Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Teaching Citizen Journalism Multimedia Tricks

What can your blog do that mine can’t? That’s the question I had in mind as I ventured forth in to the world of hyperlocal media in Austin.

Since the beginnings of the formation of multimedia journalism one site has reigned supreme above all others: The New York Times. Thanks to the work of Naka Nathaniel and Nicholas Kristoff, multimedia packages featuring video, audio, text images and more have become a respected form of telling the story. Even the Washington Post and BBC are getting in on the action. Yet both lag behind what’s going on in NYC. Not to mention the rest of the world.

So what gives? Is the technology too expensive? Are the skills too mind-boggling? It turns out that Flash costs less than a thousand dollars. As far as skills are concerned, there are legions of flash amateurs making enough complex and in some cases sophomoric animation packages for sites like ebaumsworld.com. Surely a journalist could figure it out.

click image to see a larger version

<Screen shot from www.rechargemag.com.

I talked with Recharge Magazine founder Shanon Ingles to find out what local media are doing with multimedia. The answer I got was "nothing."

Click below to hear an interview with Shanon Ingles.

"Right now I’m having a hard time to get Alex [Recharge's webmaster] to do anything," Ingles said.

Admittedly, Recharge magazine has suffered a heavy blow as one of their top writers died recently. Getting things back in order after the loss has taken its toll on the magazine. However, Ingles maintains that she’d like to include animation on her site if she could only find someone to do it pro-bono.

Despite currently keeping her site to a text and pictures experience, Ingles is quick to point out that "print has no future."

"You can go places online and hang out with people, you don’t have to go get the print. It’s that whole idea that we’re all tapped into this system."

click image to see a larger version

Screen shot from www.thestalwart.com

Also tapped into that system is Joe Weisenthal, an experienced blogger who currently maintains a financial blog called The Stalwart. Right now his venture is mainly text. However, he has some plans for the future including an interactive way for users to track the market value of specific products. Still nothing has come to fruition yet.

"I just really haven’t done anything with that yet," Weisenthal said.

Click below to hear an interview with Joe Weisenthal.

The same can be said for the Austin Chronicle. Sure the text and images site the magazine-style publication has is very well done, but there is a distinct lack of interactive content, especially for a publication so involved with local entertainment.

It seems the only local outlets pushing multimedia are the Statesman and the Texan. Both have packages that combine the benfits of text, images and sound into comprehensive story packages.

What does this mean for multimedia journalism? Is it an art form to be enjoyed only by the mainstream media? Or can the little guys buck up and start cranking out good work? The answers remain unseen.


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