Digital Workflows Help the USA Today Creative Team Report the News Remotely

Just the FAQ presented by USU Today.

Image Courtesy of Just the FAQs.

by Jeff Pedersen

posted on 05-28-2020

In the digital era, the explosion of news content creation and the associated distribution paths have grown exponentially. Today’s media consumers expect relevant information, in real time, as news and events unfold. A crisis like COVID-19 only heightens this dependency on publishers, with news sites reporting traffic increases that are anywhere from two to four times their normal levels during COVID-19.

According to Robert Lindeman, a senior video editor for USA Today, the organization has spent the last few years investing in advanced digital tools and innovation. This digital transformation made it much easier to stay resilient throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. His team creates “Just the FAQs” daily explainer videos for USA Today that combine facts and eye-catching graphics to make the news easily digestible—check out this story about vaccines.

https://uw-media.usatoday.com/embed/video/5022679002?placement=snow-embed

Watch the livestream video with Bob Lindeman and Jason Levine.

“Our workflow is the same now as it was pre-COVID,” Lindeman said. “I feel like we’ve been preparing for this moment for two years, since we implemented Creative Cloud for enterprise and made our workflow completely digital.” The only thing the team needed to adjust was their hardware setups, which now depend on lower-powered laptops on home-internet connections.

They were able to make the transition to work remotely because Creative Cloud includes the complete set of Adobe’s creative apps with cloud services, making sharing, collaborating, and project management seamless and easy. Additionally, the Creative Cloud apps are connected to one another, which allows for a seamless, end-to-end workflow between Adobe Premiere Pro, Audition, After Effects, Adobe Stock, and Media Encoder.

Balancing staying at home with telling the news

In the last two years, this small team of video producers, editors, and motion graphics artists has produced more than 200 “Just the FAQs” videos, which receive as many as 6 million views each and are syndicated to many sister publications. For other companies, keeping production on track in a time of crisis can be daunting, but this team has a unique story in that they’ve been able to successfully adjust to the COVID-19 challenges, balancing staying at home with telling the news.

Go to USAToday.com to view more “Just the FAQs” videos.

The “Just the FAQs” workflow begins with the development of a script—the most time-consuming part of the day’s work as there are a number of people (journalists, editors, and experts) who are involved. Once the script is finalized, Lindeman’s team creates a voice-over, puts it onto an Adobe Premiere Pro editing timeline, and assigns different sections of the timeline to various members of the team using the cloud-based Team Projects collaboration service included in their Creative Cloud for enterprise subscription.

“We have a track record of being able to create a little mini-documentary explainer series in about four hours, not counting the approval portion for the scripts,” he said. “We can have any number of people on the team working on their portion of an asset at the same time. It’s a total game-changer.”

The team uses Premiere Pro as the main hub for the project. They dynamically link the audio tracks to Adobe Audition to do a clean-up pass. The team can then bring in multiple elements from Adobe Stock and license them right in the libraries panel without leaving Premiere Pro. Finally, Lindeman’s team leverages dynamic linking into After Effects for visual effects, including Motion Graphics Templates which are a huge time saver and can be stored in Creative Cloud libraries for quick reference.

To manage media files, the editors are using lightweight Proxy files utilizing the storage in Creative Cloud Assets with editing conflicts being managed by the Team Projects service.

Adoption across teams** **

More broadly, USA Today’s teams are leveraging Creative Cloud apps across the organization. For example, its social media team is using Premiere Rush to generate content for IGTV. In addition, they are currently working to put Rush into the hands of more than 100 field journalists for creating content on the fly.

“People don’t just want content, they need it,” Lindeman says. “We can give it to them because these creative tools allow us to talk to each other and to create these assets hand-in-hand. We’ve broken down the silos and streamlined the workflow, which allows us to be agile and creative in how we express ourselves during a time like this.”

For more information on this workflow, check out the Team Projects page.

Lindeman and his team are part of Blue Point Originals, USA TODAY’s digital video content studio dedicated to delivering innovative, powerful, and engaging video projects that inform, inspire and change lives every day. The studio produces premium video franchises across news, sports, entertainment and lifestyle verticals.

Topics: Video & Audio, Digital Transformation, COVID-19

Products: After Effects, Premiere Rush, Premiere Pro, Creative Cloud