Since starting the Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship in January 2018 I have been doing some occasional freelance work on the topic, such as these posts for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. My main focus will be major projects.
2018 Alicia patterson fellow
Each year the Alicia Patterson Foundation awards fellowships to journalists to study topics for a year. My challenge is to report on the natural gas pipeline building boom in Appalachia. I'll be doing so in words, photos, audio, 360video and more. Contact me if you are interested in learning more or partnering with research or publication.
Photo District News' David Walker writes in the May 2017 Magazine about "100 Days, 100 Voices" from Appalachia. "Dana Coester, editor and creative director of “100 Days in Appalachia,” says coal miners dominated the national media’s narrative of the region, before and after the election. “We knew there was more complexity than that. Nancy’s project was about surfacing the multiplicity of voices.” It’s an experiment, Coester explains, to burst “the media filter bubbles that people inhabit,” get beyond the political polarization around the issues, and build a national audience through social media.
I grew up on a small farm in Caroline County, Virginia. I loved the farm. We had a pet ram, Harry, and a pet cow, Bootsy. I had a pet billy-goat, rabbit and assorted cats and dogs. My family had been part of that community for hundreds of years. The experience shaped me in ways that I have only come to truly understand as I have aged. My family and my friends throughout the years have given me the strength and support to believe in good and that each of us can make the world a better place through our own individual actions.
Though a few years have passed since this video was made, I still cry when I watch, and can't watch it all the way through. Created by my wonderful colleague and friend Lynn Johnson of National Geographic, it describes the last gifts my mother gave to me and others around her. I have it posted here because that time has had such an impact on my life, and to know it is to know a bit of me. After that, you can read about the other stuff.
my journalism History
The majority of career and professional efforts have been with traditional news organizations like The Washington Post or the Detroit Free Press and through some of my books and museum exhibitions. My work has earned me three Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, two national Robert R. Murrow Awards, a “Laurel” from the Columbia Journalism Review, White House News Photographer of the Year title and Photographer of the Year from the National Press Photographer’s Association and University of Missouri’s Pictures of the Year International.
@ West Virginia University's Reed College of Media
From 2015 to 2017 I had the pleasure to "visit" as the Ogden Newspaper Visiting Professor for Media Innovation at West Virginia University. In my final year, I worked with other WVU professors, students, professionals, West Virginia Public Broadcasting and The Daily Yonder on a reporting project called, "100 Days in Appalachia." With various roles related to the creation of the project, and I later moved on to create 100 portraits to show the human stories of the communities of Appalachia that are often more complex than national narratives have allowed. My goal is to show the diversity of life and thought in the region. I found surprises and some comfort in that we all see a little bit of ourselves in the people I share with you through photography.
For me, college teaching is far different than workshop or in-house company teaching. Each student must balance classes and often a job. My class must prove itself to even get their attention.
You get attention with 360 video. Together with The Washington Post's Phoebe Connelly and Danese Kenon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, brought to us through our Knight Foundation Innovators in Residence program, we were teaching 360 video in January 2016 just as everyone else was learning it too. This side-by-side learning is so important. We can't wait to know everything, as professors we are challenged to learn alongside our students. More on our 360 video.
We use human-centered design approaches for our product and audience research. I try to structure classes to better prepare students for the ambiguity of the world and workplace rather than the rote list of a syllabus. Students and I have made contributions to improving the record on women and people of color on Wikipedia. See more from my article for Mediashift: Why you and your students should work to improve Wikipedia.
My role as the Ogden Professor of Media Innovation called for me to push the boundaries. With a partnership I led with Matterport we introduced non-linear storytelling to students as they explored the possibilities of 3D storytelling. Take a look at this modern portrait of student living in 'Where WVU Lives."
MORE: The official press release at WVU and Jimmy Colton's blog, Z Journal, did a rather long profile of me, but if you like to read, it's a good one. (At least that's what I think and what others have told me. It is a bit hard for me to judge since it is about me.)
