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 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 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.


School loans: The new indentured servitude

I was in my chiropractor’s chiropracting room not long ago and he was telling me about his finances. I like to think my wife and I have a very special relationship with our chiropractor, but I’ve known him long enough, and sat in his waiting room enough time, to know most of his patients feel this way.

He is that rare breed of modern healthcare worker who you could easily see meeting up with at the local tavern at the end of the day to shoot the breeze over a few beers before heading home to your farm or blacksmithery for the night. You know, the old country doctors who went around to people’s homes and could prescribe remedies for  everything from arthritis to indigestion. And I’m pretty sure he would prescribe remedies for both of those, too, if you asked him.

He was telling me how much he pays in school loans every year, how it was enough to pay a mortgage or his kid’s college fund, and how he’ll be working for the next twenty years just to be free of that burden and actually keep the money he makes. I said, ‘Just like indentured servitude.’ He replied, ‘Yeah, it is. Exactly like indentured servitude.’

Indentured servitude refers to the historical practice of contracting to work for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during the term of indenture. Wikipedia

Europeans were so eager to get to America, the land of possibility, they were willing to trade in years of their lives to get there, just for the chance at a better future than the one they saw for themselves in their homelands.

For Americans, the ticket to the promised land is now a college degree, usually more than one. Now it is an education which represents the greatest opportunity and the greatest threat to our futures. Without a college degree we have only waiting tables, answering phones, or cleaning bathrooms to look forward to for the rest of our days. With a college degree, we have the chance to do something we love, to make great money, to be successful.

My chiropractor loves his job. He is incredibly passionate about helping people live better, healthier lives and he is convinced chiropractic is the best way he can do that. He could probably never have become a chiropractor without taking those loans, so for him mortgaging away part of his future income on doing something that mattered made sense. It made sense again when he had to get a loan to start his own practice, which added more debt to his family’s plate. For him it was worth it to take his future into his own hands.

What about you? Is it worth it to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree if it means paying it off for the next ten years?

Grain & Gram: The New Gentleman’s Journal

Hipster men may be hipsters, but they are still men.
Feel free to quote that.

Or put it on a t-shirt.

First off, Grain & Gram is beautiful. The site design, the layout, the photography. Even if you’re not interested in the articles, check it out and just appreciate the talent and discipline that went into the finished look and feel of the site.

Second, I think the creators of Grain & Gram have tapped into a really powerful current of thought, feeling, and desire that runs under the surface of twentysomething (and older… and younger) men. Despite the almost universal move away from manual labor and away from hands-on craftsmanship, men, or at least the guys I know, love an excuse to work with their hands, and to learn the skills and tools used in making real things in the real world.

We were interested in showcasing and writing about guys who were doing great old world things with purpose and quality, in an age where things are growing increasingly digital and standardized. (Furfur Rusland)

Grain & Gram: The New Gentleman’s Journal

microloans: end poverty, microsave the world

I got a letter from a woman in India the other day. An email, actually. Her written English was halting and grammatically atrocious, but her sincerity and gratitude were unmistakable. I had recently loaned her $50, and she had written to thank me.
No, I have not been caught up in a Nigerian-prince-style marketing scheme (I hope). I have just been introduced to the only-in-the-21st-century-would-this-be-possible idea of microloans.

Actually, I was introduced to the idea a few months ago while scholarship-hunting on the internet and it has been a bug in my ear since, so I finally decided to try it out. Part of the double-edged sword that is globalization is that we now know about problems such as the horrors in Darfur, or the poverty in India and Africa and much of southeast Asia, and we feel the need to do something about it. Continue reading “microloans: end poverty, microsave the world”

cohousing: redefining neighbors

Neighbors can be the most frustrating of people to deal with. A neighbor can become a close friend or a spited enemy – so hated that even plots to sabotage his stereo are thought of numerous times a day.
Maybe you’ve caught yourself looking at the drawn curtains of the house next door wondering why your neighbor appears to be sneaking into her house in broad daylight. Or maybe it is the tree next door that rains leaves down on your lawn each fall whose demise you are carefully considering. Perhaps your neighbor is a person who hurriedly walks his dog past your yard as if he is trying to escape some impending doom – only to later find a gift of dog poop on your manicured grassy knoll.

Regardless of how agreeable or how unpleasant your relationship with the next-door neighbors may be, we all have neighbors! Every person in this small world of ours must share life in one way or another with at least one other person whom we kindly refer to as a neighbor. Have you considered that our own response to our neighbors may make all the difference in our relationships with them? Continue reading “cohousing: redefining neighbors”

Food production: Beware the yeast of the pharmacies

Originally posted June, 2009 @

‘Man cannot live on bread alone’, says the proverb. In this day and age the proverb should be ‘man cannot live on bread at all.’

Food. We spend a lot of money on it. We spend a lot of time thinking about it. We spend a fair amount of time eating it. But we seem to be spending less time preparing it. We spend less time enjoying it. And as a result we spend less time enjoying one another, and less time enjoying the beautiful provision of God. Continue reading “Food production: Beware the yeast of the pharmacies”