Author: Lauren B

Case Study: San Francisco’s Class War, By the Numbers


San Francisco’s Class War takes a closer look at the division of wealth amongst the San Franciscan community. The piece begins describes San Francisco’s ongoing plight – wealth is being literally driven into the city while those financially struggling are having to relocate in order to afford to live in or around the city.  The story takes an illustrated approach to communicate its plot points and statistics. Most of the other finalists for the 2014 Online Journalist Awards had much more visually obvious multimedia elements that could be discussed, but the lack of standard multimedia elements in this project is what appealed to me, and provided a challenge that I felt able to surmount through crafting this case study.

At first glance, this multimedia story doesn’t appear to provide many storytelling elements to help communicate and accentuate its points. But what appears to just be a large simplistic infographic, is actually a multimedia piece that utilizes several data storytelling elements in order to communicate the current economic issues of San Francisco through visual means. The illustration is informative, concise, and effectively portrays San Francisco’s Class War.

Elements and storytelling formats

Text formatting

As discussed in the Poynter article, “News organizations experiment with ‘illustrated storytelling’ — a new way to tell serious stories”, when a story might have logistical limitations hard to grasp, illustrations help provide a powerful story form. This multimedia project does not feature any text other than what is within the illustration. The text is fact heavy, but separated into individual comics making the data easier to grasp.  This separation forces the reader to follow the direction of text that the journalist has dictated.

Instead of posting technical graphs and charts, the journalist has decided to display these statistics through illustrations like the examples below:

image 2image 1

As David Sleight suggests in the Nieman Lab article, “What happens when you engage design with reporting”, design helps readers look at information in a different, possibly more beneficial understanding light.  He states, “these well-designed big stories help put a human face on it and drive home the importance and what the reader should take away from it.”


The plot structure of this multimedia presentation is unlike typical long form stories. It doesn’t follow the familiar dramatic structure, as seen in our Storytelling formats module and instead relies on somewhat of a non-linear narrative. Instead, this story builds facts upon facts escalating the rising action in order to expatiate the problem of financial inequality in the city.  The project first focuses on the positive effects that technology has provided for the city in areas like job growth and unemployment.

image 3

As the illustrations demonstrates the few positive effects of the now technology driven city, it quickly diminishes these positive statistics with the negative result that these jobs are having upon the less wealthy citizens in the city. Through additional illustrations, the viewers see that rent prices have increased, vacancy rates have gone up, and there are discrepancies between transit ridership and an unwillingness for major tech companies to help fund the public transit that the majority of their workers take to commute. The story concludes with a short climax and open ended conclusion proposing the reader to think of the bigger picture with data from a general poll taken by the Wall Street Journal. People (not just from San Francisco) were asked which word describes the state of the nation and “divided, troubled, and deteriorating” were among the top answers given. Having this multimedia project end with a poll that includes all citizens, validates why this article is important and how what is happening in San Francisco is likely to occur elsewhere across the nation.


The journalist attempts to inculcate the information that this is a problem that could affect the majority of people in urban environments and we as a society need to be aware that these problems are present.

Interactivity –

There is absolutely no obvious form of interactivity for this piece. It does covers a very thought provoking issue, leading to future discussion of San Francisco’s class war on social media, which, in that sense, could be considered interactive on a broader level. There is no social media influence directly on the page that hosts the story, other than an option to share the story on Facebook and Twitter, and an empty comment section below the piece, but I would not consider these to be true measures of interactivity. Social media embeds would not have been appropriate for the overall illustrative design of this project, but it would have been advantageous to encourage more users to post their thoughts on social media. When searching for more discussion on this project, Twitter is booming with discussion concerning the class war, even posting a link to this article two years after it was originally published, proving its consistent relevancy. This multimedia project could have benefited from animated illustrations, forcing the user to click through the piece. This could have been a simple addition that would incorporate the user to continually follow along through the story’s illustrations.

