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INBA Sessions: How To Turn Data Into Stories

By Josh Morgan

The first session at INBA's spring convention was focused on data and the many options and tools journalists have to create unique stories from this information. The session was led by Ryan Denham of WGLT-FM in Bloomington-Normal. Ryan's presentation revolved around what he called the "Spectrum of Digital Awesomeness." And true to its name, there were a number of awesome ideas on how to turn a boring data story into an informative and unique story.

WGLT-FM's Ryan Denham demonstrates how to use embeds to enhance your digital content.

The "Spectrum" he shared focused on four main areas (1) The Basics, (2) Next Steps, (3) Stretch Your Legs & (4) That's Cool.  Here's a short breakdown of ideas he had under each category:

1. The Basics - Ryan focused on simple ideas here, like linking to other sites and content in your web story.  Give people the opportunity to find more resources from within your web article.  Even better, if that extra content comes from your station.  He also reminded people about the importance of callouts on social media.  Facebook & Twitter can be gold mines for story ideas.  Crowd sourcing these sites can lead to a number of good, unique story ideas.

2. Next Steps - In this step, Ryan focused on different tools to add nice visuals to web stories, including ideas like infographics, quote graphics and embeds.  He talked at great length about separating your content from your competition.  If everyone is going to do a similar story, going the extra mile to create infographics or quote graphics-or insert extra content through embeds, your story will be deeper and stand out from the competition.

3. Stretch Your Legs - In this step, Ryan shared a number of ideas that take a little bit more work and technical skill, but for many journalists, they are all doable given enough time to focus on it.  He gave further, more unique graphic options through programs like Infogram, Tableau, Scribd and Document Cloud and also talked about ways to utilize Google Maps to showcase photos coming in from viewers/listeners.  In this step, he also talked at great length about Facebook Live best practices.  Don't just use it to use, use it for behind the scenes activities, "must-see" content and station events. One very unique idea he had was to actually create private Facebook pages for specific topics that the community is highly interested in. That way you can have a specific, engaged conversation on a platform that anyone who is interested can access.

4. That's Cool - He actually had another term for this step, but I'm keeping it family-friendly. Here he shared a number of examples of how some news organizations are taking creativity and engagement to another level across the country.  If you want to see some of what he was talking about, check out ProPublica, "NBA Desktop on The Ringer," and NPR Skunk Bear.

This was a great segment to get the ideas flowing for all journalists.  Now, time to challenge ourselves to use some of what we learned!

You can see Ryan's Power Point presentation below: