A New Way to Tell a “Newspaper Story”

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? We may never know, but here’s an example of what can happen when someone is around and listening.

In this case, it wasn’t a tree but our very own Frank Mungeam, Knight Professor of Practice in TV News Innovation at the ASU Cronkite School of Journalism. He was talking to a small group of local TV news executives last week about new storytelling tools for newsrooms. The stations are part of Table Stakes, an innovation initiative supported by the Knight Foundation.

One of the new storytelling tools that Frank demonstrated was VideoScribe, a software program that can be used to easily create engaging whiteboard-style animations.

Frank recommended VideoScribe as a way to take ‘video-poor’ or complex topics and create compelling “explainer” videos, and he showed the news leaders this example created by students in the Cronkite Newsroom.

When News Director Melissa Luck of Morgan Media’s Spokane-area station KXLY went back to her station, she took Frank’s suggestion with her. The ideal story presented itself the very next day.

“We’re in the midst of major budget cut talks with our local school district,” Luck explained via email. “These are essential stories for our community, but they’re not very visually appealing. They’re usually covered with file video or school exteriors, coupled with a nondescript sound bite from a school district public information officer.”

But this time, KXLY created a clever animation using Videoscribe to enhance reporter Ariana Lake’s story about the impact of those proposed budget cuts on Spokane schools.

Luck said the feedback has been fantastic. The staff was excited to try something new because it seemed fun and was relatively easy to use.

Later, reporter Lake tweeted out her story, saying how much she loved working in a newsroom where “creativity is encouraged.”

Melissa Luck returned the compliment: “Ariana Lake is really creative, flexible and forward-thinking. She jumped at the chance to try this new tool and, with very little additional effort, she knocked it out of the park.”

KXLY also received great feedback from outside the market. Luck said, “Within a couple of hours, I heard from reporters, producers and news directors in several markets, asking what the product was and how to use it.”

Hat tips to our pal Melissa and our colleague Frank!

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