Tip Sheet

Choosing the Right Tools for the Right Story

Excerpted from Jane Stevens, http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/starttofinish/storyboarding/

Knight Digital Media Center

  • Decide what pieces of the story work best in video. Video is the best medium to depict action, to take a reader to a place central to the story, or to hear and see a person central to the story.
  • Decide what pieces of the story work best in still photos. Still photos are the best medium for emphasizing a strong emotion, for staying with an important point in a story, or to create a particular mood. They're often more dramatic and don't go by as quickly as video. Still photos used in combination with audio also highlight emotions. Panorama or 360-degree photos, especially combined with audio, also immerse a reader in the location of the story.
  • Does the audio work best with video, or will it be combined with still photos? Good audio with video is critical. Bad audio makes video seem worse than it is and detracts from the drama of still photos. Good audio makes still photos and video seem more intense and real. Avoid using audio alone.
  • What part of the story works best in graphics? Animated graphics show how things work. Graphics go where cameras can't go, into human cells or millions of miles into space. Sometimes graphics can be a story's primary medium, with print, still photos, and video in supporting roles.
  • Does the story need a map? Is the map a location map, or layered with other information? GIS (geographic information systems) and satellite imaging are important tools for reporters. Interactive GIS can personalize a story in a way impossible with text by letting readers pinpoint things in their own cities or neighborhoods--such as crime or meth labs or liquor stores or licensed gun dealers.
  • What part of the story belongs in text? Text can be used to describe the history of a story (sometimes in combination with photos), to describe a process (sometimes in combination with graphics), or to provide first-person accounts of an event. Often, text is what's left over when you can't convey the information with photos, video, audio, or graphics.
  • Make sure the information in each medium is complementary, not redundant. A little overlap among the different media is okay. It's also useful to have some overlap among the story's nonlinear parts, as a way to invite readers to explore the other parts of the story. But try to match up each element of a story with the medium that best conveys it.
  • Interactivity means giving the reader both input and control in a story. By including comments, you give readers input into a story. Some news sites have included interactive games so the reader can construct his own story. [Others include searchable databases or clickable maps.]