MediaStorm creator shares his philosophy, multimedia tips with Cronkite students

Brian Storm, founder of MediaStorm, spoke to students at the Walter Cronkite School on Monday about using multimedia presentations to go beyond news and turn stories into cinematic narratives. (Stephanie Snyder/DD)

Tell a story that matters, and tell it well. People will listen. Better yet, let the characters tell their own story.

Brian Storm, founder and executive producer of the multimedia production studio MediaStorm, is proof that this philosophy works.

“When someone can tell you their own story in their own words, that’s incredibly powerful,” Storm said during the first lecture of the spring 2011 Monday speaker series at the Walter Cronkite School.

The multi-award-winning Storm spoke about how to tell “visual narratives” using multimedia presentations. Multimedia, he said, can include anything from video and pictures to text, graphs and maps.

“Every media type contributes to an overall experience,” Storm said.

Christina Boomer, a multimedia journalist for ABC 15, said this approach has entered into mainstream journalism as well.

“I can’t imagine a lot of stations will go back to a full crew after seeing you can get content from one person,” said Boomer, who reports, films, edits and fronts all her stories.

CJ Cornell, co-director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the Cronkite School, said he considers Storm to be a leader in the digital age.

“There are very few people who are both pioneers and veterans in these uncharted territories — that’s Brian Storm,” said Cornell in an interview. He introduced Storm before the lecture.

During his presentation, Storm showed three visual narratives created by his team on topics ranging from displacement of farmers in Iowa to a profile of a tattooed single mother from Staten Island trying to apply to nursing school while caring for both her daughter and bedridden grandfather. The pieces were designed to showcase the emotional power of a well-told story.

“If you can pull people through a single piece, then you’re getting something done,” Storm said.

The crowd caught a glimpse of Storm’s passion for his craft when he showed a piece on Rwandan women who struggle with raising and loving their children who were conceived through rape during a 1994 genocide.

Storm told a hushed crowd that a story like this must be told, regardless of whether it is deemed newsworthy.

Storm also spoke about how to make multimedia narratives relevant and profitable. For MediaStorm, a major benefit is the use of social media, said Storm, who added that Facebook and Twitter are second and third respectively in driving traffic to MediaStorm’s website, after Google searches.

Also, every piece MediaStorm puts together can be embedded into other websites, Storm said.

“I suspect more people will be watching (our videos) on other people’s websites than on ours in six months,” Storm said.

However, one of the pitfalls of multimedia is presenting an in-depth story on deadline, Boomer said. Storm’s crews spend weeks or months working on their pieces, whereas Boomer and other multimedia journalists usually only have a few days.

But when done well, Storm said, a multimedia presentation can offer depth, insight and emotion into a story like no single medium can on its own.

“Do something that matters,” he said, “and it will catch fire.”

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