ARIK PARNASS

Hockey Data Analyst

Exercise 3 – Examining the New York Times’ “Portraits of Grief” multimedia story package

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Now twelve years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the human aspect of the story has somewhat been forgotten. As more and more focus is placed on actions in foreign countries and their potential consequences, it’s important to have something to look back on and remember those who were lost on that tragic day. That is why the New York Times’ “Portraits of Grief” were so important.

 1. What is the focus of the story?

The focus of the story is on the individual lives that were not only taken away, but were affected in some way by the attacks. When you hear that 3,000 people were killed, it sounds like a lot, but there is no way to connect to that. A number is just a number. By cataloguing the lives of those unlucky 3,000, we are able to gain an appreciation for what we lost.

 2. What story forms were used to tell the story?

 The New York Times is and has always been primarily a print publication. As a result, the focus was on that medium. The paper published one or two short paragraphs on each victim, that were easy to read and well written. During the ten-year anniversary of the attacks, the paper then published some “Portraits Redrawn,” looking at how families and individuals are coping a decade after losing loved ones. Many of these are in video form, using interviews, home videos, and B-roll taken leading up to the anniversary.

 3. What was the focus of each story form and how did each contribute to the overall goals of the piece?

 The focus of the original portraits was to tell the story of the individuals who died in a way that they would want to be remembered. It included anecdotes, passions, great experiences, etc. The later portraits redrawn were more about the families and friends of the victims, and how they have adapted to life without their loved ones. The videos in particular are able to paint a more well-rounded view of each family’s life and how it has changed, adapted, and in some cases strengthened around its pain and suffering.

 4. Was the presentation effective? Why or why not?

 The presentation of the website is clean, clear, and effective. At the top, there is a bar of each letter of the alphabet, where you can search for a specific person or just scroll through the names. On the left, selected portraits are rotated on a regular basis. Therefore, if you are simply curious and want to read a few random profiles, that presents an easy way to do so. On the right you see links to the portraits redrawn videos.

 5. Was the design and navigational structure easy to follow? Confusing?

 The site is very user friendly. Because of the glum nature of the subject, the entire website is in black and white (except for the videos) which makes it easy to read as well. There are no fancy effects or graphics, but the set up is creative enough to make it look professional and classy.

 6. Was the package engaging? Why or why not?

 The package is mostly engaging because of its interactive nature. As soon as you find yourself on the site, you want to click on one or two of the videos, and read a couple of the profiles.

 7. What were the strengths of the package?

 The biggest strength of the package is likely its simplicity. With many multimedia story packages, one finds too many special effects, and the pages can be hard to maneuver. But here, it is easy to find what you are looking for, and the interesting titles for each profile make them appealing, as well as the short blurbs about the video project and each individual video.

 8. What were the weaknesses of the package?

 I’m not sure if this is intended or whether it’s a glitch, but currently when one clicks on the featured profiles on the left, they don’t open and nothing happens. If this is a design flaw, then it’s a significant one, as it renders that list virtually useless. There is also room for a little more creativity, and more journalistic mediums (photo?) could have been incorporation, and maybe will be at a later time.

 9. Did the piece leave you satisfied? Confused? Wanting more?

 I think that the “Portraits of Grief” project was an exceptional piece of journalism, but I would classify it as leaving me wanting more. Whether that is a good aspect of it or not, I’m not sure. I think, as outlined in the answer above, there is more that could be done with it, and while the project is about the stories themselves, rather than the ways they are presented, I feel that the inclusion of a wider range of mediums might have served the project well.

 10. What is one significant concept you learned from this package?

 I learned how to formulate a website to make it easily readable, and creative yet classy. While it’s not perfect, I think the “Portraits of Grief” project is a great template for future journalistic excellence, both in the message it provides and the way that it is presented.

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