The Power of Multimedia Storytelling

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For class on Thursday, Oct. 16, read the “Drilling Down” boxes in the Briggs book on pages 148 and 164, as well as the “Newsroom Innovator” profile of MSNBC.com’s Stokes Young on pages 168-169. Then watch this four-minute audio slideshow by The Washington Post, “No Greater Love.” (From the main project page, click the first of the three slideshows — it’s the one on the left. You may need to update your computer’s Flash plugin.)

Also, if you are intrigued to learn more about this story after watching the slideshow, read photographer Carol Guzy’s accompanying epilogue about her experience reporting this story over several years.

Stokes Young says the promise of multimedia storytelling is to provide what he calls an “immersive experience: bringing the story to viewers through multiple senses and, hopefully, bringing viewers into stories — the experiences of other folks — in ways that increase understanding.”

By 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15 leave a comment on this post (worth 5 class participation points) answering one of these questions:

  • Did “No Greater Love” deliver an “immersive experience” and, if so, how?
  • Would this story have been more or less powerful if told through video rather than through sound and still images?
  • Would this story have been more or less powerful if it used voiceover from the journalist, rather than relying entirely on sources for narration?

28 thoughts on “The Power of Multimedia Storytelling

  1. @sjnelson “No greater love” without a doubt delivers an immersive experience. It uses digital media to appeal to the viewers emotions. I like how the story was not narrated using voice-over. I will admit it was hard to understand Clarice sometimes but I think her narration made the story more powerful. I think if a journalist told the story using voiceover it would not be as powerful and it would take away the emotion. I believe some of the most effective storytellings is done without the journalist/reporters voice.

  2. “No Greater Love” definitely delivers an immersive experience through its images and narration. I think that the still images make a more profound statement than video would. Each picture captivates exactly what the narrator is saying in that moment, giving each picture more meaning and purpose. I also think that having the story be narrated by the actual people themselves rather than a journalist makes the story even more powerful and personal. The audience can truly grasp the passion, emotion and feelings of the speaker by listening to the tone of her voice in each moment and visually seeing the pain, love and heartache in every picture. I think that the “No Greater Love” slideshow created an extremely powerful and emotional story as it captivated the audience and brought them in by allowing them to feel as if they were actually there and truly relate to and sympathize with the people in the story.

  3. In “No Greater Love,” a huge part of the “immersive experience” for me came from listening to the individual sources narrate their stories. If the journalist had decided to narrate the entire story with accompanying photographs instead, it would not have been as powerful. Listening to the voices of those involved feels so much more personal, like you’re there and they’re speaking directly to you. At 104, Classie’s old age is evident in her voice. When her sister dies, you can hear her pain. Multiple voices within the slideshow provide greater authenticity and add layers to the story more so than if a single journalist had narrated the entire thing. By having the sources themselves narrate the story, the audience is better engaged and everything feels much more real.

  4. “No Greater Love” was a very immersive experience. Being able to hear and see exactly what Clarice and Rozzie went through felt like you were almost watching video, which is the ultimate immersive experience. hearing the trials and tribulations that Clarice went through to make sure her younger sister was taken care of made the story that much emotional, and a print story would not have done it justice. Seeing through pictures and hearing the narration of Clarice made what Clarice and Rozzie went through everyday just to stay alive that much more authentic and real.

  5. I think, most definitely, “No Greater Love” would have been less powerful if it used a journalist voiceover. As journalists, and especially in broadcasting, we sort of have that “journalistic” voice, especially during narration. And, because of this, we tend to sound almost the same on every story, and that’s not a bad thing.

    This was the first time I’ve ever really seen an audio slideshow, mainly the first time I’ve seen solely still images being utilized. Hearing the sources narrate it brought such a liveliness to the story, especially one so powerful as that one. If a journalist had narrated it, I don’t think any justice would have been brought to it, at least not as much as the sources did. In essence, journalist voiceovers paint the picture, but having the sources narrate it really brings it to life.

  6. I believe that if “No Greater Love” used voiceover from a journalist, the story would have been less powerful. In my opinion, telling the story entirely through sources makes the story extremely powerful, and allows listeners to connect to the story on an emotional level. While a journalist could certainly tell the story well, the story would simply not have the same affect on its audience as it does with a source narration. Listening to “No Greater Love” through the narration of a source helps to paint a vivid picture of the story.

  7. I think “No Greater Love” would’ve been less powerful if it had used video. When I was watching it, I thought it would have been nice to see a clip or two of Classie taking care of Rozzie. However, I think using audio over pictures helped tell more of the story. I saw more pictures of the two and understood more about their relationship than if it had just been video clips and interview clips. I also think the death and the funeral were more powerful through the slideshow style. It would have been more unsettling if viewers had seen videos of those moments. The slideshow allowed you to experience them and be emotionally affected by them without feeling uncomfortable or as though you were invading someone’s personal and private moments. I think the slideshow method also allowed for an organized narrative to be told. It felt more like watching a story or movie than watching a news report and that’s what made it powerful.

