CNN Tells Stories With Data, in Six-Second Vine Videos

Can mobile technology enable us to create innovative data visualizations that are incredibly low-budget, to boot? Absolutely. Just take a look at how CNN used video app and social platform Vine in an innovative way to cover the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. CNN’s Vines mixed social media, data journalism and civil rights statistics together. Unlike static infographics, or even polished motion graphics, Vine’s stop-motion recording style gives the finished product a unique feel not often seen in the typical newsroom. Rachel Clarke, a senior editor at CNN Digital, wanted to do something special to look at the change and progress made in America since the March on Washington 50 years ago. “Infographics seemed to be the best way – they’re eye-catching, they present data that can inform people and let them form their own conclusion,” she said. “A colleague pointed us to some examples of stats shown on Vine and I fell in love with them. All the effort paid off with a wonderfully innovative way of showing off data and sharing it with our audience.” By teaming up researchers and producers with visual designers and artists, Clarke’s team was able to visualize and communicate important civil rights information in a unique and accessible way. “It was so exciting to see everyone work together and bat around different ideas to showcase simple and complex information in 6 seconds, and then to watch as they cut up photos, strung yarn and attached push pins to make it all work.” Lila King, senior director for social news at CNN Worldwide, helped orchestrate CNN’s social media coverage of the anniversary and wanted to stand out from typical social media journalism. While Vine is a popular platform that seamlessly integrates with Twitter, it is not often utilized in the newsroom. “We thought it was a safe bet that the anniversary would inspire a lot of conversation on social media, so we wanted to create a piece that would fit well into the natural flow of conversation. And Vines connect so elegantly into tweets, it just made good sense,” King said. CNN’s Vines generated considerable buzz on Twitter, including a mention from TwitterForNews, an official Twitter account that highlights best practices and innovative social media use by journalists.

All of the Vines have been collected in a special section of CNN’s March on Washington Anniversary coverage on   Jon Salm is an associate client analyst at Millward Brown Digital in New York City and a freelance data journalist in the marketplace. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Washington and Lee University. You can find him online at and follow him on twitter @S4LM3R. <

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