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What multimedia skills does your newsroom need?

July 31, 2009

Robb Montgomery has an interesting poll going where he asks, “Which new media skills do you or your staff need most in the next 12 months?” When I first checked it out, it was the results that interested me (most everything was close-ish). Now that I think about it more, I’m more interested in pondering the merits and demerits for each option. Suppose we had a newsroom that needed to improve everything … what do we peg as the greatest need?

Video reporting and editing

This is largely personal, but video just doesn’t resonate with me as much as other forms of multimedia. Whereas with text, Twitter, etc. you can skim and jump around, video forces you to sit in your seat for X minutes and seconds (that’s my grew-up-using-tech ADD speaking, I guess). I know there’s plenty of evidence to suggest I’m in the minority, but my case against video-training-as-a-necessity goes beyond personal taste. Video training requires a lot of time and effort on multiple fronts. You’re talking about teaching someone how to technically use the camera, how to plan their shots, how to get good shots, how to conduct an on-camera interview, how to get good sound—then they have to learn how to edit all this together. It’s multiple learning processes rolled into one.

I’d tag this as the least-needed element in a multimedia newsroom.

Using low-cost multimedia tools

The news industry is being obliterated and we’re in a recession. What better time to learn to develop multimedia on the cheap? My coworkers and I make use of a host of free Web apps at work—Flickr, Google Maps and (we have a paid account, but it’s cheap) are the most common. (We’re also, as I pointed out yesterday, big fans of Publish 2.) The great thing about all these apps is that they’re as easy as they are cheap. The learning curve is not steep at all and I’ve seen computer illiterate people jump on board with them like pros inside an afternoon.

I wouldn’t call this the “most needed” multimedia aspect of a newsroom, but it’s probably the easiest.

Social media/Web reporting techniques

Here’s where my bias shows through: I absolutely think social media training is essential for any newsroom (I make no secret of my love of social media). Why? We’re talking about technology that can turn five unique page views into 500 without a hell of a lot of work (Note: that discounts the time it takes to build up a following beforehand). The reader engagement factor is huge, too: dropping into comment threads, organizing Tweet-ups—these are ways to physically engage your readership and make your brand matter to them personally. You can’t put a price on that.

Web reporting techniques deserve their own paragraph. The idea that a story can be posted the minute it breaks and constantly updated means that your site can become the go-to place for news and a place to check continuously (re: time on site and return visits increase). This is a massive cultural shift even for a daily newsroom, acclimated to gathering every facet of a story before reporting it. But if you’re waiting that long to post something online, you may as well be invisible.

These are all difficult and sometimes time-consuming concepts to teach, but like I said: essential.

Visual story literacy/fundamentals

I’m not 100 percent sure what’s meant by this heading—if we’re still talking video, I’ll refer you to my first heading. If we’re talking multimedia/multi-platform literacy, I’ll reiterate what I’ve said before: The presentation of a print story is completely different from the presentation of a Web story, which is completely different from the presentation of a mobile Web story (despite the fact that all three stories could contain the same information).

This goes overlooked all the time—like on yesterday, for example. I’d say it’s only less crucial to getting the word out about your story in the first place (re: social media).

Surely this is all up for debate—what are your thoughts?

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