How transmedia reporting could make journalism investigations more transparent

by Margaret Looney
Oct 30, 2018 in Social Media

Journalists launching an investigation into a big company or powerful group could benefit from having the audience engaged from the beginning through transmedia storytelling.

Transmedia is a form of storytelling that spreads parts of a narrative across different platforms. Ultimately, these separate but related parts make up one cohesive story. The entertainment industry often uses transmedia storytelling to add participatory elements to movies or TV shows. Documentarians and journalists are creating projects like The Land of Opportunity and Half the Sky to mix linear film with interactive, online elements, books, or calls to action.

Journalists could leverage transmedia to make their investigations more transparent, documentary filmmaker and journalist Lance Kramer said at a panel on interactive storytelling tools at the recent Interactive Documentary Summit in Washington.

"One of the great things about investigative journalism is that it’s a journey, and you don’t know exactly where it’s going to wind up," said Kramer, co-founder of Meridian Hill Pictures. "I think there’s potential, whether it’s with a blog or something else, in laying those bread crumbs as you’re finding them, that I think can really successfully involve people."

So instead of reading the end result of a months-long investigation as a long-form piece, your audience could be following the investigation as it unfolds on Tumblr or another platform, "bringing people along the way and getting them excited about what might lie at the end of the inquiry."

Not only would this build an audience along the way, getting potential readers invested in the story, but would also hold the person, group or company you're investigating responsible if they push back.

"If the people you’re covering in real time [start to mess with you], that’s a story," said Patrick White, panelist and creative director of Arcade Sunshine. "If you’re revealing something that [the subject] can take action on, that’s a story worth telling, especially as it unfolds."

Of course, you risk getting scooped, and there may be some things that you just can't reveal until the investigation progresses, but plotting the story arc as it emerges might give your story just the spark it needs.

"It might just be that the journey is in some ways more illuminating than what lies at the end of the tunnel," Kramer said.

IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.

Image CC-licensed on Flickr via laogooli.