Student questions about multimedia storytelling

This term in Journalism 341: Multimedia Storytelling Design, we’re asking students to submit two questions for discussion prior to each class in which we will analyze a specific website. This task counts as part of the class participation grade. From the syllabus:

The questions should be thoughtful and demonstrate familiarity with the site and any related required reading. Your questions should avoid easy and obvious answers. Instead, you should aim your questions to provoke discussion and even debate among your classmates.

These questions will form the basis for our class discussions. For our second class of the term, we’ll be analyzing the now classic piece from the New York Times: Snowfall, The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek.


  • How many multimedia elements in a journalistic piece is too many elements? When do these elements begin to detract from the story?
  • In your opinion, do you believe that the Snowfall article should use the same, less, or more multimedia elements, and why?
  • What do the multimedia elements (slide shows, Youtube clips, graphics, gifs) add to this story? Can you tell the same story without these elements?
  • Would you have picked this format to tell this story? Why or why not?
  • How does the video of Elyse Saugstad help add to this website, and what other visual elements could potentially be added to this website in addition to the use of video, photos, storm graphics, and maps?
  • How does the website’s use of personal narratives, like those of Chris Rudolph and Elyse Saugstad, add to the website’s impact on the viewer?
  • The Snowfall story reads more like a narrative than a traditional inverted-pyramid journalism story. When telling a journalistic story, how can the writer strike that sweet spot between telling a story and communicating cold, hard news? Is it appropriate to have a lede? Does this story have a lede?
  • I found the use of video to tell the story engaging. However, the story lacked transitions into the videos. Is it appropriate to transition to or reference videos in the story? What is the best way to incorporate video material in a multimedia story?
  • Why did the writer and editor choose to include the specific details that they did about the deaths of the skiers? Who was the expected audience of the story?
  • Many times the volume is turned down on mobile devices. How did the creators of the piece promote the use of sound and incorporate it into the piece?
  • How did the designers create the piece of the website where when you clicked on certain words, the video began to play, or where it would link to a photo gallery? Is that a difficult feature to create?
  • The map of the direction of the buried skiers quickly shows both the location of the avalanche and the locations of each skiier beneath the avalanche. How did the designers make it so it was not in a traditional video format size, and played automatically when the viewer scrolled down?
  • The website represents a tremendous amount of scholarship, especially in terms of historical research surrounding the Wellington Avalanche of 1910 avalanche. How can journalists or storytellers in general fairly credit their sources without interrupting a powerful aesthetic like Snow Fall?
  • In today’s fast-paced digital culture, viewers often lack the patience necessary to follow a story arc with patience and attention. Snow Fall represents a clear narrative that calls on its audience to follow a set path through text, video, images, etc. How can multimedia storytellers stay true to their narrative while remaining mindful of their audience’s priorities (namely, viewers who do not have the patience to work through each section in turn)?
  • How can the marketing benefit or hurt the overall outcome of an article such as Times’ preview release of Snow Fall on Twitter? How can journalists maximize its benefits?
  • What should the main objective of a journalist be when creating and evaluating a new story (#s of viewers, excitement of viewers and colleagues, importance of content, use of technology, etc)?
  • Personal profiles: At the end of the “Tunnel Creek” chapter and the beginning of the “To the Peak” chapter, there are personal profiles of people experienced the avalanche on the right side of the paragraphs. When clicking on the profiles, the slideshows with photos about more aspects of each person appear in the middle of the window. However, some of the profiles do not appear at the first time when the names are mentioned. Is that a better idea to show the profile and slideshow of each person at the first time he or she appears in the text to help readers know more about the person in the first place? Moreover, for those people with video interviews, is that a better idea to put their interviews and personal profiles together to help readers remember each person better? Instead of showing the slideshow in the middle of the page, is that possible to show them on the side of the page so that readers can continue reading the interview of each person while viewing the daily life of him or her? In addition, is that a better idea to show the brief introduction of each person when clicking on the photo shown at the beginning of the “The Descent Begins” chapter like the Third-year housing project did?
  • Color tones: The background color tone of the story is basically a black and white tone, which is very suitable for the theme. When rolling down the page, the previous texts’ backgrounds change to grey on some occasions. Is that a better idea to adjust the background color tones and the entry of the text or multimedia source to convey a more intensive or distressed mood when the texts are related to the avalanche and death? For example, when writing about the death of Jim Jack with the source of the phone call with 911, is that possible to slowly show each sentence rather than showing them together in order to highlight the sense of sadness? Furthermore, is that a better idea to change the photo of deceased people to black and white ones to help readers tell the survivors and deceased people in the avalanche?






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