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So, You Want To Make An Explainer Video?

Explainer videos are great at illustrating complicated policy issues, sometimes. Over the past two years we have learned several tips for making videos that delight and inform our audiences. It starts with deciding if a video is right for you. Let this handy guide show you the way:

Check out a few examples of successfully videos below and read tips from your StateImpact colleagues.

StateImpact Ohio’s, “A Video Guide to Ohio’s New Way of Evaluating Teachers

Tips from Molly Bloom:

  • The whole process of polishing a script made it a lot better. Realize you’re writing for a different medium and make good use of that.
  • The length was a bit too long, people started to get distracted around the two-minute mark.
  • Showing it to lots of people and seeing what people didn’t understand was really helpful.

StateImpact Florida’s, “A Parent’s Guide To How The New Common Core Tests Are Different From FCAT

Tips from John O’Connor:

  • We directed the video toward a specific group, so we knew who we were talking to and we worked hard to address it to that audience.
  • Don’t try to make videos out of things that don’t work as video.
  • Have someone involved in the project who has done this before to advise the project.

StateImpact Oklahoma’s, “How Disposal Wells Might Cause Earthquakes”

Tips from Joe Wertz:

  • Simple stuff works the best.
  • It takes a lot of writing to making something complicated easy to understand.
  • Think ahead of time about what exactly the compelling thing is that you can explain and can’t show and what you can show but can’t explain.

Create Your Favorite StateImpact Features in Core Publisher

NPR Digital Services has created an excellent resource for reporters who are new to Core Publisher, replete with a downloadable manual. There are a few things, though, that we’ve grown accustomed to created on our WordPress StateImpact sites that are not yet included in that documentation.

Below are some of our recommendations for how you can duplicate some of those features (including maps, charts and graphs, tables, document viewers, images, topic pages, pages, featured posts) on your station site.

MAPS

  • Google Fusion Maps can be embedded as iframes and include the new built-in legend feature. This works well in both Core Publisher posts and pages.

Here is some guidance to help you through that process.

CHARTS AND GRAPHS

  • Google Spreadsheets will likely be the best option, even though images will have to be created and uploaded as full-screen images OR as iframes. It isn’t optimal, but it work.

Toolbox Instructions from Emilie Ritter Saunders on embedding them (and instructions from Yan Lu on creating charts and graphs, if you’re not too comfortable with that part).

  • For ready-made Google charts with official data, like this, the iFrame embed is a good option and easy to update.

  • Also, if you are going the iframe route,know that you can modify the iframe width and/or height to 100%. To do this, simply add 100% (including the percent sign) into the embed code, overriding the pixel measurements.

TABLES

  • Tables can easily be displayed in Core Publisher by using the iframe publishing option in Google Fusion Tables. However, filterable tables are not an option, unfortunately. Continue reading

Using The NPR API To Share Your Work

We’re implementing a new WordPress plugin to “ingest” StateImpact posts into the NPR API and, thus, your stations’ sites.

Most of our states have been pushing posts to the API since launch. But the plugin that we’d been using had limited functionality. Kevin Moylan and others at NPR Digital Services have been working on developing a new plugin that works much better. And, now, it is ready to launch.

Here’s what you can expect to transfer nicely from WordPress to Core Publisher using v1.5 of the plugin:

  • Regular posts (including bylines and excerpts)
  • Inline Images (including captions and credits). All images in the post will be sent to the API regardless of the “can distribute” flag in the WordPress Media Library. 
  • Audio (see instructions below)
  • Video embeds (and other iFrames that can be inserted into posts)

Features that won’t transfer nicely (many of which you can still recreate manually in Core Publisher by following these instructions) include:

Google Fusion Maps with Joe Wertz

StateImpact Oklahoma’s Joe Wertz, mapping wizard, shows us how to create an interactive map using Google Fusion Maps and some raw data in this quick and simple tutorial.

Here is the data that you can use, if you’d like to try this at home.

(Don’t be alarmed! The audio doesn’t kick in until about ten seconds in.)

Creating a Legend

Of special note, around minute 31 (31:00), Joe walks us through creating a legend for your map. To do that (in the new and improved version):

  1. In the map view, click on the little arrow on top of the “Map of…” tab and navigate down to “change map styles.
  2. Whether you are dealing with points or polygons, make sure that your bucket ranges are exactly as you’d like them to appear in your legend.
  3. Click on “automatic legend” (your last option on the list to the left).
  4. Create a title for your legend.
  5. Decide where you’d like your legend to appear (typically in the bottom right-hand corner,  unless your map makes a different corner preferable).
  6. Hit “Save.”

