Editing an interactive film

by andybechtel

For the third consecutive summer, I’m participating in the Powering A Nation project at UNC-Chapel Hill. This year, the students producing the site decided to create a “special report” called “Coal: A Love Story.”

My role this time was the same as previous years, serving as a coach for the editing team. As work began on the project, however, I realized that this iteration of Powering A Nation would have very little traditional text, if any.

Indeed, what the students envisioned was an “interactive film” that combined video with interactive graphics. They even created a storyboard in the newsroom to map out the project and how its different components and characters would complement each other. It felt a bit like planning a season of “Lost.”

Still, it became clear that writing and editing in a traditional sense would be not only necessary but essential for the project to succeed. Words matter.

We needed headlines, blurbs and tags. We even needed poetry.

“Innovation” is a buzzword associated with Powering A Nation, which is part of the News21 project to push journalism education in new directions. I’d add “collaboration” to that. The student staff, coaches and consultants worked together on every facet of the site, including the project’s tagline: “It’s more than a rock. It’s power. It’s people. It’s a relationship.”

I encourage you to spend some time with the “interactive film” and experience it as one story. It’s a bold experiment in journalistic storytelling, and I’m proud and grateful to have been a part of it.

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