The internet is an amazing place. To think that, in our lifetimes, we didn’t have information at the touch of a button, we weren’t able to click to see our family members around the globe and news traveled much more slowly. (And don’t get me started on how online shopping has changed my life!)
For me, I like to look at each web story I write as an opportunity to reach a new, different audience from our TV viewers. That’s why I try different styles of writing and add creative elements to my stories: I want people to care about the news we’re presenting them, and hopefully making it look nice will help do just that.
As a digital director, I don’t get out into the field as much as I used to. However, I still have some great samples from my days as a special projects producer at WBIR listed below.
A reporter and I headed to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for this story. We followed around a crew of researchers that were giving “problem” bears GPS tracking collars so they could see where they are, and determine if they’re becoming “habitualized.”
In this long-form web story, I had video, a slideshow of tips for people who live in possible bear infested areas, and photos throughout the story (That have corrupted with a recent CMS switch, apologies). I also wrote the article in a slightly lighter tone that would appeal to a younger audience. This story did well for WBIR on social media.
“Test the Kits” was a TEGNA-wide investigation that I had coincidentally been working on independently in 2015. There are thousands of untested rape kits sitting on shelves of police departments and sheriff’s offices across the country, including in Knoxville.
A reporter and I worked together on this story; she wrote what aired on TV and I wrote our web story. We traveled to Nashville to meet with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and to learn about their process of testing kits. We had to read through paperwork from essentially every law enforcement office in our viewing area and had to reach out to them to offer them a chance for comment. We also spoke to the Knox County DA about how she prosecutes in rape cases.
In the web article, I broadened from just the narrow focus of East Tennessee to discuss what was happening in other parts of the country, like Houston and Memphis, what was working and what wasn’t. It made our story different from the on-air version, and gave people more context, which I think they’re often looking for when reading web stories.
Heroin is a sweeping problem across the country, but especially in Tennessee, where stricter laws about opioid pain pills have led to a sharp increase in heroin abusers.
We spoke with Chad Gibson, a recovering addict, who started his own group for people trying to beat their addictions. Before we even finished writing our story, we knew it would launch more investigations into this idea of “Heroin Hits Home,” so our station began producing segments about it as a series.
This last link is just an example of a fun, different way of telling a story. I wrote the script in a more “New York Times” or travel-style article, and shot my own 360 camera video of the outdoor musical performance, that was the finale to a local music festival. A photographer came with me and shot his own natural sound package for TV, which is what’s attached at the top of the story.