In the beginning of December, I wrote a short post on some of the realities of working in a small newsroom. Today was the first day of work for our new paginator/copy editor and, in many ways, marked the first day of my real job as well. As such, I thought I would share a couple of thoughts on doing multimedia in a small newsroom.
You can’t just focus on those that are interested. Yes, this goes against most posts on the subject of multimedia training by people that matter. Perhaps this is possible in a larger newsroom, where it one is more likely to find at least a few journalists in each area of the newsroom that have already hopped aboard the multimedia express. However, if I were to work with ONLY the people that have shown a strong interest in multimedia, I would have no photographer and no one in sports. Don’t get me wrong. I do encourage those that are interested. I try to let them be as creative as they want to be, share multimedia others have done that is related to their beat, produce their work when they are writing on deadline, etc.
In the end though, it seems to me that it is those that are currently uninterested that will hold the key to whether or not multimedia truly takes off here. Perhaps it is overly optimistic of me, perhaps naive, but whether they are afraid of technology, beaten down by the daily grind or unhappy with putting out work that does not meet their standards of quality, the passion that brought them into the field is still there. It my job then, to find the right inspiration/motivation to get them excited about multimedia. The good thing is, once the ball starts rolling, things snowball.
Pick your battles. This one practically goes without saying, and I am sure is something that we all have run in to at some point in our lives. Back in journalism school, I remember a time when the photojournalism students were upset with just about everything that was going on in the department. At some point, we realized that clamoring for a suitable (and permanent) photo professor and keeping our program alive was more important than whether or not he had access to the lights in the gym or that the photo studio was converted into a lounge (I am actually unsure that current students even know there are lights in the gym or that the lounge is a photo studio).
Along the same lines, you can only do so much, especially at a smaller newspaper. If I am managing social media accounts, moderating forums, posting content, training staff and producing multimedia, it is likely that I will not have time to sit down and become an expert in database journalism (however much I want to) or fully versed in Flash. People have asked me how I like using Vuvox, or why I keep going back to it. It is obviously not a perfect multimedia platform, but, as with Soundslides, it allows me to build projects that have the basic functionality I am looking for, while still leaving me with the time to do the daily aspects of my job.
There will be naysayers. In our newsroom, it is the one who says not to try anything new because what was done before did not work. Ignore them.
Lead by example. I think I first REALLY learned this in hearing how Richard and Dai first built mercurynewsphoto.com, spending hours after work, at times even sleeping under the desk (or so the story goes). As Seth Godin recently wrote, “In my experience, once it’s clear you’re willing (not just willing, but itching, moving, and yes, implementing) without them, things start to happen. People are rarely willing to step up and stop you, and often just waiting to follow someone crazy enough to actually do something.”