What is Storybench?

Storybench was founded in 2014 out of Northeastern University’s Media Innovation graduate program in the School of Journalism as a “cookbook for digital storytelling.” It was conceived as an answer to the gaping need to demystify the tools, methods and technology of digital storytelling, both inside and outside of journalism. It also features long-form explorations of trends and case studies in digital storytelling as well as interviews with top data journalists, engagement editors, designers and developers around the world to shed light on their thinking and open-source their process and code.

Since then, Storybench has provided an “under the hood” look at the latest and most inventive examples of digital storytelling—from data visualization projects to interactive documentaries to gamified journalism—as well as the tools and innovators behind them. Staffed by paid undergraduate and graduate students, it’s kept our students networked with industry leaders and both curriculum and professors current. In sum, Storybench helps its readers and students understand what’s being built in digital storytelling and how, so they can find their way to what might be built next. We’re also utilitarian in our mission. Our tutorials for doing data journalism with R, Python and Javascript, or using tools like Tableau, Plotly or Tabula, are very popular, aimed at introducing the amateur coder or journalist to the gold standard tools of the trade. But in addition to our tutorials, we have interviewed more than 100 “makers” in a handful of industries that touch digital storytelling, and created a white paper, “Collaborative, Open, Mobile: A Thematic Exploration of Best Practices at the Forefront of Digital Journalism,” outlining our insights from the multi-year project. We also attempt to be as current and relevant as possible – we strive to cover the frontiers of where those industries are headed so data journalists can derive inspiration and keep news engaging and front-and-center. Our categories like the “Climate Journalism Lab,” the “Reinventing TV News Project,” and the “Storybench 2020 Election Tracker” allow us to tie academic research interests with public-facing, news-pegged reporting that connect our students and faculty with important sources.

Storybench has a captive audience of 50,000 users per month, most of whom are repeat visitors. We recently hit our 1 millionth page view, all of which is to say that we believe Storybench is a successful model for an academic blog connecting industry with the classroom to teach not only our students but anyone with an Internet connection. It also features a newsletter with 2,000+ subscribers and a Twitter account with 6,500 followers. Storybench has been shortlisted for an Information is Beautiful award, its stories have been reposted to sites like MediaShift and the Global Investigative Journalism Network, and its coverage has been featured in Nieman Lab, American Press Institute, Hacker News, the Knight Foundation blog, Harvard’s Journalist’s Resource, Visualising Data, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, R bloggers and more. Storybench was recently cited as the motivating inspiration for the Turkish data journalism site News Lab Turkey.