Case Study: “Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt”

On April 30, 2013, Planet Money launched a Kickstarter campaign entitled “Planet Money T-shirt.” The intent of this campaign was to raise money in order to tell the story of t-shirt creation, from start to finish. In order to tell this story, Planet Money asked supporters to pledge $25 in exchange for their own Planet Money t-shirt that will tell buyers the story of its own creation. The funding period lasted until May 14, 2013, a total of fourteen days. By May 1st Planet Money had surpassed their goal of $500,000. Ultimately, the campaign received $590,807 and Planet Money made 25,000 t-shirts.

Unbeknownst to many consumers, almost every single t-shirt is the result of a global production. From cotton growth to doorstep delivery, a single t-shirt may be the accumulation of several different nations collaborating on a sole project. Planet Money wanted to shine a light on the complexity of this process, and give a face to the workers behind the t-shirt. 10 reporters, 3 continents and 1 archipelago later, NPR completed a multimedia project to tell the story. This project was published on December 2, 2013.

“Planet Money Makes a T-shirt” is an innovative project both visually and textually.

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Visually speaking, the project is both attractive and clean. The home page, which features a moving video background and a simple text overlay, grasps the reader’s attention immediately. With a clickable “begin” link in the center of the page, and a “chapters” link in the lower left-hand corner, navigation is both straightforward and directed. By clicking on the begin link, readers are directed to a video that begins playing without any reader interaction.

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The video serves to summarize the story for readers, as Alex Bloomberg explains the purpose behind the story and also shows the final production. At only 47 seconds long, the high quality video is captivating. In closing, Bloomberg notes, “there’s nothing ordinary about a simple t-shirt.”

All five of the chapters are set up the same way, starting with a short video and then a prompt encouraging readers to scroll down to a text-based portion with additional information. The audio, video and text all compliment each other in an undeniable manner. The story would be incrementally different had any of these three elements been omitted. Like the initial “about” video, the videos in each of the five chapters are of noteworthy quality.

In terms of the text, “Planet Money Makes a T-shirt” incorporates many of the techniques that represent a good multimedia project, as learned through the course modules. The text is abounding with links, which provide readers with additional resources and further information. These links are meaningful, and add value to the project, rather than linking for the sake of linking. The format of the text reflects a “chunking” style, with short, digestible paragraphs. Moreover, the subheadings are straightforward and informative. There were two techniques of a good multimedia project that the creators of “Planet Money Makes a T-shirt” seemed to omit: bulleting and lists. Because the style of this project is clean and chunky, I do not believe that either bullets or lists would be appropriate.

Another major theme at the focus of multimedia scholarly attention is the incorporation of maps and data. “Planet Money Makes a T-shirt” relies on several different techniques to present data. In fact, because of the informative nature of this project, data dominates throughout the story. After reading the very first paragraph, readers are presented with a statistical representation of Bowen Flowers’ cotton farming operation.

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In “Tell a Meaningful Story With Data,” author Daniel Waisberg explains that combining data and storytelling can create a more meaningful production. He provides readers with numerous lessons that are insightful in considering adding data to a story.

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I believe that Planet Money’s story is a perfect representation of these lessons. The story certainly works to organize and bring together all of the components involved in making a simple t-shirt. As readers learn by progressing through the story, there is a great deal of work and people involved in the process of making a t-shirt. The data included in this story is the direct result of discernment from NPR’s staff. Further, the data is brief and comprehensible. The authors have taken data that is alien to most of the population, and compiled it into a format that is both lucid and engaging. Ultimately, as Waisberg notes, the story is not about the data. The story is about t-shirt production. That being said, the data should not, and does not, overwhelm the story. It is concise and aesthetically appealing without overpowering the story itself.

The variety of techniques in which the data is presented is certainly worth mentioning. Throughout the story, the authors incorporate several graphics and graphs, which highlight statistics or add informative elements to the story, but interestingly, the authors do not include any maps. In “Using Web Maps To Tell Your Story,” the author explains that there are many different kinds of maps that serve many different purposes. For example, maps may trace a route, predict or model the future, show change over time or summarize a situation. While Planet Money could have utilized a map to capitalize on many of these objectives, I think the authors definitely should have included a map that traced a route. At its roots, this story is the story of a journey. It is the journey of a t-shirt, from the very beginning to the very end. Including a map could have helped readers see how far the t-shirt really does travel throughout the production process. I think this would have helped add context to the text.

