I know, you’re sitting there thinking that you already know the answer: everything. After all, video is far more interesting than reading. Well thanks for telling me that my education as a journalist was meaningless! But, believe it or not, the combination of text, video and audio can be a powerful tool for storytelling. Since my days at Kansas State University in 2009 – 2011 I was beaten over the head with multimedia storytelling. The journalism program even altered the major to “digital journalism” and created classes on the production and use of multimedia.

Deuze (2004) calls storytelling in multimedia formats one of the biggest challenges facing journalism in the 21st century, because the story becomes a “package” instead of a single media format. As a former professional journalist this assertion was true then, and remains so today. Journalists don’t just gather news and write a story. In today’s news environment they also have to be thinking about how to integrate video, photos, graphics and link to related content. Often times, the text will be scrapped altogether and a short video piece will be produced instead.

Turning to video may not be a bad thing though….

In a 2015 study on children, researchers at Leiden University found characteristics of technology-enhanced stories like animated pictures, music, and sound effects beneficial for story comprehension (Takacs, Swart & Bus, 2015). Not only have these elements driven comprehension, they have shown to boost word learning ((Takacs, Swart & Bus, 2015).

But how long should a video be? Studies have shown that short videos – those under three minutes – perform best online (Siegchrist, n.d.). While many argue the shorter the video the better the number of hits, it’s hard to argue that point because of all the variables. If the topic is truly interesting to the viewer, one would think they’d watch well over three minutes of video footage. Now, if it’s just an ice bucket challenge video – perhaps less than a minute is ideal.

While not all videos can be as comical as this one, often times video use can lend a literal voice to someone in the story. In one of my msnbc.com stories, Democrats, Republicans put stock in new generation of combat vets seeking public office, I used a variety of photos, videos and an interview from our sister cable station MSNBC to add to the story. In other political stories we used a lot of graphics to illustrate voter turnout, where the candidates stood during the election and many other elements that would have been too verbose to explain in text. During and after the writing process we have to be aware of what video exists, what graphics we can create and there is much to review before selecting the final pieces for a story. The same is true for photos. Gone are the days when a journalist cranks out a story and hands it off to an editor to fill in the blanks.


Deuze, M. (2004). What is Multimedia Journalism 1?. Journalism Studies, 5(2), 139-152. doi:10.1080/1461670042000211131

Siegchrist, G. (n.d.). What’s the Best Video Length for the Web?. About Tech, Retrieved from http://desktopvideo.about.com/od/videoonyourwebsite/f/video-length.htm

Takacs, Z., Swart, E. & Bus, A. (2015, January 27). Benefits and Pitfalls of Multimedia and Interactive Features in Technology-Enhanced Storybooks. REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, doi: 10.3102/0034654314566989