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Q&A with Star Tribune digital designer Anna Boone

Digital designer Anna Boone was recently named Young Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. Boone is the talent behindsome of the Star Tribune’s most ambitious digital storytelling, such as One Week in Minneapolis. The Indiana native interned at the Star Tribune after graduating from Indiana University in 2017 and has interned for The Denver Post, Verge Magazine and Common Room PR.

How did you join the Star Tribune?

I was a summer intern on the digital design team in 2017, after I finished my senior year of college at Indiana University. I was lucky enough to get to stick around after my internship as a full-time digital designer, and I’m still here four years later.

Talk a little about One Week in Minneapolis …

I was furloughed the Thursday and Friday after George Floyd’s murder —I was relying on social media and the reporting from my Star Tribune colleagues to know what was going on in my city. My coworkers were out in the field, getting tear gassed, and fired at with less-lethal rounds, documenting history in real time. The idea for the project came about during those two days.

Everything was changing so rapidly, and the situation was escalating day-by-day. The timeline idea started from a personal need to try and contextualize and visualize just how fast the movement spread. I thought a timeline would be helpful for myself, trying to visualize how this week changed from day to day. I thought if it would be helpful for me, it would probably be helpful for others, too. I compiled the reporting, photography, videography, and social media posts from my colleagues and public officials to make the visual timeline.It is the result of dozens of people across the newsroom who worked tirelessly and put themselves in dangerous situations in order to try and bring clarity to readers in a chaotic time.

I pitched the project on Friday, but couldn’t work on it until I was off furlough. I worked through the day Saturday and Sunday so we could begin the editing process Monday, and get it published as soon as possible. That’s not typical for me, and I’m usually working during standard office hours during the week, but luckily my bosses (Digital Design Team Leader Jamie Hutt and Assistant Managing Editor of Design Josh Penrod) were very understanding and recognized the potential of the story, and they gave me the permission to work outside of my normal hours to get it done. I was honored it was included as one of our submissions to the Pulitzers.

Is that process typical of what you do? How do you decide which stories to focus on?

“One Week in Minneapolis” wasn’t really a typical process for myself at the time, but ever since then I have been working on more quick-turnaround, news-driven pieces as they come up.

My team works closely with all other parts of the newsroom — reporting, photography, videography, graphics, audience — to help decide which stories to work on. Obviously, pieces that have better visual opportunities are going to work best for more special designs, although there are many ways to create those visuals, it doesn’t have to be just big photos. That’s where it’s helpful to sit at the intersection of all these mediums and be able to see all the pieces. In a way, a lot of designers are doing project manageent work just as much as they are design work.

What’s the favorite part of your job?

I love having the freedom to explore new ways of storytelling. I come from a print design background. When I started at the Star Tribune, I was still learning a lot about coding and front-end development. It’s gratifying to see how far I’ve come in a relatively short time since my internship. I started out with very simple web pages, and now have the tools and abilities to help make stories be what I want them to be.

I also recently started working more closely with our audience team, particularly around the Star Tribune Instagram — helping to build headline cards and designing different ways to tell stories through our platform there. In a way, it reminds me of print design since everything is static. Maybe I’m just going full circle.

How important is what you do to the future of journalism?

I’d like to think very important! I think the appetite for more interactive journalism is continuing to grow. When I think about my favorite pieces from any outlet, most of them are stories that combine all elements into smooth, immersive experiences. And when I say immersive, I’m not always talking about big, crazy, scroll-based-animation stories with lots of graphics and photos (although those are cool, and I do a lot of them!). I think of immersive stories as any piece that can transfix a reader, whether that’s through the writing, the visuals, or a combination.

Especially as audience engagement work continues to grow, we are given more pathways into finding out what exactly readers are looking for and then using the digital skillsets newsrooms have developed — across disciplines — to deliver. That work is crucial to making our stories better, and that makes it imperative to the future of journalism.

How does it feel to be named Young Journalist of the Year in Minnesota?

It feels unbelievable, to be honest. I was very surprised and grateful when I heard the announcement.The recognition came after the hardest year of my life, personally and professionally (as I’m sure 2020 was for many people).I’m proud of the work that I did and that my newsroom did to try and keep the community informed in such a tough year.

It also meant a lot for me to win this award as someone who doesn’t have a traditional reporting background. I think it helped to underscore the importance of the work the digital team is doing at the Star Tribune.

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