The interactivity of “Planet Money Makes a T-shirt” is pretty low. Users are directed from the very beginning with prompts of where to click and what to read. Despite this, the social aspect of the story is very high. In order for the story to even exist, reader interaction was required. Planet Money and NPR needed people to pledge money via Kickstarter. Those who pledged money were essentially purchasing a t-shirt, and thus were likely interested in the process and journey of the story. The last chapter of the story is entitled, “You,” and it explains how this story was made possible because of audience interaction. Then, by compiling images through the hashtag “#seedtoshirt” the authors were able to highlight many of the readers and literally include them in the story. The hashtag helps to connect the story and the readers, but it also worked to generate increased views and shares on the story. It got people involved on an individual level, and allowed them to add their own element to the story. The story may not be very interactive on the surface, but it definitely allotted for conversation.

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The video for this chapter highlights workers behind the t-shirt production, and provides fun facts about them. This serves to personalize the workers and connects readers on a deeper emotional level. Below are some screen shots from that video:

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In conclusion, I thought that “Planet Money Makes a T-shirt” was an excellent representation of multimedia storytelling and the future of digital media. The story included a majority of the major aspects in which were covered throughout the semester in an alluring way, while still remaining simple and comprehensible. In deciding on a case study to cover, I was immediately drawn to this story. I found myself watching the videos and reading the text with great interest, completely captivated. This is what makes a good story. It is intriguing. It is informative. It is a combination of numerous media into a sole production. If the future of journalism looks anything like Sarah Marshall predicted in her four part blog series, then the team at NPR and Planet Money are certainly on the right track to relevancy and prominence.


Evaluate ‘Highrise’

“A Short History of the Highrise,” by Katerina Cizek is an innovative example of multimedia storytelling. The story, which was originally published on the NY Times, is a creative digital project that combines several different media elements to tell a single story. What could otherwise be perceived as a monotonous subject, Cizek has transformed into a captivating work of art.

Describing multimedia projects is often difficult, and “A Short History of the Highrise” is no exception. Because so many different media elements play a vital role in the story, there is no real way to classify the design. The project is a website, yes, but it is also a video, a slide show and a text-based story. The collaboration of these elements is what makes the work so enthralling. From the very beginning, readers are led through Part 1: Mud, narrated by Feist, where the interactivity and brilliance of the project is immediately apparent.

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Black and white photographs from The New York Times archive are juxtaposed against moving graphics of birds and a developing city. Concurrently, a calm female voice is setting the scene for the project, while a timeline at the bottom enables readers to pace themselves throughout the story. Additionally, by clicking on the subheading of each section of the story, readers are provided with further information about that stage of highrise development. Some of these exploration tabs are interactive, while some are simply archived photographs. Whatever the link leads to, the additional information supplements the story in an invaluable manner.

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One of the most notable additives to the story is the timeline at the bottom. The timeline is exemplary for multiple reasons. Firstly, it formats the project similarly to a book, with each new subject modeling a new chapter. Further, the timeline operates in a traditional sense, allowing readers to see where each section takes place in relation to the rest of the story.

In an even broader sense, it is useful to analyze the bar on the left-hand side of the story. At the uppermost corner of this bar, readers can link directly back to The New York Times homepage. Just underneath that, they can follow the link to, a page about Highrise and the National Film Board’s role in its construction and dissemination.

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Below this link is a link to the story’s menu, which is one of the most useful aspects of the entire story. The menu serves like a traditional table of contents. Here, readers can decide which part of the story they want to access. If a reader is on Part 3, for example, and they want to refer back to Part 1, they can simply click the menu button and be directed to the very part in the story they want to access. Likewise, here is where readers can read “about” the story, as well as see interactive credits and film credits. Finally, this left-hand bar includes a ‘share’ button, a link to reader commentary and an instruction page, all of which are extremely beneficial in their own way.

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believe that utilizing a timeline as a navigation tool suits the story well, as the story is chronological in nature. Further, the viewer is limited in options as to where and when they can view specified sections of the story. As referenced in his video “MMR- Issues in Multimedia Storytelling: Navigation,” Dr. Mark Walters explains that many recent examples of multimedia stories have completely neglected navigation, the very essence of story telling. When the reader is presented with limitless options, with no real structure, the story is lost. The Highrise, on the other hand, works both visually and navigationally. It is beautiful and innovative while also leading readers through information in an intentional manner.

Ultimately, I think the New York Times, in conjunction with Cizek and other contributors did an impressive job in the construction of “A Short History of the Highrise.” In the future, multimedia reporters should use this as a prototype, to build off of and develop their own digital narrations.

The YouTube Interview with President Obama


YouTube stars Bethany Mota, GloZell Green and Hank Green interview President Obama for a live streaming of the 2015 YouTube Interview with President Obama.

4:30 PM: Good evening and welcome to the live coverage of the 2015 YouTube Interview with President Obama. Interested in the way new media shapes and impacts society, I will be watching live and providing frequent updates on Obama’s interview. The White House staff, along with YouTube sensations Bethany Mota, GloZell Green and Hank Green, are setting up for the big event. The interview is expected to start in approximately 30 minutes.

