Compelling newspaper video

The talented team at the Raleigh News & Observer has done it again. Their online multimedia companion to a five-part print series on mental health reform gives users multiple ways to explore the story. Photojournalist Travis Long’s video is compelling, Judson Drennan’s interactive map breaks down spending county-by-county and Valerie Aguirre’s flash graphics bring the data to life.

The splash screen does a pretty good job of letting users know what they’ll get when they click a selection (“play the movie,” for example, is clearer than the standard “video” link). My only quibbles: I’d like to know how long the video is before I commit to watching it. And I’d like to know what “tour state hospitals” gets you–turns out to be slide shows. I love the fact that they’ve integrated both the photos and graphics from the print series into the online presentation so you can browse through them as well.

The video is one of those stories that transcends a lack of “great video” by making excellent use of sound bites, full screen graphics in lieu of narration and original documents. The audio is excellent–something that’s often a weak point in online video. The opening montage is just the right length and uses music effectively, but the interviews are the heart of the 6-and-a-half minute piece. Best decision: letting the Q-and-A with the head of the state hospital system run for a full 50 seconds. Well worth watching.