 seconds.

Thomas picks up the story again:

While our online presentation spectacularly integrated volumes of material, we sought to give the print version its own distinctive design. We had lots of great material to consider, but we chose to use Don’s illustrations almost exclusively.

Here’s the wraparound cover that kicked off the print version on Sunday, Oct. 27. Click this — or any other pages here — for a much larger view.


Thomas tells us:

Don began illustrating in August and ultimately drew more than 50 pieces for the series.

The roster page is the only photograph we used of the Bounty in print. Don’s art (and Lee and Alex’s diagrams) take it from there.

On the left, here, is page two, the roster page. On the right is page three, Don’s inner cover for Part One.


Thomas writes:

As you move through the story in print, you paint your own picture of what the crew is like, what the ship is like, what the storm is like, and we wanted to protect that.

Here are pages four and five, the center spread of the section.


Don’s artwork painted just enough of the drama to guide your imagination without sacrificing mystery.

Here are pages six and seven…


…and pages eight and nine.


Part Two inserted Wednesday, Oct. 30. Here is Don’s cover.


Thomas tells us:

The roster returns on page two [below, left] but is scaled back significantly.


The diagram on page three [above, right] catches the reader up on the Bounty’s mounting troubles.

Here are pages four and five…


…and page six.


The following Sunday, Nov. 3, Part Three was another ten-page section with another wraparound cover.


Here are pages two and three.


Note the watercolor map on page three that shows where the Bounty went down.


As you can see, pages four and five focused on the rescue effort.


Here are pages six and seven.


And the final pages, eight and nine.


Thomas tells us:

The series concludes with an illustration of Bounty as many will remember her.


Thomas adds:

And a hat tip to our copy editors Donna Richter, Ron Brackett and Ian Vazquez. Their top-notch work saves us every day.

Find the TimesLast Voyage of the Bounty here.

Syracuse Post-Standard celebrates the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’

This coming Saturday — Nov. 23 — is the 50th anniversary of the debut British science fiction TV show Doctor Who.

Yes, the show aired its first episode the day after President John F. Kennedy was killed.

Initially, the program — about a crusading alien in a goofy blue space-and-time machine that’s bigger on the inside than on the outside —  was a children’s show. It darkened soon enough, though. British lore is that kids loved to watch Doctor Who… but from behind the sofa.


After going through seven lead actors, the program was canceled in 1989 because of low ratings. America’s Fox network attempted a revival in 1995 with a made-for-TV movie, but it wasn’t a big hit on this side of the pond, either.

In 2005, the BBC revived the show in its natural environment — English telly — with a heavy emphasis on top-notch writing, top-notch acting and top-notch special effects. Which hadn’t always been the case over the decades. As a result, the show is now more popular than ever.

The current actor in the role — Matt Smith, above right — is the 11th Doctor. Not to give away any spoilers, though, we might just need a recount. Heh.

The BBC and BBC America will simulcast a special 50th anniversary episode Saturday. That same episode, augmented with 3D, will be shown “in selected theaters” nationwide.

With that introduction out of the way… now, meet Susan Santola of the Syracuse, N.Y., Post-Standard.


A graduate of Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, Susan has worked as an artist and designer for the Post-Standard for 29 years.

Susan tells us:

I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. My license plate is 63TARDIS…

…1963 being the year the show launched…

…so I knew I wanted to do something special for the anniversary for both the paper and the website.

I don’t get to do much illustration anymore, so I also knew I wanted to draw the Doctor and not use standard promotional stills. I decided I’d do a primer for the new fans in the paper and a quiz for the true Whovians online, something for both ends of the spectrum.

Here’s the online version of Susan’s graphic:


To simplify things, I broke down the graphic into what I thought were the major parts of “Who” that a beginner would need to know. Then simplified more; top 3 monsters, top companions, major facts about the Doctor and TARDIS. Sorry, no Weeping Angels or Amy Pond.

After reading my finished graphic a couple of times, I realized I had put in something about Rose that would ruin a great moment for someone new to Doctor Who. So, I looked it over again and took out a couple more spoilers.

