The Cost of War: Traumatic Brain Injury – WaPo


So while looking for a nifty multimedia piece online, I came across this doozy by the Washington Post.



Just looking at the home page for this 2010 behemoth, it’s easy to make a few observations. Like, say, the plethora of links, stories and sub-articles. This is more of a hub I suppose. As you can see, there’s a menu bar at the top that’s spaced in somewhat of an odd manner. There’s HOME with a little house icon, INTRO, then SURVIVORS. For some reason, instead of making SURVIVORS a drop menu, it’s simply horizontally expanded into the links to various people in this story with Robert Warren being the focus. He even gets a video and photos.

After the SURVIVORS, you get a BRAIN link and, finally, a link to the article (with a little out-arrow icon thingy). The home page is littered with double links to what’s already in the menu, which is a good thing if you’re afraid people are going to miss the menu I guess. The video is autoplay which isn’t exactly desirable in web stories. You can also access videos on the other survivors from the home page in lieu of clicking on their links in the menu bar.

Let’s see what this intro is all about now…

Oh hai there video.

Oh hai there video.

Okay, so the intro is a video. All of the information that was below the home page remains, but I just cropped that out of this screenshot. Both the “View full menu” and “Skip intro buttons that flank the video lead back to the home page, which is somewhat of an interesting choice. The video autoplays and looks to be from an in-house Adobe video player developed by WaPo.

Onward to the SURVIVORS tab.

Following another video - a photo gallery.

Following another video – a photo gallery.

Clicking on the SURVIVORS tab brings the reader directly to another video. This one is on the first survivor – Mr. Warren. Skipping that, you can go to a photo gallery with some nice, large photos. There seems to be a bit of a hiccup with the side text there, as it sticks into the photos some. Clicking on the photos progresses the reader through the gallery. And apparently you can buy the photos.

Right, onto the BRAIN tab (the other survivors are all videos identical to the INTRO video and Warren’s).

An infographic appears!

An infographic appears!

Hey look at that, an infographic! This piece includes the ability to highlight different areas of the brain and to play audio clips of professionals speaking on each part. It’s pretty standard as far as infographics go, but I’d say it works with this piece. Lots of information for those who want to know what happens when you knock your noggin’. Hitting “Start” autoplays the audio clips on each subsequent brain area.

And then the ARTICLE link, of course, leads to the article on this story.

All in all, I think this multimedia piece is a little subpar. This could be due to the fact that it was done in 2010 and multimedia was still a budding practice at WaPo. Or it could be due to the fact that nobody really had the inspiration to create something truly immersive like the New York Time’s “Snow Fall” late in 2012.

My biggest take away from looking at this piece though, is that this is what we shouldn’t be doing in 2013. As informative as it is, I believe there are better ways to bring multimedia elements together to tell a story now and producing something like this is just lazy. I’m certainly not faulting the Washington Post for this piece though – they were probably working with what they had at the time. Just know that “The Cost of War” is totally a 2010 multimedia piece, not a 2013 multimedia piece.


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