Made for the Medium: Photojournalism at
by Brian Storm

Redmond, Wash. – I can understand how many working in photojournalism have negative feelings about the state of our profession. Assignments are rare, pay abysmal, and contracts are far reaching.

As a result, some of the best people in our profession don't stay long because they can't make a living. Young, energetic and naïve photojournalists spend the first few years of their careers learning the craft, honing their skills for the privilege of beating their heads against what seems to be an immovable legacy of disrespect. On top of the challenges facing photojournalists, are the overall financial woes of journalism leading to an industry-wide talent drain.

It's a vicious cycle that we MUST find a way to break.

I have a hard time remaining silent at a time when our profession seems to be sliding off the edge. The decline is particularly frustrating when a revolution in both storytelling and mass distribution in new media are gaining momentum.

Although the economics of new media haven't caught up with its storytelling capabilities yet, the coming of a transaction based Web will assign cold cash against quality images.

The race to have the best content will be aggressive as those with the best pictures will make the most transactions. Publications need to have the integrity to share the fiscal prosperity which will allow photojournalists to stop worrying about money and go back to making great pictures.

It's clear to me that the still image can survive in this whiz-bang medium, but photojournalists have to work to extend their storytelling capabilities.

For those willing to learn new storytelling tools, a viable and exciting career in photojournalism is waiting.

Made for the Medium Storytelling
At we live in a unique world where TV, radio, print and Web techniques work in tandem, often creating more depth than an individual medium could alone.

The multimedia team aspires to make our users more than just readers - we want them to be viewers, listeners, and participants. Quality photojournalism is the bedrock on which we build those experiences, but we need to grow beyond the single image to fully realize the possibilities of the Internet.

On some levels, and other news sites have already moved past newspaper and broadcast-style publishing. We tap sophisticated radio conventions and will soon move into a high-end video world. Technological advances on the Web will offer the best of all these media with full-frame video, rich surround sound and huge photographs.

Our focus at is now on playing to the strengths unique to our medium by adding value to still images with in-depth captions and tightly edited audio/video components. Our goal is to use new technology so effectively that it fades into the background as the story is the reader focus.

That said, we don't need to reinvent the basic rules of great picture, audio or video editing. We can -- and should -- leverage the core ideas from traditional media.

National Public Radio Meets Documentary Photojournalism
I often refer to audio that complements a photograph as a "caption on steroids."

Gathering ambient sound and recording a subject's interpretation of a story are the perfect complements to a documentary photograph. NPR reports often paint a vivid picture of characters and their surroundings, putting the listener on the scene and providing evocative context in a style complementary to slice-of-life photojournalism.

How many times has a subject told you a story or provided a detail about his or her life that you remembered in the picture-editing process? Wouldn't it be powerful if you could share that experience with your readers as well?

Investing in a mini disc recorder and microphone is probably the most important thing a photojournalist can do to get into the new media game. Instead of photojournalists TAKING a picture, we can GIVE our subjects a voice.

In late 1996 Laura Kleinhenz and Michael Lutzky teamed up to document Australian John Graham's battle with illness and his desire to end his life. Kleinhenz covered the story in stills and Lutzky in video.

The audio track in this project, particularly slide 4, is a great example of how sound can take a picture story to a new level.

Another example worth hearing is Amanda Otter in Allan Detrich's Children of the Underground package.

Unfortunately, few photojournalists are thinking about gathering audio in the field. Ideally sound comes from the actual event, but phone even interviews can be effective. Listen to 9-year-old Collier Wimmer explain in slide 6 how she decided to help in the World Trade Center relief effort.

"Burns-style video"
Video allows the media team to blend the best of several genres - the power of a still image with the video-like movement to guide the eye through compositional power points with the narrative actualities of audio to reinforce the message and tone of the package.

It's a formula brought into the mainstream by Ken Burns with his epic productions "Civil War," "Baseball" and "Jazz." In homage to Burns, we call this production style "Burns video" around the media cube at

One of our finer examples, produced by Robert Hood, is in our Casualties of War special project.

Going cinematic
As the next generation of storytelling on the Web evolves, the reclining "couch potato" experience of passively watching TV will collide with the interactive forward tug of computer usage resulting in user driven cinematic presentations.

