Andrew Devigal

Multimedia Editor, The New York Times

Q: Since you have taken over as multimedia editor at the Times, how has the term multimedia evolved?

A: When I started at The New York Times in the fall of 2006, the core multimedia desk was made up of Flash journalists and audio producers. The staff of the website was already doing award winning multimedia work from audio slide shows and video. There were some customized presentations for interactive storytelling. The majority of multimedia presentations were audio slide shows. Video was produced by either the video unit or other members of the digital staff.

The major evolution over the next few years involved hiring a staff with more varied expertise, expand the number of story forms for multimedia, empower more journalists in the newsroom to produce multimedia stories and continue telling rich stories through multimedia.

When I joined the Times and lead the team of multimedia journalists, there was one multimedia producer with a computer science degree, Gabriel Dance. By 2009, we hired two more with CompSci degrees: Tom Jackson and Jon Huang. This proved beneficial as we’ve been able to create new story forms for multimedia in rapid development as well as create templates to empower the rest of the newsroom. Significant understanding of programming has helped us produce a code base which allows the team to work efficiently and code with a mindset to scale for future development.

The second round of hiring was focused on improving our production of audio stories. I hired two audio journalists with public radio experience: Amy O’Leary from “This American Life” and Sarah Kramer from “Story Corp.” They were tasked to not only produce compelling journalism with multimedia but also train journalists across the newsroom on telling stories with audio.

The last set of hires was Zach Wise (Las Vegas Sun) and Nancy Donaldson (The Washington Post). They provide an expertise in producing video narratives with a special eye to photojournalism. In addition, we’ve been able explore and break new ground on telling stories through motion graphics.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give aspiring multimedia journalists?

A: One piece of advice? Really? Just one? OK, the most important advice i can give to aspiring multimedia journalists is remind them to make their stories with a heart to their viewers (aka: readers, audience). I would then break it down in two folds: storytelling and accessibility.

During your reporting and editing process, constantly ask yourself if what you’re producing is something that your audience will understand and know why they should care about it. In other words, have you achieved the basics of storytelling? Have you grabbed their attention early enough for them to want to dig deeper? Are you keeping it compelling for them to continue? And have you left them with a desire to come back and know more, or, better yet, a need to actively react to your story.

Second, I would constantly ask if I’m producing this story to be accessible or am I making it difficult for my viewers to understand the narratives, facts and/or information? This challenge can come in two folds, These barriers can take on multiple forms. Maybe it’s the language being used. Are we writing for the eyes rather than in the ear? Are we burying the lead by fronting the piece with a long-winded facts that can be explained in another way? Another barrier could also be interface design. I would also ask if the interface helps the viewer get to the core of the story or is it buried? Am I confusing the viewer by adding more than necessary?

Ultimately, the questions above illustrate the need for editors and editing by those who aren’t directly involved in the reporting and structure of a package.

Q: Explain the collaborative reporting process you engage in at the Times for interactives and narratives.

A: The reporting and collaboration process is based on the story you’re telling, the journalists involved and the type of medium that the package uses.

For example, in the instance of “One in 8 Million,” we found it more effective when an audio producers first discovers a potential character, interviews them, cuts it down to a wide edit of 8-10 minutes and then we assign Todd Heisler to visually report with the understanding of what the audience piece is going to be about.

On the other side, we’re discovering that for a package like “A Year at War,” it’s essential for us to meet to understand the wide scope of the story, take a visual inventory of photos and video as well as a listen to audio interviews, storyboard the story structure with known visual edit and quotes & actualities and then write the script. Of course, repeat as necessary.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2012 at 1:50 pm and is filed under EDITORS, PROFESSIONAL PERSPECTIVES. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.