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By mgieva • November 19, 2009

Multimedia journalism done right

When Steve Fox, a Umass journalism professor and former editor at the Washington Post, came to speak in my media class this week, he showed two slideshows. The first one was the AP’s Death of a Marine narrated by Julie Jacobson and the second one was the New York TimesAn Ambush and a Comrade Lost. Which one of them was multimedia journalism done right?

Most of us agreed that the New York Times did a better job of presenting the casualty of American soldiers losing a comrade in Afghanistan. The soldiers were recorded telling their own story while photos illustrated every step of their way. Some brief gun noise in the background captured our attention.

Jacobson’s piece, on the other hand, was distracting and opinionated. She was narrating the story of a marine’s death in Afghanistan. But what the slideshow seemed to portray was the journalist’s own struggle to take the photos she took. This definitely reduced the power of the story.

What these two examples convey is that information dictates what medium journalists should employ. Some pieces come out better as slideshows with audio while others were meant to be long articles. Some stories need to be told using the subject’s own voice, while others can be illustrated better with graphics and charts.

These were some of the questions Fox tackles in his journalism classes at Umass. What is the best way to approach a story? Often, the importance of sound and image can transcend that of text. Combined together, as in the NY Times story Climbing Kilimanjaro, these mediums can produce an amazingly interactive piece.

"Convergence is a philosophy," Fox told us. And if done right, he said, it will be the future.