Speaking the Language

Journalists first began thinking about how to harness the rich multimedia potential of the web in the mid-1990s. At first, news websites generally mirrored what appeared in their print or broadcast counterparts. And there are still a lot of news outlets that merely push the same content from one platform to another. However, the best multimedia organizations go a step further by providing a mix of written pieces, photo presentations, video, audio, and interactive information graphics.

In this sense, the emergence of multimedia journalism has also come with a number of significant changes in the way journalists do their jobs. Although most journalists still specialize in one form of storytelling, a broad understanding of all story forms is both valuable and expected in the multimedia environment.

This new emphasis on the well-rounded multimedia journalist is, perhaps, one of the most exciting facets of contemporary journalism. You will be encouraged to excel at one or two forms of storytelling, but you will not be relegated to a single medium. And the best multimedia journalists will conceptualize and build stories in various formats either single-handedly or through close collaboration with teammates whose skill sets complement one another. As a multimedia journalist, you will be encouraged and empowered to develop powerful stories through innovative, engaging digital presentations.

Thus, Unit Two focuses on each of the most common multimedia story forms—text, photos, audio, video, and information graphics—and offers basic tips that will help multimedia journalists excel. Of course, if you plan to become an ace writer, you’ll surely move on from this text to more in-depth and complex writing techniques. Likewise, photographers and graphics reporters will go on to study visual communications in greater detail. In this sense, the chapters that follow do not offer exhaustive instruction related to any single story form.

Rather, this unit provides the multimedia journalist with a foundation for beginning a long journey to honing multiple storytelling skills. Part of this journey includes not only building skills but also understanding a number of related concepts as well. Each chapter will explore technical and journalistic considerations for each form, as well as provide examples both in print and on the website that accompanies this book.