Backpack Journalism

Journo2Go is a blog focusing on multimedia reporting - specifically backpack journalism. Steve Johnson, the blog's creator, is a freelance journalist and adjunct lecturer at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.

Filtering by Category: Visual Journalism

@UFJSchool - Tablet Publishing

Calling all University of Florida students in the College of Journalism and Communications. Are you interested in publishing on the iOS platform? Yes. Apps.

We will be offering a tablet publishing course this spring on Tuesday and Thursdays in the Innovation News Center.

Class will be periods 9-10 on Tuesday and 9 on Thursday.

The course is listed as a JOU4930 section 14CA.

Throughout the semester you will work with Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite and InDesign to create our custom iPad apps.

You will also be working on feature stories in addition to the curated content coming from the INC.

Interactive elements will also be built into the feature stories.

Contact me via email or Twitter if you have any questions.

Top 5 Stories of 2013

Today is a day that Buzzfeed was made for - listicles.

What is a listicle? Well, put simply it is a story that's theme is based on a list.

To feed the frenzy, I will go over my top five stories of 2013 and why they stood out.

2013 was an amazing year for storytelling and far greater journalists than I have summarized why. You can find some of these here, here and here.

The five stories here were chosen because they are some of the best examples of where storytelling is evolving.

More often than ever, we are flooded with a 24/7 buzz of a breaking story, leaving us little time to reflect and educate ourselves before the next "big story" breaks and fills the news cycle.

These five stories use some of the simplest and most complex techniques to educate, entertain and inform their audience.

In no particular order:

1. Beyond the Finish Line - Jeff Bauman's Boston Marathon

This is not an innovative, new, flashy or interactive way to tell a story; it's just damn good.

Using only the voice of the subject to describe his recovery, The New York Times takes us on a journey of recovery from first steps to prosthetic fittings as Jeff Bauman recovers from a double amputation following the Boston Marathon bombings.

The photos and videos were brilliantly capture by Josh Haner.

2. Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt

Entrepreneurial journalism. If this is a confusing term, I suggest you learn quickly.

NPR's Planet Money raised $590,807 via Kickstarter - five times more than what they were seeking for their story.

They follow from seed to shirt how a T-shirt is made. Starting in the cotton fields of Mississippi and ending with thousands of posts online of their Kickstarter backers wearing their T-Shirts.

Hundreds of thousands of views later (spending up to 30 minutes on the site), NPR changed the game in entrepreneurial journalism.

This is a model that needs to be adapted and replicated in many ways to fund great storytelling.

3. What Is The Higgs?

Science has never been my strong suit. Thankfully, The New York Times has explained of one science's most complex theories - with what seems to be drawings on a napkin.

Finally, a science story that is at my level.

Visual storytelling can take many forms, and, with science stories, it often takes the form of complex info graphics.

This is not only a more accessible approach for the scientifically illiterate, but creates a lighthearted narrative on a very complex subject.

4. Finding the Quiet City

The power of the public is demonstrated in this interactive piece by The New York Times. Finding the Quiet City allows you to explore Manhattan not by the biggest sights but by the smallest sounds.

Readers have submitted their favorite quiet places in the city and combined with the work of some very quiet graphics - what looks like still photographs that are actually looping videos - The Times has now given me, and many visitors to Manhattan, a new to-do list.

Community efforts like this fuel great stories, and they don't always need to be "hard news."

What The Times has achieved in this piece is not only a great work of storytelling, but it builds an emotional connection between readers and a story. Not only does this strengthen a bond between the paper and its audience, it strengthens the audience's interest and investment in news. 

5. NSA files decoded: Edward Snowden's surveillance revelations explained

Arguably the most complex story of 2013, the NSA files released by Edward Snowden not only perplexed the U.S. Government, they perplexed almost anyone who tried to understand the scale in which this story reached - across the U.S., borders and through the infrastructure of virtually every electronic device connected to the internet.