Thoughts & Assessment

We’ve previously discussed over-stimulation and distraction within multimedia projects, and so it can be refreshing to see not every bell and whistle be implemented in order to share a statistic heavy piece. As Felix Salmon states in Against beautiful journalism:  “It’s time for websites to put a lot more effort into de-emphasizing less important stories, reserving the grand presentation formats only for the pieces which deserve it”. I think this idea is especially plausible for this article, as it’s an important topic but not anything to be considered trailblazing. However, had the author want to harness more multimedia technologies into this story, I have a few suggestions on different ways that this piece could have been crafted differently:

  • Interactive Map: The journalist could have chosen to cover this story through an interactive map, featuring the bus routes in which those people that work in the tech industry commute upon and then display a comparison overlay feature poverty that surrounds these areas.
  • Timeline: The journalist could have created a visual timeline of how San Francisco’s class war has developed within in the past 10 years, featuring interactive bullet points with soundbites of the experiences of those living in the area. It could also include social media embeds of citizens that have been vocal on social media about the class divide.
  • Photo Essay: The journalist could have created a simple photo essay following a tech worker’s commute vs a poverty stricken would be a striking visual comparison that would successfully tell the story of the San Francisco Class War. This story would be less data focused, but it could include the statistics within the captions of the photos.

These are only a few concepts that could have been developed into a full-fledged interactive multimedia story. I do not think that the way the information was presented in the illustration negatively impacted the purpose of story, but I do think adding a few more multimedia elements would have made for a more interesting piece. Although San Francisco’s Class War, By the Numbers is not a traditional multimedia project, the illustrations still make for a compelling and eye opening story into the economic issues of San Francisco.


Evaluating ‘High Rise’


High Rise was a beautiful experience that completely captivated me in the immersive experience. Not normally considered a fascinating topic, exploring the development of residential high-rises and multi-level living through the use of various media elements proved to be enthralling thanks to its multimedia packaging.

The project relies mainly on a narration over photographs taking the audience through the history of vertical living.

Instead of using still photographs, most are slightly animated, featuring flags flapping in the wind, hand help posters rocking back and forth (Example 1), and more.  Animating still photographs keeps the audience engaged and provides an interesting but subtle visual feature to keep the audience interests longer than the standard photograph would.

Example 1 

When exploring beyond the video, I appreciated the different interactive elements featured in the presentation. I especially enjoyed the interactive pieces that involved dragging the mouse across the page to reveal more information about the topic. (Example 2, 3, 4)

Example 2
Example 3
Example 4

I only found one “explore more” feature to be too distracting to pay adequate attention to during the voice-over narration that was occurring at the same time. I was more focused on the game aspect than the content that it was trying to convey. I think this element was an example of distracting from the narrative (Example 5)

Example 5

Other ‘explore more’ elements featured beautiful large photographs with text overlay and often included soundbites from someone who experiences vertical living during that time period. (Example 6, 7)

Example 6
Example 7

The timeline aspect of this presentation could have been improved. Other than flashing the year across the screen prior to the narration (Example 8)to describe what happened that year, there isn’t much notating the actual time these events were taken place. I would have liked to see the time outlined below on the bottom navigation bar in addition to on the screen at all times. I don’t think that this negatively affected the project but it would have improved the overall experience.

Example 9


The project ends with Part Four featuring a slow song playing while showing various photographs of people’s lives in their high-rise. Showcasing the private lives of residents off their balconies, such as the weather, pets, views, etc. (Example 10) The explore option also provides additional views and an option to read even more viewer’s stories. This helps put life in high-rises into perspective and give insight into how many people are living vertically.

Example 10

My critiques are mostly with technical glitches that I experienced. I regularly experienced the video not going back to where I had originally left off after I had explored the interactive component.

Also, I had some troubles with the narration, as I couldn’t hear the second part of the story without restarting it several times.

A final technical point that could be improved upon was not allowing audiences to click back with in the video. I would have to re-watch the entire portion if I wanted to see something again.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this op-doc and think that it is a great example of creative digital storytelling.

