Critiquing Multimedia Coverage

To kick off our Multimedia Journalism course, our professor suggested we review one of the likely thousands of multimedia projects out there covering the tenth anniversary of 9-11.

I chose one by the Washington Post. It is essentially a sound slides presentation with multiple audio interviews butted up to one another at a good pace.

There are about three pictures per interview subject–usually one close up, one scene setter that somehow shows their life as it is now and a photo of the person or people they lost in the attacks. Initially, I thought the pacing of the piece was its strongest suit. The editor chose not to take the time to set up each individual and explain their story. Instead, each person’s connection to September 11th, the reason why we’re hearing from them, had to be shortened to the limited number of characters in the graphic key under their names. For example, “lost parents in 9/11” or “supposed to fly on 9/11.”  I found it refreshing that not only was there no explanation of how or where their friends, parents, brother died, but that some of the stories were not about personal loss at all. Some were about the experience of that day, like the woman who did not board a morning flight ten years ago. Each story was delivered from vastly different perspectives and covered a wide range of ages and races.

I think what’s interesting about this piece is what you don’t know. I’m sure it was an editorial choice to leave out the crying, the recollections, the emotions, the back stories, all of the extras that naturally come with interviewing someone about a loss or a tragic event.  Instead, the piece gets right to the heart of what the title says–their lives, a decade later. The piece focuses on how they’ve moved forward with a nod to the past.

I think that’s one of the best ways you can create a piece of journalism that has meaning for viewers or readers. When it comes to a well-covered event like September 11th, fewer people need a rehash of the tragedy, the gore, the unsettling nature of that day. I think more people want to give themselves a heart check. They want to hear from those affected and be human on a day that they feel they should recognize without being blown over by the emotion and the weight of the event itself.  This piece accomplishes that for those viewers.

After watching this that I have a handle on how this small group of affected people are doing ten years later. And that everyone will continue to move on.  All that, and I never saw the towers.

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09 2011

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