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What it's like to be a multimedia journalist

June 25, 2014, 10:53 pm | This story has an Influence Score of 970

By riazhussain

Media is trying to cater to our thirst for better awareness about the world and its day-to-day affairs. As media men and women vie for engaging larger audiences with better reporting, there open up new avenues and opportunities of telling stories in the digital age. Stories are being produced and distributed in diverse ways for the internet, for television  and for radio. Success in journalism requires that journalists should be versatile and take advantage of the new digital opportunities and develop the required skills in the emerging digital platforms.  D J Clark, our interviewee for this story who has a cosmopolitan approach to visual storytelling, has realized the needs of the current fluid landscape of media industry.

Our interviewee has served in the field of news shooting for 25 years. He started his career in visual journalism 1988 when he was 22. When he surveys his work over the years and the changes in the field of photo journalism, he realizes that things in the market are different from what they were in 1988. He feels that  traditional narrative is being challenged.  He points out that the market is changing and people in the field of journalism are finding it hard to cope with the situation. He says, ‘It is sad to see the slow erosion of traditional photojournalism as the market changes and great institutions are finding it hard to survive in the new environment. I started shooting film and was dreaming of one day joining Magnum shooting picture stories for some of the great news magazines of those days. The Internet has turned all that upside down and it is sad to see many great photographers find it hard to adapt to the new environment’. But these changes do not bother him. He believes that the new situation requires the development of new abilities to meet the objectives . He opines, ‘I think we are in a very interesting time in media developments,  we move from a print based world to a digital one. With it comes lots of opportunities and space for innovation. I am excited about the opportunities it brings to photographers like myself’.

Clark is a multimedia journalist who specializes in different media formats such as audio, photography, video, text, infographics, social media and editing. He can adeptly transfer media content from one digital medium to others. Talking about the difference between photo journalism and multimedia journalism, he explained, ‘Photojournalism is simply making pictures of news events. Multimedia journalism is using a combination of text, pictures, audio, video, inforgraphics and social media to tell a journalistic story on a digital page’.  

Our innovative journalist started his career in journalism in 1988 when he was 22. Since then he has worked with media organizations across the world as a journalist, trainer and Multimedia consultant. He worked as contract multimedia reporter for China Daily, and has been a regular video contributor to The Economist. He did his PhD  in 2009 at the University of Durham that focused on visual journalism as a tool for social change in the Developing World. He explains, ‘The PhD looked at photojournalistic representations of the developing world, and asked a key question: ‘How can photojournalism improve the lives of people?’ He looks at the needs and developments in the field critically and  writes about multimedia journalism as a vehicle for social change. He has also been conducting workshops throughout the world on multimedia journalism for Canon China, the British Council in Croatia, Mozambique and Vietnam and World Press Photo in the Philippines and across Africa.  At the workshops, he imparts hands-on experience to attendees with the tools and techniques of digital journalism.

Currently, he is working for the Chinese Central Television. He has visited about half the countries of the world.  He has covered stories for leading newspapers, magazines, news agencies and TV stations. His job involves extensive traveling. He says, ‘Over the last few years I estimate I have spent on average one day a week passing through airports around the world, being thrown into new acquaintances I had never intended’.   

But this frequent traveling does not bother him. He says, ‘Being a multimedia journalist is in my opinion the best job in the world. Getting to travel and see the world from a local perspective is an amazing honor. I remain grateful for everyone I meet. I enjoy other cultures and food wherever I go. If I get the chance to spend an extra day in a place just to take in the culture I will always do that. The world is so rich in its diversity’.  

The diversity of the world may have its own beauty, but there are aspects in distant cultures which may perplex one. This is what happened in the beginning with our roving news shooter when he came across foreign attitudes.  He recounts, ‘Eastern people tend to look at problems as things that need to be accommodated while western people like to solve them. It took me a long time and a lot of frustration to learn that. He has special liking for Brazil.  He declares, ‘I love working in Brazil, it's got so much energy and by and large people are very relaxed around cameras so it is fun to work there too’. When he is traveling, he does not forget his paraphernalia as a multimedia journalist. 

He carries his ‘multimedia backpack’ with him when he goes on his outdoor assignments. The pack carries necessary equipment he needs as Multimedia Journalism. He also carries his laptop in the bag. He has to deftly use the latest available software, such as, Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, and Fireworks.

In addition, he has a minimal kit which allows him to carry out his work in restricted spaces. His kit and backpack help him travel light.

He has to work in different situations and meet different people. Since, multimedia journalists have to report stories from real life situations, they do come across unpleasant experiences. He remembers, ‘I have had many bad experiences with authorities trying to stop me working. I spent the first two years of my career covering the first Intifada in Palestine/Israel where getting arrested and tear gassed was almost daily. In China I get stopped occasionally but it's normally pretty civil’.

Having served in the field for 25 years, now he wants to pass on his expertise and skills to other people working in journalism. Therefore, these days, he is promoting systematic studies in International Multimedia Journalism to facilitate the acquisition of the new skills among the working journalists and students of journalism. He is a director of Multimedia Journalism at the Asia Center for Journalism and course leader for the MA International Multimedia Journalism at Beijing Foreign Studies University (in collaboration with the University of Bolton, UK). Talking about teaching MA in Multimedia Journalism in Beijing, he said, ‘Our course teaches six core multimedia journalism skills: photography, video, audio, writing, social networking and infographics, in all of which the students need to demonstrate a basic professional level of competence. So, there are compromises to make. The students on tight budgets are normally looking for equipment that can perform more than one task, like a DSLR for video, stills and possibly basic audio too. However, in the second half of the course the students work on self-directed projects that could well have a much stronger emphasis on one or two media types, so we try and recommend a range of specialized equipment too.

Answering our question about the job prospects for students who complete MA in International Multimedia Journalism, he says, ‘So far the job market has been good to our students. In China there are far more jobs with people with this expertise than there are people. Those who work in other places have a mixed experience in finding jobs, but if they are good it does not take long’.

Feeling the pulse of the evolution and then designing the right flexible strategies to meet the trials of your profession is the job of dedicated, savvy and seasoned professionals.  By working and training aspiring journalists in digital journalism, our multimedia guru seems to make an effort  to fuse together the past, present and future of  storytelling. 

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