How multimedia packages get done

At the end of the Q&A with editor Fiona Spruill (mentioned here on Friday), a reader asked how multimedia packages are planned and what role the reporter plays in the process.

As for collaboration on multimedia projects between reporters, photographers and editors from print and online, Spruill said:

Web producers sit near print reporters and editors in our new building. They attend meetings together and they brainstorm about potential multimedia features for upcoming stories. They conceive of and execute Web-only projects together. It is a collaborative process, but the collaboration can take shape in different ways.

When reporters and photographers have gathered audio or video, they often hand it over to Web producers, who edit it. “Occasionally,” Spruill said, they edit their own audio or video. In other cases, Web producers both gather and edit audio.

Reporters often write scripts and record voiceovers for multimedia features.

The point is that integrating the two newsrooms has changed the old ways of doing things in separate silos. We have deliberately tried to break down the barriers of who does what, and instead create an environment where people from both print and Web backgrounds are all part of the storytelling process.

As you might expect, a lot of multimedia packages are planned in advance. That might mean a couple of days, or it might mean months.

When choosing the stories that will be enhanced with interactive graphics, audio or video, Times editors give priority to stories that:

  • “Lend themselves particularly well to visual translation or explication;
  • “Have strong characters whose voices we can bring to life for readers; or
  • “Have data we have gathered in the process of reporting and can share.”

That list provides a very nice measurement tool that all of us can use.

It’s so important to realize that just because someone had a camera and got some video or some stills, it doesn’t mean the story warrants the time it’s going to take to process — to edit and produce — a multimedia component. Just because someone in your newsroom has a particular skill or talent and says, “I want to — ” doesn’t mean that anyone else in the world is going to think that’s an interesting story.

In these days when we are still feeling our way, when the world has changed and we are still adapting to our new environment, there is a tendency to say, “Let’s try it!” with perhaps too little deliberation. (I think that is less true at The New York Times than at some other news organizations.) It’s really important to manage the limited resources available in today’s newsrooms so that journalists can produce stories that help prove to audiences that journalism is relevant and does have value to them in their daily lives.

Set priorities and weigh the shelf-life of these time-consuming projects.

Produce lots of multimedia journalism! But choose the right stories.

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