This past week, the New York Times blew me away with what I think was one of the most complete online features I had ever seen: “Held By The Taliban,” reporter David Rohde’s account of his seven months being held captive by the militant Islamic group.
The most important thing about the package is the inherently gripping nature of its subject matter: Rohde’s story is a great and enlightening one. But The Times did a fantastic job presenting it. Here are a few of the things I really liked:
- The difference between the videos and the written articles. Rohde’s stories telling the tale of his capture were well-written, but lengthy, all of them clocking in at over 1,000 words. But the videos introducing them were concise, with most of them lasting 3 minutes or less. Too often, newspapers think online videos and written stories need to tell the same story because they are dealing with the same material. While the stories told by the videos and the written accounts are very similar, they are not identical.
- The online Q-and-A with Rohde and Executive Editor Bill Keller. I like Q-and-As more than online chats because they enable the reporter to give more thoughtful responses, and I think his Q-and-A shows that well.
- The overall presentation of the interactive feature was fantastic. The graphics created by the Times‘ staff, including the ones diagramming Rohde’s escape, made it much easier to understand Rohde’s descriptions. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.