I had a vague idea of what digital storytelling was before this week, but I hadn’t really taken the time to think about the possibilities it held for enriching the way we, as journalists, can communicate. But after an enthusiastic lecture from Daniel Meadows, I now just want to get out there and get on with it!
Daniel told us about his adventures back in 1973 aboard the Great Photographic Omnibus, a project he set up to travel the length and breadth of the UK taking pictures of people. A simple concept you might think, but the results were fascinating. They are little slices of people’s lives: the clothes they wore, the people they were with, what they had been doing that day. Perhaps at the time, these would have seemed trivial, but looking back, that collection of photos is a fantastic snapshot (excuse the pun) of what those people were doing in 1973.
So if a picture can say so much, what about a video?
Digital storytelling projects have sprung up around the country, giving ordinary people a chance to write, shoot and edit video about any subject they want. BBC Capture Wales is one of the best collections, with some fantastic little insights into what people are passionate about. Some of the examples that appealed to me were Que Sera Sera, Sparring Partners and Jellicoe Gardens, but there are plenty on there to choose from. Breaking Barriers is a similar project based in Caerphilly. Check out A Winter Tale to start with.
For journalists, this kind of resource is like gold dust. Not only does it give us the chance to get to know what people in our area are interested in, but it gives them the opportunity to tell their story, to engage with the community in a totally different way. If media organisations can harness that, it could strengthen and enrich our journalism.
But more than that, these videos show the possibilities of finding new ways to tell stories, which, after all, is what we’re all about. They can be funny, poignant, hard-hitting or nostalgic, and if we can use these new techniques, it could help our stories come alive for readers. It can take time, and it’s not always right for every story, but used appropriately, it has the potential to be very effective.
One of the examples given in the lecture was Rape of a Nation on MediaStorm. Watch it. It explains far better than I can why this kind of innovative storytelling is so important.
Images have power. So do words. Put them together and you could have a piece of reporting or feature writing that packs much more punch than it could in print. That’s not to say that traditional newspaper reporting does not have power, but this shows that we can go beyond the printed page to tell stories in ways that will engage our readers on a whole different level. It doesn’t replace print, but it could enhance it.
We have these tools at our fingertips and we should really make the most of them. My overriding thought throughout the lecture was ‘why am I not doing this already?’ It just seemed such an exciting way to tell a story. I’ll be experimenting with it over the next few weeks and hopefully the results should be going up on this blog, so watch this space…