Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Think multimedia at your next editors meeting

ST. PETERSBURG, FL.--Here's something to try at your next editors meeting or staff meeting: Think multimedia.

Start with this exercise inspired by Regina McCombs (photo at left) , a senior multimedia producer at in Minneapolis-St. Paul (and a faculty member at the Multimedia Journalism for College Educators seminar I'm attending this week at The Poynter Institute).

Consider each of the different media your news organization uses--text, photos, graphics, slide shows, podcasts, audio slide shows, video. Then discuss what each medium does best. Your group will probably come up with several different attributes for each medium but they might include:

Text: Provides depth, background and context

Photo: Captures a moment in time, shows something happening

Graphic: Explains complex information, especially numbers; help readers visualize the unseeable

Slide show:
Tells a primarily visual story that goes beyond a single moment

Podcast: Captures sound, tone, voice

Audio slide show: Tells a story with strong visual and audio elements, captures mood

Video: Portrays action and motion, lets subjects tell their own stories

Once you have a list for each medium, go through your story budget for an upcoming issue. Discuss each story and what would be the best way to tell it. Ask:

* Is the story dense with information and have a lot of background/context to explain?
* Does the story have a strong visual component?
* Does it have a strong sound component?
* Does it have audio and visual elements?
* Is there action or movement?
* Does the story have a lot of number facts?
* Would a map--two-dimensional or interactive--help the reader understand the story?
* Do you have subjects with stories to tell?

Finally, consider what is the best medium to tell each story and assign the story to the appropriate journalist. Voila! Now you're thinking like a multimedia journalist!

Does your newspaper staff already ask these questions on a routine basis? Are you proud of your use of multimedia? Post a comment below.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Ellis

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