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Changing the Focus of Photojournalism
Note: When reading this paper, one has to understand any multimedia discussed is in regards to
online journalism and not other multimedia aspects, i.e. banner advertisements, personal websites,
etc. This paper is to further the understanding and use of news related multimedia, whether
breaking news or non-breaking news.
Multimedia is not a new or is it a mind-shattering concept, however for the Internet in terms of online
journalism (news sites such as MSNBC.com or CNN.com), it is now being looked at more closely considering
more Internet users reading news stories are wanting more information about a particular story. This
"extra" information usually comes in the form for multimedia, i.e., video, audio clips, full interviews of people in
the story, etc.
A problem for many newspapers in getting this "extra" content is not having the staff to gather, then edit and
finally publish it to their particular website. Most newspapers will take the story published in their newspaper
and "repackage" it for the web. All that really means is making the print version an online version. Not too exciting...
Another problem to consider, due to bandwidth concerns, is that most multimedia experiences are limited to
56k modems. This is the target audience in which newspapers of small-to-mid cities should design multimedia
pieces. Because of this concern and limitation, many pieces do not include video and only offer still images
with sound. This multimedia type, utilizing still images, is the most successful at newspapers since they have
an entire department filled with photographers. Those photographers will shoot their assignments as usual and
then carry an audio recording device with a microphone (MiniDisc is the choice of most, Fig. 1) to get the extra
Figure 1. MiniDisc -Digital Audio Recorder
The above is an example for daily assignments and long-term projects. However, long-term projects require
more time, obviously, and most newspapers do not have the budget to have a team exclusively working
on multimedia projects.
The longer projects are more of what users would like to see; this is the extra content they want. Sadly it's a
Catch 22 dilemma: most editors want to have extra content but have limited resources to provide it, and
most photographers want to have a hand in the content but don't want to help provide it.
COMPARISON TO NEWSPAPERS
A newspaper can bring stories to the public through images and text only. There are really no other options to
reach a reader, so this medium is somewhat flat. In comparison to a multimedia experience, readers now
hear people's voices as well as see their faces.
This one detail of online storytelling has a greater importance than just simple, flat, grey text. It ties the viewer
to the subject with a more personal experience. It may even seem like the subject is talking personally to the
viewer, yet in print, it's merely text. In a newspaper, there is no inflection of voice and no straining to find words
to tell a story. Hearing someone's experience versus reading about it is much more likely to insight more
emotion and connect with the viewer.
COMPARISON TO TELEVISION
Television, in comparison to print media, could be where online multimedia stories fit in the best in terms of
media. Yet like newspapers and other print media, television has its own drawbacks.
Time constraints are a huge part of what gets aired and what doesn't. With online media, there are no
time constraints, and segments that might have been edited out for television can now be seen in full.
In a television segment, there possibly might not be a lot of opportunity to display all interviews done by
the reporters. The "most" interesting interviews would make it to the public audience. On the Internet, the public
can decide who they want or don't want to listen. They have more control in what they see and hear.
When both of these mediums are merged together (text and video), as they are online, the usefulness of the web,
in terms of a news site, can reach a broader audience as well as keeping ones' attention.
LINEAR VERSUS NON-LINEAR
When a multimedia producer designs a multimedia piece, the producer has the option of telling a story through
linear or non-linear construction. Linear construction (from point A to point B) is like a radio story. A listener (a
user) has to listen from the beginning to the end. There is no way the user can jump to the end of the story, or
back to the middle once the story has aired. This is quite problematic when telling stories to millions of
people, especially on the Internet.
If a multimedia piece on the Internet is linear, it will be boring. Boring on the Internet means people will
go somewhere else; going somewhere where the multimedia pieces are non-linear.
Non-linear construction (from point A to point B, or B to D, or D to A and so-on) is the most versatile story
telling construction for a user. The user decides what he or she wants to view. If a viewer does not care about
the introduction of a piece, the viewer can skip it and move on to the place where he or she wants to view. There
is no waiting to hear or see the end of the story. People viewing these pieces will most likely not view it in
its entirety; they will only view what interests them. Information on demand has been taken to a new level with
the introduction of the non-linear format. For users, this is the beauty of non-linear construction: getting what
they want as quickly as possible.
