Fall Workshop Report

Fall workshop focus on multimedia journalism

FALL WORKSHOP PANEL—With Tom Fabian of NESPA’s Board of Directors as moderator, panelists included Jackie Gong, co-editor-in-chief of The Newtonite at Newton North, Mary Barber, adviser to the Wayland Student Press Network at Wayland High, Lindsay Wise, adviser to The Sagamore at Brookline High, Amy Vessels, adviser to The Big Red at Hudson High and Conor Cashman, adviser to The Rebellion at Walpole High (photo by Valeria Dountcheva).

FALL WORKSHOP PANEL—With Tom Fabian of NESPA’s Board of Directors as moderator, panelists included Jackie Gong, co-editor-in-chief of The Newtonite at Newton North, Mary Barber, adviser to the Wayland Student Press Network at Wayland High, Lindsay Wise, adviser to The Sagamore at Brookline High, Amy Vessels, adviser to The Big Red at Hudson High and Conor Cashman, adviser to The Rebellion at Walpole High (photo by Valeria Dountcheva).

Michelle Johnson gave the keynote presentation followed by a panel from All New England Award-winning publications at this year’s Fall Workshop Monday, Oct. 23.

Making the most of digital platforms
by Zoe Goldstein and Sophia Zhou

One question to keep in mind with the increasing amount of multimedia technology in news coverage is “How can we use this?” said Michelle Johnson, associate journalism professor at Boston University and a former editor for The Boston Globe.

Monday, Oct. 23 at the New England Scholastic Press Association’s fall workshop, Johnson spoke to advisers and editors about making the most of digital platforms.

Finding new ways to use multimedia in journalism is “the creative part,” she said. “You can certainly be creative.”

But while it is important to stay up to date with new technologies, journalists also need to keep an eye on the long run and not get too caught up in the moment, she said.
“Don’t be a ‘Nowist,’” she said. “Take the long view.”

In her presentation, she discussed the importance of using social media and new technology to keep up with readers, emphasizing that more and more readers find their news online and through social media instead of through print newspapers.

In the face of so many different media, writers “should always think multi-platform,” she said.
“You have a story. What are all the ways to tell it? You’re not going to use all of the media—no one wants to wade through all that. But from all those options, what is the best fit for this story?”

For example, maybe an idea “doesn’t need to be a story. It may only be a tweet or an Instagram picture with a long caption,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is to get students in the mindset of ‘I can do a story from where I’m standing.”

She added that to reach and appeal to a larger audience, it is vital to make the most of trends.

“You’ve got an audience on Snapchat,” she said. “You should be following them to Snapchat.”

However, she warned against following trends to the extreme, citing the overrated push for videos despite the fact that viewers often lack the time to watch a whole video.

To help students tell stories in a meaningful and technologically up to date way, advisers should encourage students to be flexible, Johnson said.

Multimedia tools can enhance news publications’ online storytelling.

“Anything with a picture on social media has a higher engagement,” so using tools to help create compelling visuals is a must, Johnson said.

Helpful tools include Adobe Spark Page, which formats stories with photos and scrolling effects; Adobe Spark Post, which designs graphics and teasers; and Adobe Spark Video, which edits videos. All three build engaging multimedia that help draw and keep readers’ attention, and make use of new technology, she said.

Other tools for making graphics include canva.com, a website that is “great for social-only graphics” and “bites of information.” Johnson said.

She added that Playbuzz is useful for conversations, listicles, polls, quizzes and photos that tell a story just through headlines and captions.

Another engaging visual she cited is 360-degree pictures. Although cameras that take these pictures can be expensive, Johnson said, the Google Street View app lets users create 360s for free. Users can then use platforms like Thinglink and Vizor to tag the 360s with information to aid the story, she said.

Audio storytelling can also be a beneficial media format, Johnson said. WNYC’s Audiogram Generator is “a piece of open-source software to help you share audio on social platforms,” she said, noting that this tool can be paired with visuals.

Thanks to all these easy-to-use interfaces and mobile features, “none of this is particularly hard,” Johnson said.

News publications should “not be afraid to go to social media first,” she said.

But she noted a key idea to have in mind: “Don’t get too wedded to Smartphones. They won’t be around for too long.”

Zoe Goldstein and Sophia Zhou are editors of The Newtonite at Newton North High School in Newtonville, Mass.

