Becoming comfortable with multimedia journalism

On Thursday, I had the unique experience of interviewing a source at the same time as three other journalists (including my co-writer).  It’s actually surprising that I had never had this experience given that I have been a reporter at various publications for the last five years. Press from more than five local news organizations were invited to interview Square co-founder Jim McKelvey about a new program called LaunchCode which pairs aspiring coders with experienced programmers at one of 100 partner companies such as MasterCard and Monsanto. McKelvey visited Columbia’s newest programming co-working space, Hackton, to speak to an audience of more than 50 about LaunchCode. I was invited to interview McKelvey for Silicon Prairie News.

Throughout his visit, McKelvey was interviewed for at least three different types of news stories: print, radio and video. KOMU reporters talked to the speaker before I interviewed him at Hackton. At Hackton, a professional reporter from KBIA, a student reporter from Missouri Business Alert, my cowriter and I took turns asking McKelvey questions over 45 minutes. I kept thinking about multimedia during the interview. I noticed, for instance, that the KBIA reporter was using the same type of Zoom audio recorder we used to produce audio pieces in my J2150 class. I caught myself saying “mhmm” and “OK” in response to McKelvey’s answers at first, but I quickly stopped myself from making any verbal responses when I remembered what I learned in class – any background verbal cues will ruin an audio clip. While the KBIA reporter captured the interview on a recorder, the Missouri Business Alert reporter and me and my cowriter mainly wrote down pieces of information. It was interesting to think about just how different the same interview could be for each reporter.

Next semester, I plan on taking a convergence reporting class which will require me to produce professional-level video, audio, photo and print pieces. Soon I will need to feel comfortable in all kinds of interview settings. I always assumed journalism was similar across the board, and that reporters would all generally ask the same questions. My experience Thursday showed me just how different mediums of journalism can be. The KBIA reporter, for instance, seemed to ask more general questions about McKelvey’s other endeavors to capture information about him in a soundbite. In contrast, I only expect to make brief reference to McKelvey’s background in my story because my audience at Silicon Prairie News is already familiar with McKelvey. I’m sure the videographer in the earlier interview considered what soundbites and B-roll footage he needed in addition to the kind of interviews he needed.

I can’t say I am completely confident in my ability to use video, audio and photos to capture a story. I know that I can write a story on McKelvey that will bring some value to readers. I can’t say I would be sure of that if I were creating an audio story for KBIA. I don’t have all the skills I would like yet, but I am really enjoying and looking forward to learning.

Below is a TV style video I created for my multimedia course last week. It could be better – I didn’t have enough B-roll of my main source, there’s wind in the background and my camera shakes at times – but I am still proud of how far I have come. I will always feel most comfortable writing. Even when I first started writing, I didn’t find it difficult or scary. Writing is a skill that has seemed to come naturally to me. I can’t say the same for other types of journalism yet, but in the coming semesters I hope my multimedia abilities will improve. I hope I will learn how to tell great video, audio and photo stories at a professional level, and maybe next time I am in a group interview setting, I will be there shooting video or recording audio.

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