the guardian

A Story Unlike Any Other: Multimedia Journalism

Photo taken by Olivia Nelson.

Photo taken by Olivia Nelson.

After taking a look at three pieces of multimedia journalism from the New York Times and The Guardian, I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the final products. These articles were examples of descriptive, detail-oriented narrative journalism on a scale I’ve never seen before.

I’ve started with a few general points that I noticed about the three articles overall, as multimedia pieces.

  • These types of interactive multimedia articles work best for stories that are detailed and complicated.  Whether it’s by providing incredibly detailed backstories on skiers caught in an avalanche, or whether the author is hashing out the details of NSA surveillance, these stories are detail-heavy and, at times, complicated. They need more than just a few paragraphs to be properly explained. This format is perfect for telling a longer, more intricate story.
  • The strength of this format comes from its heavy emphasis on visual aides.  With stories this long and complex, reading a 10 page text document isn’t going to hold a reader’s interest, no matter how interested he or she is in the subject. But a combination of text, beautiful photojournalism, video clips, sound bites, and stunning moving headers keeps readers engaged and interested in each story. Not only that, but the pieces all flow together seamlessly. They’re not disjointed in any respect – in fact, they’re extremely cohesive in their transitions.
  • These types of stories allow for more journalistic collaboration.  Among those involved in creating multimedia masterpieces are many writers, photographers, videographers, graphic designers, researchers, and producers. These pieces are too big for one person to tackle alone, and the variety of different voices and input into the story ensures that the stories are well-rounded, including all different aspects of media coverage, without falling short in any one category.

Each story had its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and each one was a little bit different from the next.

“Snowfall” in The New York Times

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This story was extremely descriptive.  Interactive maps of the mountains and the paths that each of the skiers took down the mountain was critical to understanding the timeline of the avalanche and the setup of the mountain. I also loved that all the people were photographed, and that their photos would appear on the sidebar whenever one was mentioned. This helped me put names to faces! The only downside was that on the first couple pages of the story, I couldn’t get the video clips to play. It could have been just my computer, but it was frustrating to have the videos in front of me, not working.

“Sharks and Minnows” in The New York Times

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This story had awesome video footage and great photography. Sound bites of crashing waves and the crew on the ship, combined with beautiful photographs and video footage, were what made the story truly enjoyable to read. The journalist even placed himself in the story, which made the tone of the article more intimate, as if the journalist was just telling a personal story to a friend.

“NSA Files: Decoded” in The Guardian

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This story was unique in that its “video footage” looked like cutouts of interview subjects placed against the background of the article.  These people would start talking to you as you scrolled down to them in the article. While it was a little weird at first, it was a great way to incorporate impressive soundbites. The story was also unusual in that was truly engaging for readers – at one point in the article, the reader could enter the number of Facebook friends he or she had, and then see how wide their connection network was based on that number. The interactivity was certainly a unique feature of the story.

Overall, though, I’m a big fan of the multimedia journalism mix. This style is a great tool for storytelling, and I’m excited to see where this technology takes journalism in the future.