These are challenging times for visual storytellers, especially those coming out of documentary photography and photojournalism. Fewer print outlets, reduced editorial budgets, and publishers chasing the lowest common denominator as an audience mean getting creative stories published is difficult. The mainstream media – as I have detailed in my posts on the Revolutions in the Media Economy and the New Media Landscape – was suffering financially because of falling circulation long before the ‘credit crunch’ became a recession, but the economic crises that now abound only add to the disruption.

And, yet…these are also exciting times. The web is changing everything, and ‘multimedia’ is the catch-all phrase for these changes. Whether it be audio slideshows, videos, or interactive web sites that build resources and links around photo-films, images are being deployed in conjunction with other media to tell compelling stories and make long-form, in-depth journalism achievable. Brian Storm, founder of the pioneering MediaStorm, made this case well in his 2008 commencement address to University of Missouri journalism graduates.

I began thinking actively about these questions in the summer of 2008 when I had the pleasure of presenting to and learning from a workshop on multimedia at the Dalian College of Image Art in China. At the end of that I chaired a debate on multimedia and the future of photojournalism involving Brian Storm, Dirck Halstead of The Digital Journalist, and Dan Chung of The Guardian. Many of the issues we covered were surveyed in the Spring 2010 Nieman Reports special issue on “Visual Journalism: Fresh Approaches and New Business Strategies for the Multimedia Age” that I contributed to. And all this provided great background when I came to direct the 2013 World Press Photo multimedia project.

I’m also interested in making as well as analysing. ‘Multimedia’ allows collaborative work on projects that tell important stories visually. You can see details and links to the work I have been doing – The Boarding House, Living in the Shadows, and Laygate Stories – through such collaborations, as well as the video project I shot and produced for the West End Refugee Service in Newcastle.


4 replies on “Multimedia”

The claim being made is that long-form, in-depth journalism is achievable on multimedia platforms in a way that is rarely if ever achievable now in more traditional media. I would say that is an empirically sound claim.

The issues you rightly raise is whether, in fact, once available on the web etc, people are accessing stories regularly and fully. That is open to question, for sure, but I’m not aware we have any firm basis yet for concluding one way or the other.

So the potential is there, but is it being realised? Probably not yet, but it could be, and mobile devices will be an important part of that I suspect.

I’m not so sure the facts bear out your point about making ‘long-form, in-depth journalism achievable’.

As a BBC Radio 4 docs producer its always been a great privilege to make 30 min programmes knowing that you’ll be getting a million plus listeners. On websites though people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Take even the brilliant Media Storm. What percentage of viewers get past the half-way point of their features?

Don’t get me wrong I am passionate about this form of journalism but I think we have to be cautious in what claims we make for it, especially whilst so many in the industry are struggling (as you rightly acknowledge).

Even the BBC, who are starting to produce some really powerful audio slideshows rarely go past the three minute mark.

Perhaps the future of the longer format multimedia feature will be on hand held devices, like the I-Touch, where people can watch to kill time on the move?

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