Innovative News Storytelling: 5 ways and dozens of examples

Define the mission underpinning the work of your news organization, and then allow yourself to experiment with new and potentially better ways of telling stories.

That’s my interest in finding new innovative storytelling methods, and so I was excited by the chance to share examples with nearly 100 reporters and educators who visited a session I cohosted during a national news innovation conference in Atlanta last week.

Know why you’re doing your coverage and find the method that best creates that outcome. While that may mean a beautiful, highly produced product like the Serengeti Lion web interactive from National Geographic, depicted above, my focus here is sharing low-cost or free ideas for inspiration.



  • It doesn’t have to suck
  • Code for America projects: why worked but Change by Us didn’t, clear goal, local stewards

  • Wikipedia is crowdsourcing news — host an event or otherwise encourage your readers to contribute to Wikipedia with entries about members of your community (with links to your coverage!)

  • Answers issue from Creative Loafing and the Washington City Paper which takes community questions
  • Local and cheap examples: Arkansas Times and Boise Weekly

  • Embed tweets, verified social media to crowdsource event coverage


  • You don’t have to be scared!
  • Infogram and Piktochart other charting/graphing tools do beautiful work

  • Host and share with Visually.

  • Google Fusion tables and the endless array of Google apps offer a lot of free tools that can be used creatively for reporters.

  • Rebel Mouse for social landing pages

  • Rethinking content delivery: shutout to WordPress custom post types, directories, etc.

  • Find Tools outside of the tiny journalism world like 30Hands storytelling

  • Cool idea–Online Pop up book to explain crazy political complications with Zooburst

  • See Zeega

  • Free Data: public data is easy and is usually a great traffic driver. stuff that journalists assume everyone knows is often stuff most people don’t know. make a nice long list and have an intern start requesting public records. Great for regular blog posts — everything from childhood obesity rates to the breakdown of registered taxi companies in the city. I think it’s also a great long piece, too — just compile a bunch of data on your city/town/state whatever it is you cover: how much does the city collect from parking meters, how many speeding tickets were issued in the last year, how many boats are registered in your county, how many thousands of dollars in fines has OSHA issued in your city/state/area in the last year, etc.

  • Animated video like Center for Investigative Reporting.
  • Get to know the folks at Sunlight and the Center for Public Integrity. I’ve heard reps from both say they wish they knew local journalists so they could get the data they have in front of the public it directly affects
  • What is Your Plan B? With a strong concept, filters and light editing, you can make video a centerpiece like this one

Where is Your Plan B? from altweeklies on Vimeo.

Flexible Staff

  • Your coworkers are amazing people who have talents that don’t appear on their resumes
  • Info graphics (evergreen) — prepare narrative and information can keep design costs low

  • Musician (does your reporter play the trumpet? Use her music for a Soundslide or have her perform for an event.)

  • Charleston City Paper staff included someone who did blacksmith work as a hobby that led to a beautiful feature: The Makers


These are obviously just some ideas meant for inspiration and not planned to be comprehensive. The point is to try to do what you do differently.

Listen here or below to audio of the Online News Association 2013 national conference session at which I first presented this information with Tiffany Shackelford, the executive director of the Association of Alternative News Media. Find our original notes for the session here.

Thanks for the opportunity #ona13!

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