How being skilled on multiple platforms allows journalists to bring colour and nuance to their reporting
By Kristen Holliday
It takes a minute for Tina Lovgreen to think of an answer.
The CBC video journalist is considering if she would rather tell a story in 250 words, one photo, or a one-minute video.
For some journalists, this would be an easy question. The answer might depend on the specialization they’ve honed over their career. However, Lovgreen is a multi-skilled reporter, who shoots video, writes and reports for web, and does on-air reporting for CBC television and radio.
“I think it’s wonderful to be able to tell a story in different ways because each story might be better for each platform,” Lovgreen says.
The expectation that a reporter should be proficient in many forms of media storytelling has increased over the years, as newsroom budgets have tightened and layoffs have impacted the number of journalists on staff. A 2014 study published in The Journal of Media Innovations found that 58 per cent of surveyed journalists said reporters are expected to be multi-skilled in their media organizations.
The study’s findings also indicated that half of surveyed journalists felt being multi-skilled was a benefit to a reporter’s creativity.
Lovgreen says that using photos and video allows her to capture emotion in a way that is more difficult to communicate in a written piece.
Reading a quote is one thing, she says, but “there’s something so special about hearing someone say those same words. The crack in their voice, the way they speak, tells you something about their character. You get to meet them.”
Hayley Woodin, a multi-media reporter at Business in Vancouver, says that one of her most memorable jobs was reporting on mining company operations in Central America.
Woodin argues that her videos and photography added context to her written pieces.
“One of the things I relied on in those videos was to show what it’s like to be there,” Woodin says. “Video provides a good avenue for letting a story speak for itself without having it go through my words.”
She adds that her experience filming in Central America continually reminded her about the importance of leaving the newsroom, getting out and meeting people and fully understanding their stories.
Although she says it’s not realistic to do every interview in person, she finds value
in leaving her desk to be on scene.
“It always amazes me how much you can glean,” Woodin says. “You can sometimes find the story in the details, like the atmosphere of the crowd, or what people are saying behind the scenes.”
Sean Boynton, an online journalist for Global News, says that multimedia can add depth and complexity to a longer web story: “Especially if you’re telling a visual story, words can only do so much. For someone to see what we’re talking about, you get a taste of that with video.”
Tighter budgets and smaller newsrooms allow less time for journalists to uncover and craft stories. Boynton identifies this as a major hurdle for today’s reporter.
“The challenge in the future is to find ways for us t be able to explore our multi-media sides and be multimedia journalists, but also allow the time to do it properly and do it more in-depth,” he says.
For Woodin, the biggest challenge is knowing when to focus on improving her skills on one platform or another.
“How do I choose which skills to go deep on? Does that close doors?” she asks. “I think sometimes it can be a challenge being a generalist, but there’s value in it.”
Acknowledging the challenges, Lovgreen is adamant that better things happen when journalists leave the newsroom, take their camera, and put their boots to the ground.
“You’ll get better stories, you’ll get better colour, you’ll understand the story much better because you’re in the space,” Lovgreen says. “And you never know, you might find another story on