Small newsroom, big results

Coincidence or Cluster,” an investigation by the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois, proves you don’t have to be a big news organization to make an online splash. The small-circulation daily put together a meaty online version of its six-part series on a suspected brain cancer cluster in nearby McCullom Lake, including videos, an interactive map, timelines, documents and background information on the disease and chemicals involved.

The series itself is thoroughly reported and told through the experience of people most directly involved in the story. The online package takes a bit of a risk by having videos default to play automatically and at full-screen size. Didn’t work for me when I was traveling, but on a high-speed connection the video quality is outstanding. One of my favorite design elements is the drop-down menu for “related content,” which tells users exactly what they’ll get if they click on “documents” or “more information.” Nicely done.