A mere photo just doesn’t do it

Good vs. Bad multimedia news

I’ve been on the hunt for some examples of how news can use/abuse/ignore multimedia.  It was hard to quantify what constituted “good vs. bad” but my thoughts centered around how the use of multimedia enhanced the piece.

The Good:

1.   This article from Brave New Traveler is a great example of a story that lends itself to including multimedia.  A print version would not accomplish nearly the same effect.  Having links to the videos of each “travel song” allows readers further their involvement and enjoyment of the story.

The author also effectively uses Flickr photos to tie visual elements to the text.  In standard blogging form, there are embedded links throughout the story to spark readers’ interest.  The piece demonstrates news as a conversation with 37 comments and responses by the author.  And of course, it ends with links to Digg, Yahoo Buzz!, Stumble it, Twitter and a quick link to share with friends.

My favorite part is that its such an “easy” multimedia story.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, the author employed  user-created content from YouTube and Flickr.

2.  This story gave me a more accurate view of the warfare in Afghanistan than anything I’ve seen from mass media.  The best part of this story is the raw power of the images and video.  Palu’s narration provides the incredible depth that can only come from a journalist who had spent a great deal of time as a first-hand witness.

It also shows an important new trend in journalism – the jack-of-all-trades.  I believe that the days of a reported and photographer venturing together into the field are disappearing.  The 21st century journalist will need to be a multimedia master.  There is no reason why one person can’t perform interviews, shoot video, take pictures, write copy, edit, and publish the final product from the field.  Palu’s story is a great example of the future of multimedia reporting from the field.

3.  This piece shows how mass media are using multimedia to enhance stories.  One of its main strengths is the variety of footage and sources.  The  clips incorporate video, still photos, interviews and a narrator’s voice over.  Dividing the clips according to their content gives the story “chapters” and makes it feel more complete.  As an added bonus, a detailed graphic explains the complex flow of Mexican drug trafficking.

The Bad:

1.  This article from The Seattle Times doesn’t even include a photo and would be much stronger with multimedia.   While the print version may suffer from space limitations there is no reason not to include photos in the online version.  Besides photos of the sweep it would also be interesting to see a video interviews with some of the officers involved as well as victims of recent crimes.

2.  Here is an example from The New York Times where a multimedia would really boost the story.  The victims were subject to a situation that’s very hard for the average reader to relate with.  A video interview would provide a first-hand account and convey the intense emotions of the captain and his crew.

3.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, this example from The New York Times is very rich in multimedia.  However, the complex layout makes it tough for readers to understand without investing time.  The combination of text, mouse-overs, animations and graphics is a lot to take in simultaneously.

I have to say that I spent a lot more time viewing the stories that effectively utilized multimedia than those that didn’t.  While I love to read and would never deny the power of the written word, using photos, audio and video adds elements of depth and style that make stories…well, stories.  One of my surprises was realizing that using multimedia doesn’t have to mean investing tedious hours in front of a screen (see example #1).


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