news:rewired – the Multimedia Journalism session

Top 10 skills for MMJ's
this is a second post about the news:rewired conference, read the first one here

At the news:rewired event we had to choose to attend one of the three sessions about Multimedia Journalism, Social Media for Journalists, and a Troubleshooting Panel on Online Journalism. I went for the most personally appealing and stayed in the lecture theatre  for the Multimedia Journalism session. I was curious to see what ideas and pointers the speakers had for an eager-to-learn-about-multimedia crowd. I think some in the audience we’re quite disappointed, but i believe they had the wrong expectations.

The first to take the stand was Adam Westbrook, one of my favorite media bloggers these days, i don’t know how does he do it, but his posts are usually nothing less than brilliant and he has a few ebooks of his own. When i later asked him about his secret he basically told me it was “by being unemployed and having a lot of free time on his hands.” Not unemployed, sorry, freelancing. It’s one of those things i’ll never get, bright people “freelancing”…

Adam, in a fast talking presentation, went through the disparities between both sides of the pond, how the Americans are investing more in multimedia than the British counterpart. I should add the rest of Europe too. There aren’t many examples of sustained investment in multimedia operations and features in the Old Continent. As an example, Westbrook referred the 1 in 8 million series from New York Times, and the several spin offs it had in other outlets.

Since he didn’t have much time, Adam Westbrook decided to show to the audience how AudioSlides work and why: they’re easy, cheap and fast to create and assemble, and if done properly, they can be more compelling than a video. Of course they don’t work every time, but he presented a slideshow that i had already seen at his blog a few weeks ago, that started out to be a video, but worked better as a slideshow. It’s worth watching.

This lightning presentation was followed by Steven Phillips’ from BBC London 94.9fm, that showed how they’re using AudioBoo along with Twitter with @bbctravelalert. I wish i knew about this before, because i was stuck at Whitechappel station in the Hammersmith&City subway train for over half an hour on my way to news:rewired. It seems it’s quite common… As a matter of fact, Phillips presentation wasn’t so much about multimedia, but how he develops his work in the new multimedia/multiplatform environment, using crowdsourcing, social networking, with free apps. Someone asked why was he narrowcasting, since the numbers weren’t that high. The panel quickly found the right answer: they’re developing a conversation, no expenses added. And that’s what these platforms are supposed to do.

And for last we had Justin Kings, who gave us the  great list of skills that multimedia journalists should have that you can see at the beginning of this post. Here’s the full presentation.

It was thought provoking, and i believe it raised awareness in the audience about what being a multimedia journalist is all about these days of fast development and uncertainty.

The debate that followed the presentation was also noteworthy, since it was led by two Financial Times reporters who were right when they said that multimedia packages were left out of these presentations, as also data mashups and visualizations. There is a whole world in multimedia besides video and audio slides, and their comment was valuable in the sense that it made me think how we narrow down the multimedia concept to some media, which may not be exactly considered as multimedia. They showed their own work at the newspaper with this interactive chart.

What was left out of this discussion and presentations was that there is more to multimedia than we traditionally defend. It’s not about putting images in motion, or making radio with pictures, but it’s all about using the right tools to tell stories in a non-linear way, with the users in control of the narrative. That is what makes the online journalism different from television, radio and print. Technology is a tool, not an end in itself. And then we went off for lunch, some of us a bit more passionate about the possibilities that lie ahead.

There are accounts about the other sessions. The Troubleshooting panel on Online Journalism was liveblogged, and so did the Social Media for Journalists session.

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