More Than Words

A guest post on the 5 storytelling formats of digital journalism by Jericho Knopp—journalist, writer, cat-owner, and amateur musician.

I came to journalism school because I like to write. I’ve long considered myself a writer, so getting a degree where I could write for a living seemed like the perfect step. When I got here, however, I realized I was in for a bit of a rude awakening. Journalism is no longer just writing. It is writing, photography, videography, audio storytelling, and other kinds of multimedia all rolled into one. It’s not enough to be a great writer, you have to be good at everything. And so I worked and slaved and studied, and I finally learned to embrace this wacky, multimedia world. Here are some of the new storytelling formats being tested by multimedia journalists, with examples of some of my favourite stories.

Audio Slideshows

When I first started working with audio slideshows, we were given a 30 minute primer on what audio slideshows were supposed to look like, and how to avoid common mistakes.

Then, we were given our assignment. We were to create one, from scratch, in two weeks.

My partner and I had to learn how to use Audacity to edit our audio, get good soundbites, navigate the expanse of our DSLR, and use Soundslides, yet more software to put it all together. The result was an imperfect meshing together of photos and audio of an intriguing burlesque performer.

This audio slideshow from the BBC is a more professional example that blends the photos and audio together much more seamlessly.

Video Stories

We went through a very similar process with video stories. We had one month to create a four-minute documentary piece we could be proud of. We were put into groups of five and given instruction as we went along.

We stumbled through picking which equipment to use, learning how to use our video camera, shooting up-close interviews, and the countless other things that you need to do to shoot good video. When it came time to edit, we taught ourselves Final Cut Pro as we went along.

The learning curve was steep, but we also came out of the experience knowing a lot more than we did previously.

I am getting better with a video camera with every new subject I shoot, but this interactive video documentary about the Colorado River takes video to a new level.

Infographics

Infographics are becoming wildly popular in all forms of news. It doesn’t seem like I can go a minute of scrolling through my newsfeed without seeing one. Unfortunately, they are not something I currently know how to create.

I wish I could feel comfortable that Infographics are not a part of our curriculum, but I actually worry that not knowing how to create them will be a disadvantage for me as a journalist. Luckily, there are online services such as infogr.am and piktochart available to help me out, should I need it.

Check out this awesome flow-chart infographic from Goodreads that the Huffington Post used on Valentine’s Day.

Photo Essays

One of my professor’s favourite quotes is, “The best camera is the camera you have on you.”

With this in mind, I took my little point-and-shoot down to the beach a few months ago to complete an assignment. I had to tell a complete story about the beach within five to eight photos.

It was more difficult than it sounded.

I took some disjointed photos of different aspects of the beach, and called it “A Day at Kitsilano Beach”. Photography is an essential skill for all journalists, as we are called to not only write the story, but also to take photos and share them across social media.

We can also integrate the photos into our story in a way that truly enhances the meaning, like “Coffee in India” by the Seattle Times.

Interactive Stories

What do you get when you combine all of the above? Stories that are truly compelling, where the different elements all work together to tell a complete story. The video complements the text, which complements anything else that the story has to offer.

My partner and I tried to do something similar in our latest story. We took video interviews and paired them with text to tell a complete story about how an artist turned confessions into art pieces. We were able to take all the skills that we’d acquired and use them together.

The New York Times does a fantastic job of combining all of these elements in long-form interactive pieces such as Snow Fall.

Next Up?

I have no idea where the digital landscape will go, but innovation is occurring now faster than ever before. It’s a constant race to keep up, never mind beating everyone else to the front, and I am as excited as I am nervous. The more the technology grows, the more we can share with each other in new ways.

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More Than Words

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