Coverage of Libya at the Times

The New York Times has a good example of thorough, multi-part, multi-format coverage in its reporting on Libya. In other words, they have many of the elements of multimedia journalism that Prof. Rice brought up in our first lecture – and a few that he didn’t spend as much time on.

Several photo galleries and slideshows portray the battle for Libya. These are really powerful images from photojournalists working for wire services and the New York Times.

The Times has posted several TV style video reports as part of their TimesCast online-video push. This one is of Libyans destroying symbols of the regime.

And my favorite part of their multimedia package: infographics for the win! Prof. Rice didn’t really talk very much about infographics, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be doing any for the J2150 class as far as I can tell. To me, this seems unfortunate because infographics are a really powerful way to convey information to readers in an interesting, visually appealing way. Multimedia is all about finding the best way to tell a story, and some stories just make more sense when laid out with both text and visuals as opposed to one or the other.

For example, we have this excellent combination of visual elements (maps and symbols) and text explaining how the Libyan rebels took Tripoli in “A Final Surge.” This graphic tells the reader how the movement of the rebels toward Tripoli progressed, There’s another, less involved but still useful infographic of Gadhafi’s family tree.

The Times has also utilized social media – but not as well as you might expect. Their main reporter on the ground in Libya, David D. Kirkpatrick, doesn’t have a Twitter… which is unfortunate. He has filed and contributed several stories though. What the Times has done is created a list in Twitter of tweets about Libya from trusted sources. That can be found here. The issue with the list format is that it’s following “people” who aren’t tweeting solely about Libya. @Reuters just tweeted about the GOP nomination race, and it showed up on the Libya list curated by the Times.

The best place on the Times website for live, up-to-date information on Libya from multiple sources in multiple formats is their blog The Lede. It’s title is a charming play on the newspaper style spelling of the first graf of a hard news story. The lede is meant to give you the most important information right off – and hopefully make you want to read the rest of the story. The Lede has been frequently updated throughout the course of the Arab Spring. It’s not solely dedicated to those events, but rather the Times pulls it out whenever there’s a high interest event that people want continuous coverage of. This blog has it all: embedded photos and video, links to other news sources, embedded tweets from people on the ground. The embedded tweets were particularly dramatic when Gadhafi loyalists held journalists in the Rixos hotel in Tripoli by Gadhafi loyalists.

I didn’t find any examples of audio-only or audio-slideshow pieces on Libya created by the Times. Doesn’t really surprise me. I don’t know why but audio-only works seem to fall by the wayside. Prof. Rice did say that the audio is more important than the visual in videos, but I don’t really think that’s true. Think of all the citizen-journalist videos – they have awful video quality and awful audio quality (most of the time) but the content of the video, the events they portray, are compelling. Several examples of such video have come out of Libya, Tunisia, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Maybe I’ll be convinced by this course about the relative power of audio to video. I like NPR pieces! I just get the feeling that when you’re on the Internet and you’re given the choice, you’d take just video over just audio. It probably depends on the event, though.

Of course, the Times can basically do whatever it wants. Maybe they’re just leaving the audio stuff to NPR…


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