Live Blog: Morimoto Asia’s Grand Opening in Disney Springs


Image via Twitter / @chef_morimoto

We attended the grand opening ceremony of Morimoto Asia, Disneys Springs’ new Pan-Asian experience, and a live blog covering the event is below:

September 29, 2015 @ 4:59pm: Traditional Matsuriza Japanese Taiko drummers, and a Wah Lum Kung Fu Temple Chinese Lion Dance welcome guests in before the official ceremony begins.

September 29, 2015 @ 5:16pm: Maribeth Bisienere, Disney Springs’ senior vice president, begins the ceremony, she thanks all those in attending and states that Morimoto Asia is the first ever Pan-Asian restaurant from Iron Chef Morimoto.

September 29, 2015 @ 5:29pm: Chef Masahuru Morimoto welcomes guests to his new restaurant with a short speech acknowledging what an exciting night it is for him. He thanks all those that helped create his dream. He concludes his speech with a traditional Japanese song.

September 29, 2015 @ 5:45pm: The speaking portion of the evening, concludes with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Walt Disney World president George Kalogridis,  Mickey Mouse, and other Disney World officials, toasting to success, with a traditional Sake breaking ceremony.

September 29, 2015 @ 6:29pm: Morimoto fillets a 100lb tuna then turns it into a 60-foot long sushi roll with the help of  press and VIPs, including  Mickey Mouse.

September 29, 2015 @ 7:04pm: Throughout the night, guests can experience demonstrations such as Chinese Calligraphy, Japanese Origami.

September 29, 2015 @ 7:15pm: Guests are invited to sit and try a sampling of some of the items on the pan-Asian fusion menu. Notable entrees include Peking duck and Black cod.

September 29, 2015 @ 8:49pm: As the evening begins to conclude, the server brings out a sampling of desserts ranging from churro fondue to mochi-mochi with edible flowers.

Morimoto Asia grand opening at Walt Disney World
  Image via Flickr / Ricky Brigante

September 29, 2015 @ 10:00pm: The opening night event comes to a close and guests are invited to return when the restaurant reopens; from 11:30am to 10:00 p.m., 7 days a week.

5 of the best Social Media accounts to follow for Walt Disney World news and updates

Looking for a way to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings around the “Happiest Place on Earth?” Below are 5 social media accounts that will keep you updated with the latest news concerning the magical theme parks:

  1. @WALTDISNEYWORLD on Twitter 

This is Walt Disney’s official Twitter account, and quite popular with over 2.22 million followers. They’re quick to post about the latest in ride changes and attractions which is especially helpful for those followers currently visiting Walt Disney World equipt with an active twitter feed.


2. Official Walt Disney World Facebook Account

Similar to the Twitter account, this is Walt Disney World’ official Facebook account. This page provides a bit more of a community presence within each post’s comment sections when compared to the official twitter account. The official Facebook account also fields visitor complaints and features reviews from recent guests.

3 r/WaltDisneyWorld on Reddit

This is a great Reddit page to learn about current events at the World and also an educational place to help plan your upcoming trip to all of the parks. Need to know the best plan of attack when hitting the parks for one day? Wondering where you should make dinner reservations to propose to your girlfriend? This is the best place to ask all sorts of questions and get some FREE quality feedback from self-fledged Disney experts.

4. Disney World Junkies Facebook Group

This is one of the largest (89k members) unofficial Disney World groups on Facebook. Not only does this group contain news and reviews, but it’s a major community for users to share their excitement about their upcoming vacation plans and ask questions.

5. The Utilidor on Twitter

Although this is a less popular Twitter account, it definitely deserves a follow. The Utilidor (named after the underground walkway beneath Disney’s Magic Kingdom) posts a curation of retweets featuring unique bits of Disney World news and photos on a daily basis.


Map: Experience Walt Disney World Magic without Park Admission

For the past few years, Walt Disney World has offered a great deal for Florida residents looking to spend a few days at the theme parks. With a valid Florida ID, residents could purchase a highly discounted 3 day park ticket for $129, to be used from the beginning of January until the end of May.

