By Adam Coleman

NASHVILLE – Run the ball. In other words, play to your strengths.

The reference to the defining play in Super Bowl XLIX was a main theme for “Beast-Mode Storytelling” at the 2018 Associated Press Sports Editors conference.

Moderated by Boston Globe digital sports editor Matt Pepin, the general session detailed how to create dynamic and compelling stories through various multimedia features.

The pieces on display from Pepin, the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Chris White, Owen Hassell from the Wilmington StarNews and Maria Torres from the Kansas City Star embodied that thought.

Each project was produced from publications with vastly different readership bases, circulations and resources.

The panelists stressed that the written word is still the foundation for the best storytelling but it can be amplified by video, infographics, audio and interactive devices that pull in both regular and new readers.

Torres’ deep dive into the final year of Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura’s life before his January 2017 death included animated maps and numerous interviews with his family and friends that included a trip to the Dominican Republic. The piece includes reconstructing the path was driving on before his car crash.

Torres says the story had a “snowball effect”, starting with research on social media and following a path that led to difference facets of Ventura’s life.

White’s presentation asked if you can be the referee and challenge readers who are unfamiliar with the difficulty of football referees’ jobs in real time.

With the help of Western Kentucky spring practices, 14 people worked on the project. It flipped virtual reality video into an interactive website that allowed readers to view various plays while getting quizzed to see if they can pick out the correct penalty.

In Sports in North Carolina East of Interstate 95, Hassell used an interactive map featuring the most notable athletes, venues and moments in 30 counties in the eastern half of the state.

Hassell’s motivation for the project was to avoid the feeling of unrealized potential. He said if there is more to be produced, it should be done and even with this project, Hassell said more video elements could have been included.

Pepin rounded out the panel with a detailed look into Chris Sale’s pitching mechanics. His  advice included brainstorming, putting ideas on whiteboard and considering resources and first-hand looks as well as diversions, key symbols and whether projects appeal to the five senses.

Pepin added the most rewarding aspect was the ability to tell readers something they didn’t know in a way they’ll remember.

Link: Slides from the presentation

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