Class Work

Nora’s Multimedia Story

            In The Loneliest Polar Bear Chapter One, The Oregonian shares with us the dramatic beginnings of everyone’s favorite polar bear, Nora. Nora was once the Oregon Zoo’s shining star, but this story focuses on her beginnings in the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio. 

Nora enjoying her time at the Oregon Zoo. Courtesy of The Patch

Why tell this story?

            Even though Nora only spent a little over a year at the Oregon Zoo, she quickly captured everyone’s hearts. Once Nora went viral, The Oregonian took this as an opportunity to share her story, while highlighting the conservation efforts towards polar bears around the world. 

            Nora’s story did not start off well. Her story begins with her already beating unfavorable odds; she was the only polar bear cub that survived in 2015. After surviving six days with no major red flags, her story takes a turn when her mother Aurora wonders away from her. The story follows the many hours that Aurora leaves her wailing cub, as zookeepers make a difficult decision to hand-raise Nora. Intertwined with Nora’s dramatic tale over six long hours, you learn the story of how Nanuq, Nora’s father, was found in Wales, Alaska. 

E(Nora)mous amounts of multimedia

Young Nora at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Courtesy of NBC Columbus

            The first chapter of Nora’s story is told wonderfully through text, video, photo, and info graphics. The use of video was definitely a great decision to help with the story. There is no other way to pull on the heart strings of the reader than to actually allow them to hear Nora crying as her mother begins to shrug off her motherly instincts. This also helps better understand the scene of where the entire first chapter takes place. Videos also help tell the stories of the zookeepers who had to make the decision to separate Nora and Aurora. This video highlights the seriousness of this difficult decision. 

            Info graphics are used in two very distinct and separate ways. The first one is a digital time-lapse showing the melting of the polar ice caps. This puts the shrinking habitat for polar bears in a more understandable perspective for the audience. The second is one explaining the population of Wales, Alaska. This helps put into perspective on how Nanuq was discovered and the lifestyle of people who live close to some of the last remaining Polar Bears. 

What makes Nora’s story?

            Through Nora’s first dramatic days of life, we are introduced to a wide array of characters. With Nora playing the role of a protagonist, with the support of zoo staff Devon Sabo and Priya Bapodra. The antagonist is sadly Nora’s own mother, Aurora. 

            The larger portion of the story is spent in the main setting, the polar bear den and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. We start with the exposition of Nora’s first few days after birth, and the statistics of polar bears in captivity. The rising action begins as Aurora fist walks away from Nora, and zookeepers wait patiently for her return. The climax comes once the zookeepers intervene between the two polar bears, saving Nora’s life. There is little resolution after this moment, as it leads to the next chapter of Nora’s life. 

Lessons learned

            One thing that I enjoyed about this story was the brute honesty. The Oregonian didn’t try to sugar coat Nora’s situation, or the fate of the worlds polar bear population. They not only used this story to tell readers about Nora, but they stressed the dire situation her entire species is facing. This inspired me to find little stories within a larger story, that all roll together into one neat and tidy package. 

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