  8. Each image is a very powerful still image, with very powerful voice over.

    Although you cannot see the video of Clarice Morant taking care of her sister, Rozzie Laney, you can see how she would have reacted if it were to be a video.

    I think that because the slideshow provided powerful images that coincided with relevant voice overs, the viewer was able to fill in the gap using his or her imagination.

    If anyone has read a book, they will confirm that when it is changed into a movie it takes away from the image they created in their head.

    An image may be worth a thousand words, but if the image makes a person imagine the care in the article you can’t see, that person will relate it to their own experiences of care. Because of that, this story becomes personal.

    The images of Morant weeping in addition to the sound of her grieving put you in the moment.

    I think “No Greater Love” absolutely delivered an “immersive experience” and I think it may have delivered a more powerful one than video could have.

  9. I thought the slideshow “No greater love” was definitely an immersive experience. I enjoyed the narration through images and audio. It felt like I was really there, being a part of Rozzie’s illness and grieving with Clarice after her sister’s death. The first text sets the scene for why there is a picture of two little old ladies. We know she is taking care of her 94-year-old little sister. The viewer hears Clarice say, “She doesn’t have long but she’s all I got.” While that audio plays, the picture on the screen is of Clarice, across from her sister in a hospital bed, with her head down, in fear of losing her sister and worry that she is in pain. The text or the picture alone would not have made the same impact. I also admired the way in which the slideshow told the story chronologically. I felt like a fly on the wall, getting an inside look into this person’s life. The viewer is able to easily identify the struggle and conflict: Rozzie’s illness. Then we hear Clarice crying; Rozzie has died. Then we are walked through her death, the funeral, and family reflection of Rozzie and her life. Clarice is standing over her bed, mourning the loss of her little sister. The timing of the audio of Clarice commenting on how Rozzie looks in her casket works incredibly with the picture of Clarice alone in the room, sitting on a bench while her baby sister “sleeps” in her casket. Including audio from the nurses also made the story more powerful. According to Young, “ people who are living a story will, at times, be better placed than professional journalists to provide immersive experience.” The most powerful picture of the slideshow was near the end. We see a small room with two twin beds. It looks a lot like a children’s bedroom until we see an old lady lying in one. Seeing that image tied the story together for me. It made me realize how close these sisters were, how close they probably always have been. My mind automatically created a mental image of Clarice and Rozzie as little girls playing in their rooms and telling each other goodnight. I can imagine them older, still attached, probably saying goodnight to each other all the same.

  10. I think “No Greater Love” would have been a very powerful story if it had been told through video as opposed to just sound and photographs. It would have been quite moving I think to see the interactions playing out with the two sisters as one takes care of the other. The sounds and photographs are extremely touching as well though, because you can hear all of the emotion in the sister’s voice through the audio, and see all of the pain in her eyes through the photographs. However, I think maybe combining even all three of the aspects (photographs, audio and video) would have been an even more powerful combination. The photographs are beautiful and point out particular moments in the sisters’ relationship, which I think is necessary for the story. But I also think that it would have been unique to see video footage of the relationship between the two sisters. I also just love video stories and short documentaries, so I could just be biased.

  11. Although I thought the still images from “No Greater Love” were very powerful, I would have liked to view this story in video form. The still images are shot from a photographer’s perspective and I would have liked to see these two sisters in action through their movements and changing emotions. However, some images could have been thrown into the story along with the video. For example, when Classie is talking about doing a lot of things together as sisters, an image of the two in their younger years is shown. This would have been a nice break between video clips that could have given the world a glimpse of their past. There were also some parts of the slideshow when Classie was narrating that was difficult to understand. I would have liked to see the emotion on her face and she talked and read her lips to completely understand what she said and how she felt.

  12. The multimedia story “No Greater Love” delivered an immersive experience, because it took the reader, viewer, and listener right into the home of those two loving sisters. The first thing you hear as you read the text that introduces you to the story is the voice of Classie Morant. With the sound of her voice so rich in texture and emotion you are brought into the lives of these two sisters. The photography complements the words you hear and read by showing in pictures what words describe. The photography is incredible. Particularly poignant moments are the photos of the sisters’ hands next to each other on the bed and then their faces next to each other as Classie cradles her sister Rozzie’s head in her hand. The most powerful moment in the piece is the sound of Classie’s cry as she realizes her sister has passed away. She has taken care of her younger sister for 20 years and now she’s gone and as she grieves, you grieve because you are brought into the agony of that moment with the sound of her voice. You cannot help but be touched by this story because you have lived a part of it with these two sisters, because of the way it has been told. I cannot believe a print story with a photograph would be nearly as effective.