Single images in a slide show format with related audio don't provide the cohesive, linear experience that video can provide, but current video quality and image size on the Web don't yet compete with broadcast.

Sequencing images in Flash provides a larger image size as well as audio synch in a streaming format. We are working aggressively at to provide a 3-D, layered experience in our storytelling. For example, click the play button on slide 2 of "The Week in Pictures" at this link.

The goal is to empower readers to spend as much time as they want with an image while providing our auto-play "director's cut" version of a story.

The hash marks on the blue control bar allow users to scrub back to any image they might want to review.

More examples of special projects that use the Flash sequencing technique to enhance storytelling include the 2001 Year in Pictures, the Sept. 11th attacks and aftermath section, Hope at Heartbreak Motel by Kari Rene Hall and Aging in America by Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur.

The Week in Pictures
TWIP, as it's known in our newsroom, has become a compelling vehicle to showcase images from photojournalists worldwide. The goal is to publish pictures that affect our readers, make them feel the emotions behind the news, and help them better understand our world.

TWIP couldn't be produced as well in any other medium. TV can't provide the archive of past weeks or the ability to vote and see real time results. Print can't provide the related audio, video or sequencing capabilities.

TWIP is the canvas we use to push our new ideas. Layers of new storytelling concepts make their debut in TWIP and it's the portal for the best of our visual storytelling.

Original Reporting
You can't just put a TV station and a newspaper together to create a great new media product. Sure, you'll have words and pictures from the newspaper as well as moving pictures and sound from TV, but that's not new media -- that's old media wrapped economically in a new format.

Sites that can gather information with a focus on new media's strengths will have an advantage over those that simply repackage existing content. multimedia producer Jim Seida and freelance photojournalist John Brecher covered 65 straight days of the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay. They explored the technical and aesthetic edges of made-for-the-medium photojournalism by integrating audio narratives with flash sequences and 360 experiences.

Some great examples of gathering for the medium:
Day 6: New Orleans, LA., slide 4
Day 21: New York, NY, slide 4
Day 24: Lake Placid, NY, slide 4
Day 43: Monterey, CA, slides 3 and 4
Day 44: San Francisco, CA, slide 4
Day 48: Eugene, OR, slide 1
Day 50: Juneau, AK, slides 1 and 4


Video on the web
In the early days of the Web tiny 160 X 120 pixel video clips lost their novelty after the first 10-minute download rewarded you with a 25 second choppy, abusively compressed clip.

The ability to stream has created an opportunity to serve video to a mass audience. In the month of September 2001, there were over 70 million requests for video on

At, we integrate video on our top stories and aggregate the best of the "Nightly News with Tom Brokaw," the "Today" show, MSNBC TV and CNBC on our Video News page. We also offer numerous live streaming events on our Live Video page.

Video on the Web benefits from time shifting (watch Nightly News anytime you want) and the ability to pull up keyword search returns on demand. Related content to the right of video in the MSNBC media player is a new media sweet spot. This area allows us to add value to video with real-time voting and related links to learn more about a story.

Original reporting with video
One of our goals with original video reporting is to spill the video experience onto the Web page. We are in the early stages of Synching interactive applications with video but we believe in the concept of allowing the reader to drill down through interactive layers of a story.

For example, click the high bandwidth link in the lead graphic Then click on the "enlarge interactive" link to swap between a video and interactive experience.


Should you be shooting video?
You are a still photojournalist at heart and want to be a player in new media. Should you put down the still camera and learn how to shoot video?

My answer, in most cases, is no.

Shooting and producing a successful video package takes years to perfect. Succeeding with a 10 to 15-second audio clip is a cakewalk in comparison. Learning how to produce audio successfully is a stepping stone to video. If you build the skills of interviewing and script writing required to tell a strong audio story you are in training to produce video.

If you really want to learn and get inspired about video go see the video presentations at the NPPA Video Workshop in Norman, Okla. It's boot camp for video storytelling that features John Hyjek, Mark Anderson, Doug Legore, John Goheen, Bob Dotson and Jonathan Malet. These top-tier video thinkers will rock your world as visual storytellers. Their use of natural sound is the backbone to some of the best visual storytelling you will see this year. You can catch similar presentations at the NPPA national conference in late June.

