Ian Fisher: American Soldier

Ian Fisher: American Soldier tracks one soldier in the U.S. Army, from basic training to Iraq and back again. For 27 months, Fisher and those close to him were followed by reporters and a photographer from the Denver Post. They covered his graduation from high school, recruitment, induction, training, deployment, and his return from combat.

Ian Fisher: American Solder started as a feature story in the newspaper and was later given the multimedia treatment online.

How It Works

The multimedia shell for the story is divided into four sections according to the type of media: photos, videos, text, and extras.

Within photo and video sections are subsections that follow Fisher’s journey chronologically. There are eight photo slideshow chapters, from “Signing Up” to “Coming Home.” Each photo has a caption that tells the user what they are looking at. The ten videos span the same time frame and feature interviews with Fisher, friends, family, and fellow soldiers.

The story section recreates the original newspaper article, word for word, as a 63-page digital book that users can flip through page by page with a few photographs peppered throughout. The user can also read the story as a scrollable text page on the newspaper’s website.

The extras section includes more video content, lists of Army acronyms and rankings, and an interactive map of U.S. bases in Iraq.

A menu at the bottom of the screen allows the user to navigate between sections.

What Works, What Doesn’t

Ian Fisher: American Soldier isn’t trying to refashion the original newspaper story into a multimedia story. It’s just piling the multimedia content on top. The user has to read the text story first, then look through the photos, then watch the videos, then look at the extras. The different forms of media aren’t integrated together in any impactful way.

That said, much of the multimedia is quite compelling. The photos capture personal moments between different characters while the accompanying captions fill in the context. Browsing from one photo to the next tells Ian Fisher’s story almost as well as the text story does.

The videos are a mix of interview clips and photos. There isn’t any commentary, but they still tell a story. And as I’ve noted elsewhere, commentary from journalists can sometimes hurt the impact of a video. It’s always better to show than tell.

The extras, consigned as they are to their own section, don’t add that much to the overall experience. Should the user want to dig deeper, they’re there, but generally speaking, extras need to be directly linked to from the story itself (as was done in Lifted for example) for them to have any kind of impact or real utility.

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