Quick Course Q&A with Sara Quinn

The first Quick Courses of 2008 are just a few days away.

Jan. 18-19: Audio & Video Editing, Cerritos College, Cerritos, California
Jan. 18-19: Story Forms Boot Camp, The Poynter Institute, St. Petersburg, Florida

The Quick Course at the Poynter Institute provides the excellent opportunity to have Sara Quinn speak on what the EyeTrack07 study says about Alternative Story Forms.

Sara teaches in the areas of design, graphics, photojournalism and leadership at The Poynter Institute. She is the director of Poynter's EyeTrack07 study of print and online news. Prior to joining Poynter, Quinn was AME for visuals at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune; presentation director at the Wichita Eagle; and design director, magazine editor, illustrator and book designer at other posts.

She has been juror for competitions such as the SND annual competition, the Association of Alternative News Weeklies, Scripps Howard Foundation and Best of Cox; board member of SND and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Recent work has taken Quinn into the newsrooms of the Toronto Star, The Oregonian, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Miami Herald, The Columbus Dispatch and the Orlando Sentinel. She has also worked with Ball State University, Ringling School of Art and Design and the University of Missouri in the last few months.

Quinn directs Poynter's summer fellowship for recent college grads -- a six week program with a focus on multimedia that's considered to be a finishing school for some of the brightest, most innovative young journalists in the business. Quinn helps visual journalists to find their voice in the newsroom and to think beyond traditional job descriptions for ways to contribute their ideas, passions and abilities. She has a B.A. in journalism and graphic design from Wichita State University and an M.A. in illustration from Syracuse University.

Sara recently answered a few of our questions about ASFs.

What does EyeTrack 2007 tell us about ASFs?
We tested 600 regular readers of newspapers in four U.S. cities. Our findings showed that alternative story forms (things like a Q&A, a timeline, a short list or by-the-numbers box) helped readers to retain facts about something they'd read. These forms were popular, too, receiving much more attention than the standard written story form -- particularly in broadsheet. Readers in the study also reported greater satisfaction with what they read when it involved alternative story forms.

What advice do you have for news organizations in light of the study?
Only about 4 percent of everything that was available to be read in 30 days of testing during our study could be categorized as an alternative story form. This seems to echo trends on an average day in most U.S. newspapers. To me, this means that there is a lot of room for growth and development toward making daily papers more engaging. It's something we can act on.

Do you think readers vary among markets?
I think there are some differences, particularly related to a commuter market -- and readers will sometimes show a greater personal connection to a publication than another. It was interesting, in an anecdotal way, to meet almost 600 readers and talk with them about their local papers during our study.

If you were starting from scratch, would you design a paper or Web site?
Great question. I think paper still makes sense at this point, from a business perspective. That's still where the money would be for advertising. I would put money (if I had it :) ) into a niche publication.

What's the first ASF you remember working on?
I'm sure it wasn't the very first, but I remember something that outlined how much it would cost to put one new community police officer on the street in Wichita, Kansas. We set it up as sort of an equation, including costs for recruiting, hiring, training and outfitting an officer with gun, handcuffs, uniforms, cars, etc.

Do you have a favorite form of ASF? If yes, what is it and why?
I really like them all, collectively. I do enjoy reading a Q&A that's done well. There's an art to asking questions that elicit an unguarded response and that flow from one question to the next.

Register for the Story Forms Boot Camp at the Poynter Institute, or choose one of the many other Quick Courses.

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