The online version links to a quiz — which, frankly, was pretty difficult. I scored only a 55. Susan assures me that’s not so bad, but I suspect she’s only being nice.

Go take the quiz yourself here.

Here’s the print version.


The quiz was just a matter of having fun trying to find a bunch of really obscure things that show up in the shows, things you remember hearing or seeing but are just on the tip of your tongue or in the corner of your eye, as the Doctor would say.

After this whole thing, I can definitely say I know a lot more about Doctor Who, but I need to go back and watch more of the classic series. Can’t wait for the special and the 3D theater show!

Me, neither. I might just have to break down and buy a ticket.

Here’s the trailer:

Find the official Doctor Who web site here.

I’m sure a number of you will be doing Doctor Who tribute pages this week. I created one myself that runs Wednesday.

Send me yours. I’d love to show it off here.

Politico launches a bimonthly Magazine

Politico — already a must-read for political junkies around the world — launched a very smart, very sharp new product Friday.

It’s called Politico Magazine, and it’ll be a bimonthly.


Creative director of Politico Magazine is longtime visual journalist Janet Michaud.


A graduate of Syracuse University, Janet spent two years as a designer for the Asbury Park Press. She moved to the Boston Globe in 1996 as art director and in 2001, moved again to a similar position at Time magazine. She moved to the Washington Post in 2008 to as features design director and was promoted to design director in 2010. Janet joined Politico in August.

Poynter’s Kristen Hare reported last week:

Politico Magazine, however, plans to take a deeper, and longer, look at stories, [editor-in-chief Susan] Glasser writes, that don’t always make it in the daily deluge of news.

Perhaps most importantly, the magazine aims to fill a dangerous vacuum in the rapidly transitioning world of journalism, with too few really big takes on big subjects holding leaders in Washington and beyond accountable, as news organizations retrench, cut back or find themselves distracted by the all-too-real imperatives of just staying in business.

The debut cover story by Glenn Thrush is about how the White House is unnecessarily — and perhaps unfairly — hard on the president’s cabinet.

A quick excerpt:

According to CBS News White House reporter Mark Knoller, the Cabinet met 19 times in Obama’s first term and four times in the first 10 months of his second term. That’s once every three months or so—about as long as you can drive around before you’re supposed to change your oil.


In addition, Politico Magazine promises new content daily via its web site. Which, thankfully, is not behind a paywall.

Sunday’s big hit was the story behind this debacle from the 1988 election:

Fashion Consistent Candidates

The magazine’s Josh King calls that “the worst campaign photo op ever.” And he might just be right — despite the fact that the magazine also pulled together plenty of other examples that might rival it.

Find the Politico Magazine web site here.

A cute — and brief — Halloween candy video from Tulsa

From Christopher Smith of the Tulsa World:

Christopher tells us:

We shot this for a food page story about what you can do with leftover Halloween candy.

In today’s online story about the video, Christopher writes:

For stop-motion animation to work, there must be continuity and consistency in the set and background and with the character’s movements. This is how the magic happens.

Miniscule movements are photographed one after the next and are edited together to make a video and to create the illusion of movement.

Tulsa World Scene Writer Nicole Marshall Middleton and I made between 10 and 12 movements of our character per second to make Sweet Transformations II: Graveyard Groove. And we shot more than 600 frames.

Read more about the making of this video here.

Blog posts related to Halloween 2013…

  • Oct. 16: This just in: Zombies and monsters walk the streets of San Antonio
  • Oct. 23: Inside the Victoria Advocate’s wacky promotional TV ad
  • Oct. 28: Boston Globe’s Ryan Huddle celebrates great movie monsters
  • Oct. 30: Making monsters out of candy with the Freep’s Eric Millikin


Inside Milwaukee’s four-part series on medical students and their cadaver work

We’ve looked at a number of long-form presentations lately but this one is really unusual.

The topic is the gross anatomy course that first-year medical students take.

Yes, that’s a brain this kid is holding. Part of the skull is still attached.


The student looks a bit dazed. Hell, I’m a little dazed, just looking at the picture.

