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Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks

This week, I’m taking a crash course in multimedia at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.  The program is a fellowship sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which supports week-long boot-camps designed to help traditional journalists adapt to the evolving world of digital media. If you have some time this week, you can join me by checking out the agenda or streaming webcasts of some sessions here

The workshop kicked off Sunday with an introduction by Lanita Pace Hinton, the director of the Knight Digital Media Center.  “A year ago, all of the participants were employed at institutions, now over half of you are independent, entrepreneurs, or working exclusively online,” she told us. In this “16-week course distilled into six days,” we will learn the basics of creating content that is “persistent, discoverable, embeddable, shareable and updateable.”  That’s what is required to survive in the online world.

The first presenters were a pair from The Spokesman-Review, a daily newspaper in Washington state. Once upon a time, Colin Mulvany was “just” a photojournalist, and Kevin Graman was a traditional reporter, but now the two are a powerhouse team of multimedia journalists who have made the transition to incorporating sound and video into their work. 

Mulvany says he had an epiphany in his mid-forties, a multimedia wake-up call to take ownership of his future. “I have half a career left, what am I going to do with it? Stop bitchin’ and just train yourself. Don’t wait for someone to train you.”  Very good advice, indeed.

Graman proved to be an excellent partner, with deep radio pipes and a talent for the lean and economical writing online multimedia requires. Mulvany and Graman shared the back-story of several projects the two collaborated on, including a powerful piece about Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans struggling with PTSD, the effort to save the Nez Perce language, and a gathering of people who believe in fairies. Check these wonderful stories out:

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

Nez Perce: A People in Exile

In the Realm of Fairies

We also heard from Paul Grabowicz, the very salty and dynamic associate dean and director of the New Media program at the Berkeley j-school. He’s a veteran print guy and new media pioneer who designed this week’s curriculum and an online tutorial on The Transition to Digital Journalism. Grabowicz was also a Knight News Challenge winner. 

Grabowicz will help us better understand which media work best for telling different parts of a story and engaging the readers; in other words, when do you use video, when do you use audio slide shows, when do you use text, maps, etc?

It’s going to be a long and challenging week, but an exciting one, too. I hope to continue to post updates here.