I have been silent long enough. There are a lot of conversations taking place in the blogoshere about the future of newspapers and I want to be apart of it. Many newsrooms like mine are finally becoming web-centric. Resources are being shifted; multimedia and web-only alternative storytelling are beginning to take hold.
I am the first multimedia editor at the 93,000 circulation family-owned The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Washington. For 18 years I was a still photojournalist, but in 2004 I knew the gig was up. Declining Circulation and advertising revenue and a shrinking news hole at my newspaper led me to explore the emerging world of multimedia journalism. Soon video and audio slideshows became part of my new storytelling toolbox. My Video Journal vlog became my publishing platform for all things multimedia at Spokesmanreview.com. These past several years I have been able to sow the seeds of what I have learned. Small victories, like teaching staff photojournalists how to edit video and audio, are finally reaping the benefits of well-crafted multimedia storytelling.
What I realize now is that there can no longer be just reporters or just photographers in a newsroom. We all must be able to create and post multimedia content online. This is scary stuff, especially for those that don’t like change. I believe, to my core, that the web and multimedia are the future of newspapers. How long it takes to make this transition is anybody’s guess. Our industry needs to stop thinking about the way we used to do things and start envisioning new and innovative ways reach online viewers. We have to be able to capture the readers that have turned their back on our print products. For this to happen, the silos of the newsroom, marketing and advertising departments have to come down.
The Spokesmanreview.com website has been called fearless for its innovative use of web-only content. It was one of the first newspaper websites to use staff produced blogs and vlogs for content. We now use Mojos (mobile journalists) for online breaking news reporting. Our daily news meetings are webcast live and we consistently add layers of multimedia to online stories whenever possible. All of this is done on a creaky content management system hand-coded in-house since 1996. Thankfully, change is coming. A new CMS (Ellington) is in the house. A ground up redesign is in the works. A new, dedicated team of multimedia savvy web producers is ready to hit the ground running Jan. 2, 2008. This coming year will be full of challenges for The Spokesman-Review newsroom and myself. The goat trail that is Spokemanreview.com is about to transform itself into a superhighway of something special. Come along for the ride. Along the way let’s explore what is happening with multimedia at newspapers. We all have questions. Let’s work on the answers together.