Teaching Examples

How should reporters learn multimedia?
February 6, 2007, 1:37 pm
Filed under: jobs, journalism, journalists, multimedia, online

The approach for photojournalists might be different, and the approach for the news graphics artists different again. But what about the reporters? What should they learn now?

Over the past couple of years everyone has told me that I need to learn how to do multi-media if I want to stay competitive in the newspaper market. But, editors seem resistant to writers doing anything other than writing.

(From SimmonsSays, a blog by a reporter in Texas, via the VizEds Blog).

The first thing I would put out there is NO Flash and NO video editing.

Why? The reporter must be primarily a gatherer, a person who digs up information, goes to see people, unearths records and supporting materials. Producing Flash packages and editing video are at the opposite end of that, and both processes are quite time consuming. So there’s little logic in tying up the reporters when you need them on other tasks.

When I think about the reporter as the person ON THE SCENE, then it makes perfect sense that the reporter must gather audio and, if necessary, shoot photos. If a photojournalist is out there too, then fine, that’s who should shoot. But are we willing to say, “Oh, well, we have no pictures,” because the reporter did not have a camera, or did not know how to use one? That would be too stupid.

I’ve warmed up to the idea of reporters shooting video, but I think it’s not smart for every story. People have to learn when something makes sense and when to forgo the technology and just do their main job, which is get the story. What I mean by that might be best illustrated by a photojournalist who slings the camera around back and goes forward with notebook and pen in hand at a certain point.

How do we learn? Well, it’s really great to get critiques after the fact. That gives us a good foundation for doing it better next time. But before you get that critique, of course, you must produce something. You have to bring back some video, audio or photos. And you have to show them to someone who can give you some suggestions.

In some newsrooms, there’s bound to be a lot of the blind leading the blind. But reporters who are really interested in staying in journalism for the long haul need to look outside their own newsrooms and see what others are doing too. There are all these blogs available now (look at the right-hand column of this blog!) where the journalists blazing the new trails are posting their work, their post-mortems and even tutorials.

There’s no excuse for not learning new things now. All you need to do is get started.

And hey — you won’t be an expert overnight. No one is! Be nice to yourself and just keep plugging away at it, little by little. It will get easier, and you will get better.

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