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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Topical Reporting or Issue Stories

My definition:

A reporting project on a topic or issue of public concern. Not necessarily driven by the regular news cycle, although it can have a news peg in current events. Uses the traditional techniques of feature writing — i.e, character development, setting scenes, structured with a narrative arc — to inform and engage the audience. Online publications often make use of multimedia to help present a vivid and compelling story.

Examples for Topical Reporting or Issue Stories from 2016 OJA

The Process:

Part 1: Breaking Down an Issue Story

Part 2: Reporting an Issue Story

Part 3: Assembling an Issue Story

Part 4: Posting Your Issue Story


Assignment 4: Issue Story

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Week 9 – March 20 and 22

Fall 17 registration starts tomorrowRegister for classes on the first day you are eligible:

  • March 21-26 – Seniors (90 credits and above) 
  • March 27-April 2 – Juniors (58-89 credits)
  • April 3-9 – Sophomores, (24-57 credits)
  • April 10-16 – Freshmen (0-23 credits)

In class:
What we’ve covered and where we are headed
Assignment 2: On-the-Street Video review
Intro to Explanatory Journalism
-Mid-semester check-in and Assignment 2 participation

-Homework for Monday:

  1. Spend more time browsing examples of Explanatory Journalism
  2. Bring one or two ideas for your own  explanatory piece
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What we’ve covered and where we are headed

What we’ve covered:
Digital-first – Searching for new mindset, workflow and inspiration from OJAs
Story hunting and how to pitch stories
-In an increasingly chaotic information landscape, curation and verification are critical roles for journalists
-Improving your skills – in interviewing, writing, social media and video and working in teams

Where we are headed:
-Explanatory journalism
-Infographics and explanatory videos
-How to break down, report, and assemble a multimedia issue/feature story like’s piece on “El Capamento,” ground zero for heroin addiction in Philadelphia

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Intro to Online Explanatory Journalism

Explanatory Journalism – “illuminates a significant and complex subject…with lucid writing and clear presentation”

Like aggregation, curation, and verification, explanatory reporting is increasingly becoming a priority for journalists. And digital-first publications are reinventing the traditional storytelling forms of explanatory reporting. is a great example of an online publication built around explanatory journalism
Vox Media – Wikipedia
Vox explained
Three standard Vox explainers: Videos, Maps and Card Stacks

Examples to begin: Explore these 2016 OJA finalists for Explanatory Reporting:

And EVEN MORE examples:

Some standard types of online news explainers:

Explanatory video – Often combines graphics, still shots, animation and voice-over to explain a complex current event or topic. (See Vox videos)

Map – For topics with a geographic focus. Often shows how residents of different locations experience or view something in different ways. (See Vox maps)

Timeline – Useful for demonstrating progression or change over time. Also to chronicle the life of a person or institution.

Graphs and charts – Useful for complex information that can be best presented visually rather than with text. Also allows user to delve into particular details of data. (See many examples in Vox card stacks. Also in data journalism publications like FiveThirtyEight and Upshot.

Lists – A simple way to organize or rate a topic by breaking it into a numbered list. Often incorporates photos or videos. (See many examples in Vox card stacks)

Notes from our class discussion:


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Assignment 2: On-the-Street Video Review

Your projects:

My common responses:

The question drives the content.

To make people talking into an interesting video, you have to:

  • humanize
  • visualize
  • surprise
  • be useful
  • be short

Headlines and intro text are gateway to your video. Must be clear, descriptive and compelling. It has to entice reader to click and watch.

Hook viewer in first 20 seconds. Beginning, middle and end.

Visuals, audio or editing should never distract from your primary content.

Concrete + specific = vivid

With online video, good content can compensate for lack of video expertise. But getting good content takes a lot of time and effort — and a bit of luck.

There are no short cuts. Do it. Learn. Do it again. Repeat.

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Week 8 – March 6 and 8

In Class:
Fall 17 registration reminders
Assignment 2: On the Street Video rough cut review and revisions

– Assignment 2: On the Street Video due Friday, March 10 before you leave for Spring Break. Here is how to post it and turn it in to me.

Have a good Spring Break. 

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Fall 17 Registration Reminders

1.Drop by Journalism Open Advising session TODAY from 2:00pm-4:30pm at 6 High Street. 

2. Summer registration is open. If you are planning on doing a summer internship, sign up for the class and start your internship search.

3. Register for classes on the first day you are eligible:

  • March 21-26 – Seniors (90 credits and above) 
  • March 27-April 2 – Juniors (58-89 credits)
  • April 3-9 – Sophomores, (24-57 credits)
  • April 10-16 – Freshmen (0-23 credits)

4. Here are five cool Journalism electives you should consider:

Crime Reporting (George Anastasia) – Prof. Anastasia is a former Inquirer reporter, two-time Pulitzer nominee, author of six books, and expert on the American Mafia. 

Data Journalism (Mark Berkey-Gerard) – Students will gain the skills that are in high demand in newsrooms, including how to gather, analyze and visualize data. An essential course for students interested in covering sports, politics, crime, education or business.

Health Reporting (Dianne Garyantes) – Health journalism and media is a growing field. Students will learn how to report and write on a range of topics and outlets. Also includes collaboration with Rowan’s medical schools.

Special Topic: First Amendment and Film (Candace Kelley) – Explore First Amendment issues through films like People vs. Larry Flint, State of Play, and Runaway Jury.

Sports Broadcasting (Ed Benkin) – Prof. Benkin is a sports anchor and reporter for KYW Radio and WIP Radio. This course covers the basics of sports broadcast techniques.

Special Topic: Art of the Interview (Steve Adubato) – Dr. Steve Adubato, a seasoned broadcaster and former New Jersey legislator, will teach this course on how to develop effective interviewing techniques.

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How to Post and Turn in Assignment 2 Video

  1. Export your video and post it to a public YouTube account. (See exporting instructions for Adobe Premiere and Final Cut X below.)
  2. Embed your video into a WordPress post or another website. Make sure it’s public.
  3. Write a compelling headline that is clear, descriptive and uses key words.
  4. Write introductory text that provides necessary context for the video. It should introduce it and compel viewer to watch. Full names, ages, and occupation/major are required for each person in your video. If they are not included in the video content, then you must put them in the text of the post.
  5. Include bylines for each member of your team.
  6. Publish your post.
  7. Email me a link to your post.

How to Share from Adobe Premiere to YouTube

How to Share from Final Cut Pro to YouTube

First, you can try to built in option to share directly from Final Cut to YouTube. If it doesn’t work try…

  1. Add Export File Destination
    >Add Destination
    Drag the icon for Export File to the menu on the left
    Close the window

2. To Export
Select Export File icon
Click on Settings
Set Video Codec to H.264
1280 X 720 resolution
Click Next
Save to your Desktop or other location

3. Then follow instructions for how to upload video to YouTube


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Week 7 – Feb. 27 and March 1

In Class:
-Planning and Question pitch for Assignment 2: On the Street Video overview
-Advice for shooting and editing “person on the street” video
In Class Assignment: #WhyJournalism video shooting and editing due at end of class on Monday
Wednesday is a reporting workday. Use the time to shoot/edit Assignment 2 with your teammate. I will be in class. Come if you want/need help and assistance.

-Working on Assignment 2: On the Street Video overview. Rough cut is due Monday, March 6 in class. Final cut due Friday, March 10 before you leave for Spring Break


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