This document is a supplement to
Editing for Clear Communication
Copyright 1996-1999,
Thom Lieb

No portion may be reused without the author's permission.

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Further Reading:
Adam Powell, "Adam's Multimedia Tutorial," Webmonkey, 27 April 1998

Mike Cuenca, "Where's the Multimedia in Online Journalism?" Journal of Electronic Publishing, September 1998

Jakob Nielsen, "Guidelines for Multimedia on the Web," Alertbox, December 1995.

Peter Wayner, "Computer Simulations: New-Media Tools for Online Journalism," The New York Times,
9 October 1996.

J.D. Lasica, "Net Gain," American Journalism Review, November 1996, pages 20-33.

Brooke Shelby Biggs, "Aren't We Precious?" Packet

Brooke Shelby Biggs, Who's Behind the Curtain?" Synapse

Rosalind C. Truitt, "Online Circle Time," Presstime, October 1998

To learn more about this college editing textbook or to order
an educational review copy, please visit
McGraw Hill.

Editing for the Web

Multimedia/Interactivity: How to
Turn Your Readers On — and Off

No medium has ever before offered the rich variety of tools that the Web does. Even television with its blend of powerful video and audio images and animations cannot offer the interactive features that the Web offers.

In the right hands, those tools can enable Web producers to create more compelling content than they ever could before, helping make each piece of content a journey. In the wrong hands, though, the multimedia tools of the Web spell disaster. The Web edition of the Chicago Tribune does one of the best jobs of using multimedia. But Internet editor Leah Gentry told American Journalism Review:

The first rule I laid out for my staff was, I don't want anything that blinks for the sake of blinking. There are too many bells and whistles around that make no sense. If it's something flashy, it's got to help you tell the story.

In the view of some, multimedia is essential to the future of online publications. Writing in the Journal of Electronic Publishing, Mike Cuenca predicts a convergence of television and the Web within the next five years:

Imagine trying to compete for advertising dollars and Website visitors with a Website that allows visitors to come home and, at their leisure, launch multimedia coverage of news from a menu of stories, each of which would be presented by a Peter Jennings-type anchorperson, complete with full-screen video footage and sound. That's where we're headed: interactive TV.... Reader/viewers will be able to pick and choose what they want to watch or hear — down to the specific news or information item — at the moment they want it.

At that point, who's going to care about "reading" journalism on something like today's old-fashioned World Wide Web? ... To remain competitive in the media market, newspapers and magazines (and even journals) need to begin now to fully explore this new medium.

Some publishers already understand that, and they have produced some notable multimedia pieces:

  • A New York Times HIV Simulator that allows users to test how different behavior patterns affect the spread of the HIV virus.

  • Another Times site, which let readers learn how their taxes would have been affected by Bob Dole's tax plan.

  • An award-winning Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune Online site that provides a slide show of an AIDS patient's death, with her voice narrating the show.

  • Another Star Tribune production about two veteran female canoe guides that offers viewers a choice of text, videos or a narrated slideshow.

The following sections present an introduction to the multimedia tools available, with some guidelines for using them. Just remember: Don't try to dazzle your visitors with technology; dazzle them with brilliant content instead, with appropriate multimedia elements selected to help bring that content alive.

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