What is multimedia journalism: Multimedia presentation of journalism, or multimedia presentation of data?

While going through sample multimedia journalism works recommended at various sites, from time to time I looked at a particular project and wondered “is this multimedia journalism?” A case in point is the “History of Las Vegas” presented by the Las Vegas Sun and recommended by Poynter Online as “Multimedia Projects You May Have Missed in 2008,” amid some other “multimedia journalism” works.

Granted, “History of Las Vegas” is an excellent multimedia project on the history of Las Vegas incorporating interative map, timeline, videos, etc. However, this is a very good multimedia DATA project, not a JOURNALISTIC project; as a matter of fact, the News tab at the top of this site brings visitors to a seperate page containing a collection of articles published by the newspaper, without much of savvy multimedia elements. This is a very interesting presentation of the historic data of Las Vegas, it’s just not a multimedia journalism project.

Then, what, in my view, can be considered as “multimedia journalism?” As an instance, Washington Post had an article on the maintence and repair problems in the public schools in Washington, D.C. due to budge cut. Other than the articles and the interactive maps showing schools in D.C., what I like about this multimedia project is the audio interview clips of eight teachers, each clip also comes with a photo slideshow of that teacher.

This type of confusion pops up from time to time as I see people use “multimedia journalism” or “online journalism” to interchangeably refer to two different types of project: multimedia presentation of data and multimedia presentation of journalism. In a multimedia journalism project, the data should play a supplemental role to support or enhance the journalistic story; when the data itself takes on a central role, then it may not be called “journalism,” at least not so in the truest sense of “journalism.”

And this brings us, college educators, back to a basic question: do we want our students to be more of a journalist, or more of a multimedia specialist? To create projects like “History of Las Vegas,” our students need to be more of a multimedia specialist; to create projects like the D.C. school stories, our students need to be more of a journalist.

“What is multimedia journalism” is not merely an academic question, the answer to this question will to a great extent shape the multimedia journalism programs that are being started at many universities.

About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
This entry was posted in Industry observation. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What is multimedia journalism: Multimedia presentation of journalism, or multimedia presentation of data?

  1. cjbell says:

    Multimedia journalism is something I am interested in. I think you made some very good points, especially about multimedia supplementing instead of taking a central role.

    In my opinion though, communication is essentially the center of journalism and in today’s world of communication multimedia skills are a must have. Why can’t students be taught to be a multimedia specialist and journalist?

Leave a Reply