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Knight Foundation has today published a guide intended to help media outlets produce their own interactive storytelling projects.

Leading Interactive Expeditions was built by Knight Foundation's creative director Eric Schoenborn, who told the key to interactive storytelling is collaboration.

"There's more planning than people like to do, more collaboration," he said.

Among the interactives built by Schoenborn and his teams are Searchlights and Sunglasses, a site looking at how journalism keeps up with the digital age, and a number of reports such as Why Contests Improve Philanthropy.

He said newsrooms at the moment are "struggling" when it comes to creating interactive stories, because they are too worried about finding someone who has the right skills to build one.

"By the time they work through those things, they've got it built up in their mind that they're making Facebook."

And while media organisations are proactive about video and other types of visual storytelling, he said, there are still some misconceptions that lead to journalists waiting for "some special person to make this".

"You can maybe piece that together with several people if you think about who you need," he explained.

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Screenshot from Knight Foundation

Schoenborn explained that while a "guide" is needed to lead the project, they don't have to be "the perfect digital guy or woman".

He said the skills required to build an interactive project are not uncommon in journalism nowadays, but those in senior positions need to be able to recognise them in the newsroom.

"Probably within your midst, this person exists and you don't realise it, because maybe you're looking for them to be the ultimate technical specimen rather than somebody that tinkers with HTML5 on the side," he said.

But interactive storytelling projects are also time consuming, as the technical foundations need to be set up before the reporter has finished writing the story.

"It's like building a house, you have to get that going in advance, you can't wait 'til the night before to pour the concrete and put in the plumbing," he said.

Journalists also need to get used to a different "power dynamic", he said, as the collaborative aspect means they can't be very possessive of their stories.

And a successful interactive story, in Schoenborn's view, is one that creates a meaningful experience for the audience.

"It doesn't have to be Snow Fall, you don't have to sit around and wait for Snow Fall. It could be much more of a one-off," he explained.

He added that "outside validation" and reactions from the community it was built for are also important to watch.

"They notice [interactives]," he said, "it somehow elevates the value of everything else we tell stories about when we do that successfully".

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