An intrepid journalist builds a bridge over those pesky tools

People come up with all kinds of reasons not to change. It’s only human to want to spend time where we’re comfortable, even if we have to dig a hole and cover ourselves with leaves to avoid reality.

The "intrepid" Gordon Dickson

In legacy print newsrooms, it seems that the latest pushback against change goes something like this: We’re “spending more time on the medium, the technology, than the content.” That line, from an LA Times report on Digital First Media CEO John Paton, was attributed to “a 32-year New Haven (Conn.) Register employee.” But I’ve heard it on many occasions.

I understand the sentiment. I know that those who say it are sincere in their fears that the quality of our journalism will suffer as we try to do more with less. 

And, to be honest, it’s mostly true.

But there’s a reason for that. Even though the data tells us that our audiences want stories on many platforms, too few of us have learned much beyond print.

Bridges project, 1A Sunday

Our transportation writer, Gordon Dickson, learned long ago to tell stories across platforms. He no longer has to dwell on the tools. He can talk about the stories he tells using the tools.

His recent investigative report on the troubling condition of Tarrant County bridges is a great example. Gordon wrote two stories and a blog post, shot and edited a video and built an interactive map.

In print, he provided context, giving transportation officials room to make their case. Lists, photographs and graphics packaged in a powerful design helped illustrate his points.

He used video to demonstrate what bridge inspectors look for.

In his blog post, he listed all 29 problematic bridges by score, accompanied by the interactive map, created using Google’s “My Places.”

Bridges project, Metro cover Monday

Dude even shot a photo with his iPhone to illustrate a detail.

Of course, all this took time. But every story isn’t a project that needs to be told across several platforms.

The real takeaway is to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each platform so we can tell the right story in the right way at the right time. That’s the challenge — and the fun — of our new reality.

We can’t stop talking about the tools until that becomes second nature, just like writing for print is now.

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UPDATE: Almost half of the digital traffic to Gordon’s project came via the three non-print platforms.

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