Knight Science Journalism Fellows

Future of Science Journalism Symposium | Cambridge, Mass. | 20 February 2008

Packaging your reporting for the YouTube and video game generation

Presentation: Download (PPS file, 2.8 MB)

Understanding Multimedia Packages

Even if you do not learn to design and build digital assets for your stories, you can begin to understand the ways in which these assets are used. What are the elements of a finished multimedia package? If you understand this, you can work with people who can translate your story into visual formats.

  1. Audio slideshows: Bicylces, Beer and Bratwurst in Bavaria (simple slideshow with narration). Compare: In 2006, this 4,000-word science story about bananas won the AAAS Science Journalism award for magazine writing. Read it -- and imagine the wonderful slideshow (or video) we could have had on the Web site.
  2. Video: Don't use video for facts and data. Use it for motion -- and emotion. Imagine this 4-min. video (Possibilities for the Impossible; Washington Post) as a lead-in to a story about spinal injury research. (It was a cover story in The Washington Post Magazine.)
  3. Animated infographics: Homicides in Boston in 2006 (Boston Globe; very simple); California wildfires, 2007 (Newsweek; this is simpler to build than it may appear); Deadly Rampage at Virginia Tech (New York Times; awesome visual storytelling); Climbing Kilimanjaro (New York Times; unique and interesting).
  4. Interactive animations: Mouse Party (University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center); Manufacturing Chocolate (from the Field Museum, Chicago); Explore the Human Heart (National Geographic); Stonehenge: A Sacred Landscape (Guardian, 2004, still one of my faves).
  5. Interactive data: How Does Your Car Stack Up? (PBS News Hour Science Reports); Is It Better to Buy or Rent? (New York Times).
  6. Big packages: Vanishing Wetlands (St. Petersburg Times; this is rather too large but still demonstrates how Flash can be used to combine a lot of disparate elements in one place); TOPP (Tagging of Pacific Predators -- this is the future of science journalism, in my opinion, except ... it's not journalism! Or is it?).
  7. Interface: Folk Songs for the Five Points; the timeline segment within Churchill and the Great Republic -- both of these examples are unique, and neither one is about science, but they will help you see the real potential of multimedia journalism.

General Information About Multimedia Journalism

Often when journalists refer to "an interactive," they mean a package built with Flash.

Flash is not the only tool used in creating these packages. Many interactive features can be crafted with pure code, e.g. JavaScript. Databases generate lightweight XML files that can be read and displayed online by a variety of means.

The Flash player (currently at version 9) is used by more than 90 percent of all Internet users. The player is free; the application (used to make SWFs) is expensive. To view a Flash file on the Web, your Web browser uses the player as a plug-in, and you see the Flash content in-line on the Web page.

My book can be used in journalism classes for hands-on Flash instruction and assignments: Flash Journalism: How to Create Multimedia News Packages (Focal Press, 2005).


Popping the Hood on Science Journalism: How Wired's Science Team is Pushing Transparency: Are you using Twitter, Facebook and to tap the expertise of your readers?


Teaching Online Journalism
My blog about digital storytelling and how newsrooms are changing.

Journalists' Toolkit
Frequently updated list of free online tutorials and resources.

Flash Journalism (the book): At

Flash Journalism: Web site for the book
An assortment of professional examples are linked on this page.

Organizations for Science Journalism

World Federation of Science Journalists

National Association of Science Writers (United States)

Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at MIT (open to journalists from all countries)