Washington Post utilizes unconventional storytelling to depict the ‘media divide’

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I recently came across Washington Post’s “The Media Divide: Inside America’s segregated news diet” by Evelio Contreras, Marc Fisher, Kat Downs and Jon Cohen. I love the irony of a news organization covering the nontraditional approach to news consumption in the 21st century and I think that this package does an excellent job at doing so.

Personally, I loved how they linked to the news sources featured in the video in real time. I also appreciated how the page scrolled down to the next section when the video finished (a small but much appreciate gesture!). My only wish is that they had included four people – two Republicans and two Democrats. I would have loved to compare/contrast a tea party republican to a liberal democrat!

As a sign of the changing time, I just finished reading “All the News That’s Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information Into News” by James Hamilton where he discusses a 2000 Pew study stating that political news ranked at, or near, the bottom of Internet usage for every age demographic of both women and men. That is obviously not the case in 2012!

I asked Interactive Projects Editor Kat Downs to give II readers some insight into how the project came about. In total, she said it took less than a week to turn around the package with roughly three days spent in the field and two days spent in post production:

“Marc Fisher had the idea while back to track people through the day and watch what media they consume – what sources they use and how they access them. The idea came to fruition around the South Carolina primary. He found three people (one tea party republican, one conservative republican, and a moderate democrat) that agreed to have their media consumption tracked for the day. Evelio was assigned to do the video story.

Marc came to me with the story idea and we talked about how we could surface all the things the three people consumed in an interesting and meaningful way. He showed me some of Pew’s poll data that was informing the story and we decided to do a kind of calendar/poll that would track the media they viewed or read in that day. Marc was planning to keep a minute-by-minute log of all the TV, radio, newspaper, web and social news they looked at that pertained to politics at all. Then I talked to Evelio about how the video could fit into a bigger presentation. We decided to structure the video so the media we showed on screen flowed from morning to night. That helped create a relationship between the calendar and the video. We also wanted to offer our users direct links to the content that the characters were consuming onscreen. Evelio planned to shoot as much b-roll and active footage of them actually doing the watching/listening/reading as possible so we could make that idea work. Then Marc and Evelio went off to SC to work on the story.

I thought the piece was successful for a few reasons. It was a great video story that told the story of the trends through interesting individuals. I liked the way we featured links to primary sources from the video and had a neat calendar presentation that linked personalized news consumption with polling trends (which Jon Cohen helped me out with). It also allowed people to participate – to say which sources they frequently used and possibly be surprised at whether people of their ideology were in the majority or minority. We got good response. We had about 130 people answer the prompt “Where do you get your news?” and had some thoughtful comments.”

What do you think about this approach to political coverage? Were you engaged with the content?


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