Going deeper with longform storytelling in the regional press

Making stories memorable is at the heart of what we need to do to become part of daily life online. To help do this, sometimes the newsrooms I work with deploy Shorthand, an immersive storytelling tool which allows us to provide deeper experiences around important issues.

They combine video, graphics, data, audio and words, allowing reporters to engaged readers for longer periods of time as they are guided through the whole background to a story.

I asked two of my colleagues, Adam Walker and Paul Gallagher, who both work with newsrooms to deliver powerful Shorthand stories, to share some of the projects which made an impact in 2017.

Why? Because exciting things happen in regional newsrooms — and as ever, it’s not just the here and now which interests readers:

Rocky 1967–2001 Remembering an Arsenal Legend
A tribute site for football.london remembering the iconic Arsenal player David Rocastle. This Shorthand uses timelines, infographics and fullscreen quotes to tell the story.

Stoke — We’re bidding to be UK City of Culture
When Stoke were bidding for the title of UK City of Culture 2021, we worked with The Sentinel to make this Shorthand showing the world what Stoke has to offer.

Rhys Jones
This Shorthand for Liverpool tells the tragic story of Rhys Jones, who was shot dead in 2007, and how his killer was caught. We used images with minimal text to tell the story of the tragic events as simply as possible in the infographic-style section.

Heroes of ’87 — How Coventry City won the FA Cup
A look back at the day Coventry City defied the odds to beat Tottenham and win the FA Cup in 1987. In addition to the brilliant photos looking back at the game, we made an interactive team picture that reveals information about the team members.

One night in Munich
Football.london look back to the day Chelsea reached the pinnacle of European club football by clinching the Champions League for the first time in their history. This features another interactive team picture and a timeline.

The other Premier League
This Shorthand was a special report by Will Hayward who spent time with Carmarthen Town AFC. Will won the NCTJ Trainee Feature of the Year award for his insightful words. The story also features some brilliantly revealing video of team talks and uses animated gifs to bring some club stats to life. 24.7k pvs and average time spent of over 7 mins

Missing: Renata Antczak
Hull’s story about missing mum Renata Antczak. We kept the design of this one very simple but did add a story progress bar at the top and used javascript to fade text and images in as they scroll into view.

Leeds — Our city’s bid for Capital of Culture 2023
This is the Shorthand we put together for the Leeds Live launch. Unfortunately, the EU commission announced it would not be possible for a British city to win Capital of Culture 2023 following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union… about 20 minutes after we launched the Shorthand story. Bad timing but it does not take away from the project which used bold colours to highlight sections and quotes.

Martin McGuinness
Belfast Live told the extraordinary life story of Martin McGuinness after his death in March using archive pictures and video to document how the former IRA commander became a key figure in the peace process. Jilly Beattie’s authoritative writing was supported with graphics which captured the bloodshed and bodycount of the Troubles.

Rooney 250
Way back in January, Wayne Rooney was a Manchester United star breaking the club’s all-time goalscoring record with his 250th goal. This Shorthand article included some striking images from the archive, a strong section on how Rooney is regarded by the footballing greats, data graphics and a poll for fans to pick his greatest ever goal.

Nepal — the aftermath of an earthquake
Get Hampshire/Get Surrey returned to the story of the 2015 Nepal earthquake to look at how a community in Aldershot had raised hundreds of thousands of pounds and examine how the money was eventually spent

The story of Rory
With Rory McIlroy tying the knot in a spectacular wedding in April, Belfast Live knew that there would be a lot of interest in the back story of the boy from Co. Down who was now a global golfing superstar. This Shorthand included pictures of Rory as a schoolboy golfer and details of all the titles he has won in his career — plus a look at his love life.

Monster of the Moors
When Moors Murderer Ian Brady died in May, the MEN were able to adapt an existing Shorthand test article which had been produced on Myra Hindley to describe the story of how Brady became one of the most notorious killers in British criminal history

When Villa were Champions of Europe
Aston Villa were once Champions of Europe and the Birmingham Mail marked the 35th anniversary of a magical night in 1982 with a special Shorthand feature packed with archive images and front pages from the paper at the time.and using the new full image scrolling feature to good effect.

We Are Premier League
With the promotion of Huddersfield Town to the Premier League after the Championship play-off final, the Examiner’s Rory Benson looked at how the club had confounded the pundits to join the top flight of English football. The Shorthand article opened with video of the moment Huddersfield fans went ecstatic as Reading player Jordan Obita missed the last penalty kick at Wembley that meant their team was going up.

The Floods — Ten years on
Gloucestershire Live put in a great deal of planning ahead of the tenth anniversary of the devastating floods of July 2007 which submerged large parts of the region. A Shorthand article capturing the story was a key part of the content plan. Stunning aerial pictures highlighted the scale of the flooding with audio and video retelling the human stories behind the devastation. The Shorthand was an audience success, dominating Chartbeat on the day and generating over 13k pvs with an average time spent of over 7 minutes.

Bradley — the boy who united football
The Chronicle chose to use Shorthand to tell the story of Bradley Lowery a month after his death in July, to describe how they had been inundated with tributes and also to explain what was happening to the funds raised.
The article was shared by Bradley’s family and drew a large audience including 24.4k page views with an average time spent on the article of 7 mins 46 seconds.

Grenfell
Get West London told the story of the Grenfell Tower fire 100 days on in September with Shorthand showcasing the stunning images and video taken on the night of the blaze and in the days afterwards. There is a particularly strong use of the scrolling reveal to show a before and after image of the tower. This article has continued to be served up as related content as one of the biggest stories of 2017 has developed in the last few months.

Diana in Devon
Devon Live marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana with a Shorthand article using the archive images of Diana’s many visits to Devon during her lifetime, including video of a 1986 trip to Exeter. The article also looked back at how the county had mourned her sudden death in 1997.

Remembrance Day in Plymouth
The Plymouth Herald marked the city’s historic connection with the armed services with this special feature on the heroes who are honoured on Remembrance Day

The Sacking — Gone in 60 Minutes
Wales Online have written a series of brilliant features over the year capturing a key moment in the nation’s sporting history. For a piece on the 2007 sacking of Wales rugby coach Gareth Jenkins, Paul Abbandonato & Mark Orders used a Shorthand article to take readers through the story ten years on.

Coventry City under SISU
In December it was the 10th anniversary of the takeover of Coventry City football club by the city hedge fund SISU, at a time when the club was said to be only 20 minutes from going into administration. The Coventry Telegraph replayed the sorry tale of relegation, stadium moves and boardroom bust-ups which fans have endured in the last decade.

If I have one hope for 2018, it’s that immersive and in-depth storytelling becomes a more common feature of regional journalism. Why? Because the more we think about how to tell the story, rather than simply passing the information on, the greater the chance we have of finding new readers and awakening them to the issues which matter locally.

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