Thursday, 14 January 2010

news:rewired city university 14 january - multimedia session

@egrommet gearing up for an interesting debate on multimedia journalism at news@rewired

First off, here's a disclaimer. I'm not a journalist. I may have paraphrased, but I've tried to indicate when I have. I welcome any corrections and clarifications. I will take down anything that is factually incorrect or causes great offence.

These are my recollections of the morning session at news:rewired.

There's a palpable air of excitement in the air at City University prior to the start of news:rewired kick off. Tweeters wander around staring at badges trying to match the Twitter avatar with the flesh and blood of real people. Scary. I manage to catch up with a few contacts: some I met the other night at the Online News Association seminar, others from just getting out and about. We all file into the Oliver Thompson lecture hall. And so it begins.

We hear the introduction from George Brock, head of journalism at our hosts, City University. He welcomes us and plays around with a long and sometimes confusing spaghetti analogy, much to the (be/a)musement of the Twitterati. He is followed by Kevin Marsh, Editor at the BBC College of Journalism. We get numerous snippets of advice on what the challenges and pitfalls of learning multimedia and social media skills with some sound advice to never lose sight of the big picture: it's about journalism and these are tools to tell a story.

Next up is the multimedia stream. Adam Westbrook kicks off with a romp through different kinds of multimedia journalism: video, audio, slideshows, blogging, photographs, graphics/data viz, podcasts, (micro) blogging, print, community. He empahsises the need to use the appropriate form for the story. He's obviously passionate about audio slideshow which he discovered 18 months ago, where audio is mixed with stills, rather than moving images.

I'm paraphrasing here, but these are the key features of audio slideshow according to Adam. They are usually 1-6 mins long. The audio tends to be better quality that with video and you lose the video production palaver. He believes it to be a more practical option for the multimedia storyteller: cheaper, quicker, and with better results. You can tell a good story, more often and without breaking the bank.

Adam uses an example of John Hirst - who killed his landlady in 1979 - which turns out to be an arresting use of stills, documents and a first person narrative. I'll try and get the link to add in here.

What do you need to do this successfully? A good story with a character. The prospect of good photos. Potential for great audio and ability to audio record. A digital SLR camera, editing software and soundsslide.

He cites the New York Times as having a really good site showcasing New Yorkers. They have fortunately published the production cycle:

1 time spent finding good characters
2 characters pre-interviewed on phone
3 audio producer reocrds interview
4 audio producer edits interview down
5 photographers listens to audio
6 photographer returns to subject and takes relevant photos
7 audio and images are put together

Adam finishes with a challenge to everyone to tackle a weekend project and make our own audio slideshows. But remember, you need crisp audio, great pics, but focus on narrative and tell great stories. I see this as a powerful tool to tell personal stories and profile interesting characters.

Steve Phillips from BBC Radio London is up next. He does a show and tell for an Audioboo they produced with Peter Cockcroft the weatherman for the snow alerts round the capital. It enabled them to do updates with a number of the BBC weather team throughout the day. Not sure we need to hear all the advice on lagging pipes though. Hang on a minute, did he just say the weather would stay to the end of the month? OK, that was worth it then.

He also explains the use of Twitter for live travel alerts and cites an example from this morning when there was a report from Twitter of acrid smoke coming out of City Thameslink station. That explains my hellish journey in. They also use twitpics for journey news with views from a packed station and so on. The use of listener pictures builds a feeling of community with the audience.

Justin Kings (@newsleader) provides a countdown of top ten essential skills for a multi-media journalist gathered earlier in the week via Twitter. (Link to his blog post on it here).

10 technical ability
9 understanding how each platform can enrich story telling
8 understanding how consumers access content
7 self starter
6 team player
5 organisational skills
4 able to cope with pressure
3 adaptability
2 interpersonal skills
1 being a great journalist/storyteller

He says you must never forget number 1 and remember to take risks and not blindly follow news agenda of the day.

In the Q&A session there is an interesting question about why there is no mention of data meshing (although there's a session this afternoon).

The debate moves on to how you can include this as part of the story and how you use data to talk about it.

One of the audience cite their work on the piece on oil company CEOs, their salaraies and the link to the shareholder return: do the two correlate? When you look at the data, no. You can see what they did here.

They used a team with mixed skills to ensure they could effectively deliver a non-linear way of telling the story, which included: a flash designer, coder, reporter and editor. It's about effective and informative data visualisation and someone points out that the unsung hero of this is the New York Times who do it really well.

The challenge is how do you develop these skills in an educational context? It can be tricky to teach. A good blog on data visualisation from the States is by Tracey Boyer at

Do any journalism courses have a module on this as it is very useful / powerful?

Have to say that I found this session hugely useful. It's like one great big focus group for what Skillset needs to think about. More to follow (probably tomorrow as we will have a beer at the end of the day). Until then...

No comments:

Post a Comment