Mixed media online project serves as inspiration for student journalists

If you’re on the hunt for inspiration, go check out Facing Life: Eight stories of life after life in California’s prisons.

Screenshot of landing page at facing.life
Multimedia project “Facing Life” explores life after prison for former inmates who served long sentences in California prisons

This project, created by Pendarvis Harshaw and Brandon Tauszik, has so many wonderful and original storytelling components, it’s the perfect model for student journalists looking for ways to tell important stories online.

In exploring the project, you might consider the following questions:

  1. How does the landing page for the project affect your navigation? Which story did you go to first? Why?
  2. Why do you think they decided to use what they call “cinemagraphs,” or nearly still images with slight movements? What is the effect of that visual storytelling technique?
  3. Check out the 360 degree video clips. Why do you think they chose to include those, and what do they add to the story, especially compared to the interview clips?
  4. Think about the design of this story package. How does it differ from conventional online story design? Though this is specially designed, how could you replicate some of those strategies using online tools or apps you are already familiar with?
  5. Read the essay Harshaw included, and try to backward plan the project. What do you think their planning looked like? What questions drove their reporting? How did they coordinate their newsgathering process? What would it take to create a similar project on your own campus?

An excellent accompanying piece to round out this inspiration-led lesson is a Q+A with Harshaw and Tauszik that appeared on the online blog Storybench. In it, they offer some insightful reflections and behind-the-scenes explanation of their process that student journalists might find interesting and instructive.

Want more how-tos? Storybench has a series called “Behind the Scenes” where they feature journalists of all types explaining how they create.

Michelle Balmeo

Michelle Balmeo, MJE, is the adviser of The Whirlwind newsmagazine and online news publication at West Albany High School in Albany, Ore. She's done some print stuff, some video stuff, and some web stuff over the past 16 years as a student media adviser.

Michelle Balmeo has 66 posts and counting. See all posts by Michelle Balmeo

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