Student questions about Undercurrent

Continuing the series on student questions about multimedia storytelling. For this class the students viewed Undercurrent, which won the Online Journalism Award in 2016 for excellence and innovation in visual digital storytelling (small newsroom category).

Questions and comments by the students:

It seems like the designers of the “Undercurrents” used a template when creating the site: for each chapter, the first thing will be a video on overview of the chapter and some personal factors related to people of the chapter. After the video, there will be an introduction to the issue or the person. A “360-degree video” will follow the introduction, although the video is actually a photo with audio.

Is that possible to “divide” the documentary at the beginning and put them in different parts of the chapter? A documentary is very fascinating; however, it is a little bit confusing for me to watch a video without any introduction of the person speaking, in the meantime don’t know how long will the video last.

The videos are complimentary multimedia tools for the words, but it cannot replace the words. For the “Undercurrents,” is that a better idea to put a short documentary on the overview of the issue at first, then put several interviews or other videos to support the paragraphs? In addition, for the “360-degree video,” is that possible to change it to audio and automatically play to impress audiences?

In a story such as “Undercurrent” how do journalists find the right balance between scientific writing and narrative? At times the story didn’t  go very in-depth into the science behind coral bleaching and other problems, even though the article was created by marine scientists. What audience was the article catered to?

In the first chapter, “The Watchman,” I was confused by the second video, a video with beautiful images, but no commentary or caption. As I continued to read, I found that each chapter has a section like this. I wondered what the purpose of these videos is, or how I should evaluate them in the context of the story. This makes me wonder, when is it valuable to include images for image sake? And how do you effectively demonstrate the purpose of your visual components to your reader?

I thought it was interesting how Undercurrent told its story in five chapters, each chapter holding a unique, distinct story. Is this an effective way to tell a story? How does each story interact to tell a larger story?

What is the effect of starting with a video versus text?

The websites we have analyzed so far have varied dramatically in terms of content—telling a story, discussing an issue, and launching an investigation. What criteria do journalists use to determine whether or not a topic is worthy of (or right for) multimedia storytelling? What makes this type of storytelling the best fit for these subjects?

How did the website designers create the effect of a wave rising when you click on the first chapter? I think it added a lot to the transition between chapters and distinguished each section of the story from the one before it.

Not a question, but it has to do with format: I like how even within chapters, sections are separated to let readers know approximately how much information is left in each chapter.

In chapter 3, there is a piece where you can flip through different topics regarding Tourism in Panama. How was that created?

I noticed that this website did not have a logo in the tab the way some other websites do when you view on Google Chrome. Is that something we could do for our website?

Does giving the reader the ability to “launch experience” OR select which chapter they choose help or hurt the goal of interactive journalism?

Obviously many websites have been created about different topics, but in the same format as Snowfall, how/what is considered copying this original idea?


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