Callum Borchers' Blog

Sociologically significant sports (and class assignments)

Multimedia skill a prerequisite for contemporary journalists

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It probably was not her aim, but former Christian Science Monitor photographer Mary Knox Merrill, filling in for Professor Dan Kennedy during Wednesday’s class, provided fodder for anyone trying to imagine what sort of cycling activity might have caused Kennedy’s shattered elbow. I suppose the actual purpose of Merrill’s cyclocross showing was to demonstrate the kind of multimedia production expected of contemporary journalists, and also to share her own knowledge about how to create such projects.

Merrill’s work is high-level: She traveled to places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, worked on teams of several journalists, and spent significant time (two full days shooting cyclocross, for instance) on her pieces. She pointed to other top news outlets, like The New York Times, which are dedicating similar resources to their multimedia products. Today, I watched a Times video about former powerlifter Patrick Antonecchia that is so slickly produced that it could pass for broadcast television.

Former Christian Science Monitor photographer Mary Knox Merrill discussed multimedia journalism during Wednesday's Reinventing the News class.

But the reality is the resources available at CSM or the Times are not the norm. Most journalists must learn — if they have not already — to effectively tell multimedia stories with more basic, often consumer-level equipment.

And they can do it.

In 2006, when I was a freshman at Ithaca College, one of my fellow Park Scholars won the first-ever CellFlix Festival with a video, called “Cheat,” about his grandparents. The contest awarded $5,000 to the producer of the best 30-second video shot on a cell phone. The student, Mike Potter, actually made the video at the end of 2005, so we’re talking about a piece shot on a cell phone five years ago.

I hadn’t watched the clip in ages — until I sat down to write this post — but viewing it again now, I have two thoughts: First, anyone who isn’t actively acquiring multimedia skills is way behind, and second, we ought to be able to produce even better stuff today.

My guess is most news outlets will focus on producing multimedia pieces at a level between Merrill’s and Potter’s — not broadcast, but not Blackberry. Right now, for instance, I work as a freelance video producer for Boston.com. I use the same kind of Sony Handycam my mom totes to fifth-grade concerts, work as a one-man band, and devote three or four hours to each piece.

Seems like a happy medium for a new medium.

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Written by callumborchers

September 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm

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