As is often the case in the world of professional journalism, the students faced the challenge of entering into the lives of potential subjects, needing to quickly assess the story possibilities and then entering into a relationship with those people to capture some essential reality of their lives as “the story.”
The challenge was to blend the art of “seeing photographically” with an ability to converse and interact sufficiently to record meaningful dialogue, ambient sound, and audio interviews to help develop the subjects’ character as a major point of the storytelling.
Multimedia story development is very hard work for those acting as solo practitioners. One has to be do some initial observation and interaction, and then quickly decide how best to proceed to get the best possible visuals and accompanying audio. Or alternatively, to build a story by shooting video that documents the essential “flow” of a subject’s life. To do so effectively requires mastery of several different journalistic crafts, as well as mastery of the art of gaining a subject’s trust. The delicate dance between journalistic intention and a subject’s willingness to reveal the essence of their life comes down to a matter of trust. It is never too early to have students learning the value of treating subjects with respect and a certain curiosity to build that trust in order to glean more effectively the information necessary for a revealing story.
Progress is best accomplished when students have the chance to work against real pressures while by being guided by professionals who are committed to helping them succeed. Likewise, professionals benefit equally if and when they are working in newsrooms where they are in that same relationship with their editors.
Sculpting stories that communicate effectively about the prime forces moving our world is a central challenge for today’s journalism. If we are to be of benefit to our audience, we need to hone story-telling skills with a goal of “sense-making” for our audiences. While it is great that journalism can often entertain and maybe even adapt story structures from the entertainment industry, our central focus ought to be ensuring that our stories have meaning and benefit our audiences.
Hopefully, the citizens of Skaneateles will appreciate the purity of that intention when they encounter the final version of the website featuring student work from the weekend.