4:50 PM: The make-up artists are providing the stars with final touch-ups. Bethany, GloZell and Hank are seated in front of their make-shift YouTube studios in the East Room of the White House. Obama is talking quietly with Steve Grove, director of the News Lab at Google.

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5:00 PM: The 2015 YouTube Interview with President Obama has officially begun. Tune in live at, or follow below:

5:02 PM: Steve Grove and Obama take a look at the most common Google searches during President Obama’s State of The Union Address. This data was collected anonymously by Google. The most asked question during the State of the Union Address? “How old is Obama?”

5:03 PM: President Obama sits down with Hank Green of the VlogBrothers. Hank Green begins questioning Obama.


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5:05 PM: President Obama defends the government, referring to its role in Social Security and Medicare.

5:06 PM: Obama discusses drone technology. Obama references the Bin Laden operation and says that today’s technologies enable us to defend ourselves, while causing less damage to communities than previously.

5:10 PM: Obama says that our capacity to affect change in North Korea is limited because of their size and technologies. He believes that the Internet will be a major factor in encouraging change in North Korea.

5:12 PM: Hank Green asks Obama about the future of marijuana legality. Obama says he believes other states will start looking at the legality of weed. He says he has asked the Department of Justice to examine how non-violent drug offenders are being treated. Obama says both Republicans and Democrats are interested in reforming the Criminal Justice system.

5:14 PM: Hank Green says that ObamaCare has worked for him, and asks for Obama’s signature. Obama briefly discusses the importance of ObamaCare and directs viewers to the ObamaCare website.

5:15 PM: Steve Grove tells Obama that Google searches on cyber security have risen over the past few years. Grove introduces Obama to GloZell to discuss this further.

5:17 PM: Obama and GloZell discuss Sony hacking and our vulnerability towards such hackers.

5:19 PM: Obama discusses the tension between African American males and Caucasian cops.

5:22 PM: “When you’ve do something over and over again for 50 years and it doesn’t work, it’s time to try something new.”- Obama on America’s relations with Cuba

5:24 PM: Obama tells GloZell that he believes same sex marriage should be legal.

5:26 PM: Obama wants to make community colleges free.

5:27 PM: GloZell gives Obama green lipstick for the First Lady and his daughters.

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5:29 PM: Steve Grove introduces the next topic, education, to President Obama, and welcomes Bethany Mota.

5:30 PM: Obama addresses education and future plans for making college more affordable. Announces proposal to make community college free for the first two years.

5:32 PM: Bethany asks President Obama about cyber bullying. Obama replies that peers are most influential in stopping cyber bullying.

5:35 PM: Obama says Nigerian government has not been very effective in stopping Boko Haram and finding kidnapped girls.

5:37 PM: Obama says free speech and a free and open Internet is a part of who we are as a people. He says we can let China know that any government that is afraid of its own people is not going to be as effective and long-lasting as a trustworthy one.

5:42 PM: Bethany and Obama do a “lightning round” of questions she has from her audience.

5:44 PM: Obama takes a selfie with the 3 Internet sensations.


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5:45 PM: Obama says closing comments and final goodbye.

Social Support!

Recovering from an eating disorder is not an easy thing. While there is a widespread belief that social media often encourages eating disorders, many who have suffered from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and ednos have recently cited social media as a major supporter in their recovery. The following three social media sites are amongst the best ranked in aiding in recovery from an eating disorder.

Please Note: Recovery must be taken seriously, and if you believe you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder it is important to seek professional help. 


Project Heal is a non-profit organization that provides scholarships for inpatient, residential and outpatient treatment for those suffering from an eating disorder. In addition to providing treatment grants, the foundation works to raise awareness of eating disorders and provide education to the general public. Connecting sufferers and their families with helpful recovery resources, while also sharing inspiring articles and images, Project Heal’s online presence is invaluable. The organization’s Facebook page, in particular, is a great resource for connecting with those in recovery and in the industry. The motivational posts are an added bonus!


The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a non-profit organization operating out of the United States that advocates on behalf of those affected by eating disorders. The association, which was founded in 2001, has an information and referral help line, provides numerous educational resources, and is active in raising awareness about eating disorders. If you’re looking for more information on eating disorders, a way to help a loved one recovery, or want to get involved in a NEDA walk or event, NEDA’s Twitter is a great place to start! With over 23k followers, the organization’s Twitter is consistently updated and provides links to priceless information.


We Bite Back is a peer-operated forum that encourages eating disorder recovery and provides sufferers with support, empathy, ideas and suggestions. While the website is definitely not meant to replace professional treatment, it is helpful in encouraging people with eating disorders at any stage of their recovery. The page’s Instagram page is full of motivational images, inspiring quotes, and humorous memes to aid in recovery. For a spontaneous pick-me-up, or a great resource for connecting with peers in similar situations, head on over to We Bite Back’s Instagram page.

