BUT I understand you
As a trainee journalist I should be all for words on a sheet of paper. Well actually, I was- the pen is mightier than the sword and all that.
But after a lecture with Daniel Meadows, the words, the sentences and the paragraphs looked blank on the broadsheet newspaper I was reading during my lunch break and I realised that good journalism needs something to make the words come alive, something more than just words- real people and a real voice.
The lecture was about digital storytelling- short, personal, multimedia tales which use about a dozen photos, a 250 word script and which are about 2 minutes long.
Daniel Meadows says on his website: “Digital Stories — when properly done — can be tight as sonnets: multimedia sonnets from the people.”
The great thing about digital stories is you don’t require any specialist knowledge- only a voice and some photographs so anybody and everybody can make them. Daniel believes they are a form of democratised media, which have the potential to change the way we engage in our communities.
We keep hearing that journalism is evolving and therefore, as journalists, we need to live and breath our public because they are now part of the news process. What better than to make use of digital stories in journalism to give our stories a voice. For the journalist and the consumer, digital stories add a personal element and can make for a deeper understanding of an issue.
The digital stories I linked to at the beginning of this post are from a BBC project which Daniel initiated called Capture Wales. It was a project where participants of all ages and backgrounds went to workshops to produce their own 2 minute digital stories. The stories at the top of this post are in welsh. I don’t speak a word of welsh but I included them in this post to demonstrate the fact that I understand them, despite the language barrier. This proves that actions (or more specifically somebody’s voice and photographs) are louder than words and if this is the case, journalists should be including digital stories with their online articles to make their journalism the highest standard possible. After all, which would be more appealing to you? A printed article full of facts and statistics? Or a digital story from a person who has been directly affected by that issue?
Digital stories put the public, who are at the heart of our news, in the driving seat. The stories can be about anything…
- Dumisani’s story of gender equality in South Africa and how the gang rape of a girl in his youth made him realise that steps need to be made to stop violence against women and HIV in his country.
- or Breaking Free, Griffin’s story (from America) about how his father abused him, the pain of being in foster care and how he chose to overcome his misery and get his life back on track.
- or the story about how a British primary school girl adores her dancing golden monkey.
Whatever the subject matter, they give ordinary people from all over the world a voice, which allows us to become better informed. Sure, as journalists, words are always going to have a certain power. But as the profession is evolving, we need to be thinking of more effective ways of communicating our message to the public and more importantly ways in which our public can become part of the conversation. The interactivity of digital storytelling breeds conversation, which in turn opens the media out and will make it more democratic. In short, it is a way of giving people a voice that would usually rarely be heard.