Multimedia can help readers cut to the chase

Friday, September 25, 2009 | 11:40 a.m. CDT; updated 6:58 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dear Reader,

I could smell the barbecue at 8:30 Friday morning.


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The Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQ Festival was more than eight hours away, but people on the streets downtown danced the pre-event waltz: Ad-strewn golf carts lined the lot at Fifth and Cherry; a group of men swarmed a tractor-trailer filled with concrete blocks for tent lines; a man on Eighth Street covered cable – is there any better invention than duct tape?

My daughter’s pre-event pattern was different. She sat at home, going over the bands and the schedule and making choices for our weekend. I’m happy to report that she used as her guide, and not just because Dad works there.

For the past few years, the clarion call in the newspaper industry has been: Get more multimedia.

The Web is a visual platform. Newspapers need to get in on the act or get left behind. Easy to say, harder to do. Slick video doesn’t necessarily equate to people watching. Some story types make for boring multimedia. Audio works, but only when it’s audio with emotion or action in it.

Generally, the Missourian has leaned heavily toward more documentary storytelling, or at least aspired to it.

Missourian reporter James Patrick Schmidt showed me how multimedia can enhance the newspaper’s service journalism as well.

On Wednesday, he published a piece with a short intro followed by a list of each band and a clip from YouTube. So all my daughter had to do was check out the performances and pick the ones she liked.

She might have been able to do the same thing through search engines. James put it all in a one-stop shop.

So much video on YouTube, and in newspapers, is boring, unenlightening and has little entertainment value to anyone. A newspaper could do the work of finding those useful nuggets.

I’d love to hear, for instance, great audio interviews or oral histories from some of the legends (read: really old) of blues music visiting Our Fair City this weekend. And their music.

I could see service pieces with multimedia in lots of areas: with stories about notable speakers who come to town, on issues like health care, and even with the Missourian’s “10 Things You Didn’t Know” – a somewhat snarky feature about Missouri football opponents.

More possibilities. More things to learn about the changing media landscape.

I don’t know what musicians my daughter will pick. I’m sure, though, we’ll be following those smoky smells to their source.


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