News editor Amber Krosel and the staff of Suburban Life Publications have created a series that goes beyond the typical, and often stale, coverage of a topic that affects everyone to some degree: the high price of gasoline.
The publications in Chicago’s western suburbs have created a series called Costly Commute, stories that focus on people in the coverage communities who feel firsthand the effects of high fuel prices.
“I’m confident that this will be one of our most successful project undertakings yet,” Krosel says, “largely because of one thing: We’re focusing on the readers themselves, and not the numbers or the talking heads behind your typical gas prices story.”
That is exactly what makes this series informative and entertaining. It focuses on the human element. What makes it even more relevant for other papers large and small is this isn’t a story that has a place only in the Chicago suburbs. The series can be executed in any community and in any part of the country. And the focus does not have to be on gasoline. Focus can be placed on any topic that is trending in a community, and those stories can be told with more emotion by viewing them through the eyes of a reader.
To reach out for topics and to interact with individuals in a community, newspapers can place callouts in the print product, on the Web and on social media platforms. Krosel and her staff run special callouts twice a week on Facebook. They also run print promotions to drive readers to Facebook and the Web, where readers can join the topical discussion.
To complete the storytelling process in the Costly Commute series, a video segment is shot for every story. There also is a Q&A with an expert and an infographic that highlights, for example, the best tollway routes, to complement each of the stories.
“People seem to also be enjoying the videos we post each week, which focus on the specific ‘Day in the Life’ interviewees,” Krosel says. “My favorite example so far is of a man who bought a Chevy Volt, and we show how he charges his car.