A slide show before dinner, a video in an hour

A year ago, I sat in front of computer for hours, trying to make the sound synch with the movement of the lips in I-Movie, or make Final Cut Pro reach some sort of finality.  Usually, my frustration would hit its peak long before my wife sent me a text message wanting to know when I was going to get the hell home.

I don’t know when exactly I began to feel more comfortable with all this, but I know it came, the same way I learned to write over the years, because I was too stubborn to give it up. I am now trying to include multimedia in nearly everything I do, because I appreciate how those layers can add depth to the story.  Just as writing through the difficult times made me a better reporter, so is being persistent with multimedia.

Two stories the past week made me realize how comfortable I’ve become looking for the multimedia aspects of the stories I cover.

The first: a story about drug court. These kinds of courts are prevalent throughout much of the United States, but they’re new to Kansas.  Photographer Jaime Oppenheimer worked to get a couple of dozen photos, and helped collect audio. And as I’ve said before, I’m recording everything.

Between Jaime’s photos, some interviews I’d recorded and some live bits from the courtroom, became  an audio slideshow. I like being able to hear the judge explain what he does and how it plays out in court. I was able to edit the audio and put together the slideshow, while me editor gave the story a first read.  I took a break from the multimedia, worked on the story, then went to finish the slide show.  I was home by dinner.

But multimedia is not only about audio and video. I especially liked getting copies of the essays some of the people who had gone through the program had written for their graduation.  Christy Johnson’s essay has power to it I could not have conveyed in my story alone.

Today’s story was one of those assignments you get when you have a slow day on your own beat, and editors are asking for a story. This time of year, people purposefully set fires in Kansas, called controlled burns. It’s actually good for the environment and helps restore the native prairies on the Great Plains.

I’ve taken to carrying a video camera everywhere I go, so when I went on the assignment, I pulled it out and shot some video.

Howard Owens says reporters should take no longer than an hour to make a video.  The controlled burn video, well, won’t set anything on fire.  But it showed what I was writing about, something I couldn’t tell them quite as well as actually seeing it. And it took about an hour.

I think shooting the video actually helped with what I ended up writing, because it forced me to pay more attention to detail, looking through the lens of the camera.  The video camera served as a notebook, and the quotes that didn’t fit in the video, went in the story.

Once again, I made it part of my workday.  I plugged the camera in and downloaded the video, while I wrote a rough draft of the story.  I pulled quotes out of the video for the story and put the audio track on the timeline.  I went and added the quotes to my story, and while my editor Jill Cohan gave the story a first read, I finished the video and uploaded it to the server.  Then I answered Jill’s questions, put the final polish on it, and went home.

All before my wife could send me a text message, asking where the hell I was.

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