"While the end results were impressive, the production time involved made such work prohibitive for all but the most ideal stories," explained Scott Peacocke, AJC's senior editor for data journalism.
Now, however, almost a dozen AJC newsroom staff are using Shorthand for stories from sports and lifestyle, to government and politics.
“Shorthand removes all the technical complexities involved and allows non-coders to build a creative that has that deep immersive feel, and in a fraction of the time”.
AJC's newsroom is split into "topic teams", each of which has been assigned at least one "Shorthand specialist". "This way, the tool is evenly distributed across the newsroom," said Scott.
"Each specialist is empowered to identify which stories created by that team would work best in Shorthand, and to make those calls."
Those using it “love the strong visual presentations that Shorthand offers,” he said, “along with ease of use and the flexibility of incorporating multiple elements.”
And the story statistics are also positive, with Shorthand stories recording a higher Time on Site than standard stories.
There is also a real sense of reader value, also recognised by AJC's focus groups of paid digital subscribers, where Shorthand projects "rate consistently high".
"In the minds of our readers, Shorthand stories provide an enhanced journalism experience," Scott added.
One Shorthand story of which AJC is particularly proud covers the Atlanta BeltLine, a former railway corridor since redeveloped into a public space combining art, culture, recreation, business, dining and daily living.
"It was a perfect fit for Shorthand because it was such a visual story," explained Shane Harrison, AJC audience specialist for living and entertainment.
"Shorthand offered the perfect way to showcase the great work of our writers, photographers, videographers and editors."