Marina Milad: Multi-media journalism quickly attracts readers

A team of content creator, programmer and designer join to produce eye-catching stories

In this digital age, media content display is as important as the substance of the content itself. And the more attractive and interactive the display styles are, mixing text, images, audio and video, the more successful they are. Journalists now learn to create content in different mediums including video, audio and images in addition to text. Mastering this type of interactive, multi-media journalism requires effort and continued learning. It’s also necessary to work in a team that collaborates to produce the story.

This style is slowly breaking through in the Arab region, and a young journalist, Marina Milad, WIN 2019 cohort from Egypt, has already come a long way in executing stories in multi-media styles, particularly on the Masrawy website that has invested intensively in this transition. Marina, who began her professional career in 2013 and had worked at many organisations such as Al Masry Al Youm, Rose Al Youssef and Al Tahrir was awarded the Haykal Award for Arabic Journalism in 2018 for her collective journalistic investigations. We had the following discussion with her about journalism and multi-media journalism.

Why did you decide to specialise in multi-media?
Ever since I started as a journalist, I specialised in digital journalism and I’ve constantly worked on honing my skills in this domain by producing multi-media stories. However, this direction in my work only started to take shape from 2017 when I started working with Masrawy website, which was the first website in Egypt to implement multi-media stories. This style aims to deliver content in a manner that is smoother and more attractive to the audience through displaying the story in different designs that suit its content, as well as relying more on visual aids and showing them in a more suitable way and space. 

In addition to all that, the story is able to be interactive in such a way that the audience can decide, interact, and feel like they are inside the story and a part of it. This style leads to an increase in the time a visitor spends on a site, and numbers show a noticeable rise in the time users spend in surfing such content. 

What is the main difference between traditional journalism and multi-media?
The main difference is in the way and style of content display. Stories of this kind rely on the intersection and overlap of materials other than text, such as videos, images, graphics, schematics or audios, where these materials are all compiled into a design most fitting for the story and the substances used. 

How is a subject planned for a medium like this?
The subject itself needs to be suitable to be presented with this method; that means the content has to include elements other than text, like videos, audio or images. Then, we begin working on reducing the text as much as possible. Next, comes the phase for planning the initial visualisation for the story display layout and material utilisation; here, each element must bring an added value and must be in its appropriate spot, complementing the previous element and not reiterating the same meaning. 

After that, we reach the stage of meeting with the designer and programmer who are responsible for executing the story in collaboration with the content creator. The first works on creating the design, while the second implements it using programming language and codes. The trio work in conjunction to develop the shape of the story and reach an agreement on the final design. This coordination remains ongoing until the story is published.  

Does accomplishing these stories require teamwork?
Definitely, and I imagine that the working team would include three people at least: first, the content creator, then the designer and finally the developer/programmer. Nevertheless, the team might expand depending on the needs of the story. In some instances, we might need moving graphics or a 3D designer. In other instances, the team count might decrease in case the journalist learns coding or uses some of the tools that provide ready-made designs. But the pivotal point in all of this is the importance of the coordination and the harmony inside the work team since the conception of the idea, throughout development and reaching its realization in its final form.  

Are there specific topics that are recommended for this method?
In my opinion, there are no specific topics that need to be produced using this technique. All topics can be presented in a multi-media style as long as they contain sufficient visual and auditory materials. The essential thing is to be able to visualize an apt conception for the story display before implementing it.

What are the most prominent tools used to produce multi-media stories?
There are plenty of tools that can be used and readily accessible if needed such as tools to display data visually or to create a timeline, others to lay out maps or images, or generate moving pictures or interactive images that contain information. There are also tools that allow the compilation of all materials into ready-made designs, in addition to the ability of the programmer to work on those stories. 

What advice would you give to journalists who want to produce multi-media stories? 
The most important tip would be to constantly follow stories produced using this method, be it in foreign or Arabic sites, and not to rush into producing the story unless the available materials allow for that. The content dictates the design, not the other way around. Give up any element that holds no significance. Operating under the belief that increasing the elements and components of a story improves its quality is a grave mistake. The excessive presence of needless components in a story weakens it and disconcerts the audience. No element should replicate the explications of another, but rather complement it. This means that the content of the text ought to be different from the information in the video. Hene, it is preferable no to have two similar elements presented one after the other; in other words, do not place a video following another video. Separating spaces between the same elements is necessary to keep the attention of viewers. Stay away from complications. The simpler and clearer a design is the more successful it becomes. It is crucial to work on innovation and novelty in every story. 

What are the most prominent stories you’ve ran using this method?
I have presented many investigations and stories using multi-media. Here are a few: 
– A Kurdish Escape Journey: https://www.masrawy.com/crossmedia/zahra/
– A Corona Deal: https://www.masrawy.com/crossmedia/proj/
– The Gamers: https://www.masrawy.com/crossmedia/TheGamers/index.html
– Livelihood Hunter: https://www.masrawy.com/crossmedia/livelihoodhunter/index.html
– The Origin of the Myth: https://www.masrawy.com/crossmedia/m7md-ramadan/index.html

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