Multimedia in the Newsroom

Any newspaper that’s fought it is now dead, it’s safe to say.

Multimedia (videos, photo slideshows, interactive maps and graphics) are here to stay. At The Huntington News, part of the reason I was brought on as web editor was to improve our multimedia presence online and to supplement our stories with more visuals.

I’ve taken classes or practiced as hobby almost all forms of multimedia a news organization would want on the web, so the issue isn’t with technical know-how (though in many large newsrooms across the country, that has been exactly the problem). The issue instead is getting reporters to add cameras (video and/or still) and web-consciousness to their reporting.

To make an article run as smoothly online as it does in print doesn’t require more of the same elements. This is something we could easily cover by having reporters spend a little more time on their stories. No; this is an issue of taking every story and putting some sort of visual with it (not to mention getting it out ASAP, not just by an arbitrary deadline). The folks at Wired magazine do an amazing job with visuals in print and on the web. They have a world-class design team working closely with their editors to put together visuals that perfectly supplement the content of their stories.

The Huntington News, as a student paper, simply doesn’t have the resources for this. Working with our current staff, we are trying to add multimedia to our online content. Slowly, graphic designers and possibly some video folks will trickle in, but it’s not as easy to get a full-time college student to take on more work for no money as it is to lure a graphic designer into the offices of Wired (which I hear are pretty flippin’ cool).

Tonight, as we plugged away on a project in the newsroom, our copy editor, who was helping out with the project, stopped and said “Multimedia is hard.” We all laughed, but the fact is it really is hard. Newsrooms around the country have been figuring out how to do more (multimedia) with less (staff and money). I didn’t realize until tonight what a feat it is just to be a newspaper right now, profitable or not.

Whatever the case, we’re going to work on improving the quality and quantity of our visual supplements, but journalism students have to sleep too. Sometimes.


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