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Cheat sheet for multimedia story decisions

As newsrooms everywhere struggle to adapt to the digital information environment, everybody in the newsroom needs to gain some multimedia literacy.

At the basic level, that means you understand what the media are suited for. Even if you do not know how to make an audio slideshow, you must understand what kinds of stories work well in the audio slideshow format — and which stories are poorly suited for it.

If you don’t understand that, you’re in a weak position for telling stories in the 21st century.

Video

Text

Photo

Audio

Audio slideshow

Data

Graphic

My friend Regina McCombs generated these seven lists in a session on “Planning a Multimedia Story” at Poynter earlier this week. Regina is a senior producer for multimedia at StarTribune.com, the online arm of one of the largest newspapers in the U.S. She asked the journalism educators in the room to shout out the strengths of each media type, which she wrote on a flip pad one by one. (It’s an exercise you could do in any newsroom meeting, or in a classroom.)

Too often, journalists today still operate on auto-pilot. At a newspaper, the default is text. At a TV news operation, the default is to race to the scene with a camera. All the energy pours into a first rendering of the story in a format that might not be the best format for that story!

Too often, the best format is completely ignored.

This is the big shift that is required now. Without multimedia literacy, the people in your newsroom can’t do a good job for the digital distribution channels that have already outpaced and outstripped your traditional media platform.

See also: Online Media Types (a chart)


Categories: audio, data, ideas, multimedia, slideshows, storytelling, teaching, video


15 Comments

  1. [...] of pieces that will help with your storytelling are scattered about the web, including these: Cheat sheet for multimedia story decisions from Mindy McAdams, Sequencing: The foundation of video storytelling from Colin Mulvaney, and [...]

  2. [...] Teaching Online Journalism » Cheat sheet for multimedia story decisions Valuable advice from Mindy McAdams (tags: multimedia) [...]

  3. [...] : Cheat sheet for multimedia story decisions | Online Media [...]

  4. [...] Teaching Online Journalism » Cheat sheet for multimedia story decisions Regina McCombs generated these seven lists in a session on “Planning a Multimedia Story” at Poynter (tags: onlinejournalism storytelling multimedia) [...]

  5. Angela Grant says:

    Under “video” I think I would add “showing emotion.”

    Under text I would add “easily scanned.”

    Very good list though!

  6. [...] of videos usually don’t enhance print stories. Things that are visual enhance print stories (Mindy McAdams last month published a great list that would help someone decide). Recognizing that fact and acting upon it is the basic principle in visual [...]

  7. [...] Cheat sheet for multimedia story decisions [...]

  8. [...] Cheat sheet for multimedia story decisions [...]

  9. [...] invaluable resource is a post by Mindy McAdams on making multimedia story decisions. To help the students, I created a PDF version of Mindy’s cheat-sheet (PDF). No Comments [...]

  10. [...] to debate the merits of various mediums for projects.  Early on I came across a great post, “Cheat sheet for multimedia storytelling” by Mindy McAdams that helped guide my opinion on this topic. The post showcased a helpful [...]

  11. Mark Gould says:

    This is an excellent list! I find it particularly effective as a teaching tool as student journalists can sometimes lose sight of the story when overwhelmed with technological decisions. I wanted to add a few of my thoughts to the list based on my experience as a reporter and editor. Here is my version: Multimedia decisions: Choosing the right medium for your message

  12. erich viedge says:

    Um. This post seems to think there is only one way to tell a story. The same “story” will be treated differently in print, TV, radio, the web, in photos (or a photo essay).
    The post is provocative. I think is misses a key point: there is no “story” until the journalist makes it so. The “story” doesn’t exist until it is mediated somehow.
    The medium the journalist uses to mediate that story will shape the story.
    Of course, some information is better shared visually. Cooking shows are not good on radio, for instance. But you still get food shows on radio, and the best journalists make their medium serve the story.
    If your post is a call to think more broadly about how to present the story, that’s great.
    I think there’s a place for letting the text people do their thing, and letting the TV and Radio and slideshow people do their thing with the story because multiple views of a single story serve it best of all.

  13. [...] different multimedia techniques and what they should be best used for. To end, there’s also this ‘Cheat Sheet for Multimedia Story Decisions’ post on Mindy McAdams’ [...]

  14. [...] real takeaway is to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each platform so we can tell the right story in the right way at the right time. That’s the challenge [...]

  15. [...] to debate the merits of various mediums for projects.  Early on I came across a great post, “Cheat sheet for multimedia storytelling” by Mindy McAdams that helped guide my opinion on this topic. The post showcased a helpful [...]

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