When it comes to news design, there’s print, digital and then there’s embroidery. At least according to Hannah Wise, the Engagement Editor at the Dallas Morning News. Hannah’s design background inspired a unique and innovative new perspective on news, embroidering readers comments. When she’s not working at the DMN or stitching comments Hannah spends her time pursuing her M.A. in Journalism from the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. Her thesis work is exploring how human-centered design theory can be applied to newsroom structures to optimize for audience engagement.
What is your current job and how has SND, come into play in your career?
I am the Engagement Editor at The Dallas Morning News. I manage all of the DMN’s social media accounts and also explore ways we can reach out and engage our readers in a conversation about the community in which we all live. In many ways, that means I am a reader advocate within the newsroom. Design plays a big part of that. I have to have an immense degree of empathy for the reader thinking about how they will encounter our journalism, how it will be perceived and what will compel them to share the information within their own networks.
SND has been a really wonderful network of inspiration and affirmation for me. The majority of my roles at different organizations have been hybrids that include some design and some development or reporting. So having a network of individuals that I know I can rely on to look at a piece of work with critical design eye has been so important to me.
You transitioned from a design role to a reporting role at the DMN not too long ago, can you tell me about that transition. Do you think your experience as a designer effected the way you work as a reporter?
I have always loved being a reporter. I happen to also really love art and design. Even while I was working as a UI Designer for GuideLive, DMN’s entertainment site, I was reporting for the site on local art, coffee and internet oddities. In many ways, transitioning to our breaking news team put me reporting-wise back into hard news, which I prefer, but also allowed me to really bring my reader-centered view of reporting to the team. It also made me a utility player. I was able to work with or developers on projects and stories like our “Lost & Found” tool, a National Spelling Bee game and our tick-tock of the July 7 shooting on Dallas police.
How did you come up with the idea of making people’s comments into embroidery?
I was on Facebook Live for the DMN covering the protest on July 7 that became the shooting and was about half a block away from the first shots fired. I stayed live until my phone died about 45 minutes later. Then I was up with the rest of the newsroom trying to make sense of what had happened in our city.
By the end of those long first few days, I needed some way to relax and process what had happened — and it needed to be screen-free. My reporting partner a while back had gotten a ridiculous comment on a story about a man unfortunately dying on a Sunday and I thought it would be funny to stitch it for her as a gift. And so, @SewManyComments was born. Because really, we get a lot of ridiculous comments, emails and tweets and some just have to be preserved in a more tangible way.
Where and when did you learn to embroider?
I first learned to cross stitch in elementary school; we were making apple-shaped tree ornaments for our parents. My mom and grandmother have been lifelong stitchers and I grew up watching them. I didn’t really pick up a needle again in a serious way until after I moved to Dallas and realized I actually had time to have hobbies again.
Do you do all the embroidery yourself or do you have partners for the project?
The majority of the pieces you’ll see on the @SewManyComments Instagram are stitched by me. I have regular contributors though including a reporter at the Longview News-Journal in East Texas and an online editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Anything on the Sew Many Comments Etsy (which I will hopefully update this weekend) is sewn by me.
What had the reaction been at the Dallas Morning News? In the local community? Journalism community?
Overall everyone has loved it. I regularly bring my stitching to DMN happy hours and stitch while I sip. The journalism community at large has also loved it. My colleagues and friends from around the industry send me suggestions often. I welcome suggestions at [email protected]
How long does it take you to make each embroidery?
It very much depends on the
size and detail of the design. The quote about journalism takes between six and eight hours depending how distracted I get talking to friends at coffeeshops or wrestling thread away from my cat Brünnhilde.
How do you pick which comments to use?
I try to pick ones that are funny some how or have a meaning to a friend or colleague. They also have to be pretty short because I’m not in the business of stitching novels. I’ve got one from the Washington Post coming up that says “Never mind. I should have read the entire article.”
In 2016 you led an embroidery workshop at ONA Denver, can you tell me about that?
It was part of the ONA Unconference, so essentially you pitch a session you’d like to teach and conference attendees vote on it and then if you’re one of the top five you teach! It was so fun. ONA is a monster of a conference. So many smart people sharing their smart ideas and honestly, I needed a way to kind of download all of that information and thought others could too. So I stitched the logo to announce I was coming and then pitched it. I was selected and about 25 journalists came to learn. It was so much fun!
What’s next for the project?
I mean, just continuing to hustle honestly. It is such a fun way for me to relax. I’d love the opportunity to share the skill with others. I’ve got the Etsy page and I am going to be posting some patterns for download there soon and I’m working on some stitch instruction videos to post on my website soon.