Start-to-Finish: Assembling Your Story

Assembling Your Story

Why does a reporter have to assemble a story?

While a multimedia reporter will use storyboards to map out a story and then pull together all the different elements to be used, the final design of the multimedia site is likely to be taken over by a publication’s Web designer. However, as outlined in the Editing section, it’s important for you to decide the parts of a story, the flow of a story, and what’s most important in each section of your story. For example, deciding what visuals need to be the centerpieces of the story and displayed prominently, vs. what visuals are just ancillary. It’s similar to what a print reporter does in deciding how to organize the story — usually putting the most important parts of the story toward the top, identifying which people and places are the most important to be photographed, reviewing graphic information to see if and where it fits into the story. Just as graphic designers then take all that information and develop a layout for print, so they can improve your rough multimedia story layout to make it more pleasing to the eye and help communicate better what you’re trying to convey. After reporters complete a few multimedia stories, they can work with graphic designers to develop a selection of templates to be used for inside pages. A unique home page usually should still be created for each story, but then the layout of inside pages can be selected from several templates developed beforehand. Dropping story components into templates saves time, since the reporter can put her effort into helping design the home page and the interactive elements. And having a variety of templates to choose from will reduce the predictability in design that can bore readers.

Example: Dancing Rocks of Death Valley

I originally did the Dancing Rocks story for Discovery Channel’s Web site,, in 1998. This was an expedition, so I filed four stories from the field. There was no fast way then to send video from the field, so the story was presented only in text and photos, much as most news organizations present stories on the Web today. After was redesigned in 2000, the story was removed from the site. For this online course, I reconstructed the Dancing Rocks of Death Valley story as a new Web site. I re-interviewed Dr. Messina, updated the text, redesigned the site as a nonlinear feature story instead of a chronological expedition series, and added video clips. This whole story as you see it today took me about two weeks to complete. In 1998, I spent four days in Death Valley National Park and two days in travel. In 2003, I redid interviews with Dr. Messina, redid the rough and refined storyboards to change them from a chronological expedition story package to a new nonlinear feature story package, edited three video clips, chose different still photographs from those I used in 1998, and rewrote the text and headlines. I used Photoshop to put most of the pages together (photos, text and headlines). Then I worked with our Web designer, Scot Hacker, for four hours to put the pages together in Dreamweaver. He then spent another 10 hours tweaking out the bugs. Here’s the final product and what went into each page: Home page thumbnail Home page: The elements of this page — text and still photos — were put together in a single Photoshop file that was converted to a jpg and embedded in a Web page as an image. The hotspots on the trail that link to the inside sections were added by Scot when he put together the Web page. Playa page thumb Playa page (The Eerie World of Racetrack Playa): The headline and locater map were combined with the aerial photo in Photoshop. This again was converted into a jpg file and inserted into the top left column of a Dreamweaver table. The text on the right side was put into a form using Dreamweaver that lets the user scroll the text without disturbing the placement of the photos and text elsewhere on the page. The photo of Dan Dillenges was dropped into the left column (with text wrapped around it) and the photo of Ed Forner was placed in the right column at the bottom of the table. The links on the aerial photo (locater map, other photo/text blocks) and the image nav bar at the bottom were added when Scot built the Web page.  Profile thumbnail Profile page (For the Love of Rocks): This is another Photoshop file that was turned into a jpg and dropped onto the page as an image. The links to the video clip and the nav bar were added by Scot.  Research Thumbnail Research page: This page was also constructed in Photoshop, after a disastrous try in Dreamweaver, in which, on some browsers, text and images overlapped and appeared in unexpected places on the page. It also had an additional headline that looked okay on the storyboard and in my head, but made the page much too busy. So, that headline was yanked and replaced with a smaller subhead that became the link to the video. The entire page was constructed in Photoshop, and the pop-ups and links were added when Scot did the Web page. On The Move thumbnail On the move page (How Rocks Rock Out): The elements of this page — text, aerial photo/graphic, photos of the rocks and the navigation bar — were put together in a single Photoshop file that was similarly converted to a jpg. The links to the video and rock trails were added by Scot. Hopefully, this all has given you a good idea of how a multimedia story is put together from beginning to end. You’ve seen all the different elements that go into a multimedia story and the various steps and stages needed to pull everything together. I hope you also have some appreciation for the challenges and last-minute glitches that invariably arise Now it’s time for you to go out and start doing your own multimedia projects. To help you along, use the tutorials listed in the menu on the right. There you can find step-by-step instructions on how to use a video camera, video shooting techniques, and how to edit photos, video and the final Web project. Let us know if you think we need to add anything else. We’d love to hear your suggestions. View the Dancing Rocks site