Assignment 3: Explanatory Feature

Worth 15 points – solo project


  • Question pitch due Wed, March 29
  • Rough draft due Wed, April 5
  • Project due Wed, April 12  11:59pm on Thursday, April 13 (No late work accepted) Post your assignment online and email me a link.

The examples in Intro to Explanatory Journalism

Past Student Work:

To create a compelling and informative online explanatory feature that:

  • Combines curation and original reporting.
  • Communicates info primarily through visuals. (Text is secondary.)
  • Uses storytelling formats (video, graphics, maps, timelines, etc) that work well online.
  • Approaches a news story with creativity.


Keep it simple. Keep it short (suggest less than 500 words or 2 min video). Make it visual. Be creative. Take a risk. Creative > Safe. (Think Lego Iowa Caucus and Comic-Con Climate Video)

The Process:

Formulate a question. Tips for picking your topic:

  • Would someone Google your question?
  • Pick something everyone has heard of, but few know much about.
  • Will your question make audience curious?
  • Be simple, yet informative.
  • Take something boring and turn it into something compelling.
  • Pick something you care about.

Do your research. Become an expert in your topic. Look for things you can curate or link to. Make a list of:

  • Key facts and definitions
  • Hyperlinks
  • Images and video
  • Graphs and charts

Make an outline of your key points to cover. I suggest 3 or 5 key points.

Find an expert on your topic. Ask them a few good questions.

Decide on a format. Options include:

  • Storify
  • Explanatory video
  • Map
  • Timeline
  • Graphs and charts tied together with text
  • Other? If you have a creative idea, pitch it.

Find a professional one that you like and try to imitate the structure and techniques.

Put together a rough draft. If you are making a video, write a script first. Then storyboard your visuals. If you are using text, make an outline. Then find multimedia to curate.

Bring rough draft to class on Wed, April 5.

Revise. Final draft due Wed., April 12

Resources and tutorials:
Note: MBG are my tutorials and * Resources I haven’t personally used

Creative Commons search – Search for free images, videos, music, etc.

Storify  – Curation tool

Power Point – and you might try something new like Animating a Power Point
SlideShare – Add audio narration to Power Point and embed into eb pages

Photoshop: 10 Things Beginners Want to Know How to Do

Final Cut
Final Cut Pro X basics
Final Cut Pro X Tutorial Beginners video (Matthew Pearce)
Final Cut Pro X Tips and Tricks video (Matthew Pearce)
Import still images into Final Cut
How to import YouTube videos into Final Cut
How to import an Animated GIF into Final Cut

Adobe Premiere Pro
Five editing basics in Premiere Pro (with video tutorials)
Adobe Premiere basic editing techniques (with video tutorials)
Adobe Premiere Pro basics video (Dan Stevers)

How to Import Videos and Images into Premiere

Animated Video Makers

Timetoast – Interactive timeline maker

Google Maps
Google Fusion Tables
Intro to making maps with Google My Maps and Fusion Tables (MBG)

Graphs, Charts and Infographics
Intro to Infographic Makers (MBG)
Data Visualization Catalogue– Tool to figure out which graphs or charts are best for your info
Google Sheets
Google Charts – this is a more robust version of Google Sheets
Piktochart  – Make an infographic using a template

Grading Rubric:

NOTE: I adjusted rubric in following areas (*) to place more grading emphasis on creativity.

Question pitch (1 point)
A solid explainer question must be pitched and approved by Wed, March 29

Rough draft (2 1 point)*
Each person must submit a rough cut by Wed, April 5 and revise their final draft based on responses. Rough draft can be submitted as outline, storyboard, or partially completed assignment. Rough draft must demonstrate effort and progress.

Compelling, descriptive question (headline) that uses key words and strong lead or beginning that hooks audience (1 point)

Expert opinion (1 point)
Each project must include at least one expert quote or voice. You must contact and gather this yourself (via email, phone or in-person interview). No cribbing quote from another source.

Attribution (1 point)
Attribute any information, images, graphics that you do not report or create yourself. Provide source of material and hyperlink.

Creativity (3 4 points)*
Each project and presentation will be evaluated on level of creativity. Strive to do something that isn’t done elsewhere, and that you haven’t done before.

Organized structure (3 points)
Each presentation will be evaluated on structure. It should walk audience through the key points in a logical step-by-step manner.

Informative/Usefulness/Worth sharing (3 points)
Each presentation will be tangible take-away of concrete knowledge or information. Presentation should be something worth sharing via social media.

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