Storytelling, Teaching

How Multimedia & I Came To Be Friends

This post was written as part of the course final for Multimedia Journalism WRI 430 at Point Loma Nazarene University. Students were asked to reflect on what they learned during the semester and assess how it might affect their future reporting.

On the first day of class this semester, I had to ask three different library employees before I found someone that knew room 303 was the MAC Lab. As clueless as they were that the tech savvy world exists up the stairs, and around a dark corridor, I was also clueless and fumbling around when it came to multimedia.

After I determined that I was indeed, uneducated in multimedia, I decided that I needed to do something about it. I enrolled in a multimedia course, even if I would only count as an elective. But it seemed to be a perfect way to wet my feet as a writer needing tech SOS.

But my feet were not the only thing that got wet as I sank to the bottom of the ocean. I was petrified. But as the familiar terms of storytelling, people, and emotion started to fill class discussions, I realized that this was a more powerful way to connect and share stories.

In the past four months, the projects I have proudly completed have also challenged me to learn about: podcasts, audio, photography, video, blogging, bookmarks, maps, visualization, graphs, audio slideshow, web, metadata, social media, HTML, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, RSS, SEO.

As a nonfiction writer, I am passionate about the untold story of the everyday person. Why do they do what they do? What motivates them to keep going? Multimedia enhances the experience of receiving a story. The richness of what can be conveyed when you blend material brings the senses to life.

To add audio about the subject of your story gives an immersed experience, paired with a close up photo that has captured their expression can tell so much about an individual. Further, adding a visual of a map or data visual will help support the information you are trying to convey.

This is not to say that this has been walk in the park.

I have painfully had to “kill my babies” as they say in journalism. Twice. I had put so much effort and energy into a project, but yet, it wasn’t right. I had tech issues in one case, and I simply was trying use the wrong medium for a story in another case. I had to walk away, and start over. It taught me that the final product is a process. And sometimes, dead ends, are still helpful in learning. Out of my tech errors, I knew what not to do next time, and to be more prepared when going into an interview. With the wrong medium, I learned to focus on the people, and their story, rather than information that could easily be researched by me, that focused on the bureaucratic.

I was surprised that there is no one-size-fits-all story when it comes to multimedia. What do you mean a city hall meeting about the budget can’t be an audio slideshow? It could if focused on the emotional tension, speeches, and people affected by the outcomes.

To make a great multimedia story takes time. So much time.

Each project has challenged me to focus, be direct, and assertive. Something I would have said I’m not innately superior at, but feel I’ve gotten better at by putting myself in situations I know nothing about.

I now know most of the techs that work in the lab by name, because I’m begging them for five more minutes while my files compress, right at midnight, when they want to go home. And I know that I’ll be pursuing a future with multimedia, and that I’m not, or ever, done learning.