Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MediaStorm: Reinventing Photojounalism

By Reshma Kirpalani

As a former multimedia employee at MSNBC.com and Corbis, Brian Storm formed his own multimedia production company in 2005 to prove that a business could be built around online cinematic narratives: Mediastorm.

Over the past five years, his company has produced twenty-seven online documentaries. Storm won't disclose his online traffic, but he says that a twenty-one minute video story following an illegal immigrant from Cameroon, for example, has a 65 percent completion rate. Moreover, according to Storm, the average time on his site was eleven and a half minutes before a current redesign that seeks to increase viewer time on site. (Drew 2010, September/October)

Kingsley's Crossing is the story of one man's dream to leave the poverty of life in Africa for the promised land of Europe. We walk in his shoes, as photojournalist Olivier Jobard accompanies Kingsley on his uncertain and perilous journey. See the project at http://mediastorm.com/publication/kingsleys-crossing

In a 2010 interview with Nieman Reports, Storm points out the inherent limitations of photojournalism – limitations that he is trying to push an in-depth style of reporting. As an example of this limitation of photojournalism, he refers to the image of The Marlboro Marine, from one of his multimedia stories with the same title by Los Angeles Times photojournalist, Luis Sinco. The iconic image is an environmental portrait of Marine Lance Corporal James Blake Miller. His face is smeared by war and a cigarette hangs from his lips. Conventional press response to this photo was that of a “macho bad-ass American Marines in Iraq.” (Nieman Reports 2010)

Storm responds “…this image underscored one of the great limitations that a single photograph has. It’s that we each bring our own perspective, our backgrounds, and our own prisms to a photograph because still images inherently lack the context – the rest of the story…I feel photography needs to have context around it to be the powerful storytelling mechanism that we’re trying to create here at MediaStorm in a multimedia format.” (Nieman Reports 2010)

In the case of the portrait, Miller was displayed as a war-weary hero, while in reality, he suffered from debilitating post-traumatic stress syndrome, which the 16-minute documentary explores. Storm argues that such multimedia packages tell a more complete story than the single image or series of images. Therefore, Storm pushes current photojournalists to explore this new format, which he says requires more time spent with the source of a story. “The best thing for photojournalists to do is to slow down, become a little more engaged, and spend a little more time on their projects in a much more intimate way,” Storm says. (Nieman Reports 2010)

1. Drew, Jill. “See It Now! Video journalism is dying. Long live video journalism.” 2010. Columbia Journalism Review. September/October: 38 – 43.

2. Nieman Reports. 2010. “A Different Approach to Storytelling.” Accessed September 30. http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reportsitem.aspx?id=102095.

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