More than four months ago I walked into my first J2150 lab session with no idea what to expect. I knew it was a multimedia journalism course, but I wasn’t sure how it would work with so many lab sections sharing camera equipment. The timing didn’t help either; I had just finished taking the notoriously strenuous news writing course.
I had assumed the class would teach technical components of putting together multimedia journalism. Maybe class time would be spent teaching tips and tricks on how to properly edit clips or set up camera angles.
We did some of those things, but most of my assumptions were wrong.
What is that old saying? Don’t let wish be the father of thought.
I need to keep that in mind.
Much of our time in class was spent discussing big picture concepts. I’ve always been someone who enjoys thinking about the big picture behind institutions and processes we take for granted. Likewise, I also enjoy pondering the ideas behind the practice of journalism both as we know it today and as it was originally theorized.
This course gave me the opportunity to do just that. Topics discussed ranged from current events to not-so-current events to discussions of how certain American institutions work. Perhaps my favorite discussion took place around the time of the True/False film festival. At that time, we discussed how film makers, especially those who create documentaries, entice their audiences. It’s important to understand what keeps someone engaged in a story. Of course you need quality images and sound, but the content being portrayed by those pictures and sound is even more important.
How is this related to multimedia journalism? Just as film makers want to keep audiences engaged, journalists must also compete for the attention of their viewers. These days, media companies are vying for clicks. Videos bring in these clicks better than other forms of media; however, the large quantities of online video available means that a person may click away the moment they are bored by a piece of content.
The realization of just how easy it is to lose someone’s attention is one thing I will take with me from this class.
How to properly attain and work with sources was another popular topic in the course. This, too, may seem like an odd thing to focus on in a multimedia class; however, attaining sources can often be more difficult for multimedia stories than print stories. Some people simply do not like cameras and are less willing to answer questions when they are being recorded.
I can understand that reasoning. Personally, I would rather sit down with a notepad and have a conversation with a source than show up with two bags of camera equipment to do the interview. I don’t like the added stresses that the camera equipment adds. Instead of solely focusing on the subject and making the interview as fruitful as possible, you must worry about the camera working properly and the sound quality.
Shifting the focus back to attaining sources, this course taught me that you can’t hesitate to ask people for interviews just because you will be recording it as well. It’s also crucial to be very clear with them up front about how the images or videos of them will be used. It’s certainly another barrier, but it’s not an insurmountable one.
All in all, this class taught me lessons that I will be able to take with me as I move into the world of journalism. As the class was told by an unnamed source early in the semester, “You’ve chosen a terribly difficult and awful profession, but I’m here to help.”