Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady (NY Mag)

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

[Editor’s note: Two pieces from the New York magazine profiling the New York Times Interactive News Collaborative staff, one of the strongest in the business. Thanks David and Chrys!]

Republished from the New York magazine.
By Emily Nussbaum. Published Jan 11, 2009
Related forum: Talk to the Newsroom: Interactive News Collaborative Jan. 17, 2009.

Image above: Aron Pilhofer, Andrew DeVigal, Steve Duenes, Matthew Ericson, and Gabriel Dance. (Photo: Mike McGregor)

What are these renegade cybergeeks doing at the New York Times? Maybe saving it.

On the day Barack Obama was elected, a strange new feature appeared on the website of the New York Times. Called the Word Train, it asked a simple question: What one word describes your current state of mind? Readers could enter an adjective or select from a menu of options. They could specify whether they supported McCain or Obama. Below, the results appeared in six rows of adjectives, scrolling left to right, coded red or blue, descending in size of font. The larger the word, the more people felt that way.

All day long, the answers flowed by, a river of emotion—anonymous, uncheckable, hypnotic. You could click from Obama to McCain and watch the letters shift gradually from blue to red, the mood changing from giddy, energized, proud, and overwhelmed to horrified, ambivalent, disgusted, and numb.

It was a kind of poll. It was a kind of art piece. It was a kind of journalism, but what kind?

This past year has been catastrophic for the New York Times. Advertising dropped off a cliff. The stock sank by 60 percent, and by fall, the paper had been rated a junk investment, announced plans to mortgage its new building, slashed dividends, and, as of last week, was printing ads on the front page. So dire had the situation become, observers began to entertain thoughts about whether the enterprise might dissolve entirely—Michael Hirschorn just published a piece in The Atlantic imagining an end date of (gulp) May. As this bad news crashed down, the jackals of Times hatred—right-wing ideologues and new-media hecklers alike—ate it up, finding confirmation of what they’d said all along: that the paper was a dinosaur, incapable of change, maddeningly assured as it sank beneath the weight of its own false authority.

And yet, even as the financial pages wrote the paper’s obit, deep within that fancy Renzo Piano palace across from the Port Authority, something hopeful has been going on: a kind of evolution. Each day, peculiar wings and gills poke up on the Times’ website—video, audio, “drillable” graphics. Beneath Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed column, there’s a link to his blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and YouTube videos. Coverage of Gaza features a time line linking to earlier reporting, video coverage, and an encyclopedic entry on Hamas. Throughout the election, glittering interactive maps let readers plumb voting results. There were 360-degree panoramas of the Democratic convention; audio “back story” with reporters like Adam Nagourney; searchable video of the debates. It was a radical reinvention of the Times voice, shattering the omniscient God-tones in which the paper had always grounded its coverage; the new features tugged the reader closer through comments and interactivity, rendering the relationship between reporter and audience more intimate, immediate, exposed.

Despite the swiftness of these changes, certainly compared with other newspapers’, their significance has been barely noted. That’s the way change happens on the web: The most startling experiments are absorbed in a day, then regarded with reflexive complacency. But lift your hands out of the virtual Palmolive and suddenly you recognize what you’ve been soaking in: not a cheap imitation of a print newspaper but a vastly superior version of one. It may be the only happy story in journalism.

I met with members of the teams that created the Word Train in a glass-walled conference room, appropriate for their fishbowl profession. There was Gabriel Dance, the multimedia producer, a talkative 27-year-old with two earrings and a love of The Big Lebowski. There were Matt Ericson and Steve Duenes from graphics, deadpan veterans who create the site’s interactive visuals—those pretty maps that conceal many file cabinets stuffed with data. And there was Aron Pilhofer, a skeptical career print journalist with “nerd tendencies,” one of the worried men who helped spearhead this mini-renaissance.

“It was surprisingly easy to make the case,” says Pilhofer, describing what he calls the “pinch-me meeting” that occurred in August 2007, when Pilhofer and Ericson sat down with deputy managing editor Jonathan Landman and Marc Frons, the CTO of Times Digital, to lobby for intervention into the Times’ online operation—swift investment in experimental online journalism before it was too late.

“The proposal was to create a newsroom: a group of developers-slash-journalists, or journalists-slash-developers, who would work on long-term, medium-term, short-term journalism—everything from elections to NFL penalties to kind of the stuff you see in the Word Train.” This team would “cut across all the desks,” providing a corrective to the maddening old system, in which each innovation required months for permissions and design. The new system elevated coders into full-fledged members of the Times—deputized to collaborate with reporters and editors, not merely to serve their needs.

