Once, I almost quit the Texan.
I arrived at the 2010 Republican election night watch party at an exotic game ranch in South Austin as a pack mule, lugging a DV camera, tripod and reporter’s notebook. And before I could set the white balance on my camera, a fellow Texan reporter approached me with a wall of instructional notes: he wanted me to join the other television broadcasters on the bleachers to shoot what would become Rick Perry’s acceptance speech.
I felt like a total lackey, an Igor to this reporter’s whims.
For the longest time, I sat through classes and listened to guest speakers speak of multimedia storytelling as something supplemental to the text. Video is nothing new, but it was relegated to mirroring the print portion. Multimedia courses used traditional formats, such as broadcast, threw it online and called it a day. Things have changed since I first picked up a video camera six years ago, but I can’t help but feel that J-schools still reside in a perpetual state of transition. I’d rather not hear another journalism professor say we’re in a “transitional period.” We’re past that.
I started this semester vowing to be a rabble-rouser for multimedia. Hiding out in our insular studio last semester, the team felt like the Island of Misfit Toys. Anyone that walked into the studio was there to refrigerate their Four Lokos or wash out their coffee cups. More than half of our staff did not return because they felt like afterthoughts.
This semester, the multimedia team was not only visible, they regularly appeared at each department’s door. We were consistent in our online output despite less-than-shining equipment. We proved that DV tape quality could still work wonders, and with dailytexanonline.com’s facelift, the multimedia team’s role in the newsroom is even more crucial.
As we barreled toward the end of the semester, I received texts, emails, messages and carrier pigeons that told me everything our multimedia team was not. Reporters came to me with their conceptions of what multimedia ought to be, and multimedia editors from past semesters emerged as specters with advice. I may have weathered a series of implosions and explosions reacting to this deluge of criticism, but one day, Rafael, my associate editor, reminded me this was a blessing in disguise: no one came to us like that before.
So, to everyone who ever had anything to say about multimedia, good or bad: keep it comin’. We shall grow larger with every critique.
I just hope that multimedia’s increased profile this semester reminds the newsroom that video, soundslides and audio projects are all complementary storytelling techniques, autonomous entities that ought to rub shoulders with the text.
Working at the Texan was a chore, albeit a worthwhile one. What the Texan does, it does well, but that’s the exact definition of resting on your laurels. Staffers may not have always loved my presence, but the time to shake things up should have happened years ago. We’re done playing catch-up.
Joshua Barajas is a journalism senior and multimedia editor for the Texan. He joined in Fall 2010 as a videographer.