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How Pictures of the Year and College Photographer of the Year elevated their presentation using the MediaStorm Platform

I have a long history with the Pictures of the Year and College Photographer of the Year contests. 

They have been guiding pillars throughout my 27-year career as they set the standard for quality visual storytelling. I took a walk down memory lane and put together the back story.

It is fitting—as MediaStorm enters our next chapter, with the MediaStorm Platform as a central element of our strategy—that these two contests are some of our first public implementations of this powerful new toolset.

I sat down with the directors of each contest, CPOY’s Jackie Bell and POY’s Lynden Steele, to discuss how the MediaStorm Platform supports their vision for the future.


POY & CPOY were running custom, hand-built sites that were maintained by student volunteers. Of course, those students eventually graduate and the custom code that required unique knowledge to maintain was hard to transfer from one semester to the next.

Both POY and CPOY wanted to:

  • Find an easy to use and modern toolset to present the best photography in the world.
  • Solve inefficiencies created by high student turnover and custom code
  • Create synergies between POY and CPOY offering
  • Support future integrations with POY Latam and POY Asia


For CPOY, the entire hand-built site was replaced with a single responsive website release using the MediaStorm Platform.

POY utilized a series of embeddable players to showcase the winning images. Locator maps, related links and direct links to license images have been added to many of the images to provide greater context and transactional benefits to the photographers.


  • Improved image size and site responsiveness
  • Related information and context or each image
  • Consistent top-level branding and promotion of sponsors and partners
  • Improved site-wide navigation created a path for showcasing over 75 years of results
  • Entire site is embeddable with deep linking
  • A more inspired and unified team


The MediaStorm Platform supports covers, in a variety of layouts, to provide compelling visual entry points to content. CPOY’s homepage and Winners Gallery have grid covers to position the overall offering. POY used covers for each of the story and portfolio categories.


Photographers and organizations are linked to help drive more awareness to their work.

In some cases, the location of the image, the judges’ commentary and links to license the image are shown in the sidebar.

Screencasts Playlist

Over 25 hours of screencast video of the judging process is available in a playlist.

New Features added

Ability to batch edit metadata: A major component of both organizations’ publishing workflows involves adding related metadata for each image. In some cases, that metadata is the same across multiple images. To help accelerate this task, we added the ability to Copy Metadata Between Items.

Ability to customize site navigation: By default, a Website Release will display a navigation that is generated automatically based on the structure of the “Content” panel in the release. However, you may choose to enable custom navigation via the “Navigation” panel of a release for finer-grained control.

Lynden Steele, Director, Pictures of the Year

“So many platforms treat visual stories as an afterthought, or as something to be attached like a decoration. With the MediaStorm Platform, the visuals are the story. It recognizes and honors the needs of visual storytelling.

Since its beginning in 1944, POY has been staffed by students. They learn about photojournalism through the competition. The MediaStorm Platform equips our students with cutting edge skills. I’m excited that they can use the toolset because it will equip them with a sophisticated skill set as they start their careers. It’s even intuitive enough that I can teach it to new students every year.

The MediaStorm Platform will allow POY to focus more of our future effort on the photographers’ work. We can add an incredible amount of context to the photographers’ work that will make visiting the POY site much more valuable.

In some systems I feel like you have to create work around techniques in order to present visual content well. With the MediaStorm Platform, it’s a straight-forward process. The toolset is really responsive. I can see my changes quickly and I feel like my effort is rewarded.”

Jackie Bell, Director, College Photographer of the Year

“It is an incredible platform for visual storytellers. The visuals are treated well and look fantastic.

I use the platform as a website because I needed a new, modern site to display our award-winning images.

I’m able to attach related content to the Winners Gallery in a way I’ve never done. Now, after posting videos, screencasts and graphics on social media, I can permanently place them next to the winning entries as related content. 

The covers look beautiful and offer another level of navigation. One of my favorite new features is linking the photographers’ websites to their winning work to give them greater recognition. 

The tools are easy to use. I can control my website myself, and for the first time I don’t need a coder on staff. 

