the transition to digital journalism
Many journalists entered the profession for a simple reason - a love of storytelling.
The enjoyment of a good narrative also appears to be something that is hard-wired into the human brain. See the Scientific American article on "The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn."
The Internet has raised concerns that digital media will spell doom for the narrative, replaced by constant bursts of information lacking any context and a flood of raw video and data. Younger people in particular are said to lack the attention span for reading in-depth stories and are supposedly turned off by long and complex narratives.
But the reverse may actually be the case. A 2008 study of 18 to 34 year olds by Context-Based Research Group found they suffered from "news fatigue, meaning they were overloaded with facts and updates and had trouble connecting to more in-depth stories. Participants yearned for quality and in-depth reporting, but had difficulty immediately accessing such content."
Another study by the Newspaper Association of America Foundation and Northwestern University's Media Management Center found that teens want background information and context for stories, as well as visuals like photos and graphics to make the content more compelling.
Rather than undermining the traditional narrative, the Internet is an opportunity to experiment with multi-dimensional storytelling that provices context and depth and also is more compelling. Instead of a single linear narrative, a story can be broken down into a series of narratives organized as topical subsections that people can explore according to their own interests.
See, for example, this study by by far the favorite approach of those we tested," and people who used this format also were "most likely to say they learned something new about the topic."
By dividing a story into topical segments in this way, different aspects of stories then can be told in different media formats - text, video, audio, photo slideshows, graphics - that are most appropriate to the specific topic, making storytelling more compellling and engaging.
The best multimedia storytelling presents content in the type of media most appropriate to the nature of the story being told. See our tutorial on Picking the Right Media for Reporting a Story on how to take advantage of the different characteristics of video, audio, photos, text and other media forms.
Also check out our tutorial on Multimedia Storytelling to learn about how to put together a more comprehensive multimedia presentations.
For a successful multimedia package, see the Boston Globe's 7-part series on Ted Kennedy, that received 2.5 million pageviews the month it was published in February 2009.
The package included video stories as centerpieces, long text articles, photo slideshows and other background materials (two of the Globe staff members who worked on the story, Thea Breit and Scott Lapierre, attended the Knight Digital Media Center multimedia training workshops in March 2006 and May 2005, respectively). See the Nieman Journalism Lab article on the Globe's package: For the Boston Globe’s Kennedy series, video is dominant.
Here are other examples of multimedia stories that make effective use of a variety of media.
Multimedia Story Sites
Check out the multimedia packages at these sites to see how they use different types of media.
- Interactive Narratives from the Online News Association
- Kobre guide to the Web’s best multimedia & videojournalism
- Best of Multimedia Design Winners - Society for News Design
- Online Journalism Awards - Online News Association
- Finding the Frame - a site where journalists submit their multimedia projects for review by expert visual storytellers
Readings and Resources
- Picking the Right Media for a Story - KDMC tutorial
- Cheat sheet for multimedia story decisions - by Regina McCombs, posted at Mindy McAdams' Teaching Online Journalism site, 2/15/2008
- Multimedia news features: Are they really worth the effort? - Amy Gahran, News Leadership 3.0, Knight Digital Media Center at USC, 12/2/2010
- The Multimedia Transformation of Bloomberg - BeetTV, 6/7/2011
- News articles as assets and paths - Jeff Jarviz, BuzzMachine, 5/26/2012
- Why we need to blow the article up in order to save it - Mathew Ingram, GigaOM, 5/30/2012
- Let’s blow up the news story and build new forms of journalism - Poynter Online, 6/21/2012
- Watch a creepy guy smell someone: The New York Times builds contextual multimedia into the flow of a story - Nieman Journalism Lab, 8/3/2012
- Few news orgs cross the ‘Continental Content Divide’ between social and immersive journalism - Poynter Online, 8/9/2011. Story about Edelman Digital report on two different digital strategies by news organizations: embracing social networks vs. in-depth immersive storytelling
Presentation Links - Digital Transition
Presentation Links - Multimedia Storytelling
- John Cameron Swayze - Camel News Caravan
- San Francisco Chronicle - Fisher art collection
- Oakland murals color the urban jungle – Oakland North
- KCRA TV - YouTube
- Gainesvile Sun - University of Florida student tasered
- Cape Cod Times - CapeCast
- NPR - Podcast Directory
- San Francisco Chronicle Podcasts
- Oakland North Radio
- New York Times - multimedia section
- Oregonian - multimedia section
- Mission Local - multimedia section
- Mission Local - photography section
- Claycord.com - What Kind of Bird is in this Picture?
- New York Times - A Toxic Pipeline
- Philadelphia Inquirer - Blackhawk Down - 1997
- New York Times - Sexual Harassment in Online Gaming
- New York Times - Derek Boogaard: An Enforcer's Story
- Washington Post - Being a Black Man
- Iraq Votes - Associated Press
- Coming Home a Different Person - Washington Post
- Touching Hearts
- My Blue-Eyed Girl
- Oakland's Food Divide - Oakland North