Friday, September 25, 2009

Reporting for The Washington Post

By Hojung Lee (Ellicott City, MD)

A pen, a reporter's notepad and a tape recorder: these used to be all the materials I needed to report these past few years. This past summer, however, I carried around an SLR digital camera and a Marantz PMD660, a professional portable digital recorder.

I was fortunate in being selected for The Washington Post Digital Workshop, a 5-day, intensive course teaching us how to incorporate multimedia in our reporting and show viewers something more than the written word.

When two of my fellow journalists and I pitched a story about how the recession affects schools around the D.C. metropolitan area, we struggled with how we could execute the piece successfully through multimedia. After all, visual effects are the linchpins of multimedia -- but we were unable to show the strong visual side of the story such as the lack of teachers and big classroom sizes because schools were empty over the summer. Time was ticking and we had to prove to our supervisors that we could make this work.

I bombarded principals and communications officers in the D.C. metropolitan area with phone calls and emails. The waiting time for their responses was agonizing but as replies came, some schools informed me that they were going through renovations and construction. This led to a conclusion that even though schools face economic hardships with teachers' salaries being frozen and students' families suffering from housing foreclosures, schools were trying their best to maintain the status quo by prioritizing education and providing a good learning environment.

We then plunged ourselves in interviews, working simultaneously with audio recording and photographs. This was very tricky to do because the photographer had to make sure every second that he or she takes photos, the audio recorder was not playing so that the camera shutter sound wouldn't interfere with the speaker's recorded voice. After hours of interviewing, traveling, and iPhone map navigating, I got back to the newsroom of the Post, exhausted. Now it was time for the hardest, most time-consuming part of the job: editing.

Overall, my group had over 700 photos and about two hours of recording. From this, we could only choose 20 photos and 2 minutes of recordings for about a three-minute-long audio slideshow. In addition,  all of the different audio recordings and photos had to be arranged so that it flowed and connected thematically.

The task was burdensome, especially because we only had a few days to complete the project. On top of a stack of photos and voice recordings, we also had to master Mac software we were unfamiliar with. We had to make sure that every second of the edited voice recording did not abruptly start or end,  that the volume was high enough, that there was natural sound incorporated with the human voice, that sometimes the voice fades in and out and that the timing of photos matched the recordings. Fortunately, with generous help from the Post's multimedia journalist volunteers, we made the deadline and left the Post building, fatigued, eyes bloodshot but ultimately proud of our work.

This experience was not just about handling fancy equipment or meeting renowned and well-recognized Post journalists. Rather, it was an opportunity that opened up a door for me to the world of journalism and the digital era -- journalism is no longer just about pens, notepads, and tape recorders. It is also about adapting to the new age of multimedia.

--Hojung Lee is a senior at Mount Hebron High School and a 2008 alumna of the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program. 

1 comment:

  1. i can see that you're still an amateur journalist.
    Not bad though, just don't forget to stay consistent in keeping your audience somewhat interested and entertained. I was kinda losing focus towards the end.

    have fun.