A news story that actually made the news

Coming into this assessment I didn’t expect the story to turn out the way it did…I mean this in a good way!

But before we get to that, lets start at the beginning.

The assessment was to create an original news story in 72 hours and utilise online tools to assist in telling the story. The brief mentioned the story may be edited and posted on QUTnews.com, I decided to tailor my news story to this element of the brief and brainstormed stories that would provide a relevant news link between QUT and the broader Brisbane community.

Starting the hunt for an idea I headed to the Fleet Store, an annual ephemeral fashion boutique run and stocked by QUT Fashion students. The designers revealed this years was running with a bit of a twist with the inclusion of  a social responsibility event called Sewing Support. The event aimed to raise awareness for youth homelessness by creating a 12 hour production run sewing underwear to be donated to Brisbane Youth Service (BYS). Light bulb!

To prepare for the story, I got into contact with the Marketing Manager of the Fleet Store Kim and discussed the event. Kim was instrumental in helping me set up an interview with the CEO of  the Brisbane Youth Service, Annemaree Callander by providing her contact details via the event’s press release.

Sewing Support's 12 hour production run created 100  pairs of undies for youth in need.

Sewing Support’s 12 hour production run created 100 pairs of undies for youth in need.

The interviewing process proved challenging at times. Annemaree called me back as I was walking to uni for my Online Journalism lecture at 10am. Thankfully I was able to sit down at a bench on a quiet street, set down my recorder and put her on speaker phone and did the interview in the sunshine that was last Monday morning. Aside from some interference created by planes flying over, I was able to get a clear recording and isolate some strong grabs for the story.

After talking out the idea out with a fellow journo buddy, I had a solid idea set. I would use the event to talk about the broader issue of youth homelessness in Brisbane.

I wanted the story to be posted as close to the event as possible to ensure it was relevant and original, so I ensured I did plenty of prep work the night before the event. Being a bit challenged with technology, I did plenty of experimenting with online tools to familiarize myself such as creating picture slide shows on Youtube and overlaying my voice grabs from Annemaree. I also figured out the ins and outs of inserting a Twitter feed on WordPress and played around with different data visualisations on Infogram to figure out which graphic would best communicate the statistics I had on youth homelessness.

I had all the grabs I wanted from Annemaree saved, I’d planned out my interviews and interviewees, my story all mocked up and ready to go for the next day.

I was at the event from around midday til 6pm where I interviewed Kim about the event and Hollie, a volunteer from BYS and snapped some good shots of the event. I experiemented with my online storytelling skills and put together a slide show of the day’s events with a voice over from Annemaree, which I hope furthered my reader engagement.

A video summary of the Sewing Support event and a audio grab from CEO of  the Brisbane Youth Service, Annemaree Callander

Unfortunately Twitter wasn’t the social media platform of choice for the event, although I did write #sewingsupport and #fleetstore on the blackboards they used for advertising as well as tweeting about the event from my own account in an attempt to trigger conversation in the Twitosphere. Although the Fleet Store’s Instagram was the events platform of choice so I included a post from their account in my story.

I was going over my recordings of the interviews I had with Kim and Hollie when I decided I’d bite the bullet and pitch the story to Brisbane Times.  My tutor, Trina who encouraged me to pitch it to Brisbane Times at the tute on Monday…to be honest, I didn’t think much of this at the time, I was more relieved that she liked the idea!

I also wanted to include images of homeless youth within the article to emphasise the seriousness of the issue within our society. However, the Brisbane Youth Service is strict about journalists going and taking photos of their clients and they wasn’t able to supply me with photos until the day after the event, which would be too late for my story. I explored an alternative and looked at Getty Images Embed but they were all looked quiet fake and set up, to include these images might have almost mocked the issue rather than communicate the seriousness of the issue.

The Brisbane Times actually got back to me and I collaborated with Natalie Bochenski throughout the day to report the event… my first byline with the Brisbane Times was the cherry on top!

I raced home to make some final adjustments to the story. Kim got back to me at around 9pm saying the team had finished the day sewing 100 pairs of undies, just shy of their target of 150. This information was exclusively reported in my blog (I did mail the Brisbane Times and let them know as well).

My post was delayed slightly due to technical issues. I didn’t realise that WordPress.com didn’t allow for certain plugins to include interactive data visualisations. I frantically tried to google a solution only to find I needed to download features to create a WordPress.org account. The clock was ticking. My story was becoming increasingly irrelevant in the online news world. Making a quick judgement call, I decided to simply embed a still image of my inforgraphic I had created with an accompanying caption . The graphic was still effective in communicating the rise in youth homelessness although it would have been stronger as an interactive.

Overall, I had a great time completing this assessment and learning about the suitability of different online tools to assist in storytelling. I achieved my initial aim for the assessment to create a relevant news link between QUT and the broader Brisbane community…and Brisbane Times thought so too!