To Pilhofer’s astonishment, Landman said yes on the spot. A month later, Pilhofer had his team: the Interactive Newsroom Technologies group, ten developers overseen by Frons and expected to collaborate with multimedia (run by Andrew DeVigal) and graphics. That fall, the Times entered its pricey new building, and online and off-line finally merged, physically, onto the same floor. Pragmatically, this meant access to the paper’s reporters, but it was also a key symbolic step, indicating the dissolution of the traditional condescension the print side of the paper held toward its virtual sibling.

Story continues in 3 parts, jump to the one that interests you.

Next: The group’s initial series of audacious new features.

Next: Another face of innovation at the Times.

Next: The battle against reader nostalgia.

Concluding two graphs:

“One of the New York Times’ roles in this new world is authority—and that’s probably the rarest commodity on the web,” explains Pilhofer as the waiter gives us our check. “That’s why in some respects we’re gung-ho and in other respects very conservative. Everything we do has to be to New York Times standards. Everything. And people are crazy about that. And that’s a good thing.”

Over time, Pilhofer adds, this is the role the Times can play: exciting online readers about the value of reportage, engaging them deeply in the Times’ specific brand of journalism—perhaps even so much that they might want to pay for it. If this comes true, it would mean this terrible year was not for nothing: that someday, this hard era would prove the turning point for the paper, the year when it didn’t go down, when it became something better. Pilhofer shrugs and puts his glass back down on the Algonquin table. “I just hope there’s a business model when we get there.”

Continue reading at New York Times . . .

INTERACTIVE: Inside Obama’s West Wing (Kelso via Wash Post)

Friday, January 30th, 2009

[Editor's note: Please enjoy this interactive featuring a floor plan of the West Wing showing who sits where. Kudos to Laura Stanton and Karen Yourish for leading this project. I advised on the coding.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Original published 29 January 2009.

They say that proximity to power is power. And it comes to follow that the most coveted offices in Washington are those in the West Wing of the White House. Some, like press secretary Robert Gibbs’s office, are spacious. Others are cubbyholes. But they are all in the same building as the president’s Oval Office. Explore the interactive graphic below for an insider’s guide to who’s sitting where in President Obama’s West Wing:

Screenshots below. View interactive version.

GRAPHIC: By Laura Stanton, Nathaniel V. Kelso, Philip Rucker, Al Kamen and Karen Yourish – The Washington Post

Picturing the Inauguration: The Readers’ Album (NY Times)

Monday, January 26th, 2009

[Editor's note: Several hundred readers at the New York Times site submitted photos to a live photo wall commemorating last Tuesday's historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the United State's 44th president.]

Republished from The New York Times. January 18, 2009. Reader submitted.

NYTimes.com readers sent in their photographs from Washington and around the world. Images are organized in the order they were received.

Screenshots below. View interactive version.

Jon Huang, Ben Koski, Andrew Kueneman, Thomas Lin, Gabriel Dance, Whitney Dangerfield Elisabeth Goodridge, John McGrath, Jacob Harris, Tyson Evans, Alan McLean, and Hamilton Boardman/The New York Times

Faces in the Crowd (Kelso via Wash Post)

Monday, January 26th, 2009

[Editor's note: This in an interactive version of an annotated photo in the print edition. I did a little programming, Christina, Karen, and Patterson did the heavy lifting. The version below shows all the faces but the user starts off with the original image to explore.]

Republished from The Washington Post. Tuesday Jan. 20, 2009.

Roll over the photo to see who was at the Capitol when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States:

Screenshot below. View original interactive.

By Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, Cristina Rivero, Patterson Clark and Karen Yourish – The Washington Post.

The Nation Barack Obama Inherits (Atlantic)

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

[Editor’s note: Compare the state of the nation via an oddball set of statistics for when Bush took office and and Obama now in 2009. Thanks Laris!]

Republished from the Atlantic, January / February 2009.

By Timothy Lavin. Timothy Lavin is an Atlantic associate editor.

Then and Now. On March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt addressed a crowd of 400,000 at his first inauguration. The past few years had seen a spectacular decline in the nation’s fortunes, born of what he called the “mad chase of evanescent profits.” Banks were failing, savings disappearing, real estate and commodities collapsing. Fascism was rising abroad. In response, Roosevelt pledged “a disciplined attack upon our common problems.” He didn’t get much more specific than that. And, really, he didn’t have to. The people wanted change, in the current vernacular—or, more precisely, they wanted a government that could respond coherently to the profound changes that were already under way.

Barack Obama assumes the presidency this year amid a similar sense of national crisis, and having made similar promises of change. And, like Roosevelt, he’ll be leading a country very different from the one his predecessor inherited: as the statistics on this map show, change itself is one thing we’ve seen in abundance in the past eight years. Making sense of that upheaval will be the first responsibility of the new administration.