I also look forward to adding tools as we continue to add content. I’m excited about timelines and maps, which we will begin adding in the fall.”

You can learn more about how Pictures of the Year and College Photographer of the Year have been guiding pillars of my career.

Want to improve the way you present your story?

Get the MediaStorm Platform.

The MediaStorm Platform https://tools.mediastorm.com

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Pictures of the Year and College Photographer of the Year have been guiding pillars of my career

When I was a graduate student at University of Missouri School of Journalism the judging experience of the Pictures of the Year and College Photographer of the Year contests were a window into the work of the world’s top visual storytellers.

They formed the bedrock of my visual storytelling education and have been part of my journey ever since.

1993 – 1995: Multimedia @ Mizzou

I created four interactive CD-ROMs while I was at Mizzou. One about the Missouri Photo Workshop in Bolivar, MO, one for my master’s project and two about Pictures of the Year.

This Andy Nelson image is one of the few prints I still hang in my home. If you clicked the camera icon on the right side of the screen you could hear Andy tell the story behind the picture.

I conducted phone interviews with all the winners and those discussions were incredible learning experiences. Newspaper Photographer of the Year Michael Williamson shared his wisdom with me for over 3 hours. Just imagine what his insight did to my 23-year-old mind.

I met the top visual storytellers in the world via POY. Later, at MSNBC.com, I published several bodies of work from Gideon Mendel and represented him at Corbis. Roger Hutchings’ work was one our first essays at MSN News. Uncle Jimmy Colton became a great friend via the Eddie Adams Workshop and softball in Central Park.

David Rees (middle) and my talented partner in crime Keith Mays (left) along with my mentor Bill Kuykendall (not pictured) were hugely influential in my learning and the products we created. This is the University of Missouri’s new media lab in the mid 90s when I still had some hair and 1 GB hard drive was the size of a toaster oven.

1994: MediaStorm 1.0

My master’s project started as a CD-ROM and turned into MediaStorm’s first website in collaboration with several of my fellow students. Someday I will find the hard drive that has this site on it and I will publish it again!

Torsten Kjellstrand’s project about black farmers in Missouri’s Bootheel was foundational in so many ways. It was the first time I said, “Don’t just take their pictures, give them a voice.” That became a life-long bumper sticker for my career. Torsten was one of the early converts to gather sound, or captions on steroids as we liked to call it. Torsten is still working on this important project almost 30 years later.

I interviewed Torsten extensively and he interviewed his subjects. If you clicked on the Ted button on the bottom left you could hear him explain what he and his wife Arlene were facing on their small farm.

Sometime in 1994 my friend JD Whitmire came into the new media lab with a floppy disc as he often wanted to show me some new software. We installed and launched the web browser Mosaic and he explained that we were reading files from a computer in Champaign, IL. 

I stared at the screen for a bit and said one word to him: Distribution.

I had just spent 10 months working on a CD-ROM that we pressed only 1,000 copies of and had to deliver to the audience a physical disc. 

Seeing a web browser for the first time changed my entire philosophy of publishing and we launched the first version of MediaStorm as a website soon after.

At that time, you could not use background colors so the entire web was gray. Great pictures still worked though as you can see from Laura Kleinhenz’s project on the Lasker Grand Ole Opry. Frank Barbieri and I had joined forces and were planning to take MediaStorm to some interesting places, but recruiters from Redmond, WA convinced us to put that idea on hold.

1995 – 2002: Microsoft & MSNBC.com

On July 15, 1995 Frank and I joined what was then an 11-person team at MSN News. We had the opportunity to start the online publication from the ground up.

I was working with the brilliant Sandra Eisert to bring strong visual essays to MSN News and tapped relationships I had built via POY like with Roger Hutchings on The Sacrifice of Srebrenica.

The clean design courtesy of Sandra Eisert and the related audio right out of my POY CD-ROM playbook.