The Ban on Cyberbullying

Technology is profuse with benefits to society. The Internet provides students with endless research opportunities, various different learning perspectives, and communicative and collaborative spaces that were never before possible. There’s no doubt that the Internet is a powerful tool, but if that power is not handled responsibly the consequences can be dire.

Have you or someone you know ever been on the receiving end of a mean or embarrassing text message? Have you ever had a rumor spread about you on social media? This is cyberbullying. Over fifty percent of adolescents have experienced some form of this online bullying, and about the same number have participated in this harmful behavior. According to The Cyberbullying Research Center, over 80 percent of teenagers use a cellphone regularly. It makes sense, then, that the cellphone is the most popular medium of technology used for cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a global problem. Adolescents and children who are the victims of cyberbullying are more likely to skip school, use alcohol and drugs, get poor grades, have lower self-esteem and have more health problems than their peers. Sometimes, cyberbullying even leads to suicide. Despite the severity, there is not currently a national law in place to control cyberbullying. States and lawmakers have taken it amongst themselves to put an end to cyberbullying. Many states have enacted both laws and policies. The unmarked states on the map below have addressed cyberbullying in this manner. The states that have taken a different approach are labeled with a marker below.

Los Angeles, California hit a milestone of 10 million people in 2013. This statistic would place LA as the 88th most populous country in the world on its own! Though the growth is significant for LA residents, the number of eating disorders in the county has also skyrocketed in the last few years. According to psychotherapist Irene Rubaum-Keller, there are a disproportionate number of anorexics and bulimics in Los Angeles, especially amongst females (Rubaum-Keller, 2010). People travel to Hollywood from all over the world. Residents regularly run into celebrities at the gym or local market. Life in LA almost guarantees the constant presence of thin and beautiful people. Residents in LA, and those who are thinking about relocating there, must be sure they have a strong sense of self and healthy body image. The data below shows the growth rates amongst people in the United States, people in LA, and females in LA. Clearly, all three demographics are on the rise. It is no surprise, then, that cases of eating disorders are also increasing.


The Bare Bones of Society and the Media

Modern society is dominated by the media. It tells us what to wear, how to think, where we should buy our coffee, and what number the scale should read. We turn to Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Allure to tell us who to be and what the ideal body size is. There is a widespread cultural conception that beauty equals skinny. Protruding collar bones are sexy. Flat stomachs lead to happiness. These beauty standards, however, are very often unattainable. The improbability of scoring a model-like body doesn’t stop women, and even some men, from trying. The body-type portrayed in advertisements is possessed naturally by a mere 5% of American females (ANAD, 2015). The message that thin is pretty is permeating our society at an ever increasing rate, and young girls are dieting at even younger ages.
Photo essay Barbie

Imagine the perfect girl. Tall, thin, long blonde hair, big breasts. Her name is Barbie and she is one of the most cherished dolls of all time. From pull-ups to training bras, our daughters grow up with Barbie. They spend hours daily changing her outfits, brushing her hair, and desperately wishing to become her when they grow up.

Barbie is a super-model. She is a prized academic, a lifesaving nurse, an award-winning chef and even an astronaut. She does it all, and she does it perfectly. In 1965, Mattel released ‘Slumber Party Barbie,’ complete with a diet advice book and a scale set permanently at 110 pounds. The only advice in the book? Don’t eat (Grenoble, 2012)Photo Essay Girl on Scale

Barbie is beautiful. She is popular. All of the boys want to date her and all of the girls want to be best friends with her. She is the ultimate trend-setter, and young girls turn to her to learn how to fit in. One of the most notable features of Barbie is her thin body, and our daughters are not naive to this fact. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat. Photo Essay- Magazine cover

Barbie is not the only one telling us that thin is beautiful, however. Magazines are full of ‘get thin quick’ tips, and their covers are satiated with thin celebrities and models flashing their bikini bodies. Even without a magazine subscription, these images transfuse our brains as they sit at grocery store checkouts and flash across our television screens. Photo Essay- VS Angels

As we enter our teens and proceed into adulthood, we turn to Victoria’s Secret Angels to tell us what is beautiful. These women, with their many different hair styles and diverse ethnicities cause men to drool and women to become ravenous with jealousy. As different as they may be, they all have the same body type. Like Barbie, they are tall and thin and seemingly perfect.
Photo essay diet barbieWe, too, want to be perfect. So we take advice from Barbie, the tabloids, models and celebrities. We diet. We try to lose weight. We think that when we are skinny we will be happy. We take on drastic measures to fit in. We stop eating. We start throwing up the little food we do eat. Eating disorders are believed to have be genetic, but though our DNA loads the trigger, society pulls the gun. The media is not to blame for the increase in eating disorders, but because of the power that these outlets hold, they can do much to reverse the unrealistic body standards.