Digital storytelling is the future for newsrooms – even on a budget

Story by Allie Kirkman, Ball State University
Photos by Robby General, Ball State University

Digital storytelling is essential to engagement in the 21st century.

Online and mobile technologies are presenting journalists with new forms of storytelling by providing new platforms and perspectives to engage with news consumers.

Scott Mayerowitz, digital storytelling and multi-platform editor for business news at The Associated Press, said newsrooms must shift from traditional to the digital mindset.

“As everyone knows, the industry is changing,” Mayerowitz said. “I grew up thinking about stories in inches. Now you have to think about screens, scroll times, will there be an interactive in there – it’s all part of the newsroom experience.”

Mayerowitz emphasized that digital doesn’t translate to “dumb things down,” in his presentation at to News Leaders 2017. Instead, journalists need to think about new ways stories can be approached and shared.

While videos may be where news consumers go because it is familiar to them, Mayerowitz said, digital storytelling with visuals doesn’t always have to be done through video.

“We need to break out of this thinking that visual is only video,” he said.

Mayerowitz advised journalists to try podcasts in their newsrooms.

“Podcasting is hot these days,” Mayerowitz said. “We’re not sure if it’s going to be sustainable for all the media out there doing it. … Several hundred new shows have been added by news organizations. It is hot and people like it right now.”

Even the Associated Press has started their own podcasts. These include “Get Outta Here!,” focusing on traveling and adventure and “Top 25 College Football,” tackling on-and-off field issues in the sport.

Mayerowitz said podcasts can give newsrooms the opportunities to receive sponsorship money, which is a “good thing in today’s budgets.”

To get “good, high-quality audio” on a budget, Mayerowitz advised using supplies like Blue Snowball and IK Multimedia iRig Lav mics, ranging between $60 to $80.

Other digital storytelling options for newsrooms include 360-degree and time-lapse videos, interactive graphics and creative maps using data analysis, animations and annotated photos.

Citing AP’s “A Disaster Unfolds: Southern wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee” as an example, Mayerowitz said 360-degree video stories offer a chance for reporters to convey a story that sometimes print only can’t accomplish.

“As a writer, I can write a really moving paragraph about somebody losing their home. As someone as a video journalist, you can go in there and get some really great shots … but 360, to actually be able to put yourself in someone’s house that has been burnt down and stand where someone’s bed used to be – I personally think that is more moving and powerful than any other type of journalism out there,” Mayerowitz said.

The Samsung Gear 360 and Nikon KeyMission 360 cameras are some of the more inexpensive options for newsrooms to use to create these videos.

With all of these possibilities in digital storytelling, Mayerowitz advices newsrooms to continue to: narrow the focus, don’t overlook the obvious, stick to one aspect of the story and ask if one fact tells the larger story.

Allie Kirkman is a junior at Ball State University. She graduates in December 2018. Her email is aekirkman@bsu.edu.

Robby General is a senior at Ball State University. He graduates in May 2018. His email is rjgeneral@bsu.edu.

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