Learn to Love Multimedia with KQED's Craig Rosa
Craig Rosa is relatively new to the news arena. Before becoming the senior interactive producer for KQED in San Franciscion, he was creating innovative educational programs at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. He has put that educational know-how to work for QUEST, KQED's multimedia series about Bay Area science and environmental news.
QUEST is unique in that its content for all mediums -- television, radio, web, education and community outreach -- is produced collaboratively. It is a cross-platform endeavor, that puts different platforms on equal footing in the reporting process. But Rosa is not a pusher of multimedia-all-the-time. He advocates thougtful use of platforms and resources. "Why do you choose specific kinds of media to go with particular stories?" Rosa asked the California Health Journalism Fellows.
Here are some of Rosa's tried and true methods for conceptualizing and using multimedia well, techniques that can be used by "one person with a little bit of help."
Integrate your audio
Radio reporter David Gorn put together a story on President Obama's new approach to embryonic stem cell researcher, but the piece did not have space to answer a simple question: "Why does stem cell research offer such promise?" Rosa stressed that the multimedia blog post Gorn created was a natural extension of the radio story using clips that did not make it into the broadcast piece. But it was also accessible to someone who had not heard the original piece. The text was extremely important to the storytelling and no one expected the audio to stand alone, Rosa said.
Audio is very simple and inexpensive to integrate into stories. KQED uses Wordpress and free plug-ins for uploading audio files, as well as its existing field recording equipment and audio editing software.
Just because you can create multimedia, doesn't mean you should
Sometimes, multimedia is integral to telling a story well. In a piece about "volatile organic compounds – those smelly fumes – that escape when you pump gas," an infared video in a blog post is much more impactful than a radio piece alone. Conversely, Rosa said, "Sometimes text is the best thing." Audio clips are great for conveying place and personal connections, but they are not good at conveying facts. "People can read faster than they can hear. Save the facts for the text," he said.
Multimedia is not an afterthought
For story-telling with images, such as the audioslideshow "Stem Cells and Horses," Rosa offers a "shotlist" \of the kinds of images a reporter can plan to collect while they are out in the field. Planning ahead makes the finished product much more compelling and make the actual production much easier.
1. Establishing shots that set the scene
2. Shots of the interview subjects while they are talking
3. Close-ups of interview subjects
4. Action shots, which are pieced together like a video
5. Shots of the surroundings, which are used like B-roll in television
6. A marquee shot, an iconic image that represents the story
7. Behind-the-scenes shots, which show the reporter or crew "in action"
QUEST's audio slideshows are created with Soundslides, an easy-to-use program that costs about $70, and imaging software, such as Photoshop or the free editor Gimp. For those times when you do not have an original photo for you blog post or photo project, look to your archives. There are also resources on the web, such as public domain images, Creative Commons on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. KQED requires a media release for images that are in the creative commons, to be extra careful about respecting copyright.