Sacramento journalists tackle multimedia to bring statistics to life

Amy Pyle, projects and investigations editor at The Sacramento Bee here in California, tipped me to her paper’s new multimedia project. I took a look, then asked Pyle a few questions about the project and what they’ve learned from it:

Q. Give us an overview of the project and tell us what’s fresh about what you did with multimedia here — which perhaps folks haven’t seen much before?

A. In Tackling Life, The Sacramento Bee set out to tell the story behind the drumbeat of dire statistics related to young African American males. It did so through the lens of a youth football team formed in 1992, tracing the lives of five key players in the ensuing 15 years. With multimedia, we attempted to do two things: let the men and their families and friends tell the story themselves, through mini-documentaries on each of them and on the team as a whole, and offer readers a nonlinear story through a sort-of scattered scrapbook of photos, documents and mementoes related to the team and 31 of the 35 former teammates. Dan Nguyen, the multimedia reporter who designed and coded the site, credits photographer Matthew Mahon and his site,, as well as Matthew’s designer, WEFAIL, with inspiration for the site. Mahon has received much Internet buzz for his site and graciously allowed us to copy it, saying “Everyone else has!”

Q. What staff resources/training are needed to pull off this project, relative to what would be needed for a traditional print-only report?

A. Pulling off the multimedia aspects of this project was a month-long undertaking, which began with the reporter, Jocelyn Wiener, going back to her sources with videographer Andy Alfaro and intern Aaron Vogel. She and photographer Anne Chadwick Williams had collected family photos and other documents and memorabilia along the way, but once we settled on the simulated scrapbook, we went looking for more. At one point the reporter, Jocelyn, found herself digging through boxes and bags of rosters, playbooks, etc., in the former head coach’s garage. We also had some historical video footage in hand and sought more through the families and the former coaches. And we held off on running this series in the paper until the new PeeWee season had opened on July 31, so that we could capture the weigh-in and the early coaches’ speeches to the incoming teammates on video. In all, this required two videographers, the multimedia editor, Manny Crisostomo (who provided quality control and designed the intro to all the videos), the multimedia reporter who designed the site and, of course, an uploading staffer, Dorian Francel, to make sure everything on our regular site pointed people to these extras.

Q. How are the staff and the paper promoting the multimedia aspect of this project?

A. For four days before the series ran, we published an in-paper promo designed by our marketing department as well as a promo on the Web, both of which pointed readers to an online video promo created by Manny. That promo was replaced by the actual project on the first day of the series (i.e. Sunday, Aug. 12). After the three-day series ran, we continued to run a promotional link to Tackling Life on the Top Stories tab on our website, which is basically our homepage (our site is set up a little differently than most, allowing readers to adjust their tabs, but Top Stories is always the first tab).

Q. What have you and the rest of the staff who worked on the project learned from it? What advice would you give to journalists who want to attempt a similar project?

A. We learned to start far earlier in a project, which we actually knew already but for various staffing reasons were unable to accomplish this time. We also learned that it helps to have a designer willing to stay up all hours to make sure things work right (thanks Dan!). The scrapbook aspect was not simple to accomplish, but it is one that – now that we have it coded – we hope to use for other suitable projects. The other advice, which we did follow, is collect stuff all along the way – online links, documents, historical photos and, video, video, video. It opens up amazing options when you start to put it altogether, even if you opt for a simpler display.

Please use the comments to add your thoughts about the Bee’s project, as well as your experience with similar projects. – Ed.

About Robert Niles

Robert Niles is the former editor of OJR, and no longer associated with the site. You may find him now at


  1. This article was very informative and it helps me because I want to put the multimedia puzzle toghether. The most important aspects are starting early researching well and team work selflesly this is what I have learned fron this article.

  2. This is more ad hoc, but I am rather pleased with something I got I got into the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday and even more so in the accompanying vodcast. The story makes the point that the war in Iraq and future “asymetrical” conflicts will force the U.S. to spend a million dollars for every buck they spend. The vodcast tries to make that same point in a visual metaphor. If you have a chance to see either I’d be pleased to get any feedback. If you are on the web and can only look at one, look at the vodcast. I got clearance for a tongue-in-cheek presentation of the story.