During Texas’ 83rd legislative session in 2013, lawmakers passed more than 1,400 bills, with Gov. Rick Perry signing the vast majority of those into law. While the average Texan might not care about the lion’s share of that legislation, there are several new laws that directly impact many Texans’ lives.
So how do we let our audience know about how their lives could be changing? And how do we do this in an engaging and informative way? That’s where 31 Days, 31 Ways comes in.
With most of this legislation taking effect Sept. 1, we set out to use each of August’s 31 days to explain a specific law.
Our foundation for each day was set with a story written by a member of our award-winning reporting staff. Not only did these stories explain the changes resulting from the law in question, but they also included insight from stakeholders talking about what the effects would be. It’s one thing to explain a new law requiring boater education courses that address the spread of invasive species in Texas lakes. But the impact of that law really hits home when you hear a U.S. Geological Survey biologist talk about how serious the infestation is getting in Texas waterways.
To help our audience get an even firmer grasp of these new laws, we set out to do more than just present a written story. Our editorial department worked with our tech, art and multimedia departments to create extra elements for each story — maps, graphics, charts, slideshows, videos and animations. This maximized the experience for our audience, which had multiple options to process the information we were offering.
Want to learn more about the new high school diploma options that will be available to Texas public high school students? Take an interactive quiz. Need a quick resource to read about the state’s new health care laws? Use our interactive chart. Not sure what changes mean for the state’s craft breweries? Enjoy a video tour of an Austin brewery and hear its co-founder talk about what restrictions have been eased.
What may have been the most creative and engaging multimedia elements in this project are the animations we were able to put together for a few of our stories. While a story about new protections for bison that stray off their property might not draw the attention of all Texans, our fun animation illustrating the law was a can’t-miss video. Pieces like this become viral on their own and help spread the word about what we’re covering.
It’s one thing to promote this each day in August, but we wanted this project to have staying power. So we created a calendar as a landing page, so readers can go to one place and enjoy a clean page for selecting stories to read. Images from each story matched the days that the pieces came out. Want to see more than an image and a headline? You can toggle off the calendar and onto a page that lets you scroll through stories, seeing summaries that will help you decide what you want to read more of. Either way, you have a sleek presentation that is easy to share and — thanks to our responsive design — a very pleasant experience for our online and mobile users.
The impact of 31 Days, 31 Ways was evident in how the project was shared. As we promoted each piece on Twitter, the retweets were numerous. We created a hashtag that caught on as followers promoted our series and our individual stories with the aid of that hashtag. On Facebook, various stories were getting shared on a regular basis as stakeholders let their friends know to use our stories as a resource for learning about changes in the state.
Through careful planning, collaboration and creative design, we have created an online resource for Texans that continues to be used well after the 83rd legislative session ended. We are grateful for your consideration of this project as a contender for a prestigious Online News Association award.