– Don’t change the story to fit the medium

- People love videos. Not just cat videos. News videos are on the rise. But multimedia is more than videos. Award-winning journalist and documentary film maker Olivia Crellin has done multimedia work for TIME, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Al Jazeera America, to name a few. Currently she is mainly affiliated with BBC World Servide in London.

Olivia Crellin
Thomas Wold

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- Multimedia is not like TV, where the story needs to be adapted to fit the format. Instead you adapt the format to fit the story you want to tell.

The media can even be a computer game. 

– The Financial Times created a computer game about what it’s like to be an Uber driver.

As a keynote speaker at the annual conference "Fortellingens kraft" (The Power of Storytelling), where practioneers adressed central aspects of visual techologies in journalism practice, she visited Bergen to talk about multimedia story-telling and news reporting for small screens.

Multimedia: One story, many forms, one channel.

Multimedia, cross-media and transmedia are often used indiscriminately, but the three terms can be divided on how they use media form and media channels.

- Multimedia uses many formats and one channel to tell a story. It can be a combination of text, photo, video, audio, graphics and interactivity on a web page presented in a non-linear form, she explains.  

- The information in each medium should be complementary, not redundant, so that the audience can navigate in different directions, and you don’t have to see all the videos to understand the text, and vice versa. 

Cross media: One story, many channels

Cross-media, on the other hand, is characterized by one story presented in many channels.

- For example when the journalist writes a text for the paper, and creates a radio clip and a video of the same material.

Transmedia goes further. It's a whole story world, with many stories, many formats and many channels.

- It's easiest to find examples from fiction, like Star Wars and Marvel. A story is introduced through movies or comics, and then expanded with TV shows, comics, video games and so on, where every medium does what it does best. You do not have to watch the movie in order to be able to play the video game. 

Why invest in multimedia?

Mastering multimedia storytelling demands time and effort. Olivia Crellin lists several reasons why news organization should invest in this.  

- People relate to news in a different way now. News reading on social media and via mobile phones is increasing, especially among young people, and this changes the readability, she says, and adds that there are benefits for the editors and journalists as well. Multimedia stories are easy available online and have a long shelf life. 

- It is immersive to work with multimedia. You learn new skills, and it triggers the creativity. 

She underlines that the story is still the most important part, and that fundamental journalistic skills still forms the foundation for the storytelling.  

Educate yourself

Multimedia can be expensive if a whole team is working on it. But most multimedia-journalists are backpack-journalists, carrying all the equipment they need in a little bag. 

- You can educate yourself online. There are many online resources that can help you with creating timelines, maps, graphics, before-and-after photos and data bases.

For training purposes, she recommends finding excuses to do a multimedia liveblogg. 

- This gives you good training in how to place yourself in the physical situation, what to plan and how to think ahead. 

Choose the right story

Some stories are better suited for multimedia storytelling than other stories. 

- It must be a multidimensional story. Complex concepts that are best illustrated through visuals and audio. Create a storyboard, where you divide the story in parts that are connected logically, not linear. Then it’s easier to see how the story can be divided into different media. 

Some examples of Crellins previously work.

Two very different examples shows some of the variation digital storytelling offers. They are made for different audiences. The millennial piece is packed with quirky graphics and movements, and navigation is tailored for a smart phone audience. The Grenfell piece is more subdued when it comes to sounds and graphics to better fit the story. 

Why Millennials Are Facing The Scariest Financial Future Since The Great Depression – Huffington Post


The 21st Floor: BBC Interviews with the people who live don the 21st floor of Grenfell Tower. BBC.



Some  of Olivia Crellins films:

Child exploitation in Brasil


Bronx brothers documentary 


Drought Talk: Is All Water Use Created Equal?