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Multimedia journalism: Where to get started

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I’m not exactly up to my ears in multimedia journalism awards, but I know what I’m doing and I get stuff done. Wasn’t like that a couple years ago, though, and the biggest roadblock to the digital world always seemed to be, “Where do I start?” I just picked a point and went ahead, stumbling and crashing through the forest (not always in the right direction) and in hindsight, I think that’s the best way. Still, I’ve seen enough baffled looks on the faces of journalism students (or professional journalists) to know that a little guidance here and there is appreciated. So if you’re starting at zero and looking to get into multimedia journalism, here’s what I suggest:

  • Start blogging. A lot of people will tell you to pick a niche subject you’re interested in and study it for two-to-three months before starting up a blog. That’s probably real good advice if you’re looking to make money, but if you’re just trying to learn, the best way is by doing. Blogging will get you used to the immediacy of multimedia journalism and also teach you a lot by accident (how to embed videos, the value of linking out, etc.). I’d obviously recommend WordPress as a platform; Blogger is the other “big one.”
  • Find a place you like where journalists congregate and be there. My springboard to multimedia was Wired Journalists. Even before I was “sold” on the idea of multimedia journalism (I was raised a print journalist in college), I was on this site, dropping comments and flipping through blog posts. The other big advantage was that I started blogging there and since I was blogging on a social network, I instantly had an audience of about a thousand (whom were all journalists).
  • Check out w3schools.com. This is the best place to learn code, in my opinion—each tutorial (and they’re all free) has a practice page, where you can punch in your code on one side of the page and see what comes out on the other, just to make sure you get things right. Start with basic HTML and you’ll be experimenting on your own within a week.

While you’re out there, keep a few things in mind:

  • You have to interact. You can’t expect to start up a blog and just have a flood of people come read it. Comment on other people’s blogs, leaving the address to yours when you do. Keep an eye on who’s linking to you (most free blog platforms offer basic metrics like this). Be social.
  • Expect public criticism. You’re learning out in the open—you’re going to get all kinds of critiques. Some people will be nice about it and offer friendly suggestions; other people will call you an idiot and point out all your stupid mistakes. Guess what? That’s exactly what journalism is.
  • Don’t say anything that isn’t true, anything you don’t mean or anything you can’t back up. A blog is not a toy. Again, you’re doing this in full public view, so don’t say anything you wouldn’t shout at the top of your  lungs on a street corner or say during your dream job interview.

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