Embedding an Iframe Into Your Site

At minute 32 (32:35), Joe shows us how to embed an iframe with your map and legend right into your site.

  1. Click on Share (in the upper right-hand corner) and publish it to the web. You’ll see your current sharing settings listed towards the top. If it doesn’t say “Public” hit the blue “Change” and select “Public on the web.” Continue reading

Nuts and Bolts: Embed Charts and Tables in WordPress and Core Publisher

After you get your chart or table into Google Drive and formatted the way you’d like to, follow these steps, kindly collected by data viz maven Emilie Ritter Saunders, to get it into your post:

Embedding Charts in WordPress

  1. Make your chart public to the web: Share —-> Change “public on the web”
  2. Publish your table: Click the arrow dropdown (upper right corner of the chart) —-> Select a chart1publish format “Image.”
  3. Copy that “Image” code and paste it into the HTML side of your WordPress editor.

Embedding Tables in WordPress

  1. Make your table public to the web: Share —-> Change “public on the web”
  2. Publish your table: File —-> Publish to the web —-> Click Publish or Republish Now
  3. Copy the URL.
  4. Paste the URL into the spreadsheet function in WordPress, “Google Spreadsheet Key.” Continue reading

Using ScribbleLive For Live Blogging

We’ve decided to start using ScribbleLive for live blogging. It offers many of the same features as our former platform. You can collaborate, pull in outside Tweets or Facebook posts, embed images, video, and other multimedia content.. And you can have a virtually unlimited number of viewers. And, as if all of that weren’t enough, the interface is very intuitive.

One minor problem is that our account will only allow a limited number of events to take place at any given time. So, if you are planning to use it for an upcoming event, please claim your turf by giving us a heads up.

Then, dig in. Here’s how to set it up: Continue reading

Google Charts Gets a Style Update

Here’s How to Take Advantage of It In Your Blogs

Our designer Danny DeBelius has introduced us to a data visualization tool called Google Image Charts. It’s pretty handy when you need some simple charts to help tell your stories. Now, guess what? Google has updated that tool and make the experience even better.

The main difference is that you don’t need to go to a Image Charts Editor page, but you can finish the process in your Google spreadsheet.

Connect to your data in real time

Let me explain this tool by using an example. I have a spreadsheet with data about Idaho legislators compiled by Emilie Ritter Saunders. Now try this: if you go to the spreadsheet, change some numbers in the education worksheet and refresh this post, you will see the numbers also changed here in the image below.

Isn’t it amazing? The updated Google charts tool connect your chart to your data in real time, making it convenient to change numbers or styles or add data to your posts as it becomes available.

Easy to use

This tool is also easy to use. We all have some experience using Excel to produce simple charts and graphics. The rules are similar here: Continue reading

Cleaning Up the Right Rail

Part of adapting to a sideways world involves de-cluttering your sites to provide a cleaner, more focused experience for your readers. It is still important that we use every page to showcase some the great stuff that we have to offer. However, it is equally important that we don’t create a chaotic a visual experience in that effort.

To that end, the DC team has dutifully considered all of the right rail widgets and whittled them down in order to provide some clear guidelines for what we think should–and shouldn’t–be living in your right rails. Here’s what we’ve come up with:

Continue reading

REVIEW: How to Clean Up Your Topic Pages

The arrival of the new year means it’s clean-up time–for your house, your garden, and for your topic pages! With legislative sessions around the corner in most of our states,  we want our tag buildouts and topic pages ready and clear so that our audience can find your content easily.

StateImpact Pennsylvania

So let’s review what our founding parents said about topic pages, or tag buildouts:

1. New tag buildouts/topic pages

To get started, read Elise’s post “What, Why and How on Tag Buildouts“. The post includes a video that tells you how to build a new topic page.

2. Managing your tags

Use Matt Thompson’s post “How to classify your posts & manage your tags” as a reference to manage your tags. Here’re some highlights.

The best tags are the dis­crete enti­ties (i.e. spe­cific indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions) named in your posts. In gen­eral, it’s best to use full names rather than abbre­vi­a­tions. Instead of tag­ging posts with “Obama,” use “Barack Obama.” It’ll look bet­ter as the title to a topic page, and it will aid search engine optimization.

Continue reading

How to merge and delete tags

  1. Select “Post Tags” from the “Posts” menu in your WordPress admin.
  2. On the “Post Tags” screen, make sure the boxes next to the tags you’d like to merge are checked.
  3. At the top or bottom of the table, select “Merge” from the “Bulk Actions” dropdown.
  4. Type the name of the new merged tag, and hit “Apply.”

To delete tags, use steps 1 and 2 above, then select “Delete” instead of “Merge” from the “Bulk Actions” dropdown on step 3.