  13. When watching “No Greater Love,” I felt as if I had known these people forever, and that I was right there with them as they went through life together. The multimedia storytelling experience completely immersed me in what was going on, and provided me with much more of an experience than I would have had if I simply read the story or saw images. While I feel that certain stories can be impactful if just written, there are also a certain crop that have an emotional force that is better displayed through video and sound. Being able to hear the characters actual voices, while watching them in their element, provides an unforgettable experience for the viewer.

  14. I have always though that video is better at depicting a story in the most complete manner. However, this slideshow “No Greater Love,” changed that. The still images that took us into the lives of these two women were incredibly powerful. They captured the situation and the lives of these two sisters in the most genuine and understated way. My favorite one was the image of the older sister in the kitchen while her sister was in the next room because the photograph showed the partition of the rooms and we saw both of them at the same time in very different positions. This illustrated, in my opinion the literally different stages in life that each one is in at the moment even though they are siblings. Each image, though, was efficient at showing lots with a clear simple image. It was all both subtle and magnificent at the same time. The multimedia piece really fulfilled its purpose because it definitely touched us at an emotional and intellectual level.

  15. I absolutely believe that “No Greater Love” was immersive journalism. Seeing all of the pictures and hearing each person narrate their view of the story made it much more powerful than if a journalist had reported or narrated the story themselves. Even though we didn’t get to hear a lot about the sisters’ life before this story, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much. Instead, I felt like I had been part of the story the whole time, or like Classie and I had known each other forever, and just picked up where we had left off years ago.

  16. Would this story have been more or less powerful if it used voiceover from the journalist, rather than relying entirely on sources for narration?

    I think that “No Greater Love” would have been significantly less powerful if the journalist used his own voice in a voiceover. One of the most powerful moments in the slideshow was the church music at the end along with Classie’s voice saying “she looked SO sweet, SO pretty…” While a journalist can always tell a good story, hearing someone else other than Classie giggle and say “she could DAAAANCE, honey” would be a disservice to this powerful and heart-wrenching story. I think I would have been taken out of the truth and authenticity of the story if I had heard another voice other than her sister tell the story. As soon as the slideshow starts and up until the second it is finished, the words and emotion of Classie tug right on your heart strings. The photos are supported perfectly by the audio and it makes for a truly remarkable piece of storytelling.

  17. Even though I knew I was watching an audio slideshow, for the first 30 seconds of watching “No Greater Love,” I thought I was watching a video. The photos and audio clips were so artfully paired, that it melded together into one.

    It really hit me how immersive the experience was about halfway through the slideshow when Classie cries when Rozzie dies. I felt so tremendously sad, and I didn’t know either of the two sisters.

    Classie’s voice was so rhythmic that it almost sounded like music. I fell into listening carefully without even trying. That’s what’s so impressive about this experience: the burden is not on the reader to dissect the story– the story presents itself completely.

  18. When I first started watching the slideshow, I was immediately captivated by Classie’s voice and it took almost 30 seconds for me to actually recognize that the pictures weren’t moving. Her voice does such a good job of drawing the viewer into the story, and the Washington Post used this to its advantage. With a video story, Classie’s voice would only serve as a backdrop to the moving images of herself and Rozzie inside her home. Because the Washington Post takes out the distraction of moving images, it is able to leverage the most interesting part of the story, which is Classie’s voice. As a viewer, the lack of moving images also allowed me to appreciate the bits of music that were occasionally inserted into the slideshow, which drew me even further into the story.

    In this class, we’ve stressed the idea of presenting the news in the manner that best fits the story you’re trying to tell. This is a perfect example of when an audio slideshow is the best possible way to present the story.

  19. ‘No Greater Love’ does a wonderful job of drawing the audience into the story by using multimedia. I was drawn to the mixture of photos set against the different voices and occasionally music. The women were definitely unique characters and captured my attention. There were times, such as the funeral sequence, when the music and pictures corresponded beautifully and it was a great experience to view the story unfold in that way. However, there were times in the story when people were talking and I was confused as to who they were because they weren’t shown in the photo they were speaking over. This was no doubt a wonderful example of a photo slideshow and using multimedia to tell a story, but maybe a sprinkle of video within the pictures would allow for more people on camera and more movement visually.

  20. First of all, thanks for making me all emotional.(http://37.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lv7m1puGKn1ql3957o2_250.gif)

    I think its very easy to say this story would be more powerful in a full-video format. And that’s exactly what I am doing. I liked it a lot- even though it made me sad. I feel like it did a lot of things well and given the format really brought the listener/viewer into the story. The Audio certainly makes you feel like you are in the room while its happening. Having been around several people who are in the twilight of their years, I felt like I was looking at photographs of them and listening to their story. I actually listened to to it twice (what can I say, I’m a masochist) and the second time I used headphones and it was twice as powerful. So to answer the question in a round about way, I feel like the story was definitely immersive.

