HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Internet Archive hopes to boost its collections through funding from the Knight News Challenge
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
May 21, 2012, 3 p.m.

NPR snags Brian Boyer to launch a news apps team (and they’re hiring)

“I’m a project manager masquerading as a programmer masquerading as a journalist,” Boyer says.

NPR has hired Brian Boyer, head of the Chicago Tribune’s news apps team, to lead a new, similar team of data grinders and designers focused full-time on interactive storytelling. That makes NPR the latest major outlet — like The New York Times and The Boston Globe — to devote newsroom resources to news apps.

Brian Boyer

“Apps,” in this context, means interactive, data-driven visualizations of the news on any platform. The network was already creating these — Poisoned Places, The Fracking Boom — but with resources scattered across departments.

The new team is seven people, including Boyer, Matt Stiles, who has done database reporting for NPR’s StateImpact project and who was the founding data apps editor for the Texas Tribune, three staff designers, and two yet-to-be-filled positions. (They’re hiring, which means more great Brian Boyer job postings.)

It hardly seems strange anymore that NPR dropped “radio” from its name.

“For a long time text was a multimedia challenge for a news organiation like NPR,” said Mark Stencel, the managing editor for digital news and Boyer’s new boss. “What we’ve been able to add over the past several years is this visual storytelling…whether that’s amazing photography or video or now really robust data-driven interactive graphics and document presentations.”

News apps are the next logical step. In an interview, Boyer described the last 10 years of multimedia journalism as an “expensive conceit,” a way for news organizations to put sounds and pictures on a screen and say they’re doing something new. He feels strongly — and says so at many a conference — that multimedia journalism should be useful, not just pretty.

“I like pretty things, don’t get me wrong,” Boyer said. “I always like to make the point that I like art but I like craft more.”

Take the Chicago Tribune’s recent story about high-rise buildings that fail fire codes. “I could have made a map. And we could have made a timeline. And those would have been interesting and explanatory in some way,” Boyer said.

“I want to give people a place people can look at to see if their house is safe,” he said.

Boyer’s challenge will be in scaling up these experiences to reach a national audience. That includes working with member stations to build customized, localized versions of news apps.

“I’m a project manager masquerading as a programmer masquerading as a journalist,” Boyer said, summing up the life of anyone building news apps. He wants to create “a really rigorous process that involves user testing, that involves being ready to change things if they stink, if they don’t work, that involves failing fast and iterating toward something.” To put it in journo-friendly terms: “You could call it inverted-pyramid style of development. If you run out of time, you cut off the bottom.”

Boyer will also help NPR move into responsive web design, something Boyer has been doing at the Tribune. For example, open the Tribune’s recent story on flame retardants and resize your browser window. The elements adapt gracefully to any screen size. “The challenge that everybody in the news apps business is facing right now,” Stencel said, “is figuring out how to make these experiences work beyond Web classic, how to get them into the handheld and tablet space, which is where our future is.”

For those of you following Boyer’s PANDA Project, it continues operating as an IRE initiative (independent of Tribune), and Boyer will remain involved part-time. (The project’s 2011 Knight News Challenge grant expires in four months.)

Boyer starts work May 28 July 9. We should see job postings in the next few weeks.

POSTED     May 21, 2012, 3 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Internet Archive hopes to boost its collections through funding from the Knight News Challenge
The home of the Wayback Machine and other efforts to preserve the Internet is among 22 projects based around libraries receiving $3 million in funding through the Knight News Challenge.
Constantly tweaking: How The Guardian continues to develop its in-house analytics system
Since its launch in 2011, The Guardian has consistently made changes to its in-house analytics tool, Ophan.
Bloomberg Business’ new look has made a splash — but don’t just call it a redesign
Bloomberg digital editor Joshua Topolsky on uncomfortable news design, new ad units, and why they killed the comments.
What to read next
2902
tweets
Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
The team that runs the Times’ Twitter accounts looked back on what they learned — what worked, what didn’t — from running @NYTimes in 2014.
728From explainers to sounds that make you go “Whoa!”: The 4 types of audio that people share
How can public radio make audio that breaks big on social media? A NPR experiment identified what makes a piece of audio go viral.
722Q&A: Amy O’Leary on eight years of navigating digital culture change at The New York Times
“In 2007, as digital people, we were expected to be 100 percent deferent to all traditional processes. We weren’t to bother reporters or encourage them to operate differently at all, because what they were doing was the very core of our journalism.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Christian Science Monitor
New York
Austin American-Statesman
USA Today
SeeClickFix
Detroit Free Press and Detroit News
Sacramento Press
AOL
Suck.com
The UpTake
ProPublica
National Journal