How Others Are Practicing Multimedia

November 7, 2018

EJ InSight: How Others Are Practicing Multimedia


EDITOR’S NOTE: Also see Erica Gies’ report on her experience photographing the famed Mesopotamian marshes of Iraq.

By Erica Gies

Other reporters are doing more than I am with visual journalism.

Earlier this year, for example, SEJer Wudan Yan went to Bangladesh to report on the Rohingya refugees and their conflicts with elephants whose migration routes they now occupy.

She posted Instagram stories nearly everyday, so I saw her getting ready for her trip, her long flight there, some of her moments in the field with fixer, translator and subjects. I felt invested in her trip and her reporting, and was excited to read her story when it came out.

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Here’s more from Wudan:

“Although I’m primarily a writer, I’ve been sharing photos from my reporting on platforms like Instagram and Twitter for the last three years, especially when I’m reporting abroad. One of my primary motives is security: Each post is a data point, a rough (NEVER specific) indicator of where I was, and that I was alive and functional enough to use my phone. However, Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) emphasizes digital security. You have to exercise discretion over what's safe to post for yourself and others. If the story is sensitive, I obscure people’s identities with headscarves, shadows or by zooming in on specific features, such as hands.

“These posts allow me to share anecdotes of things I experience in the field that likely won’t end up in a story. In the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, for instance, I saw a woman helping a goat give birth and witnessed the kid’s first bleats. Part of the point of going into the field is to be able to give the story more color and really place the reader at the scene. Writing smaller stories in the form of an Instagram post also lets me reflect on things I saw that day and serves as a kind of diary, pushing me to vividly recall those moments that I might later place in a story.”


SEJ board member Gloria Dickie also posts Instagram stories and photos to document her reporting trips, which in the last year included the Arctic and China. Then a couple of months ago I saw Gloria doing a Q&A with readers on Instagram Stories.

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Gloria explained:

“I've long used Instagram to document my reporting trips via photos and captions that I use to engage followers and as reporting notes when I'm writing up a story. Recently, Instagram rolled out a Q&A feature that allows you to solicit questions from your followers. (Swipe up on your photo in story mode and select the 'Questions' badge.)

“I started making videos on freelancing, asking for questions about a feature I had recently written and answering them on video. User engagement really jumped. I was getting far more views on my stories than normal, and my followers, mostly people I don’t know, increased. I was surprised by the number of thoughtful questions I received on my reporting and happy to get this validation that my writing wasn't just disappearing into the void. I think the Q&A helped readers feel like they had a face-to-face connection with the journalist, possibly enhancing its credibility to them as ‘real news.’”


One last example: Mike Scott is a former reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and currently a digital media trainer for the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources. He likes to experiment with new platforms, but has found that many of them don’t have significant audiences.

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More from Mike:

“I used to train/recommend a number of video apps, mobile and desktop, but I've really pulled back on that — well, at least the mobile side. No one seems to have the time to use Videolicious or the one I really liked, FilmoraGo.”

“[One recommended app for visuals is Steller] because it's essentially a quick-and-easy slideshow platform — particularly suited for mobile — and while it hasn't really caught on as a community (like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook), it works well for journalists to tell a visual story quickly and beautifully. Liz Miller, a reporter at the Cleveland NPR station, WCPN Ideastream, has been using Steller once in a while. You can find her as LLMILLER12 on that app and you can page through the two she has posted even without signing in.”


* From the weekly news magazine SEJournal Online, Vol. 3, No. 38. Content from each new issue of SEJournal Online is available to the public via the SEJournal Online main page. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here. And see past issues of the SEJournal archived here.

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