Unfortunately, Disney has decided to discontinue this promotion and is now advertising normal Florida Resident tickets at a much steeper price . This might mean less time at Disney for some, but we have a few ideas for the fans of Disney World that still want to make the trip and can no longer afford the ticket admission.

Don’t have park tickets for all the days you’re visiting Disney? No worries, below are 4 ways to enjoy some of Walt Disney World’s magic without paying park admission.

1. Explore Tri-Circle-D Ranch

At Fort Wilderness.

Image: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

Located in Disney’s Fort Wilderness resort, near Magic Kingdom, this ranch is  home to the horses of Walt Disney World. The ranch houses between 80 to 90 horses including Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Clydesdales, and more.

The Ranch also features the Dragon Calliope, a horse drawn musical instrument that Walt Disney himself purchased for the  Mickey Mouse Club Circus Parade at Disneyland Park back in the 1950s.

You can simply explore the ranch and visit with the horses for free, or participate in activities such as Pony Rides,  Horseback Trail rides, and Wagon Rides for an additional cost.  Please be advised that the ranch officially closes at 3:30 p.m.. daily so get there early (the ranch opens at 8 a.m.) to have time to fully explore the area.

2. Play a Round of Golf: Fantasia Garden and Fairways Miniature Golf


Image: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

Just because you don’t have a ticket for the rides and games inside of the theme park doesn’t mean you can’t experience a friendly game with your friends and family!

Fantasia Garden and Fairways Miniature Golf features two 18-hole golf adventures based on the classic 1940 Disney film, Fantasia. Both children and adults will appreciate the holes featuring water, whimsical music and  moving obstacles. The interactive courses are open daily, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets for Adults are $14, Children are $12.

3. Listen to the Dueling Pianos: Jelly Rolls


Image: Joe Pennlston via Flickr

Looking for live music and an improv show? Check out the Dueling Pianos at Jelly Rolls, located at the Boardwalk resort. Serving guests over 21 from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m each night, this is one of Orlando’s hottest nightspots.  Make sure to arrive early as it’s typically standing room by 9 p.m.

The bar features non-stop dueling pianos and drink specials each night. Be prepared to pay a cover charge, normally under $15 a person.

Tip: Bring some cash to tip to the piano players and feel free to request your favorite songs from the past!

4. Go for a Romantic Boat Ride by the Board Walk: Bayside Marina


Image: MoodyGroove via Wikipedia

To cap off the perfect evening on the Boardwalk, rent a boat at Disney’s Yacht Club to take around the lagoon.

It doesn’t matter if you have any boating experience, for a fee (varies on size of boat, but prices start at $33.80), Disney lets guests captain their own boats: from mini-powerboats for 2, to pontoon boats for up to 10 guests.

If driving the boat by yourself isn’t your thing, no fear, Disney does offer Specialty Cruises that includes a meal and professional driver in the package.


Chart: Living in Disney World

Disney World’s population is particularly fascinating, as most people aren’t aware that people are actually residents. Most people would consider the location of Disney World to be in Orlando, but all four parks are actually within two cities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, FL.

The overall population of 59 people (between the two cities) are minuscule when compared to Florida’s 19.89 million residents. In order to live “on property” you must be a salaried employee, or recent Disney retiree.

If you’d like to learn more about those few people living in these cities, I found this Orlando Sentinel article from 1987 explaining what life is like “living” in Disney World.

Below is a chart showing the U.S. Census Bureau’s population numbers of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista over the past 16 years:

(I opted to only show Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista’s populations, instead of including Florida, because the cities’ populations were far too small to detect with all three included.)

Sunset Safaris to begin at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

One of the most popular attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is about to go nocturnal. Jambo Everyone reports that Kilimanjaro Safaris will undergo construction to make way for the addition of new animals to be seen at a new night version of the ride.

The attraction will feature most of the animals see on the daytime version of the ride, but will create new habitats for species such as the African Dog and Hyena. Crowds can also expect new lighting featuring an orange glow that will be installed in certain parts of the African Savannah portion of the ride, help simulating the colors of the setting sun.

The changes to the ride are to be completed “early 2016” according to Disney officials.

