(Originally posted Oct. 29, 2010)
After several years of helping judge big projects with interactives and other online elements, you notice a pattern: Most of them involved a huge amount of work, and yet they almost always have the reader/user as an afterthought. It might be a pretty and impressive project, but it’s usually still a one-way communication: We, the news organization, have pulled this information together and present here in highly readable/viewable form for you, our audience. One project that didn’t is getting a lot of buzz at the Online News Association convention: the Roanoke Times’ I-81: Fear, Facts and the Future. As the Nieman Journalism lab notes, it’s not a particularly newsy topic, just one of lingering interest in the community. But the buzz is about the online presentation’s design as a hub that lets users interact with the data, read all the stories easily, and leave comments. It is a finalist for a Knight Public Service Award (and by the end of the day it may be the winner.) The site went up in May, and as of late September people were still leaving comments. The plan is to keep the site active and update the data on it.
11/1 UPDATE: It didn’t win.