The Guardian used 2013's favorite technique for storytelling - scrolling. But, thankfully, not in a distracting way that many others have thrown together to jump on the scrolling bandwagon.

Through simple interviews, visual cues and the actual documents leaked, The Guardian walks you through the woven complexity that is the NSA's efforts to spy on persons of interest.

A fresh look to those "year in review" videos

We are at that time of year where "best of" lists and "biggest moments" recap videos, posts and articles will be hitting our browsers by the thousands.

The Orlando Sentinel has done something a little different at recapping a very busy news year for their market with a unique video to tell their best stores in 2013.

“This was a big jump by going video-centric,” said Tom Burton, director of photography and video at the paper. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this unless we had a staff that was fully capable of doing video.”

One of the many headlines used in the video to recap a busy 2013 for The Orlando Sentinel.

One of the many headlines used in the video to recap a busy 2013 for The Orlando Sentinel.

Their video is more than just a chronological montage of news events, arbitrary lists or a mind-numbing photo gallery. It doesn't rely music or some overarching theme song for the year to keep the audience's attention, but more on the coverage by the paper.

Sean Pitts, a staff videographer at the paper, edited it to be as chronological as possible but said there were certain periods of slow news he had to work around.

“Newspapers do video,” said Burton after their year in review videos have traditionally been audio slideshows.

Besides showing the important events in Orlando, the video presents them in a way that pays homage to newspaper design - something that is often overlooked when translated to the digital world.

“I was not a newspaper person, so I found a lot newspaper stuff kind of magical," said Pitts. "It’s something that is obviously uniques to us.”

The video, edited by Pitts on Final Cut Pro, took more than 18 hours to complete - a relatively short amount of time compared to other recap videos in years past according to Burton.

Pitts used a relatively simple process to imbed the video into the newspaper's design by scaling a cropping clips over the converted PDFs of the layouts. He then created sub clips in Final Cut Pro to add the motion over the entire layout imbedded with video.

2013 was an impressive year for video with the paper. They ran front page stories with images that were screen grabs from DSLR videos, sent GoPro cameras in cages with lizards, underwater with manatees and, in some months, tripled their video web traffic. All of this pointing to a new advertising structure that the paper and it's "competitors" are using to not only promoter their own work, but share it with others.

Burton explained that it is less of a competition to beat other newspapers and more about strategically sharing content to promote hits that benefit both organizations with advertising revenue.

“You have to have this open-sourced mentality when it comes to video,” said Burton. “Newspapers are getting better at it, but we’re in a culture that needs to be shared.”


In an age where media's relevance is constantly in question, this short video shows just how much has been covered in the Orlando market and the work of the staff at the paper to bring it to their audience in print and online.

“I just hope that people want to watch it again," said Pitts. "Because you can miss things. Everything I included was there for a reason."

- Follow The Orlando Sentinel's photo department on Twitter at @OSPhoto.

People Love Photojournalism

There has been a lot of talk about photojournalism in the past week - especially regarding the Chicago Sun Times laying off their entire photo staff.

The reasons for this layoff are beyond me, and I am in no way qualified to speak about the specifics of the Times' layoffs. 

What I want to share is my experience today at the World Press Photo exhibition in Amsterdam. 

People love photojournalism. 


Because on a Sunday afternoon I watched hundreds of people line up to view the best photographs taken for the press in the last year.

Judged by the best in the business, including my friend Bill Frakes, this competition is now on tour showcasing the best of the best to thousands. 

People laughed, cried and gasped at the amazing pictures at this exhibit. 

They also paid for this exhibit - €8 to be exact. 

Not only did they wait in line, pay and share their experiences with others, they were moved by the work of photojournalism. 

So while I continue to travel through a city that should be underwater, maybe those newspapers that are financially drowning should take a look at the impact they are making on the public before they eliminate it.

See the winners of the 2013 World Press Photo contest online

Check to see if the tour will be stopping near you. 

Follow Bill Frakes online and on Twitter