The day is long gone when journalists told a story with a lot of words, a few pictures and perhaps a graphic. The Web makes every newsroom a converged newsroom, regardless of whether the paper owns a TV or radio station. At a Viscom workshop at the Toronto AEJMC convention, panel members described a long list of skills that students should have when they entered the workforce. Finally, I raised my hand and said: "I have 10 weeks to reteach my students grammar, introduce them to headlines, cutlines and page design and make sure they understand how to make fair and informed news judgments. I can't do that and everything you're suggesting. Prioritize: What's the No. 1 skill that I should take away from this workshop and instill in my students?"
The answer: Make sure your students can see how many ways a story can be told. Train them to consider video and audio options, the interactivity of the Web and the many ways that content can be broken out of a story into sidebars, charts, graphics, infoblurbs - the list goes on. You don't have to train students to use a camera or Flash, but make sure they can think of ways such equipment and software can tell a story. To that end, here's an exercise suggested by Mike Williams, Ohio University, at that session:
Divide your class into groups of five or six. Assign one person as the "expert" who picks a topic and then tells the group about it. The whole group then has to come up multiple ways of telling aspects of that story: interactive Web presentation, videotape excerpts, breakouts, graphics, etc.
In a dry run of Mike's exercise in Toronto, I was the "expert" on scuba diving. I told the rest of the group why I took it up, what I had to learn, the risks and benefits inherent in the sport, some "best" and "worst" moments, etc. The group then came up with 10 ideas on how to tell that story beyond the traditional word/picture package.