Panelists discuss whys and hows of multimedia in scholastic publications
by Will Kharfen and Laura Schmidt-Hong

Representatives of All-New England Award-winning publications discussed whys and hows of multimedia journalism on a panel at the fall workshop Monday, Oct. 23.

Establishing expectations and guidelines for students’ access to social media is key in ensuring accountability, said Amy Vessels, adviser of The Big Red at Hudson High.

“Anyone can cover something through a live tweet or by just sending someone information,” she said. “But we tell them, ‘This is the style. These are the expectations.’”

And according to Lindsay Wise, adviser of The Sagamore at Brookline High, “Social media is about finding the best way to drive people to the website where the journalism is.”

Other panelists included Mary Barber, adviser to the Wayland Student Press Network at Wayland High, Conor Cashman, adviser to The Rebellion at Walpole High and Jackie Gong, co-editor-in-chief of The Newtonite at Newton North. Tom Fabian, a member of the New England Scholastic Press Association’s Board of Directors and an adviser to The Newtonite, was the moderator.

With the exception of the Wayland Student Press Network, which is strictly online, the panelists’ publications are both in print and online.

Panelists said that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter play an important role in reaching their audience.

Student-driven

Social media use is student-driven, and creating multimedia journalism is primarily a matter of channeling student creativity, Barber said.

“We just celebrated our 10th year, and we’ve reformatted our website several times,” she said. “We use all forms of social media, but Facebook is the largest. It pushes people to our website.”

Speaking about Walpole High, Cashman concurred.

“Student creativity fuels what we do with social media,” he said.

“I think you just need a space where students are comfortable taking risks and where you encourage them as much as possible in an objective, engaging way.”

Wise said she wants students “to think about how we can harness the creativity of the staff and get out all the possible ideas. You already have creativity on your staff, and you just need to harness it and think about the wildest possible thing and make it feasible.”

Platforms and their uses

Social media platforms allow students to employ an array of media forms: photos, videos and infographics, panelists said.

Visual media is especially effective on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, Gong said. After a number of rallies at Newton North, she said, The Newtonite shot, edited and posted a video of them to Facebook.

“On Facebook,” she said, “you stop and pause, so people are more likely to watch” videos there than on other sites.

Barber added that infographics, photo galleries and videos have “gained a lot of hits” for the Wayland Student Press Network.

Wise noted that social media can also be used “for smaller things like announcements or special schedules.”

Staff organization

The panelists next discussed the organization of their publications’ social media staff.

“We have a social media editor who makes the decisions as far as what to cover and when,” Barber said. “We have no full social media staff, but we’re going to try to organize it more.”

Challenges of being timely

Panelists said multimedia journalism can be helpful in covering controversial content, especially when taking into account timeliness and factual correctness.

Gong explained that after an incident involving a display of the Confederate flag at Newton North, The Newtonite covered the event and the response to it by posting a video of the incident on its website and compiling a video of a subsequent rally, working with the school’s television production team to do so.

The video ultimately “got a lot of attention on Facebook,” she said.

Wise commented on an incident at Brookline that resulted in an altercation between parents and a police officer.

“We wanted to be the first ones to report on it and disseminate factually correct information,” she said.

“Ultimately, we decided to put out what we knew was absolutely factually perfect immediately and hold on to the rest. Then we dribbled out more information carefully and purposefully, which gave us time to interview a lot of people.”

Balance in sports coverage

Speaking about sports coverage at Hudson, Vessels said, “With such a small staff, we need to pick our battles and have to stagger our coverage, making sure to worry about the important games.

“We’ve had a little more coverage of girls’ soccer because they’re doing well, but we’ve had feedback asking, ‘Why aren’t you covering golf more?’ It needs to be balanced. Readers can be driven away if it’s not.”

And in Walpole, according to Cashman, “The Rebellion has a social media editor who meets with other editors to decide about whether tweets do a story justice, or if we need a longer form story.”

When to take special care

Panelists said their publications have developed policies to handle difficult and timely content, comments from their readership, and the use of social media.

It can be difficult to cover stories as they happen because of the need to edit scrupulously, Cashman said.

Wise added that The Sagamore has developed a policy concerning crude language and slander.

“If people question why things are taken down, there is a link that explains why they were removed and what is not in accordance with our policy,” she said.

Cashman added, “The administration needs to trust students and our brand to report reliably. We want to have that accountability for students and to be as accountable as we can.”

Will Kharfen and Laura Schmidt-Hong are editors of The Newtonite at Newton North High School in Newtonville, Mass.