Next Letterman lecturer urges 'it's time to take journalism back'

Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Speakers, Emerging Media

March 18, 2009

The collapse of once prized newspapers in cities and smaller towns across the country as a result of the current economic recession means growing numbers of people in the news industry, like those in many other hard-hit industries, are having to find or develop alternative ways to employ their skills.

MediaStorm, a multimedia journalism Web site founded by upcoming campus speaker Brian Storm, is an Emmy Award-winning model of where more reporters, producers and photojournalists could be practicing their trade in the future.

Storm, the former director of multimedia at MSNBC.com, is the next guest in Ball State University's David Letterman Distinguished Professional Lecture and Workshop Series. He'll talk about "Multimedia Storytelling in the Age of Emerging Media" on Wednesday, March 25, starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Art and Journalism Building, room 175. The event is free and open to the public.

Based in New York since 2005, when the wave of readers heading to the Web really started to swell, MediaStorm [http://mediastorm.org] teams journalists, photographers, editors and designers, educators and IT professionals in creating multimedia and interactive content for clients including National Geographic magazine and MSNBC as well as the Council on Foreign Relations  (CFR) and Doctors Without Borders.

Storm, who created The Week in Pictures and Picture Stories features at MSNBC.com, describes the collaboration's work as "documentary photojournalism meets National Public Radio" and "completely different from television." He says he and his colleagues pursue stories that will stand the test of time because people passionate about their subjects will find and promote them. The popular and global success of the company, which does no marketing, appears to support his conviction that there still is an audience for inspired journalism and quality storytelling.

"About 70 countries hit our Web site," Storm reported to Online Journalism Review in a recent interview. "How do they find us? It's all word of mouth. It's all viral conversation."

MediaStorm projects also have appeared on NPR, the Web magazine Slate and PBS. Its production of "Crisis Guide: Darfur" for the CFR earned the 2008 Emmy Award for New Approaches to News and Documentary Programming.

"I hope this is just one kind of company that is going to say that it's time to take journalism back," says Storm, who received his master's degree in photojournalism from the University of Missouri and now serves on the board of the Brooks Institute Journalism School in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The emergence of citizen journalism is incredibly exciting, he says, "because we need to engage the audience … getting them to tell their own stories."

"We as professional journalists have to contemplate what that means. Breaking news is really not for us anymore because there are going to be tons of people on the scene. We need to be the people who come in with our rich journalism skills and do the definitive story … the story of record, if you will."

The David Letterman Distinguished Professional Lecture and Workshop Series is made possible by a generous gift from the university's most prominent alumnus, CBS "Late Show" host David Letterman. It is a key component of Ball State's $17.7 million Emerging Media Initiative seeking to fund additional research in emerging media, help faculty and students launch new businesses, and help Indiana companies improve their emerging media capabilities.

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