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Multimedia storytelling adds creativity in journalism

There are several different formats we can use to tell a comprehensive story.

Illustration by Knight Digital Media Center

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The surge in technology has given us more options on how to tell a story.

Even so, many media outlets still run stories the same way they did a decade ago. Often, a newspaper will run the same story on its website that it published in print. Or a broadcast station will run the same video packages it had on the news that night.

Technology can do so much more.  So why aren’t we making full use of this outlet?

Bill Adair of Poynter writes in a June article:

“Editors and reporters haven’t stopped to invent new forms of storytelling — or even consider how they might do things differently on the Web and mobile devices. Their automatic response is to do the same basic thing they’ve always done: ‘Go write a news story about that.’”

But the Internet gives us an opportunity to experiment with multi-dimensional storytelling and to add creativity.

We’re starting to see more news sites, such the new Narratively site, make effective use of multimedia storytelling. This form of storytelling uses text, photos, videos, audio, graphics, maps and other media forms to present a story in segments to create reader interest.

Dividing a story into parts allows different aspects of stories to be told in the most appropriate media format. These different parts provide context, making the story deeper, more compelling and engaging. It also makes a greater impact on the reader.

Audiences like – and want – this kind of creativity.

For example, the Boston Globe created a series on Ted Kennedy, using video stories as centerpieces and long-text articles and photo slideshows as complements. This package received over 2.5 million views in the first month it was published.

A study at the University of Minnesota tested five different forms of storytelling, including a traditional narrative and a topic-oriented presentation. The results showed the topic approach as the favorite of those that were tested. The study also showed the readers that used this type of format were more likely to say they learned something new.

But there are also some drawbacks to multimedia storytelling. For one, these presentations take a lot of time and effort to make. Viewing the packages also requires the reader’s full attention. This isn’t a reasonable expectation for online audiences, who are often multitasking. Journalists also have to consider how a multimedia package would work on mobile devices.

Creativity in journalism should not be overlooked. It helps create a unique reader experience, which can help distinguish a news outlet in today’s competitive market. Multimedia storytelling offers us a way to make stories more powerful. Although multimedia stories may not be appropriate for every story, journalism has room for new storytelling methods.

Resources:

Picking the Right Media for Reporting a Story– A tutorial showing journalists how to take advantage of the different characteristics of video, audio, photos, text and other media forms.

Multimedia Storytelling – A tutorial showing how to put together a more compelling and comprehensive multimedia presentation.

_ Erica Jobman

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