Analyzing Multimedia Penguins

22 Jan

The first thing that struck me while looking for a multimedia story is that there aren’t very many of them. Most stories I ran into (and run into) have a simple formula when reported online : big picture at the top, story text beneath it. Often, there aren’t even more pictures in the story, though there may be some links. I just found that interesting, given how conducive the internet is to multimedia journalism.

Photo courtesy of BBC news.

The story I finally chose to analyze I found at BBC News. It was a story I had found on The Guardian, except that BBC’s report was multimedia and The Guardian’s wasn’t. The story is about a study on penguins’ hunting, which was conducted using cameras strapped to penguin’s heads.

The story focuses on what the study learned about marine foraging behavior. It accomplishes this mostly in the text, with a handful of pictures of the Adelie penguins, and including some of the footage that the Japanese scientists got during the study. The footage is certainly interesting, if not particularly enlightening. It doesn’t include any kind of audio track. The pictures add to a visual understanding of the penguin’s habitat and serve as a good shift in the article’s topic focus.

Other than the basic scrolling nature of the article, it also links to several other videos of Adelie penguins on BBC. Other than being informative and about the same penguins, they have nothing to do with the story. Navigation wise, I don’t know what they want to accomplish with the links inserted into the body of the story (as opposed to the sidebar), because clicking on them takes you away from the story completely.

As a matter of a scientific interest story, the subject matter is engaging, and including high quality photos and actual video from the study makes it more engaging. The story of overcoming past problems with studying animal foraging and the penguins specifically was interesting, too. Some of the descriptions of what the scientists looked for could be seen on the video. In addition, the pictures provided an understanding of the penguin’s world, and the attached video links provided more information about the penguins themselves.

On the other hand, the video was not of the highest quality, and provided no additional information with an audio track, which may have been useful. The photos were also pretty and relevant, but not complete. When the text described the sensors and camera that were attached to the penguin, it would have been nice to see a clear picture of the things. I was left wondering exactly how a penguin still hunted effectively with a video camera glued to its head.

A happy penguin.

Despite those complaints, the story itself was fairly satisfying. It provided me with a fairly complete but not overly technical description of the study. It also added more trivial but interesting information about the penguins themselves, linked to videos with more information in the article, and described unfamiliar animals.

One of the important things that this story reminded me of is that even if the video is not great, an article about a video like this should have that video included if possible. Another thing is to use resources that the news organization already has, for instance the other videos of the Adelie penguins included in the “Antarctic oddities” aside of the article. Most importantly I learned that Adelie penguins are super good at hunting camouflaged fish.

Personally, if I had done the article I would have liked some small audio description of the video, if only something along the lines of “oh, there he got something”. Any audio, from reporter or scientist, would have made it a bit more engaging, but perhaps that was unrealistic, which I understand. I also would have changed the title of “Antarctic Oddities” to something like “More on Adelie Penguins”. They already have a ‘related’ section, but that way it doesn’t look quite as much like it’s a part of the story.

This article, though it utilizes different media, comes off as mostly a print story. An audio accompaniment or even complete video or audio segment could have been included. A photo gallery of the penguins during the study or even just as penguins could have been included, acting much like their external videos do.

Multimedia successes and criticisms aside, penguins just make good news.

Signing off,

Joshua C. Geiger

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Posted by on January 22, 2013 6:29 pm in online journalsim


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