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Stories we’re talking about this week: May 16

Every two weeks, the Storytelling Studio hosts an open meeting where we share story inspiration. We read or watch published stories (by Vox Media or elsewhere), and spend an hour with teammates and other colleagues discussing each. Spoiler alert: we don’t always agree!

This meeting is separate from our project-specific design reviews, and might cover everything from written content and visual design, to user experience and data analysis. Here’s a sampling of what we reviewed this week.


How Fox Responded to Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes, Axios

In April, Axios published a timeline outlining how Fox News responded to Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes after claims of sexual harassment. It’s a short piece of content: the entire story is the timeline, and it effectively uses creative crops of imagery to illustrate different points. Here’s what we talked about:

  • Studio designer Brittany Holloway-Brown mentioned she really enjoyed how they played with the linear aspect of a timeline: it wasn’t what you traditionally see news organizations publish when they say “timeline.”
  • While it does simplify to one column on small breakpoints, the tone of the piece and the design hold up — the arrows still interact nicely with the content and the image crops are interesting.
  • Some of the timeline points talk about stories or news events but don’t link to deeper dives on that content. We talked about wanting to dive deeper (whether on Axios or other news sites) for some of the events.

Which tech giant would you drop?, The New York Times

In an effort to explain how five major tech companies are increasingly taking over our lives, The New York Times published a story that is an interesting intersection of quiz and explainer. Here’s what we thought:

  • The tone of the story was friendly and felt conversational, making this dense topic easier to follow and understand.
  • We also talked about how this topic inherently lends itself to conversation: after completing the quiz in our meeting we all talked about what we felt when choosing our answers and what we learned when reading it.
  • Vox Special Projects Editor Susannah Locke expressed that while the concept of the quiz was a good idea, the follow-through in the explanations was excellent.
  • The way the explainer information was presented after the quiz experience made reading it more enjoyable. Instead of framing the story as simply explaining the relationship of all of these tech companies, the content becomes personal when considering which ones the audience could live without.

A solar eclipse is coming in August, LA Times

Studio engineer Casey Miller shared this piece that shows on a national level what people will experience during the solar eclipse later this summer. Here’s what we talked about:

  • Having an interactive address bar that gives the audience what to expect in their location is really smart, and a good way to take a story for LA Times and make it interesting to a much wider audience. We also talked about how the design of the bar made it more visible on smaller breakpoints.
  • This format works really well for this topic, but it’s also a format we could see working for other astrological phenomenons that typically do well in terms of audience size. We spent some time discussing how it was a smart decision to put effort behind a story that is evergreen and can be reused.

What City is the Microbrew Capital of the US?, The Pudding

We looked at a story by The Pudding that takes data from RateBeer to look at the state of craft beer in the US. Here’s what we thought:

  • Because we are a remote team, we noticed that landing on the story has a geolocation element. The introduction is catered to where the audience is.
  • We talked about how tying events to scroll can sometimes cause bugs or feel strange to users, but this introduction interaction seemed really smooth and considered.
  • While the chart with rotating axis’ is interesting, some of us found it hard to understand. We discussed the potential for the axis’ scales to change, but not rotate, and thought that may have cleared up some confusion. It’s also hard to see the correlation between the chart bubbles and the information on the right. Some of us wanted to see a more obvious relationship between the chart and the table on all breakpoints.
  • Even though this story takes advantage of a huge amount of data, it gives a limited range of options for the audience to interact with it and make decisions. This choice to guide the user through a few curated choices makes the experience feel focused.

What stories are you talking about this week? Tweet us @voxstorytelling to let us know.