  21. Before watching “No Greater Love” I thought that since it was a slideshow rather than a video it might not be as immersive of an experience, but I was proven wrong. The photos chosen for the slideshow were extremely powerful, along with the appropriate audio which made the story come to life. I felt the intense emotions of the sister through the levels of her voice and the look on her face. This would not have been even close to as immersive if it were in the combination of audio and photography creates an extremely powerful experience for the viewer.

  22. I’m glad that “No Greater Love” isn’t told using video. The combination of sound bytes and photos is surprisingly more compelling than I think any video could have been. Each source’s voice is so full of emotion and the photos really depict the compassion these sisters have for each other. I don’t think any taped interview could have captured that as well or efficiently.

    I also appreciate the journalist’s lack of presence in the story. Viewers don’t need to see the work behind the final product. The fact that this four-minute audio slideshow had me sobbing almost immediately is proof that any quotes from a reporter would’ve watered down the raw sadness and beauty of the story.

  23. “No Greater Love” proves that pictures do speak 1,000 words. I think the story would have been way less powerful if it was video and included more of the journalist. For instance, during the moment where Rozzie passed away and the reader/viewer heard the emotion in Classie’s voice. That moment would not have as much of an impact on the audience if the journalist just showed video or a photo and had a voiceover.

    The best, most impactful moments happen when you least expect it and having audio recording was just pure luck. There is no way the audience would have been so emotionally attached and engaged in the story if it had a strong journalist presence.

  24. To be honest, I don’t think the format of an audio slideshow did enough justice for the story, “No Greater Love.” On one hand, the multimedia route was definitely a better choice than a regular text-only story. The photographs were absolutely compelling and the voiceovers instilled a virtual, intimate relationship with the Laney sisters and the course of events through Rozzie’s eventually passing. On the other hand, I feel like there was more raw emotion to could have been captured to even better portray the story. I can respect that getting a camera in the middle of the Laney sisters’ home was already pushing some boundaries so it could have been a stretch to get any on-camera interviews. However, certain voiceovers, especially Classie’s, were a bit difficult to understand, which made me as a listener focus more on what the speaker was saying and less on the beauty of compassion and sorrow in the pictures. It would have been nice to break up some of the photos with a shot of the person speaking to really enhance that intimate feeling carried throughout the story. There were also certain parts where I wondered, who exactly is speaking now? And although it may not have mattered so much, I think it’s nice to be able to match a face with a voice.

  25. Did “No Greater Love” deliver an “immersive experience” and, if so, how?
    I believe “No Greater Love” most definitely delivered an immersive experience. This is the definition of a story being strong enough to write itself. I believe it was the right choice to only use Classie’s voice to tell the story. Hearing her voice captured her personaliuty beter then merely listing her quotes. And the use of the images, allowed the viewer to focus on the words and the story with a visual aid rather then being distracted by an entire film or clips. As a sister myself, I was particularly moved by the devotion of Classie and was devastated when Rozzie died. But personally, the most moving piece in this assignment to me, is Carol Guzy’s “Losing Miss Classie”. I am not ashamed to admit I cried. Though there were no pictures, I was fully immersed in Guzy’s article. There was something raw and vulnerable in her piece that so rarely is seen in journalism.

  26. When I started watching the slideshow I was so interested to see what would happen next. I was drawn in and wanted to keep watching. I think in today’s society to capture an audience you have to use different forms of media and I think this is the perfect combination of media and words to truly complete and tell a story.
    I think the narration makes it even more real and it makes you feel a connection with the people in the story because you can truly hear the voice. I think “No Greater Love” delivered an immersive experience. Like I mentioned before, hearing her voice makes the story so much more personable and real. I think it captured the audience and left them wanting to know and hear even more.

  27. Although the images and story created an emotional experience for viewers, I think “No Greater Love” could have done better as an immersive experience. Using pictures and voice overs, I was moved by the project; however, there was no use of video mixed in to give the fully well-rounded experience to appeal to all senses for a viewer. I would have also liked to have had subtitles, because the interviewee was so difficult to understand that I had to focus on what she was saying and became distracted from the images. Also at times I felt a better job could have been done in matching the images to what was being said. For example, when she is referring to her sister looking beautiful and “like she is sleeping” at her wake, I wanted to see her peaceful face (unless that judgement call was made out of respect, I understand a lifeless body could be insensitive to show blatantly). Ultimately though I enjoyed the slideshow, and I thought it did a good job of capturing the viewer’s attention. I would have liked a little more variety since I was looking out for it, but the story was moving, and I watched the full thing eager to see what happened next.

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