While at The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC) in the summer of 2002, I took all the above information and applied it to
a working model entitled Speedway: Hearts & Thunder (Fig. 2). The main goal was to build a working model
from start to finish with limited help from Joe Weiss, the multimedia producer, after learning the skills to build
a multimedia presentation. Those skills were honed on smaller projects in hopes of teaching me
multimedia production skills.
Figure 2. Speedway: hearts & thunder - a non-linear multimedia presentation
The piece is a non-linear presentation and is not time restricted. This is important on a long-term project
like Speedway due to the fact it can be viewed as timeless. In other words, the date and time are never
mentioned and are not important to the story. Viewers can look at this piece in a week or in ten years and it will
still have the same meaning and feeling.
However, before any design work was done, content had to be collected. All images shot in the summer of 2002
were made via digital capture using a Canon D30, 3.11megapixel digital single-lens-reflex camera. No film was
ever used. Digital cameras are now the standard in newspaper photography departments, and for Speedway it
was no different. All images shot were archived on compact discs.
While making images, audio had to be collected at nearly the same time in hopes of making the
presentation worthwhile and for that matter, multimedia. A Sony MZ-R70 MiniDisc for audio capture, Sony MDR-
7506 headphones for audio monitoring and an Audio-Technica AT835 shotgun microphone was used in
gathering actualities (interviews) as well as ambient sound (environmental sound). MiniDiscs were chosen because
of their small size, low cost, durability and superb audio quality.
Once all of the content was collected, the long task of editing began. Each selected image was cropped and size
for Web use: 72 dpi. Each image was optimized for the least amount of download time acceptable. This loading
time is 8 seconds or less on a 56k modem.
With many images, there were specific interviews. Each interview was dumped from the MiniDisc onto the hard
drive of a MacIntosh Powerbook, and then edited in ProTools Free. With visuals and audio ready, it was time
to design and build a presentation from the ground up.
The main design software used was Macromedia Flash 5. Most multimedia presentations exploit this program
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because of its flexibility for designers and producers. Another important factor, possibly the most important factor,
in the use of the program is the downloadable player needed to view Flash presentations is now standard on
the newer, most popular Web browsers (Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator).
According to Macromedia's website, 519,663,008 users have the Flash player installed as of April 6th, 2003.
This statistic is astonishing when one considers nearly 520 million users can view projects designed in Flash. With
this many potential viewers, there is no other designer friendly software program available allowing such
an opportunity for a presentation to be readily available for viewing.
With the convergence of newspapers, television stations and the Internet, multimedia is becoming a sought
after presentation device. From slide shows to video spots, the evidence is made visually clear with everyday
news, just take a look at MSNBC.com or Washingtonpost.com. However, long-term projects like Speedway will not
be as common due to budget and time constraints. In time, sites neglecting multimedia will lose viewers and
will become stagnant, and with multimedia being in its infancy, it is up to journalists to take it to the next level.
Speedway: Hearts & Thunder http://www.heraldsun.com/evergreen/93-260516.html
America: What It Means to Me http://www.heraldsun.com/evergreen/93-242775.html
Butterfly House http://www.heraldsun.com/evergreen/93-234431.html
A Day at the Park http://www.heraldsun.com/evergreen/93-230034.html
To date (April 7th, 2003), Speedway: Hearts & Thunder has been awarded the Silver medal
(Online/Multimedia category) in the 57th Annual College Photographer of the Year competition;
awarded 3rd place (Best Multimedia Package for an independently produced piece category) in
the National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism 2003.
Flash Player Adoption Statistics http://www.macromedia.com/software/player_census/flashplayer/
Ward, M. 2002. Journalism Online. Focal Press 1:22-26, 2:57-64, 5:135-140.
Weiss, Joe. The Herald-Sun Multimedia Producer, Durham, NC. 2002.(As of January 2003, Joe
Weiss works for MSNBC.com)
Zerba, A. 2003. Perceived motives for clicking on multimedia features: An Exploratory
Study. Undergraduate Thesis. Gainesville, FL.
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Florida | I 0 auniNfion for TSheGalor 'a erh
@ University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611; (352) 846-2032.