Science Journalism in the Public Interest

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Multimedia Journalism


Multimedia journalism combines varying forms of story-telling – sound, text, video, graphics (including infographics), and images – to tell a journalistic story in a compelling manner. It takes advantage of digital tools to bring journalism to life in new ways. It’s one of the most rapidly expanding – and many say exciting – new developments in the field.

glassblow

The New York Times’ “Snowfall” feature introduced ambitious multimedia journalism to a new and wider audience.

 

This story by the French publication Rue 89 on the Rebuilding of Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake offers a textbook illustration of that point. Rather than simply listing the difficulties in different developmental policies, the story takes the reader through an interactive quiz in which he or she learns firsthand that each decision leads to unintended consequences. The story is immersive in many ways: audio recordings of the streetscape – a tap tap engine, people murmuring – along with vivid photography, that gives the reader a sense of being there. The authors place the words “During the wet season, though, it is more of a balancing act, particularly when crossing the ravines that drain rain water and waste,” over an image of a woman walking on a precarious elevated path, shot at an angle where the path dominates, to illustrate the situation’s risk.

While the blending of different forms of media with storytelling has existed for a while on the web,  the 2012 New York Times launch of Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek is often credited for catapulting the status of multimedia journalism forward. The Pulitzer-prize winning story, a multi-chapter “series” about the 2012 Tunnel Creek Avalanche in Washington State by reporter John Branch, weaves together the component parts – video, photos, graphics – into a holistic story form of its own rather than leaving them to serve, as often occurred previously, as merely extras attached to text.

Because multimedia is the melding of several different kinds of media which can be difficult for a single person to master, multimedia journalists often work in teams. But increasingly, reporters from one field of journalism are seeking to develop cross-disciplinary skills: print journalists are learning photography; photographers are learning digital. Similarly, employers are learning to value employees with multiple skills. For those seeking some introduction to the field and the resources available, the following guide may prove useful.

SO YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MULTIMEDIA JOURNALISM?

Journalism programs on both the undergraduate and graduate levels are overhauling their curricula to be more reflective of this changing landscape – even print journalists can expect to be trained on photography, video and audio. But maybe you’re already a journalist, simply looking to expand your skill set. Or maybe you’re thinking of transitioning into journalism but you don’t have the time to pursue a full-time degree program. Either way you prefer to go it alone.

Luckily, there are tools available online to help you.

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SO YOU’D RATHER READ A BOOK THAN A WEBSITE?

We recommend these books on multimedia journalism, photojournalism, audio journalism, and videography as starter resources.

  • Feature and Narrative Storytelling for Multimedia Journalists, by Duy Linh Tu
  • The Principles of Multimedia Journalism: Packaging Digital News, by Richard Hernandez, Jeremy Rue
  • Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia by Al Tompkins
  • Photojournalism: The Professionals’ Approach by Kenneth Kobre
  • Journalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing by Mark Briggs
  • Advancing the Story: Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World by Debora Rae, Halpern Wenger and Deborah Potter
  • Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production by Jonathan Kern

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SO YOU WANT TO LEARN SOME MORE TOOLS OF THE TRADE?

General Multimedia Journalism

Photojournalism

Video

Graphics

Audio

SO YOU WANT SOME MULTIMEDIA TOOLS?

  • Atavist,  a platform designed to make it easier to tell and share multimedia stories. Writers can use it to sell stories directly to visitors.
  • Audio Hijack, allows you to record media from like iTunes and Skype directly from your computers soundcard.
  • Canva, helps to develop presentations, social media graphics easily that still look professional.
  • Gimp, or the GNU Image Manipulation Program is free software that facilitates photo retouching, image composition and authoring.
  • Google Fusion tables, helps to gather, share and visualize data.
  • Google Media Tools, connects a number of Google tools – Youtube, Google Maps, fusion tables etc.
  • PicMonkey, free online photo editing software
  • Piktochart, helps to make infographics
  • Scratch, an animation platform geared towards elementary through high school aged children, but helpful for those learning animation at any age.
  • Soundcloud, social sound platform where people can share sounds – music, reporting, etc – anywhere.
  • Storify, a way of curating web information.
  • ThingLink, a media platform that weaves together audio and photography with text.
  • Vimeo, a video sharing platform useful for embedding videos into websites
  • Zentrick, an interactive video tool

    SO YOU WANT TO MEET OTHER MULTIMEDIA JOURNALISTS?

There’s no substitute for meeting similarly oriented reporters and editors in person, and journalism conferences are the perfect place to make that happen. Unfortunately, likely due to multimedia journalism’s cross-platform perspective the number of conferences specifically focused on multimedia journalism is scarce. However, a number of journalism conferences do specifically call out multimedia journalism in award categories and interests as a distinct category. Here are some of them:

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SO YOU’RE LOOKING FOR EXAMPLES OF STRONG MULTIMEDIA SCIENCE JOURNALISM?

  • Firestorm, using the photo of the Holmes family hiding from a violent bushfire in Tasmania that was shared around the world as a starting point, the Guardian takes us inside a new breed of impossible to fight bushfire.
  • Hollow Documentary, an interactive documentary detailing the life of one West Virginia coal town.
  • Losing Ground, this Pro Publica article investigates Louisiana’s dwindling coast line and the risk it poses to the regions gas and oil production, its shrimping industry, and its people.
  • Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, This 2012 New York Times article arguably ushered in modern multimedia journalism, displaying the strength of the format and its possibilities.
  • The Broken Hip: A Moment that Changes Everything, an interactive story on scientific advances on preventing falls in older adults and helping them heal faster when they do fall.
  • The Science Studio collects strong multimedia science stories on the web.
  • The Serengeti Lion: Life on the Plains with the Vumbi Pride, this National Geographic interactive piece documents the life of African lions on the Serengeti.
  • Thin Ice: Exploring Mount Hood’s Glacier Caves, OPB (Oregon’s Public Broadcasting Company) goes deep inside what may the largest system of glacial caves in the US outside of Alaska.
  • Undrinkable, this Texas Tribune multimedia article looks at how many people along the Texas-Mexico border still live without running water.

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SO YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A SHORT COURSE?

Multimedia journalism short courses are an excellent way of expanding your skillset without the commitment and expense of a full-time graduate program. They’re not a substitute for indepth education, of course, but they can provide you with a springboard to learn and experiment with the tools and tricks of the multimedia journalism trade.

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