Extreme Makeover: StateImpact.npr.org Edition
Remember last week, when you tried to explain StateImpact to friends and family, only to be met with empty stares, furrowed brows and general disdain? Well, friends, those days are over. Now you can explain what you do and why via the new and improved StateImpact hub site, which just underwent a major facelift, thanks do our designer extraordinaire Danny DeBelius.
Our fearless leader, Lynette Clemetson, explains:
Most StateImpact traffic comes straight to the individual state sites. And that’s the way we want it. Our states are building dedicated audiences around issues and topics, and while themes overlap in some areas, the core communities are distinct.
Goodbye, Sweet Summer. Welcome Back, Regular Staffing Levels.
Well, congratulations everyone. We survived summer vacations, evacuations, emergency assignments, cross-country moves and myriad other twists in the plot that left every one of our sites with just one (if that) reporter at some point this summer.
Some of you were able to plan ahead with original content that didn’t go live until you were far, far away. (You know who you are.) Others had vacations interrupted by the occasional, irresistible (or, perhaps, nagging) pull of some timely event or shifting circumstances. (Sorry about that, Susan.) Still others found a way to enlist others, outside of the immediate StateImpact family, to help fill the gaps. (Well played, Gonzalez.)
Remarkably, traffic held steady during that time and, for that, we salute you.
We hope that these coming weeks and months will feel particularly fruitful as we get the band back together again, roll up our sleeves and get back in there, full speed ahead.
StateImpact Last Week’s Reader Faves
Most visited stories last week, in raw numbers:
- Pennsylvania: Shale Play (Pennsylvania Fracking Map)
- New Hampshire: Drive-Ins Struggle at a Digital Crossroads
- Pennsylvania: More Than Three Months Later, Methane Gas Is Still Leaking In Bradford County
- Texas: How Hurricane Isaac Could Affect Gulf Drilling and the Texas Coast
- Pennsylvania: No Rest for Retirees: Fractivism Becomes a Full-Time Job
In the Spotlight: Indiana’s Progress Report
Last week, StateImpact Indiana took an aerial view of education in that state during an hour-long back-to-school special that aired at NPR member stations around the state.
Kyle Stokes, who produced the show, says the exercise allowed him (and listeners) to check back in with students and families who were featured in previous reports. It also allowed him to bring some of the StateImpact flair for explanatory journalism to a different audience.
“Its easier to do the explanatory part of our mission on the blog, but it is more difficult on the air,” he said. “On the air, you always have to talk about the particular story with maybe just a sentence or two about the bigger picture.”
The feature, on the other hand, allowed him to talk about those larger trends and to include some of the voices that, in previous coverage, hadn’t made the final cut. It also allowed he and Elle Moxley, Indiana’s new(er) addition, to take inventory of where they’ve been and where they are going–in terms of coverage and sourcing. Continue reading
In the Spotlight: Guest Blogging Pays off in Florida
StateImpact Florida was the first state to take our new guest blogging tools, developed last month, for a spin. In their recent series, “The Secret Lives of Students,” the Florida team accepted submissions from area students about issues they selected in a summer learning program. Reporter Sarah Gonzalez describes the team’s experiences with their young guest bloggers below.
From Sarah Gonzalez:
Sarah Gonzalez /StateImpact Florida
Over the summer break, StateImpact Florida partnered up with Breakthrough Miami, which offers summer school classes to students considered “at risk.” We asked the elementary, middle and high school students to write about any school topic they wanted to, as either a short news article or an opinion piece.
We agreed that StateImpact Florida would edit the articles, but not the opinion pieces. Since we were often hearing from elementary-aged children, we decided not to correct any spelling or grammar. The posts really remained in their voices. We did, however, reserve the right not to post blogs, and to make cuts if something they wrote was factually incorrect about Florida education.
In the Spotlight:
Scott Detrow of StateImpact Pennsylvania proved once again this week that while high-tech storytelling tools can help make a story richer, more accessible and more enticing for readers, they can never replace good, ol’ fashioned shoe-leather reporting.
Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania
A Bradford Co., Pa., resident lights a methane gas sample on fire.
For more than a year, talking heads and industry leaders have been maintaining that methane migration in the course of natural gas drilling is a thing of the past. “Problem identified. Problem solved,” Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon declared last year.
But, after reporting in June on a particularly conspicuous leak (a.k.a. geyser), Detrow opted to continue following the story where it led. He shot video of a second, unreported leak nearby, spent some time with the affected family and made some additional calls and visits, eventually publishing a comprehensive, authoritative report on the lingering problem.
The piece was featured in ProPublica’s Muckreads and a news aggregation site for investors (which brought many new eyes to the site). It was also linked to by the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog.
Well played, Mr. Detrow!
Last Week’s Reader Faves
Most visited stories last week, in raw numbers:
- Pennsylvania: In Northeast Pennsylvania, Methane Migration Means Flammable Puddles And 30-Foot Geysers
- Ohio: Locked Away: How Ohio Schools Misuse Seclusion Rooms Continue reading
In the Spotlight: Audio Innovation
For several weeks, StateImpact New Hampshire’s Amanda Loder has been rolling out a steady stream of stories about how people in around her state are navigating today’s economy. The series, “Getting By, Getting Ahead,” is a mix of economic portraits and interesting stories about people in New Hampshire’s seven regions.
Last week, we went live with an interactive feature that brings all of these stories together and uses audio in a really interesting way. While Amanda was out interviewing, recording and photographing her subjects, she asked each of them five common questions. The interactive is built around the answers to those questions. The result is an audio experience that goes beyond the 3-minute radio profiles that aired on NHPR and allows users to choose their own path through the collected sound. We’ve also asked readers/listeners to submit their own answers to the five questions and included additional information and topic pages on each of the state’s regions.
In the Spotlight
StateImpact Indiana’s coverage of school test scores last week hit the nail on the head. Reporter Kyle Stokes paired his customizable data-driven interactives with both explanatory and analytical reporting–a combination that effectively drove steady traffic to the site all week long. How did he do it, you ask?
- He prepared a handy-dandy map of school districts (or, as they call them in Indiana, “corporations”) long ago, as part of his data library.
- He created strong visual components, including a sleek interactive map that allows readers to search for scores down to the district and grade-level and a sortable table that allows them to search by school, should that tickle their fancies.
- He dissected the story–and the take-aways–into several different posts.
As we’ve discovered in past cases, readers tend to refer back to our data-rich apps and graphics again and again. We will therefore be doing some housekeeping and rolling out new methods of showcasing your wares–past, present and future–in coming weeks. Reporters, look for more from Jessica this week and next as we all endeavor to get more bang for our data buck.
SCOTT DETROW/STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA
In The Spotlight
Scott Detrow of StateImpact Pennsylvania hit the road at a moment’s notice on Thursday after learning of a methane leak at a gas well in the northern part of the state. His willingness (and ability) to go straight to the source resulted in a timely exclusive packed with people, pictures and details. He also cultivated several sources and exciting leads that he never could have gotten without showing up—promising more to come for the growing number of visitors still arriving at the site.
Most visited stories, in raw numbers:
- Indiana: ‘Uniquely Qualified or Not Qualified Enough? What They’re Saying About Mitch Daniels’ Move to Purdue
- Florida: The Truth About Bullying In Florida’s Schools
- Pennsylvania: DEP Investigating Potential Shell Methane Migration Continue reading
In The Spotlight
This week’s spotlight story comes from Molly Bloom of StateImpact Ohio. Although the piece first aired on June 8, it was #5 last week in terms of total visits. Exploring the pros and cons of computerized essay grading could have been a real snooze fest. But her humorous, irreverent approach made the piece lighthearted, interesting and fun. It also tackled an approach to grading that is rarely explored, yet is becoming more ubiquitous in schools around the country. All this and more helped it garner attention long after the original air date. Nice work, Molly.