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7 examples of exceptional Flash packages

These come from USA Today, The Washington Post, the ABC (Australia’s public broadcaster), Reuters, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Seven examples, seven news organizations. Yes, they are all large news organizations. But I’d like to make the point that (contrary to what some Flash detractors have said) it’s not only The New York Times that is doing outstanding work in Flash online.

I chose these examples to show to journalism students who are near the end of their 10 weeks of instruction in designing and producing multimedia news packages.

Haiti earthquake: An expandable package that was updated with new photos, videos and audio throughout the 10 days following the earthquake. Note the added audio in the lower right corner — not every photo had this, so it was optional to include it. Videos appear seamlessly within the same interface (in the location of the still photo). Each photo has a headline, and that headline text appears at the top when you roll over the squares representing individual segments. A very classy package with a clear design and clean functionality. Exceptional: Highly adaptable to future breaking news or retrospectives. See an earlier version of the same interface: Decade in Review.

Local fashion videos: Outstanding interviews, still photos and editing make these short videos exceptional. The choice of more than a dozen well-known locations around Washington, D.C. (e.g., Eastern Market, Union Station) situates each story in a place that has a recognizable flavor and style. To bundle these first-rate stories in a clean, easy-to-use interface that encourages browsing — and includes a map — was brilliant. Bummer: No way to bookmark or e-mail link to an individual video. Bonus: Easy-to-use link list of all videos. (New ones are still being added.) Overkill: Too-elaborate Flash-based comments segment.

Black Saturday: Coverage of the worst bush fires in the history of Australia, in which 173 people died and more than 4,500 sq. km. of land burned — organized by both time and location in a manner that encourages browsing and also conveys the huge scope of the disaster. Exceptional: Use of embedded anchor points, which allow you to bookmark any segment, or e-mail a direct link to someone (see example). Exceptional: Integration of Google Earth mapping (see example). See also the amazing map locator that appears below the grid.

Economic crisis: A timeline starting with August 2007 and ending with September 2009 documents “The Year of Global Change” with text, photos and videos in an expandable interface that provides easy switching between detail view (individual items) and the overview grid. The detail you viewed last appears in the leftmost column when you return to the grid view. Bonus: Very easy to step forward and back from within the detail view. Bummer: There is no bookmarking (no embedded anchor points).

Piano Jazz: Highlighting 30 hand-picked examples of jazz musicians performing on the radio program Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, this 6 x 5 grid opens up 30 overlay segments that include an audio player, a photo of the artist, and a short text. Although this package might appear complex to the uninitiated, it is actually very straightforward. My students are fully capable of building this package right now, with a combination of XML and sound controls. Notable: Clean, appealing design, ease of use, restraint. I love it that the audio was edited down from the full-length program to feature one song performed by the guest.

Afghanistan map: This map has been updated, often daily, since February 2009. Look at the calendar selector on the left side; select any day to see all reported events on that day. Each event is located on the map with an icon that indicates its type, e.g., bomb, fighting, offensive, air attack. Roll over the icon to read a summary of the event. Exceptional: Use of external data to update (frequently!) a long-term continuing story. Bonus: Great icon design and a very clear legend box.

End of the Line: I’ve chosen this from the many great examples at The New York Times for two reasons. First, it demonstrates a versatile loaded overlay (see screen capture below): Some of the segments include video, most do not, and many include multiple still photos (some include only one photo). The navigation interface at the top of each segment (Previous and Next buttons, plus numbered buttons that indicate exactly how many photos the segment includes) is an exceptionally friendly way to present varied photo sets. Second, the two views of the intro (Map and Thumbnail) add immensely to the appeal of the package. As a former New Yorker, I am drawn in by the Map view, but I would guess that lovers of photography find the Thumbnail view more enticing.

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