In March 2017, ESPN used still images to capture the story of athlete Chris Paynter’s experience at the Special Olympics World Games in Austria. The story was not centered around his performance at the games, but around the day trip he took to Salzburg, Austria, where his favorite movie, “The Sound of Music,” was filmed.
The headline, which reads “Photos: Chris Paynter saw a few of his favorite things in Austria,” and the header image, which shows an excited Paynter with his parents, draw the reader in first. It is the images themselves that create an effective, cohesive story. Each image is preceded by an act and scene number, and each photograph mirrors a famous scene in “The Sound of Music.”
Part of what makes this photo story so interesting is how scenic each photograph is. Those that have watched “The Sound of Music” can place Paynter into each one of the movie scenes, and each photograph displays beautiful images of Salzburg.
The story is not confined to Paynter’s trip to Salzburg. Instead, it ties in neatly to his actual performance at the games, which resulted in a gold medal. A standout moment comes in the first image of “Act 2,” where readers finally see Paynter competing, shows him and his father embracing. The quote by Paynter underneath reads “I’m glad my legs weren’t tired from all of that walking yesterday.”
The format of the story fits with the overall design of the website, which is relatively plain with just text, images, and videos.
The story closes with an image of Paynter kissing his gold medal, bringing readers a happy and definitive ending.
An example of poor visual storytelling on espn.com is a recent NHL video where player Paul Stastny discusses his trade to the Winnipeg Jets. The clip consists of a sound bite of Stastny’s interview with images of him from his time on the Blues as well as stock images of hockey skates and a hockey arena. This video could have benefitted by better visuals because the visuals do not add anything to the storyline and the clip cycles through the same few images as Stastny talks.