When MSN News launched we were building it via a Microsoft product called Blackbird. It was essentially Word with extensions and specifically not HTML. The very first HTML product we created was a report on Pictures of the Year. The Newspaper Photographer of the Year was my college friend Torsten Kjellstrand. His winning portfolio was captured within 25 miles of his paper in Jasper, Indiana. I actually went to Jasper that year to do a story about Torsten and The Herald. My second child was born 16 years later and we named him Jasper. But, don’t tell John Rumbach there is any connection.

A year later, in the summer of 1996, we partnered with NBC and became MSNBC.com.

We continued to push forward with big picture essays, including AIDS in Africa by Gideon Mendel that I had first seen during POY judging.

Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, MSNBC.com was reaching 25 million unique readers a month. In September we served almost 50 million. We conquered so much in the early days of the internet–creating all the first interactive storytelling tools and becoming the number one online news site.

In 1998, POY added multimedia categories to the fifty-fifth annual contest. I had the honor of judging that inaugural year with industry icons Joze Azel, Tom Kennedy and Keith Jenkins. We were also part of a group that helped to define the categories and approach over the coming years.

Unlike my experiences at the University of Missouri, MSNBC.com had the ability to showcase photojournalism to a mass audience. The Week in Pictures, a site we started to showcase the best photojournalism in October of 1998, was generating over 100 million page views per month.

At the end of the year we’d do another edit of The Week in Pictures and publish the Year in Pictures. This idea is now a staple on almost all news sites.

I had the honor of collaborating with so many talented people at MSNBC.com. This picture does not include our East Coast team and many others that came before and after, but it certainly captures a moment in time. Pictured from left to right at the MSNBC.com Christmas party atop the Seattle Space Needle in 2000: Top row: Jennifer Loomis, Katie Cannon, James Cheng, Bob Croslin, Jim Seida, Andrew Locke and Meredith Hogan. Bottom Row: Robert Browman, Brian Storm and Robert Hood.

MSNBC also won several POY Awards in the multimedia categories that we helped to create:

POY 58

Best Use of Photography – New Media: Major Media Outlets

Award of Excellence, MSNBC.com, “Blood and Honey”

POY 59

Best Use of Multi-Media / Interactive Publication – large media

Second Place, MSNBC.com, “Aging in America”

Third Place, MSNBC.com, “Year in Pictures 2001”

Award of Excellence, MSNBC.com, “America at War”

POY 60

MSNBC was a sponsor so we did not enter. We did implement a way for the public to vote for the best picture of the year.

POY 61

Multi-Media Division / Multi-Media Story and Essay

First Place, MSNBC.com, “Aging in America”

POY 62

I was a judge so we didn’t enter.

Once we launched MediaStorm again in 2005, we did pretty well with the awards.

2002 – 2005: Corbis

It is hard to write about what could have been with Corbis. 

So hard, in fact, that I will have to save this chapter for another time.

The short story is that I met my wife Elodie at Corbis and that is everything.

2005 – Present: MediaStorm 2.0

I brought MediaStorm back in 2005 and assembled a team of uber talent. This picture was taken on the roof of our apartment and MediaStorm’s headquarters in Gramercy Park. Top Row: Pamela Chen, Eric Maierson, Robert Browman, Brian Storm, Elodie Mailliet Storm and Chad Stevens Heartwood. Bottom Row: Jessica Stuart Buono and Tim Klimowicz. Since then, over 50 talented people have helped to create MediaStorm.

From the start, MediaStorm has been committed to two things: telling stories about the shared human experience, and supporting the best storytellers in the world. In the sixteen years since we created this mission statement, we have told stories on the most pressing issues of our time, from the crisis affecting the small family farmer in the midwest to the gender gap in India.

At our peak, we were creating about 30 films a year. That seems like a lot, but even at that volume I don’t think we were creating the change that we aspired to inspire.

It became clear to me that the path towards greater impact was to share what we have learned and to create the toolset that powers our approach.

I could not be more excited to have POY and CPOY be some of the first public use cases of this powerful technology.

You can learn more about how Pictures of the Year and College Photographer of the Year elevated their presentation using the MediaStorm Platform.


