A successful multimedia story must blend pure journalism with the visual aesthetics of a quality film. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is in successfully blending these two things. How can an accurate, complex and inspiring story be told with visually-appealing photos and videos that are not only relevant, but actually help further the story?
I’ve chosen to study print and digital news reporting. This emphasis area doesn’t spend as much time on the visual aspects of journalism, meaning that this multimedia project is coming as a little bit more of a challenge to me than it may to some of my classmates. Fortunate for me, this story is being put together by groups, so I’ll have an opportunity to work with my teammates to figure out how to add visual elements to the reporting.
My group has decided to create a story about Columbia’s public schools. More specifically, we will look at how the quantity of funds the schools are receiving from the state influences the quality of education the schools are able to give. Quality of education will be judged numerically by comparing standardized test scores. To add a human element to the story, we will also speak to teachers from several districts to discuss whether or not they feel as though they have the resources needed to teach as well as they can.
Even as someone who is currently itching to graduate so he can start his career, I’ve always been passionate about education. I think education is where opportunity begins. It doesn’t matter if someone grows up in the United States of America, Uganda or Australia, an education is the first step to a successful life. I believe public education is one of the top three most important duties the U.S. government has, and that it should take priority. The state and federal governments can prove schools are a priority by allocating funds to them. In this story, I’ll use my passion for education as a motivator as I both compare funding numbers to test results and also as I speak to the teachers who are on the ‘front lines.’ Maybe the story will teach me that funding isn’t all that important after all. Either way, I’m excited to learn more.
Several years ago I read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was originally published in 1936. The lessons taught in this book are just as valuable today as they were when written before World War II. The book gives simple life lessons about how to be a better person by drawing others near you. Small things such as referring to someone by their name, smiling more often and always letting the other person talk about themselves can build an instant trust with the person you’re talking to. While reading the book, I couldn’t help but think about how these tips could help when interviewing people for stories.
I was right. Last summer I interned at a small newspaper where I received my first glimpse into what journalism really looks like. The way I introduced myself to potential sources and the way I phrased my initial questions were crucial to receiving the feedback I was looking for. What I didn’t expect, however, was that these small things like phrasing would also be important inside the newsroom when pitching potential stories.
As you mentioned in class this week, it’s important to not give the person making the decision a reason to say no. This can be achieved by doing research ahead of time as well as by using confident statements about what you will do. Instead of saying, “I think there is a problem here and maybe I can do this,” a better way to pitch the story would be to say, “I know there is a problem here and doing this will help me find out what exactly is happening.” If possible, it would be even better to go the extra step and actually discover what the problem is beforehand.
Essentially, a journalist should have a good idea of the who, what, when, where, why and how of a story before pitching it to an editor or manager. It’s also important to consider who the stakeholders are in the story and if they will be willing to be interviewed. These sources are what stories rely on and it is important to make sure you have access to these people or entities before pitching the story.
I think my group has a great story idea that was pitched relatively well. While I’m nervous about figuring out visual aspects of the story, I think we’ve selected an interesting topic that is rich in information of both the numeric and personal types.