AIDS Orphans

October 18, 2009

For our Electronic Photojournalism course, we had to critique a multimedia piece on a news organization’s website. I chose the project AIDS Orphans on the website of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., based newspaper Sun Sentinel. It is a comprehensive piece in several chapters dealing on the AIDS epidemic in Haiti and its consequences for the entire society of the small Caribbean island state.

Copyright 2006 Sun Sentinel

AIDS Orphans is a piece of epic dimensions. After the pre-loader with a short introductory text, the viewer is taken to the main menu where he can choose between four chapters. The first three chapters each explore one aspect of the AIDS epidemic in Haiti while the fourth one tells the story of a Haiti native who died of AIDS at age 18 in Florida. Each chapter is again divided up in several parts, consisting of audio slideshows, interactive info graphics and links to related articles in the Sun Sentinel. At the bottom of each chapter’s submenu is a scrollbar with portraits that introduce on click the featured children with a short audio track.

The audio slideshows are very comprehensive in nature and provide rich explanations of the issues addressed in light of the social and cultural context. Detailed, interactive info graphics provide further information related to the topic and each chapter contains a link list to related articles in the Sun Sentinel. In two chapters (Houses of Hope and A Future With HIV), 360 degree panoramics introduce the viewer to the places featured in the slideshows and the people living in these places. The producers of this project did a great job in creating a multi-layered, interactive and comprehensive piece of journalism.

On a technical level, there is little to criticize. The menus are well thought of and intuitive, and the design is plain, simple and beautiful, without any distracting and unnecessary elements. The only thing that disturbed me while I was working my way through this piece was the music that accompanies the menus. It is the generic, depressive piano music that is featured in almost every other multimedia piece on difficult issues nowadays. I think that the piece could easily do without it. Also, it is very difficult to navigate to the piece from the main website of the newspaper, and even though I knew that it was there, it took me about ten minutes to find it. For someone who doesn’t know that it’s there, it is pretty much impossible to find. Apart from these two issues however, I think that AIDS Orphans is an outstanding piece of journalism that pushes the limits of multimedia.

Filed under: USA

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