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MediaStorm Platform Presentations

MediaStorm founder Brian Storm will be giving several presentations about the MediaStorm Platform.

September 28, 2021: The Stanford Daily Multimedia Workshop

The Stanford Daily

The Stanford Daily is offering a brand-new, 4-week all-remote Multimedia Workshop this fall, open to high school students interested in podcast, photo and video journalism.


October 28, 2021: VII Insider: Brian Storm – A Guide to Online Storytelling

VII Insider

Digital technology and the rise of the internet has transformed the way visual stories can be told. In this presentation MediaStorm founder Brian Storm will discuss the need to embrace new modes of storytelling and how to package video and interactive experiences online. Storm will showcase the MediaStorm Platform, a tool that enables storytellers to create and publish sophisticated digital packages using video, images, audio, maps, timelines, and slideshows. He will detail his strategy for how creators and  publishers can take back control of their audience relationship and create a sustainable publishing strategy by leveraging the power of interactive storytelling.

November 9, 2021: Kalish 2021 Fall Webinar Series


To help support visual storytellers, the advisory board and faculty have put together a free webinar series open to 100 attendees per session via registration. The conversations that will take place during these sessions are just the beginning of what we are planning for the in-person June 2022 workshop. We hope you join us, and feel heard, supported, and ready to grow.\


Upcoming MediaStorm Master Classes

MediaStorm Workshop

MediaStorm provides intensive, master class educational experiences through our One Day and Methodology master classes. We are offering 50% off the following upcoming courses via video conference:

Sept. 18, 2021

One day Master Class

Nov. 13, 2021 One day Master Class

Dec. 14-17, 2021

Methodology Master Class


Apply Now


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Back to School with MediaStorm

At MediaStorm we hold no secrets. We want to share our knowledge and tricks of the trade to help you become the best storyteller possible.

Whether you are a student or a seasoned professional, MediaStorm’s online training provides essential tools and techniques proven to enhance your storytelling. Led by our award-winning team of producers, editors, and cinematographers, these modules offer a behind-the-scenes look at MediaStorm’s approach to making films.

Our online training program, which can be implemented as a complement to any filmmaking program, is now available for only $45. These online courses are usually priced at $199 but we want to make them more accessible at this time.

Educators get a free account if they assign the training to the students.

Wes Pope at the University Oregon used the training this semester and said:

“Whether you are just getting started, or have been producing video for some time, it is remarkable how much you will learn from these videos. I have reviewed dozens of textbooks and tutorials, and nothing else out there comes close. I recently used these as a required text in one of my graduate level video journalism courses. My students appreciated nitty gritty technical detail as well as the higher level insights into the creative process. Kudos and thank you to Brian and his team for taking the time to make these videos – and for sharing them at a very reasonable price.”

Tom Burton at Texas A&M University said:

“The online course has been great for my mobile multimedia students and is now a godsend as we have to move completely online at the last minute. Thanks for having this out there in the universe.”

We hope you will take advantage of these opportunities to further your education and provide world class online training to your students.

Watch it now

MediaStorm Master Classes

Rosalind Fox Solomon

MediaStorm is committed to continuing our educational efforts in a safe and responsible manner. For the foreseeable future, we will be holding all master classes via Zoom video conference.

We are excited to announce dates for 2021 and are offering 50% off the following upcoming courses via video conference:

One Day Master Class:

• Online Video Conference: September 18, 2021
• Online Video Conference: November 13, 2021

Apply Now



Methodology Master Class:

• December 14-17, 2021 *Apply by Nov 1, 2021

Apply Now



Here’s what people say about our master classes:

“MediaStorm’s class broke down storytelling theory in a way that challenged me to think about my past projects and better prepared me for those that I am currently working on. Brian is a charismatic instructor who loves sharing the knowledge he has gathered with anyone willing to learn. His anecdotes and projects serve as his syllabus and he teaches with an authenticity that cannot be faked.”   McArdle Hankin, Co-Founder Back Pocket

