“I’m a multimedia journalist” (Or, actually having the habits I say I have)

On my first day of work, a couple of the other reporters/photographers in the newsroom took me out for lunch, which it appears is a new intern tradition at the TH. One of the moments I distinctly remember is one of the reporters telling me something along the lines of, “Oh, and remember: video with every story.”

I’ll admit, I was a little confused when I heard that. To me, video had always been something of an afterthought, and almost never something I thought about immediately when I begin working on a story. The thought of having video with so many stories felt a little foreign to me, and this is coming from the girl who likes to tell people she has experience with multimedia journalism.

Now, let me be straight: I do have experience with multimedia reporting, but it’s never been the first thing that comes to mind. When I’m reporting, I’m used to always thinking specifically about the words. Things like photo and video were more forced for me. Photo requests at the Missourian were usually the last thing I did, and when a requirement in my advanced reporting class asked me to take head shots of people I interviewed, I never could make it a habit. I just wasn’t used to thinking visually.

Over the course of this internship, those habits have started to change. Whenever I cover an event, I’m (almost) always thinking about how I can add to the story with a bit of video, even if it’s just some simple A and/or B roll. I don’t know that I’m skilled enough yet to call them works of cinematic art, but they add an extra element to the story and give people some extra visuals to keep them engaged with the story.

I’ve also started to frequently take simple head shots with sources for the stories I write — when I talk to them in person, I try to snap a quick photo to send in with the story. I admit I’m still learning to make that part something automatic, which means I still forget sometimes, but I’m actually managing to think about it and to consciously add it to my list of reporting habits.

Another expectation I’ve been given with my reporting has pushed me to think more about using social media. Generally speaking, when I go to a live event, I’m asked to Tweet from it — a photo, a sentence, something to get the reader a little closer to what’s happening. Unfortunately, this has actually been the hardest for me to make a habit, and I’m going to have to focus a lot more closely on remembering to Tweet for the rest of the time I’m here.

I think one of the very valuable things I’ve learned this summer is how to break myself out of my “text is the only thing that matters” mindset. Now, that former mindset is not meant to downplay the importance of photographers. I share a house with the photo intern, and that has only further increased my respect for other parts of the newsroom. However, that mindset meant I felt like for me, text was the only important part of my job, and I might as well leave that multimedia stuff up to someone else.

But now, I’m learning that my job is a lot bigger than just words, although that is my primary specialty. My job is to find every possible way to tell the story, and to give readers every tool they need to engage with it. I’ve always heard variations of this throughout my time at the j-school, but this is the first time I’m really starting to internalize them. While text will always be my first and favorite tool, I’m starting to feel more and more like I can honestly, though tentatively, apply the term “multimedia journalist” to myself.

Week 6 summary: Iowa Grocery Industry Association convention coverage (where I interviewed the CEO of Hy-Vee, I might add), reported on a meeting about potential construction plans for a major stretch of highway (I wrote the advance to this last week, and I’ve also become something of the “road construction beat” writer, apparently), published a double-byline story reflecting on 50 years of Dubuque’s drum and bugle corps, covered the drum and bugle corps competition, covered a conservation event at a local museum, finished two Ask the TH questions, gathered information for an extended cutline, published a story for features on Dubuque’s Rescue Mission garden (finished last week, published this week), began reporting for a story set to finish next week on road construction, prepped to cover a local government meeting Monday morning, made calls Saturday evening to check for breaking news at area law enforcement

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