management / Multimedia views

Moving beyond breaking news multimedia: now is the time to plan


As the new semester begins, I want to encourage you who are working with online/multimedia in your college newsroom to begin the process of planning to move beyond the quick-hit multimedia package this semester.

I try to encourage our multimedia staff at to think about two enterprise packages that they could put together over the course of a semester that would really address serious issues of concern to students, faculty and staff.

I’m not talking about the “meet the SGA candidates” package, or the sports season preview, or a year-in-review audio slideshow. No, I mean enterprise, something that takes real digging, journalistic effort, and a team of talented journalists to pull off.

Last semester I put this assignment to my online journalism class. We brainstormed ideas about a month before the end of the semester. I posed the question this way: “What are some really difficult issues that students struggle with here?” Eastern is a pretty typical college campus, so I could probably name some topics you could use:

  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • Employment prospects upon graduation
  • Juggling work and school
  • Sexuality/relationships
  • Minorities/race relations
  • Faith on campus
  • LBGT issues
  • Military/War issues (students who will serve or have served)
  • Students who are also parents
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Mental health/stress issues
  • University impact on town politics

The three teams of students in my online journalism class came up with some pretty good work once they focused on their topic.

I would suggest you take one or two of those topics (or a similarly meaty topic) and break the topic apart into smaller stories, just like if you were going to produce a series of stories for the print/broadcast product. Depending on how many people you have to work with, you could shoot for three, five, or seven different angles/stories.

Then, with each of those smaller stories, figure out how you can present those stories using the unique attributes of the web – timelines, video, audio stories, audio slideshows, animated graphics, databases, maps, etc.

Then start assigning those multimedia elements to a team of people on your staff. Figure out what kind of time, equipment they may need to get each of the parts done. Give them deadlines several weeks into the future. Set a date certain for when the project will be posted online. Check up on their progress. Work on the layout for the “package.”

The point of this is that an enterprise multimedia project is going to take time to produce, just like any significant piece of journalism. And once you get into the flow of the day-to-day of producing a daily or weekly printed product and putting all those one-off multimedia projects together, you’re not going to have the time to come up with a good project, plan it out, budget personnel, and get the work done.

Now is the time to plan for those projects. And when you get them done, let us know so we can share your success with the rest of the college journalism world.