Washington Post has a multimedia story about how some U.S. soldiers deal with traumatic brain injury from their deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. This story provides for a good illustration for what a multimedia story entails and, from a journalism educator’s perspective, what skills and expertise it takes to produce a project like this one.
Multimedia components in this story
- Videos: There’s an introductory video with edited battlefield footage and interviews; and video interviews (with some b-rolls) of several soldiers.
- Photos: A photo slideshow documenting a soldier’s journey from battlefield to operating room and back to home.
- Graphic animation: an interactive illustration showing the functions of brain.
- Podcast: an audio clip by a doctor explaining brain functions.
- Flash interface: the interactive interface is a flash project.
- A well-written article: a regular, separate news article.
- Social media sharing: Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Delicious, etc.
Multimedia journalism expertise needed for this story
- News writing and reporting: This is the core of a multimedia story and requires rigorous training in the old-fashioned journalism.
- Video production (shooting and editing)
- Photojournalism (taking good photos and writing captions)
- Audio production (recording and editing)
- Flash animation: I should say that an advanced knowledge in this area, as shown in this project, is not necessarily a core skill for a multimedia journalist; more often than not, it is the job of a dedicated staff designer.
- Social media tools: how to promote the story using Facebook, Twitter and others.
Multimedia skills beyond this story
Besides the above-mentioned expertise, a multimedia reporter needs to have a good knowledge of a few extra skills.
- Produce sound photo slideshows; that is, a photo slideshow with narrations, soundbites, nat sound, music, etc.
- Integrate social media into daily reporting; for instance, use social media to break news, to find story ideas and sources, to outsource, etc.
- Data visualization: Other than the basic interactive map, a reporter or editor may need to plot data onto an interactive flash interface.
- Web design: a reporter/editor may not be tasked to produce a website, but at times there’s the need to pool together all the individual elements for web presentation.
- A reporter needs to learn some basic skills when posting contents on the web. Writing on the web is different from writing for the print; web texts need to be written and formatted to suit the pattern of online reading.
Does a reporter really need to know them all?
It needs to be noted that the sample multimedia story was not a one-man job: at the bottom of the page, there is a list of people involved in producing this project – a total of six people worked on components such as video and audio, design and development, motion graphic illustration, photography, graphic text, and additional video.
That said, I believe, other than the complicated flash animation and professional web design, a multimedia reporter needs to have a good knowledge of all the other skills discussed here. The more, the better.
More about flash animation and web design: in a separate post, I wrote about how a reporter can create an interactive Flash interface for a multimedia project without having to learning anything about animation and web design.