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The fundamentals of multimedia storytelling: multi-tasking and teamwork

The fundamentals of multimedia storytelling: multi-tasking and teamwork

Omid Memarian | September 28, 2009

**This is the second in a series of articles on multimedia reporting by Iranian journalist and blogger Omid Memarian. To read last week's piece, click here.**

Multimedia journalists use audio, video, and text in a variety of forms, but in most cases text remains the most important element. Although text varies for audio, video and print mediums, basic storytelling principles remain the same.

Multimedia reporter Jessie Graham, who also teaches at New York's Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, says that despite the variety of media available, storytelling is no different than when print was the sole medium.

"When I am conceiving a story I'm thinking about the characters, the narrative, images and how to make the most of them. Now I'm working on a story that involves audio, video, and print. I would say crafting that narrative is about using the best of what you've got. Now you've got more stuff -- various textures and ways to tell the story."

Graham recommends approaching a piece by thinking about what medium(s) would best tell the story. For instance: Will this be better audio piece? Is this something that has really strong visual components?

"If you have the luxury of making that decision at the end, you can play around with those possibilities while you are reporting. Then you can find the best way to tell the story," she says.

Since application of each of the audio, visual and text elements in reporting requires its own set of skills, applying them together is often a difficult task.

Graham finds it challenging to work in various mediums at the same time. “When I'm out in the field, as I'm not a strong photographer, I resist taking photos," she says. "I like collaborating with people. There are not many people who are really able to work on the same level with audio, video and text.”

Because of this, most multimedia projects are implemented by a team, she says.

As I mentioned last week, this Washington Post multimedia report on China is a good example of teamwork. At least 13 journalists produced content for the report and several others were involved in the editing and execution of the project. This report on Somali immigrants in Kenya is also the result of teamwork.

With the development of multimedia storytelling, interactive Flash software has become part of the craft. The New York Times' interactive graphic "How Different Groups Spend Their Day” is a multimedia project that applies interactive Flash software to present boring statistics in an engaging way.

Multimedia producer Jennifer Utz used Flash to present "dry, statistical" information about Iraqi refugees in her project Iraqi Refugee Stories.

“In creating Iraqi Refugee Stories, I was hoping to find a unique way to present the crisis to my audience. I had done video news pieces about the situation in the past, where interviews and statistical information were combined into one package. With the site, however, I had a number of ways to present the information: video, animation, text, and still photography," Utz says.

In the next article of this series, we will discuss planning for multimedia production and explore the application of various media platforms.

Memarian is an award winning Iranian journalist and blogger whose articles have been published by the New York Times, San Fransisco Chronicle and the LA Times. Memarian is a multimedia journalism graduate of UC Berkeley.

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