The Art of Multimedia Storytelling

Effective Multimedia Storytelling

“Five Steps to Multimedia Stories” is a Poynter online course dedicated to teaching the tools and techniques necessary to producing an effective online story.  The course utilized a case study about the “dancing” or sliding rocks on a flat area of Death Valley National Park.  The rocks, some as large as boulders, were inexplicably moving on completely flat ground leaving trails behind them as they moved.  The story chronicles the investigation of Dr. Paula Messina as she attempts to solve the mystery of the “dancing” rocks.

Some of the best advice on multimedia storytelling came at the beginning in the course overview.  There Poynter advises using the strengths of each medium to draw in users.  For example, using action for video, strong quotes for video and audio, powerful emotions for still photos and audio, as well as the inclusion of graphics.

The course also discussed drawing up a story board to organize the elements of the story.  It mentioned that the story should be non-linear so that the user can decide which elements to view.

Overall, the multimedia story utilized a multi-dimensional approach to covering the story.  It featured an effective use of pictures and graphics, as well as a table with raw data.  The story also included several video and audio clips featuring Dr. Messina and her research.

Perhaps most importantly, the course included several exercises to teach students exactly what equipment they would need to be an effective backpack journalist.  Finally, the course finished with some tips on how to edit and produce all the video, audio, still photos, graphics and text for the online audience.

Prime Examples of Multimedia Storytelling

 In my mind, the Minneapolis Star Tribune does a good job in presenting multimedia content for its stories.  All one has to do is look at their local news page to see a perfect example of multimedia storytelling.  Under the main headline about a Catholic Church reorganization plan, the user can see links to a PDF document with more information on the story, as well as a still photograph (see below). 

At Holy Cross Catholic Church in Minneapolis

However, if the user wishes to skip over this story there’s a video box with 10 separate local news video clips to choose from.  This variety of mediums is important for users.  It allows them to decide which element they’d like to view for their information.  If they want to read the text it’s available, if they want to view still photos they can or if they just want the video and audio that’s fine as well.

Another great example of multimedia storytelling won a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.  It’s a story by The Denver Post entitled: “Ian Fisher: American Soldier.”  It tells the story of Fisher from the time of his high school graduation, to his decision to join the army, through basic training and a year-long deployment in Iraq.

The story incorporates a variety of still photos, video and audio, text and special features that chronicle the day-to-day life of one U.S. soldier.  The viewer can select from four separate menu options on the home page: photos, videos, story or extras.  The non-linearity of the package allows the user to find his/her own route to experience the story in their own way.

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About Dan Boettcher

I am a journalism student at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I'm hoping to graduate in May of this year and hopefully find a job in the Twin Cities area. I'd appreciate any feedback from professionals who read my blog, especially those in the journalism or public relations' field.
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