Below are some of the animals that will be featured on the new Sunset Safaris. 

Black Rhinoceros

DSC_0132Image: Lauren Blaess

Spotted Hyena

333863600_0614a9c1eb_oImage: Marieke IJsendoorn-Kuijpers via Flickr

Masai Giraffe

DSC_0111Image: Lauren Blaess

African Elephant

DSC_0118Image: Lauren Blaess


DSC_0125Image: Lauren Blaess

African Wild Dog

Lycaon_pictus_(Temminck,_1820)Image: Michael Gabler via Wikipedia



Q&A: Disney’s Hollywood Studios Changes

mouse earsOnce Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s icon, Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat was taken down in early 2015. This is just one of the changes the theme park has undergone to make way for the new expansion.

Change is nothing new for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The eighth most visited theme park in the world has been the subject of change since it first opened in 1989 (originally named Disney-MGM Studios.) But the theme park is about to undergo the largest expansion in its history, and so, to make way for the 25 acre expansion, the theme park is in a state of transition. Below we cover what you need to know.

I fear change… is this really necessary?

Depends on who you ask, but corporate heads at The Walt Disney Company certainly think that it’s time for a makeover. And the attendance statistics would also suggest that it’s time for a remodel. reports:

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has seen its attendance climb just 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2013, according to industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association. That’s significantly slower than the 8.9 percent and 6.9 percent upticks in attendance at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, respectively, and well behind the 13.3 percent surge at Universal Studios Florida.

I guess that makes sense, but what attractions are closing? 

Over the past year and a half we’ve seen several rides and attractions close including:

  • “American Idol” Experience
  • Backlot Studio Tour
  • The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow
  • Magic of Disney Animation
  • Phineas & Ferb meet-and-greet
  • Cars meet-and-greet
  • Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat
  • Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

But Hollywood studios still plan to close the following rides and attractions this year:

  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
  • Pizza Planet Arcade
  • “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” Movie Set Adventure
  • Earffell Tower

When is this happening? Will I have time to say goodbye?!

Yes, but not for long, so plan your trip now. As of April 2, 2016, all rides and attractions that are listed above will be closed. There are rumors of additional closings, but nothing has been confirmed by the big mouse’s team.

So what’s going to replace them? 

Here’s the good news, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is about to go to infinity and beyond. Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, announced that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is getting a facelift; transporting fans into the middle of the action of their favorite films. Iger made the exciting announcement at the biannual D23 conference in Aug. 2015.

The expansion includes two new lands: “Toy Story” Land and “Star Wars” Land.  Each land will feature two new attractions and expansions of an existing ride. We can also look forward to a name change to reflect the new experiences, although no word on what the new theme park name will be.

How long is this whole thing going to take? 

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Construction on the two new lands are to begin this month and permit maps reveal the plans to complete the construction by Oct. 2018.

If you’re planning a visit, expect lots of construction walls and tarps hiding the ongoing construction. Maybe wait until you hit another area of Walt Disney World for that perfect family photo, unless posing with construction in the background is your kind of thing.

Is there going to be anything to do there in the meantime? 

Absolutely; especially if you love “Star Wars.” Disney is still heavily promoting the park and its current “Star Wars” area.  There have been “Star Wars: The Force Awakens-themed updates for its classic Star Tours ride. Also a newly updated area: “Star Wars” Launch Bay will feature new “Star Wars: Force Awakens” characters. For the younger generation, they’ve updated Disney’s Jedi Training Camp, where kids can learn to be a Jedi Masters along with some of their favorite characters from Disney X D’s animated series “Star Wars Rebels.” These are all small updates to get visitors excited about what’s to come.

So use the force to embrace what the theme park currently has to offer and start looking forward to the future. Grab your light saber and hop in your Millennium Falcon to get on your way to the galaxy not so far away, Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Welcome to the Vault


My beat this semester will be focused on news concerning Walt Disney World. I’ve always been interested in the behind the scenes operations of what many consider the “Happiest Place on Earth”. Throughout this course, I would like to take a closer look at the inner-workings of the world’s most popular theme park.