Multimedia storytelling lets users define the experience

Just how interactive is the digital media students are producing these days?

Having a multimedia website (one with video, photo galleries, sound) isn’t the same as doing multimedia storytelling. When done well, a multimedia story is nonlinear, complementing a print piece rather than repeating content. The biggie is that the user chooses the path or sequence to define his own experience.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend “Re-imagining Student Journalism” led by Wendy Wallace at The Poynter Institute, which raised important questions about interactive stories, and it got me thinking. Are high school students seeing enough examples of multimedia? Are they seeing interactive content done well? How can we engage our readers?

Exposure to excellent work is one of the best ways to inspire students and coach them toward improvement, so here are a few examples of multimedia storytelling worth sharing:

For starters, just about anything from the Interactive Narratives site is worthwhile, but Africa to Australia is especially cool.

This award-winning project from Denver Post is a great example to get things started because it lets users control their own experience: Ian Fisher, American Soldier.

How can we engage readers? The Deadly Choices at Memorial piece includes an interactive timeline, video, graphics and more. As students say, there “lots to click on” with this story. That’s a good thing.

Some professional examples have easy application to high school journalism stories, like this sports feature from the Arizona Star. For a club or group on campus, students could adapt ideas from Masters & Hustlers, a piece on chess with completely interactive content.

The Columbia Journalism School has a collection of student work online, which leads to great discussion and brainstorming as students view and evaluate these multimedia projects.

Save time in each production cycle to examine great work like this and generate ideas for new storytelling methods. How could some of your recent work be more interactive?  If your students are producing interactive content, comment below and share links. This is just a start to the conversation…