Defining The Role of a Multimedia Journalist in the Digital Age

In the evolving age of digital media and the influence of social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, the role and definition of what it means to be a multimedia journalist changes every day.

As newspaper publications, like the Washington Post or the New York Times, used to solely feature photography and writing to tell their stories, the rise in the internet and smartphones have called for major publications to expand their storytelling methods to reach as wide of an audience as possible.

With this expansion came the birth of the multimedia journalist into newspaper publications.

The role of a multimedia journalist is defined by one who uses the traditional methods of storytelling, such as writing and photography and blends them with a variety of other mediums, like podcasting, video or even virtual reality.

However, through all the technological advances that shape and define what medium a story is told on, one thing that will always remain the same within the position as a multimedia journalist is its purpose to always convey the power of stories no matter what medium a story is told on.

To many, the digital age is daunting and terrifying after seeing how the size of newsrooms has downsized in tenfold within recent years.

Although, the rise of video or podcasting as forms of storytelling is not intimidating or scary for a multimedia journalist because it only enhances and expands the way audiences are immersed into a story.

Blending multimedia elements and writing to tell a story:

To multimedia or visual journalists, like Danese Kenon, the Deputy Director of Photography for Video/Multimedia at the Tampa Bay Times, there is no predominant method to tell a story.  Writing, photography, and videography each merely serve as “assets” on how we complete and make a narrative work more digestible for readers or viewers.

The challenge with these “assets” is in how to fuse and join them together to tell a story in the best way possible.

“I call them assets, they’re all assets that help feed the main purpose [of the story],” Kenon mentions.

“I think you have to decide on the assets that you want to have to promote and tell that story the best way.”

Boyzell Hosey, the Deputy Managing Editor of Photography and Multimedia at the Tampa Bay Times, further explains how assets, like photography or writing, should not be used independently, yet merge together to create a more immersive experience and evoke empathy.

Boyzell Hosey, Deputy Managing Editor of Photography and Multimedia at the Tampa Bay Times.

To Hosey, serving as a visual journalist helps him determine how compelling photos and videos have moved people and have helped them better understand a story.

“I do believe that the most impactful way that you can tell a story is through compelling photos and compelling videos,” Hosey mentions.

“I feel as though great visual journalism is the soul of any story.”

Hosey further mentions how great writing has the power to put you in a place, however, the visualization of a specific person or event is left to your imagination.  Therefore, the most impactful messages are often portrayed through visuals to draw audiences in and help them better understand a story.

How the roles of photo, video and written journalists are merging and changing in today’s industry

Only 20 years ago, the multimedia elements within a broadcast newsroom and the elements of written articles and photography within a print newsroom rarely ever intersected.

Now, in today’s age, not only are newsrooms converging but journalists who once solely focussed on written journalism, for example, now have to expand their skillset to photo or video to remain competitive in the industry.

Maria Carrillo is the Assistant Managing Editor of Enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times.

Maria Carillo, Assistant Managing Editor of Enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times, mentions how the role of a photographer is changing.

At the Tampa Bay Times, for example, Danese Kenon, is challenging photographers and videographers to write stories when they go out to capture an event.

With the downsizing of newsrooms, adopting new skills, like writing, this helps photographers remain competitive within the field of journalism.

Some of the writing from the Tampa Bay Times’ photographers and videographers can most often be found in a weekly section called “Everyday Tampa Bay,” where writing is accompanied by video or photography.

An “Everyday Tampa Bay” article written and shot by James Borchuck, a Times Staff Photographer who interviewed trumpet player, Roy Stewart.

James Borchuck’s article and photo can be found here: https://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/everyday-tampa-bay-a-musicians-greatest-gig/2315318

In emphasizing the need for incoming and current journalists to expand their skillset to be competitive in the workforce, Carrillo emphasizes that before focussing on the number of skills to obtain, journalist need to remember and know how to be an effective storyteller.

Often times, through reviewing applications to be journalists, Carrillo mentioned how she discovered how young journalists most often focused more on the tools rather than how to be effective storytellers.

“At the end of the day, no matter what tools you use, you have to be a storyteller.”

The Power Photos, Videos, and Text Serve to a Story:

In evaluating the impact of photography, videography, and writing, all the interviews unveiled how each element has a different role in the storytelling process.

For example, in writing, the story is primarily told through the voice of the writer and has the power to place you somewhere, however you visualize it with your own imagination. In photography, the story is told through the still of a moment. Through video, the story is told through the voice of the person the story is about.

One of the greatest examples of how video is powerful was through a video captured by Danese Kenon while in the car with a woman revisiting her rape site 48 years later. Unlike photo or text, the video allowed the woman to express raw and true emotions that would take thousands of words to convey through text. However, more importantly, it allows the protagonist to tell their own story and create a stronger connection and understanding from the audience.

The video can be found here: http://www.tampabay.com/projects/2018/features/evelyn-wrestling-the-past/saint-petersburg-gang-rape-assault-1969-survivor/

Maria Carrillo discusses the power of video for a story about a woman revisiting the spot where she was raped 48 years prior.

Overall, the role of a multimedia journalist is always evolving and changing more and more each day. However, no matter the platform the story is told on, the power of storytelling is always present within the position.