The ultimate goal at is to publish Norman-caliber video mixed with equally strong documentary photography and NPR's "This American Life"-style narratives. If we can integrate the very best of these storytelling formats, we can produce an experience that will put journalism at the forefront of new media.

The Golden Era of Photojournalism in New Media?
Until video becomes broadcast quality, the still image is enjoying paramount power. Bandwidth limitations have essentially given the still image - at a measly 15-20k download - a window of opportunity to be King Media of the Web.

I worry that those passionate about the still image haven't taken full advantage of this opportunity to establish visual philosophies in new media.

In the mid-90s, few Web publications employed picture editors. Many publications didn't have someone to champion their visual philosophy and standards for image size, licensing fees and ethical decisions were left unattended. With few exceptions, postage stamp-size images, sloppy crops and generally poor edits resulted in a lackluster presentation of images and a visually unsophisticated Web.

There are so many amazing editors and photojournalists working in print today. If a small percentage of that talent pool could slide over to assist with precedent-setting issues in new media, photojournalism's future would get brighter.

One of the important turning points for photojournalism on the Web was when Tom Kennedy left National Geographic and took over the visual direction of The Washington Post's Web site.

Kennedy brought enormous credibility and experience with him and photojournalism finally had a big-name player in new media. Kennedy made his mark quickly by creating the lush Camera Works section featured on and has been a pioneer in the early evolution of the Web.

The Web moved quickly through the first few years with some distinctive eras. The dot-com frenzy is over, and so is the dot-com bomb. Continued change is guaranteed.

Traditional media has had years to develop systems, conventions and editorial philosophies. New media's landscape is still a wild frontier. Technical advances will continue at a rapid pace and the allure of hypermedia to the next generation of newsreaders points to the increasing importance of new media publications.

Mind share is one of the most important commodities now in journalism. We are all fighting for the limited attention span of a mass audience. Over time, the use of new technologies will become commonplace and those who tell stories best will attract the most readers.

Brian Storm
Director of Multimedia,

Click to read more about Storm's early experiences
that lead him to

Related Links:
The Week in Pictures:
Picture Stories:
Special Reports:
Video News:
Live Video:

Sites to keep your eyes on:
Focal Point F8:
A photo a day:
Editorial Photographers:

Washington Post's Camera Works:
The New York Times:
Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
The Herald Sun:


Recommended Reading:
The Master, Ira Glass from NPR's This American Life:
Choosing and structuring a story:
Writing for radio (applies to video as well):
Editing tips:

Brian Storm is a passionate leader in the fields of photojournalism and new media. Storm has focused on the craft of visual storytelling as a photojournalist, an innovative picture editor, a technological pioneer and a champion of emerging and fair business practices.

From August 2002 through November 2004 Storm was Vice President of News, Multimedia & Assignment Services for Corbis, a digital media agency owned by Bill Gates. Based in New York, Storm was responsible for Corbis' global strategy for the production of news, sports and entertainment photography as well as the packaging and distribution of Corbis' industry leading historical collection. Storm led Corbis' efforts in the representation of world class photographers for assignment work ( with a focus on creating in-depth multimedia products. Storm directed the operation of Corbis' production tools and web site for current event and feature packages at

From June 1995 through August 2002 Storm was Director of Multimedia at, a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC News based in Redmond, WA where he was responsible for the audio, photography and video elements of the site. Storm created The Week in Pictures and Picture Stories to showcase visual journalism in new media.

Storm received his master's degree in photojournalism in 1995 from the University of Missouri where he ran the School of Journalism's New Media Lab, taught Electronic Photojournalism and produced CD-ROMs for the Pictures of the Year competition and the Missouri Photo Workshop.

Storm has presented ideas about the impact of new technology on journalism at dozens of universities and conferences around the world including the NPPA's Flying Short Course, The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, Poynter Institute's Visual Edge, The International Center of Photography, The Eddie Adams Workshop, Visa pour l'Image and The Stan Kalish Picture Editing Workshop. Storm is the chairperson of the NPPA's Telecommunications committee and also serves on the Business Practices committee.

Brian Storm can be reached at

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