Inside NPR

Photo Focused: NPR Interactive Documentary Wins Top Multimedia Honors

Radio in color? This was said by Morning Edition Host Steve Inskeep as he wrapped a radio story on one of the earliest color photographers. That story was part of an interactive documentary that is earning acclaim across the multimedia industry. Radio in color, indeed.

Combining on-air and online elements in the documentary, Lost And Found: Discover A Black-And-White Era in Full Color, tells the story of 1930s-era photographer and hobbyist Charles W. Cushman, who's vast body of work over 30 years was discovered recently, rather by accident.

The opening image in NPR's "Lost and Found" documentary.

hide captionThe opening image in NPR's "Lost and Found" documentary.

Screenshot from npr.org
NPR's Claire O'Neill and Wes Lindamood. i i

hide captionNPR's Claire O'Neill and Wes Lindamood.

Marie McGrory/NPR
NPR's Claire O'Neill and Wes Lindamood.

NPR's Claire O'Neill and Wes Lindamood.

Marie McGrory/NPR

The brains behind the documentary are Claire O'Neill, multimedia producer and editor of The Picture Show blog on npr.org, and Wes Lindamood, from the NPR UX Design team.

Radio in Color

Lost And Found: Discover A Black-And-White Era in Full Color

By the numbers:

  • Photos in the collection: 14,500
  • Amount of time it takes to sort through 14,500 photos: Too much
  • Number of pet raccoons featured: 1

This year, "Lost and Found" won first place in the Feature Story category, first place in Innovation, as well as Best In Show from the White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA). The project also took third place in the prestigious World Press Multimedia competition, honorable mention in the National Press Photographers Association's (NPPA's) Best of Photojournalism contest and a silver medal in Best of Digital Design from the Society for News Design.

Experimenting With Popcorn.js

The Cushman photos were originally intended for a blog post at The Picture Show, but O'Neill said, "I had such great tape from [the first two interviews], it seemed like kind of a waste to do just a blog post." So she took the story to Lindamood, who's user experience team focuses on all things digital from NPR.

"He just had so many ideas," she said. Lindamood had just begun working with a new media framework called Popcorn.js and wanted to use it to tell a story in "a more rich and immersive way" on NPR, he says.

In the process of telling Cushman's story, O'Neill and Lindamood created a customized storytelling platform built to showcase his compelling life through the very images that defined it. One that enabled viewers to better experience the literal twists and turns of his life, navigating road trips and an attempted murder among other things.

More from this Project

Check out two other projects inspired by this technology, and the source code journalists/designers can take our skeleton and add to it, like Mother Jones did.

From the Bronx to the Bench: The Family Photos of Justice Sotomayer (source code)

NPR Music Presents: In Memoriam (source code)

"I see so much potential in audio-driven, long-form storytelling," Lindamood said.

Working In The Gaps

O'Neill and Lindamood started producing the piece during NPR's Serendipity Day. They also worked on lunch or coffee breaks, after work and during any free time in their schedules. After three months of working in the gaps, the finished piece was published.

While "Lost and Found" has been widely recognized by industry awards, O'Neill is sure to emphasize that awards "shouldn't be why you do what you do."

In May 2012, Lindamood joined NPR as senior interaction designer. With a background in visual design, journalism and front-end development, he likes to describe his job as turning "user needs and business goals into technically elegant user experiences."

O'Neill's start at NPR began as an intern in January 2009. Now, four years later, The Picture Show blog along with her other multimedia work, has been honored by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), WHNPA and Webby Awards, among others.

Working in the NPR multimedia department is perfect for O'Neill because she loves the depth of content she is able to explore. "We are unattached to a specific beat...we get to do deep dives," she said.

NPR is grounded in storytelling, and whether it's by mixing audio and visuals, or through new, interactive platforms, our visual teams are always looking for new and better ways to do just that. In "Lost and Found," which is built on O'Neill's background in visual storytelling and Lindamood's experience in digital design, this duo found such a sweet spot: radio in color.


Marie McGrory is a spring 2013 intern on NPR's Multimedia team. She was born and raised in NYC, is a lefty and loves temporary tattoos.

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