Since 2000, America has changed in small ways, in big ways, and in ways that seem innocent enough now but no doubt herald some radical disruptions to come. Many more people are poor, uninsured, and in prison. Many more are billionaires. The burden of health-care costs has grown heavier, and so have we. We charge more, save less, and play a lot more video games. Even the things that haven’t changed much—like the amount of oil we consume, or the price of cocaine, or the size of our military—reflect not so much stasis as unsustainable trajectories. For Obama, responding to these problems will require breaking deep national addictions—to oil, to etherealized finance, to profligacy of all kinds—and, somehow, easing the tremens along the way. Perhaps, in doing so, he should heed a warning Roosevelt issued on the campaign trail: “Without leadership alert and sensitive to change,” he said, “we are bogged up or lose our way.”

Click image above to view larger version of the map.

Click here to see the sources from which this map was compiled.

Map: Walking to the Inauguration (Wash Post)

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

[Editor’s note: Continuing coverage of Obama inauguration on January 20th, 2009. Unprecedented crowds are expected, severely disrupting commuting patterns. If you are within two miles of the National Mall experts say to walk to your destination (and expect security checkpoints around the Mall itself). Other coverage includes: overview map, ticketed seating, special bus corridors, and road closures and parking restrictions.]

Republished from The Washington Post.

The bad news: Witnessing this historic occasion in person will require a bit of a schlep. The good news: Officials say pedestrians will be allowed to go just about everywhere. So what about those who have to park their cars and venture over the Potomac and Anacostia rivers on foot for the first time? Put on your sturdy shoes, grab a wind-resistant jacket and climb down into this guide to walking over the 10 bridges into the District of Columbia. — Reporting by Bonnie Berkowitz

SOURCES: U.S. Secret Service, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, D.C. Department of Transportation

NOTE: Closures and corridors are subject to change at the discretion of security officials.

Graphic By Laris Karklis — The Washington Post

Map: Inauguration Road Closures, Bridge Closures, Parking Restrictions, Tour Bus Parking (Wash Post)

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

[Editor’s note: Continuing coverage of Obama inauguration on January 20th, 2009. Unprecedented crowds are expected, severely disrupting commuting patterns. If you are within two miles of the National Mall experts say to walk to your destination (and expect security checkpoints around the Mall itself). Other coverage includes: overview map, ticketed seating, and special bus corridors.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Original post on Jan. 7th, 2009.

Map: Inauguration Special Bus Corridors (Wash Post)

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

[Editor’s note: Continuing coverage of how to best experience or cope with the Inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th President of the United States on January 20th. Other posts include: Overview map and Ticketed seating.]

Republished from The Washington Post. Jan. 9, 2009.

Metro has designated 23 special bus corridors to run extended rush-hour service from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Jan. 20. Corridor service mainly follows existing Metrobus routes and bus stops across the region. The buses on these corridors pick up and terminate at 14 stops just outside the restricted area. They will run about every 10 minutes to accommodate inauguration crowds.

Map: The Inauguration of Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States (Wash Post)

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

[Editor’s note: If you’re planning on being in DC for the Inauguration of Barack Obama this month, grab this free map of the festivities from The Washington Post made by Gene Thorp. The map is updated regularly with the latest information.]

Republished from The Washington Post. (Updated map on 11 Jan. 2009.)

The inauguration of President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009, is expected to be one of the largest public gatherings ever to take place in Washington, D.C. Millions are expected to visit the National Mall and other nearby points to view the ceremony either in person or via telescreens, watch the parade from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, and more. On this 2009 inauguration map, The Post will detail information visitors can use to plan their trips downtown. It will be updated periodically as more information becomes available. (A downloadable version is also available in PDF format.)

INTERACTIVE: Obama’s Cabinet Picks (Kelso via Wash Post)

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

[Editor's note: I created this interactive with Karen Yourish and Laura Stanton for the Dec. 21 edition of the Washington Post. President-elect Barack Obama completed his Cabinet picks just 7 weeks after his election on November 4th, 2008. Explore who he's picked for twenty government agency compare to previous administrations. The little human shapes on the timeline are interactive, as well as the Obama cabinet photo collage, and the week tabs.]

Republished from Washington Post.

NOTE: Barack Obama won the Nov. 4, 2008, election’s popular vote. He will be inaugurated as the 44th president on Jan. 20. As both of these days fall on a Tuesday, “weeks” are calculated as Wednesday through Tuesday.

NOTE: Some agency positions have two nominees per president if the first nominee rescinded his name and another was nominated in his place.

SOURCE: Staff Reports | GRAPHIC: Karen Yourish, Laura Stanton and Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, The Washington Post.

First posted: 20 December 2008. Last updated: 21 December 2008.