@ the Detroit Free Press
At the Detroit Free Press I held various versions of titles that put me in charge of newsroom innovation and digital. My last charge wad Chief of Innovation. I was part of a wonderful newsroom full of talented and dedicated journalists serving the people of Detroit and Michigan. While part of the leadership team for the entire news organization and I was able concentrate most of my efforts in new cool things. From 2006 to late 2014 I was Managing Editor/ Digital Media (or some version of that title). I supervised the digital team (freep.com and our social media), photography & video, multimedia arts, data analysis, systems, copy desk, data desk and entertainment staffs. You can look at those dates and know things like Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat accounts, philosophies etc... all happened under my watch.
As the editor for digital I tried to create an environment of excellence, curiosity and service to our community. In 2014 our work was recognized with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding website among the large division online.
How Detroit Went Broke
In 2013 I was fortunate to direct a talented team that included Nathan Bomey, John Gallagher, Eric Millikin, Christopher Kirkpatrick, Martha Thierry and many others across the newsroom. Together we set out to explain not the decline of Detroit, but why the city was in bankruptcy, a very specific situation where one spends and borrows more than one can pay back. We combed through more than 60 years of documents and found nearly one billion dollars had been paid out in optional pension bonuses. We discovered surprises - that you couldn't blame the controversial former Mayor Coleman Young and that the $1.4 billion dollar pension deal that would later help sink the city, had actually won "Deal of Year," back in 2005. The bankruptcy was one big mush of data, and no one was really bringing new analysis to the situation. We set out to help Detroit and Michigan better understand the City of Detroit went broke, and judging from the response, I think we did a good service. Others thought so too, including Columbia Journalism Review: A laurel for the Detroit Free Press: Deeply reported coverage explodes simplistic myths about how the Motor City went bankrupt
Data is not a four letter word, and SEO isn't either (obviously)
Sometime after I became Deputy Managing Editor/Multimedia in 2006 I began to embrace the data - metrics data that is. So, for a long time, we've been using data at the Free Press to help drive decisions not just see what's most popular. Understanding the metrics helps us better serve our audience. It's our regular habit to understand where our traffic is coming from and why. We look at quality metrics too: How long do people stay? Do they just bounce away? What do they interact with and what matters most to them? We take action on this information. Our primary tool has long been Adobe Analytics a.k.a. Omniture, now we use Chartbeat as well.
Search engine optimization (SEO) isn't just a game to drive search traffic to our site. People are using search to find information they need and quite often, we have that information. SEO is about being smart -- labeling what we have and using the right terms so people can find it. Not everyone just types in freep.com for the latest news, instead they search for it and millions of times each month people find what they were searching for on freep.com.
Social has always been a part of our journalism
Yes, we've evolved from purely letters-to-the-editor interaction on opinion pages. In fact, sometimes we've evolved almost too quickly, such as when we first started out Twitter account in 2007. We tried tweeting for a while without much traction, only to return to it full force later once everyone else was on Twitter. We joined Facebook when most journalists were aghast at the thought of "marketing" our stories. Now, our reach through Facebook is greater than visitors to our conventional website.
We've brought in the voices and images of our community whether it's news related or something like our "Detroit Self Portrait Project" where our community defined ourselves through images rather than through the lenses of outsiders. These pictures and the discussion of Detroit's image were part of digital, print and a special event at the Detroit Public Library.
The Free Press has a long history of outstanding photojournalism and starting in 2005 as director of photography I led the staff to expand our vision to include video. American Journalism Review highlighted our change among the industry's evolution in 2008 in "Video Explosion."
Video is now part of our DNA. As a staff we have won four national Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, a Webby and a national Edward R. Murrow Award in video.
In our documentary video, we go for the highest levels of storytelling and emotion. I believe that some of the most gifted video storytellers working today are working for news organizations that were once exclusively newspaper based. It's a fascinating time to be part of video journalism as this art evolves.
