Start with this exercise inspired by Regina McCombs (photo at left) , a senior multimedia producer at StarTribune.com 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