The four-part series started Sunday in the Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee, Wis., and is entitled the Course of Their Lives — a brilliant title that can refer to both the med school students and the generous folks who donate their bodies so students can learn medicine and perhaps, one day, help others.

This was the front page of Day One of the series. As usual, click on any page here for a larger view.


That jumped into a double-page spread inside.


Greg Borowski, assistant managing editor for projects and investigations tells us how this series came to be:

Reporter Mark Johnson came up with the idea of following an anatomy class. I challenged him a bit on what would make it different from past such narrative stories and he hit upon using Nana Fotsch, a future donor who is still very much alive, as sort of a stand-in for the cadaver.


This was tough to pull off, but he wove the stories together quite well … The fact Nana was shown in a video to the students on the first day made it natural and not contrived.

Mark is a Pulitzer-winning writer and truly a craftsman when it comes to words. He was challenged to think about how the story fit together visually and in a multimedia environment .. and to be patient. He finished the writing months ago.

Photojournalist Rick Wood got attached to the project early … a key. You can’t go back and re-create things that already occurred, of course. He faced a significant challenge of telling a human story when a central figure was the cadaver, and telling it in a sensitive way, realizing there were many things we could not show. He got multiple shots of just about everything.

On the videos, we decided we wanted them to be short and to augment — not repeat — the text.


We wanted them to also feel spare, so you could listen to the students. Not all have B-roll … only those where it really helped visualize what was being discussed, such as the awe of holding a human heart.

This was Monday’s Day Two front page presentation.


Frankly, this page made me feel a little queasy. It’s tastefully done, of course. But like many of you already know, I have a very weak stomach for this kind of thing.

Here is Monday’s jump page, featuring another photo of the future donor and a small infographic of a mystery of sorts about the cadaver being dissected — a mystery that stretches through the entire series.


Greg tells us:

Graphics artist Lou Saldivar stretched his skills. There were few print graphics … this was not a story to turn into charts and statistics. The main print graphic is the recurring clues as to what killed the woman at Table 1. These were meant to build as the days went on.


It doubles online, where it appears at the relevant points, animates with what the reader is reading, and then is tucked away.

Notably, Lou did the motion-graphic/animation intro videos for each day (I’m not sure what to call them, but they work great).

The Day One graphic intro, for example, starts with classic anatomical drawings…


…fades into a picture of Table One…


…traces into a rendering…


…and then the title appears.

Greg continues:

We went repeatedly to the drawing board on these, to be sure they were sharp and focused and told a distinct, small story. In some early versions, things moved but nothing happened.


Lou also came up and executed the idea of the toe-tag that appears, then lingers as a line drawing at the end of Day 1 online.

Here is Tuesday’s Day Three front page centerpiece…


…..and the inside presentation.


Greg writes:

Designer Nick Lujero functioned as part of the team from the start. We knew there would be some significant lag time between when the story was done and when it could be fully constructed online. Nick was able to finish the print layouts early, developing the tone that carries through to online. His thumbnail, detail images really underline the idea of gross anatomy itself, how they students learn individual specific things (the various organs and structures) but also how they fit together as a whole.

And here was Wednesday’s Day Four front page.


This was the day Rick Wood’s picture of the student holding the brain ran.


All the threads are wrapped up here, including brief profiles of the students at Table One as well as Nana Fotsch, the future donor.

Greg tells us:

Can’t say enough about Emily Yount, who designed and built the [online] pages. She was key to developing the overall vision on down to reading transcripts of videos and looking for ways to polish and tighten everything. many long discussions about what goes where, what truly helps the story (which we kept) and what gets in the way of the experience (which we dropped).


She picked up design cues from Nick, but worked through the many effects you see online, from Nana’s family photos fading in, as if from memory, to the clues that appear, disappear and connect with the text.



She was the last one to finish her pieces, but stuck with them till everything worked, every browser was accounted for and until it was a unified whole.

Greg adds:

You’ll notice the same core group as the paper project [Paper Cuts, which I blogged about here and here] … Emily, Lou and Nick. I edited both. Those three truly get it, and I’d match them with anyone out there when it comes to making things work effectively in both print and online.

Find the online version of Course of Their Lives here.

Average daily circulation of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is 185,710.