Freep Film Festival
Detroit is a creative place, and "Detroit does documentaries"-- that's the tagline of the Freep Film Festival. So many films are being done to chronicle Detroit, plus there is so, so much talent here we want to build a festival to highlight the work and discuss the issues. The inaugural fest took place in March 2014 with a dozen presentations and discussions. I serve on the board.
In 2013 I was honored to lead a team of more than 20 colleagues from across the broadcast, digital and newspaper divisions of Gannett. Together we visited more than 26 sites from across the nation and taught more than 1500 journalist how to do video. We called it Turbo Video, but it was really about turbo change -- helping seasoned journalists see that they could use their storytelling expertise in another medium, and be good at it. It was about evolution and personal innovation. Our teams and students simultaneously tweeted each session on the hashtag #turbovideo. By the end of 2013 video views had tripled, and our journalism flourished with this powerful tool. I was recently honored by my colleagues who nominated me, and the company agreed, to be Gannett's Innovator of the Year for 2013.
@ The Washington Post
Prior to the Free Press, you could find me at The Washington Post where I was a staff photographer for 10 years. I was fortunate to recognized for my work and named White House Photographer of the Year in 1998 and Newspaper Photographer of the Year by the University of Missouri and the National Press Photographers Association in 1997. During my time as a photographer I made the most out of every situation, enjoyed meeting people and telling their stories. To learn a little bit what it was like to work at The Post during these years, check out this article from the American Journalism Review.
Books & Exhibitions
Family: A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian America
HarperCollins published my first book, "Family: A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian America," in 1994. The work portrayed gay and lesbian people from across America -- from Elvis impersonators to Congressmen to cowboys and stock brokers to activists to choir members, to teenagers to a 93-year-old. The Corcoran Gallery of Art held an exhibition of the entire work in the summer of 1994. I am so thankful for all the people who agreed to participate in that book and tell their story. You've helped me and others grow. More...
New York Times Review, 1994: "In the tradition of this country's great documentary photographers, Nancy Andrews, a photographer at The Washington Post, illuminates a part of American culture too often hidden from most people's view. Ms. Andrews's sensitive, stirring collection of 70 black-and-white photographs with accompanying oral histories, FAMILY: A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian America (HarperSanFrancisco, paper, $25), is an important record of 20th-century gay life and a joy to read..." more
Partial View: An Alzheimer's Journal
In 1998, Southern Methodist University Press published, "Partial View: An Alzheimer's Journal," which told the story of Dr. Cary Smith Henderson as he descended into the depths of the disease. His wife, Ruth Henderson, and daughter, Jackie Henderson Main and I edited his words and into a book meant for other families and people with Alzheimer's disease. The images and thoughts were exhibited at the Newseum in 1998.
It was an honor to work with the family on this important project. The work of Dr. Henderson to help people come to grips with this disease has been described as life changing by some who needed to understand Alzheimer's as it hit their family.
From Amy: ...It's a good look at what it must feel like to find yourself aging/getting sick, and discovering that you're unable to do simple things you once could...and all the fear and confusion that comes with that...
From Celeste: ...A quick read by a man who recorded his thoughts as he became increasingly incapacitated by Alzheimer's. I loved the photographs--oftentimes, due to the nature of this disease, the images say more than the narration can...
This 31-year-old had had enough. So she ran. And won. https://t.co/3MCSDgQfSP
Rural America’s Own Private Flint: Polluted Water Too Dangerous to Drink https://t.co/FbjVRAgMuL
'Journalists too often parrot what the president says, and giddily follow his shiny-object distractions du jour.' F… https://t.co/lobgFgXn5j
Story: 'U.S. militia groups head to border, stirred by Trump’s call to arms' Local residents fear people will get h… https://t.co/Sc07JtQro8
If you want the details of a resume, check out my LinkedIn profile.