June 14, 2010

Audio, video, photo and text: when to use what?

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The Knight Digital Media Center's trainers Jerry Monti and Len De Groot shared some tips today about how to tell a story in a multimedia world. I'll be here at UC Berkeley for a week and will pass along their tips and sites as they come along.

For me, this morning's biggest takeaway is that no story has to be told in one way: text and photos and audio and video and graphics can all benefit from each other. "We're not looking for exclusivity" of storytelling method, but rather "for dominance," Monti said. "How does that story want to be told?"

Finding the answer can help you be strategic enough to streamline your workflow. Calling the web "a lean forward medium," Monti said that audio works to capture personality and immediacy and can places the listener may not be able to visit themselves. "

On a slideshow, audio can drive the story," he said. Photos, though, provide an opportunity to reflect and can compel people to linger on a subject. Photos can act as a punch in a gut, calling to life a moment and, with it, eliciting empathy and emotion.

Images can provoke reactions that can cause change; the publication of the Abu Ghraib photos provide a compelling example of how publication of images can change policy more than the fact of what those images capture. Video works to take you there and "capture that moment that nothing else can: humor, motion, and interaction," Monti said. "Video is OK for facts, but it’s really for juice so you can leave the facts for the easier to digest piece” — the text. Text provides that backbone of analysis, framing, context and facts and can do so with emotion and efficiency for both breaking news and in-depth, investigative work.

De Groot said that, "like everything else, data wants to tell its own story; you can plot it in different ways to make the most sense and impact." Some data is best displayed for people to find what's relevant to them, such as the Sun Sentinel's hospital rating.

I appreciated De Groot's distinction between a chronology — a series of events — and a timeline, which shows how time impacted the story. De Groot said news producers need to be selective about which subjects they choose for timelines — where can they have the most impact — because creating them can be very time intensive. De Groot is going to pass along readily available graphics tools later on this week — I'll keep you posted.

Kristen is a journalist and talented reporter whose broadcast work has appeared in collaboration with InvestigateWest. She currently is enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Washington.

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