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Interactive Storytelling: Planning Your Multimedia Coverage

Interactive Storytelling: Planning Your Multimedia Coverage

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Shorter is better. Seven seconds on the Internet is an eternity. Human voices can add an emotional component to a story in a way that text never does.

From top-10 lists to video clips to narrated slideshows, journalists are adding multimedia components to their print and broadcast stories to add depth to their storytelling, get more "bank for the buck" out in the field and create new audiences and distribution channels for their content.

Craig Rosa, interactive producer for KQED, walked California Endowment Health Journalism Fellows through opportunities and minefields in multimedia journalism. In an earlier presentation for the Fellows, Rosa  outlined ways in which multimedia can add depth to stories. This time, he focused on the planning process.

Planning ahead is crucial, Rosa said. Journalists, working with their editors and technical staff, can identify whether a proposed multimedia element is easy or difficult to produce (or somewhere in between), and what it contributes to the story.

Easy elements, like audio clips, take a short amount of time to produce and require few additional skills. More complex multimedia elements, like narrated slideshows, can require a day or more to produce and specialized skills.

When considering whether to add a multimedia element to a story, journalists should consider its strengths and weaknesses. For example, Rosa said, audio clips can convey emotion, humanizing a perhaps dry print story. But they're not as good for conveying facts.

Slide shows are great for illustrating a story about a place and are catnip for online browsers, but they are less effective for an event with "a bunch of people standing around," Rosa said. And they should move quickly, allowing three to five seconds per slide.

Maps, particularly interactive ones, help readers connect with a story, but complex maps or ones with only one or two points of interest are less effective, Rosa said.


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