“As a longtime reporter and editor looking to start a new media venture, I found Brian’s one-day master class both practical and inspirational. In an age of click-bait “journalism,” Brian’s unwavering commitment to quality storytelling resonated with me deeply, and has motivated me to keep pursuing my entrepreneurial journey.” Julie Makinen, JSK Stanford Fellow

“My week at the Methodology Workshop with Brian Storm and his team has been life changing. All of my questions about MediaStorm’s quality documentary filmmaking were answered as we went deeper than I expected into the storytelling secrets that make them who they are. Now the blanks are filled in, and I’m looking forward to increasing the quality of my own multimedia projects with renewed passion. Clearly compassion rules the way MediaStorm tells people’s stories, but they also make sure to get the stories in front of people who can benefit from them the most. Thank you Brian and all the team at MediaStorm for your inspiring generosity. I will make it count.” Carla Adelmann


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Virtual Teachapalooza: Front-Edge Teaching Tools for College Educators

Brian Storm will be giving an overview of MediaStorm’s educational offerings including the the MediaStorm Platform and Online Training.

Online group seminar, June 4-5, 2021

Now in its 11th year, Teachapalooza is the place for college journalism educators to catch up, power up and reignite their passion for teaching. A successful virtual gathering in 2020 gave more educators the opportunity to attend, allowed for more guest instructors to tune in and share their wisdom, and provided a unique focus on the art of online teaching, so we will host a virtual version of Teachapalooza again in 2021!

Join us for two fast-paced days of relevant, cut-to-the-chase learning for journalism educators. We will record the sessions so participants can capture anything they miss in the live online session. Our plan is to bring you fresh, practical and specific teaching — exactly what you have come to expect from Teachapalooza.

Poynter Director of College Programming Barbara Allen will join longtime Teachapalooza Senior Faculty Al Tompkins as co-lead of Teacha 2021.

Teachapalooza alumni have come to rely on this community of teachers and its yearly meeting to help them navigate challenges, reconvene with friends and refuel with ideas for the coming academic year. Once you attend, you’ll find that the Teachapalooza community supports you every step of the way.



Who are the instructors?

Al Tompkins is Senior Faculty for Broadcast and Online at Poynter. Al is one of America’s most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. 

Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Before coming to Poynter, Allen spent nearly 10 years at Oklahoma State University as adviser to the school paper, The O’Colly, and as an adjunct professor teaching courses in multimedia reporting and public affairs writing. 

Guest faculty:

  • Kathleen McElroy — Director and Professor, School of Journalism and Media – The University of Texas at Austin
  • Kathleen Bartzen Culver —Associate Professor; James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics; Director, Center for Journalism Ethics
  • Mark Johnson — Senior Lecturer, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, The University of Georgia
  • Wesley Lowery — Pulitzer Prize-winning Reporter; Contributing Editor, The Marshall Project
  • Dean Nelson — Chair, Department of Literature, Journalism, Writing & Languages, Point Loma Nazarene University
  • Jeremy Caplan — Director of Teaching and Learning at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism
  • Doris Truong — Director of Training and Diversity, Poynter
  • Anzio Williams — Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for NBCUniversal
  • Kanina Holmes — Associate Professor, Carleton University Ottawa
  • Brian Storm — Founder and Executive Producer, MediaStorm
  • Miriam Feldblum —Co-founder and Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration
  • Bob Atkins — CEO and Founder Gray Associates
  • Martha Parham — Senior Vice President of Public Relations, American Association of Community Colleges

What is the schedule?
Join Tompkins, Allen and your other Teachapalooza colleagues virtually June 4-5, 2021. We will convene each day at 11 a.m. Eastern time for large group instruction, breakout sessions, chat forums and virtual networking. Day one will conclude at 6:30 p.m. and day two at 5:30 p.m. Session topics include the post-pandemic future for higher ed, the issues with objectivity, digital tools to make your life and teaching easier, talking with students about implicit bias and more. 

Click here for a full schedule.

What is the cost?

Tuition is $150. The deadline to apply is May 10, 2021.


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