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2014 Gannett Foundation Award for Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism winner

Journalists’ Toolbox

 

About the Project

Journalists’ Toolbox is a suite of JavaScript libraries that are designed to help journalists tell media-rich, interactive stories quickly and easily.

The suite of tools allows journalists to deploy maps, timelines, and integrated audio either as a part of a story or in place of a written story. Each tool is designed to enable creativity and flexibility when it comes to producing interactive content and to allow journalists to pick the format that will best help tell the story at hand.

Journalists’ Toolbox is composed of three tools: StoryMapJS, SoundCiteJS, and TimelineJS.

All of our Journliasts’ Toolbox tools are open source tool, which means news organizations with significant technical skill can take the core technology and modify it as they see fit — as The New York Times, Washington Post and others have done. But they’re also designed to be accessible to reporters and producers in a hurry or without deep technical skills.

Creating a Timeline, StoryMap, or SoundCite instance is as easy as using an editing tool and then deploying by pasting a short piece of code into a news organization’s CMS.

Journalists’ Toolbox has been used by the world’s leading newsrooms (see examples below). They have been integrated in to newsroom CMSs, and modified to match the look and feel a particular publication’s style while keeping the tool’s native simplicity and core functionality.

We began building the suite about two years ago, and made the project’s most significant update in March 2014 with the addition of StoryMapJS, a mapping tool that helps journalists tell stories in which geography is a critical component of the story.

Adoption: Journalists’ Toolbox tools are among the most popular storytelling tools on the web. They have been deployed more than 300,000 times, accounted for more than 147 million pageviews, and have been seen by more 71 million newsreaders.

Our tools are available to journalists around the world and have been deployed in more than 50 languages, including many that don’t use Latin characters, such as Tamil, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Telugu, Russian, Hindi, and Greek. Journalists’ Toolbox truly is a global resource that helps journalists around the world inform and engage readers.

Press coverage:

  • “(StoryMap) is easy to pick up and learn and requires no data formatting or coding, so while the bar is low the returns are high.” — Kirsten Mentzer, Information Architect.
  • “Another great tool produced by the Knight Lab at Northwestern University.” — Michelle Balmeo, Journalism Education Association.
  • “In just a couple of hours you can put together a map that looks professional and is portable to any webpage.” — Daniel Griffin, Digital Humanitarian.
  • “A digital storyteller’s dream.” Rachel Bartlett, Editor, Journalism.co.uk
  • “Tiny, but potent.” — Craig Mod, former product designer at FlipBoard, writing about The New York Times adaption of SoundCiteJS in “Far beyond Snow Fall”
  • “Storymap is an awesome and easy tool to make multimedia packages.” — Robb Montgomery, Author of A Field Guide for Mobile Journalism
  • “Creating timelines using Timeline JS is a joy. It is as simple as entering date details, image URLs, and captions in a Google spreadsheet.” — Sarah Marshall, Journalism.co.uk
StoryMapJS

StoryMapJS is an open source tool that helps journalists tell interactive, media-rich stories in which location is a key component of the narrative. While most mapping tools focus on presenting large amounts of data, StoryMapJS is dedicated to bringing true narrative storytelling to maps.

We released an alpha version of StoryMapJS (basically a JavaScript library that required JS and JSON knowledge to use) in December 2013 and a beta version in March 2014. The beta version marked a significant upgrade to the usability of the tool and opened sophisticated design and interaction to journalists who lacked deep technical knowledge.

Making a beautiful StoryMapJS instance is now as easy as finding directions via Google Maps or building a simple PowerPoint. The beta update has helped journalists — from those working at the largest, most sophisticated operations to those at small, independent sites — tell incredible stories using the most popular media on the web today, including Flickr photos, YouTube and Vimeo videos, Twitter posts, Wikipedia, and more.

StoryMap deployments:

TimelineJS

TimelineJS is an open-source tool that allows journalists with very little technical skill to quickly and easily create interactive, media-rich timelines using nothing more than a Google Spreadsheet. News organizations around the world have used TimlineJS to tell some of the world’s important stories — from the story of a murdered Austrian boy to chronologies of presidential races.

Like StoryMapJS, TimelineJS includes an iframe embed tool that allows news producers to embed timelines as easily as they would a YouTube video. This update helped any news organization use the tool on both large and small stories over the last year.

SoundCiteJS

SoundCite is an open-source tool that allows journalists to quickly and seamlessly add in-line audio to their stories. SoundCite unifies audio and text and is ideally suited for any story that’s made richer by audio — from song clips to 911 calls to ambient sound.

With SoundCite, a writer can take any audio source hosted on SoundCloud on openly online as an MP3, and then use the SoundCite interface to create a custom audio clip that embeds neatly into text. It is as easy to include in a story as a hyperlink.

Like other tools SoundCiteJS is open source. It has been modified by publications large and small to better tell important stories.

Examples: