Saturday, January 14, 2012

How a teenager's tweet turned on our newsroom to Storify

When I first began this journey into multimedia journalism, I wanted to use a combination of text and video to tell stories. My goal was to create a text story that would replace printed quotes with videos, so people could actually watch and hear soundbites from courtroom testimony, attorney arguments or judges' rulings.

I never got around to it, for one because it was too time consuming, and I would have to include the quotes anyway for print versions. But I still thought there would be a way to take multimedia content and put them together to tell a story.

Storify came along and solved those problems. Developed with the help of a former AP reporter, Storify was created for journalists by journalists. You take content from the web, via Twitter, YouTube, Flickr or other social media sites, and place it on a timeline. Storify gives you text boxes to write headlines, a lede and transitions. As with any story, the reporter drives the narrative. The quotes are taken from real-time social media. You can even make embeds of specific URLs.

The perfect story hit our newsroom recently, when the office of the Kansas governor impulsively reacted to a critical tweet from a high school senior. The story exploded.

The day after my colleague Suzanne Tobias broke the story, I mentioned that it would be perfect for Storify. She had never used it before, so I gave her a quick walk-through. Within minutes she was building her Storify account that truly captured the reaction happening across the Twitterverse. It would end up nominated for Storify's Story of the Year, along side stories about arrests at the Occupy protests and the chronicling of uprisings across the Middle East.

I had been using Storify to document community reaction throughout the year spurred by our coverage of sex trafficking in Wichita.

The Storify timeline is simple. You search for content in a panel on the right side of your screen, then when you find what you want you drag and drop it into the timeline at left. Hit "publish." You can then grab the embed code, as you would for a video, and drop into a blog post or a story file for your web site. If you look at the metrics on Suzanne's storify, you'll see most came from the embed from

Tip: It will save you a lot of time if you identify your story early and begin grabbing tweets or other content. Storify search only goes back a day or two. I began the story related to our human trafficking project months ago, grabbing key bits throughout the year, even though I didn't publish the final product until last month.

Although Storify has a place to pull content off Facebook, I've found that to be difficult and kind of clunky, probably because of various privacy settings.

There's now even a Word Press Storify plug-in that works from directly from the dashboard.

If you're not using it, you're missing out on a valuable tool for online journalism, and an simple way to turn tweets, blog posts and other web content into a cohesive, long-form narrative.