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Thursday, October 3, 2013

MULTIMEDIA: THE POSSIBILITIES

Susan, our unit co-ordinator, took last week's lecture. It was all about the multimedia side of online journalism and the many (many!) ways in which we can use technology to further our stories and provide more insight and detail for readers.

The most important thing to remember is that basic journalism skills - the kind that have been taught forever - are still the most important skills at the end of the day. The usual things: writing skills, good spelling and grammar, initiative and good interviewing skills.

BUT

Skills in multimedia are quickly growing in importance and having a strong handle on the digital skills useful for multi-platform reporting provides graduates with a distinct advantage; one that is likely to prove useful in the competitive and increasingly digitalised industry that is journalism.

If you think about it, that makes sense. Susan, quoting Mitchell Murphy from Fairfax, reminded us that "it doesn't matter how good the technology is if you have crap reporters." 

Perhaps what was more surprising, for me, about the lecture was the revelation that it doesn't all have to be whiz-bang. No professional camera-person? Take a photo yourself. No camera? Use your phone. Obviously, if the option is there, use it. But if you're covering a story alone, you've got to make the best use of the resources available to you. 

For many, this may be limited to a smartphone (most of us have them these days, right?). A smartphone gives you the ability to take photos, record videos and audio, and access social media channels like Twitter and Facebook for 'live-blogging.'

The trick is choosing the right visualisation for the right story. For some stories, a photo gallery may add nothing, but for other it may be just the thing to make the story clearer and more in-depth. That's where it all comes together: in finding the right piece/s of multimedia to take the story beyond words.

My favourite example is Quest Newspaper's Magpie Map.


Using Google Maps to mark where magpies are nesting, the map provides a guide for readers looking to avoid the swooping birds. Quest Newspapers encourages readers to send in their swooping locations to be added to be map, thereby also integrating a interactive element to the map.

I'm interested in pursuing music journalism, and it's interesting to look at the way multimedia is used in this sector of the industry. Nearly every story I've looked at focusing on a band or event includes a video, be it a music clip (usually taken from Youtube), a snippet of a live gig (which might be taken from Youtube, or recorded by the writer themselves) and a short interview or segment of an event (usually created by the writer and their team). These videos provide some extra context for readers, especially useful for readers who may be interested in the story but not familiar with the musicians involved.

Multimedia is an important part of journalism and its importance will only grow. It's exciting to see the way technology is being integrated into online journalism, and something I'll surely have to keep on top of as I venture out into the industry.

Eliza

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