The New York Times is in collaboration mode. Last week, it announced a local partnership — with its fellow local news source, WNYC — to cover the city’s education system; today, it’s announced a collaboration that is decidedly more national in scope. In the run-up to September 11, the paper is joining with YouTube and the video-curation service Storyful to gather and share users’ reflections on 9/11 and the meaning of the ten years that have passed since the attacks.
“I think this is the first time that we’ve officially been working with YouTube in this way,” says Lexi Mainland, the Times social editor who is helping to oversee the project on the Times’ end. (The other collaborators: the Times’ editorial director of video, Ann Derry; YouTube’s news manager, Olivia Ma; and Storyful’s editorial director, David Clinch.) It’s an effort that should bring both intimacy and scale to the paper’s coverage of the somber anniversary. By joining with YouTube, the Times gains a built-in video-sharing platform; by joining with Storyful, it gains expert curation for the videos it gathers. Both team-ups will likely expand the paper’s reach while also allowing it to tell a story that is, at its core, intensely personal and human.
The group behind the channel has been talking about doing this kind of collaboration for a while now, Mainland told me, and, once they decided on the outlet, wanted to get the channel up and running well in advance of the September anniversary. They wanted, she says, to “have a really robust channel by the time people would be focusing on it.”
At the moment, the channel’s main page (which shares NYT and YouTube branding) invites users to share their stories via a series of prompt questions that, Mainland told me, she culled from a broader swath of prompt questions soliciting user feedback on the anniversary:
What is your strongest memory of 9/11?
How did 9/11 change you? How did it change America?
What did you lose — or gain — because of 9/11?
Mainland chose these questions, in particular, because they lend themselves especially well to video-based responses. And you can see some of the reflections that have already been uploaded to the channel, a mosaic of faces that will expand as news of the project spreads.
And the project is also, in some sense, a collaboration between the Times and itself. The project will be integrated into the Times’ more immediate coverage of the 9/11 anniversary. It will have its own landing page within NYTimes.com, first of all; and, as that anniversary nears, the Times and Storyful will select videos, probably six to eight or so at a time, that will be featured more prominently on the Times’ website as a component of its user-generated reflections.
In that, it will be an extension of the Times’ more traditional approaches to commemoration. The paper has a video project coming out to mark the 9/11 anniversary, Mainland told me, one produced by the Times’ in-house multimedia producer, Lisa Iaboni. “For months,” Mainland says, “she has been asking questions of New Yorkers,” setting up places around the city to interview people on-camera about their experiences of 9/11 and its aftermath. The YouTube/Storyful project is in many senses a next step of that documentary, an attempt to expand it with user-generated clips. It’s a way, Mainland says, for the Times to include in its coverage all the people that it can’t interview one-on-one.