Raising Barriers

In 2016, The Washington Post created a multimedia series titled “Raising Barriers”, comprising three online news stories which examined the increasing resistance to migrants and refugees around the world.

View this multimedia series here:


After analyzing the above-given multimedia series:

A) Critique how the various multimedia features (e.g. videos, photographs, text, etc.) work together to tell a compelling story about the increased resistance to migrants and refugees.

B) Discuss how you think the reporters would have obtained the information and footage relevant to this story. Do also discuss the ethical issues which may arise from gathering such multimedia footage and how they should be addressed.

C) Formulate the best practices for constructing engaging multimedia news stories based on what you felt was effective from these three stories.

Important Note: Do refer to specific examples/references from “Raising Barriers” to elaborate upon your points more specifically. Research on this global migration issue is also encouraged so that you will better understand the context of these stories.

Telling a story through image or sound

Still Photography

In general, it would be good to get into the habit of taking photographs regularly and not just during mealtimes (you don’t necessarily have to post them on social media platforms either). Not only does this train your eye in terms of getting interesting visual footage, but it also helps you to become more observant about the world around you.

The simple approach of taking good news photographs

1) Go for natural lighting: Photographs turn out the best when just available light is used. If the flashlight comes on automatically, move your subject to somewhere brighter. Do take note if you have a bright sun behind your subjects, they will turn out as a dark silhouette. If you want their face to be seen clearly, ensure that the light is facing them and not behind them.

2) Go for natural action photographs: Getting your subject to stiffly pose for photographs might not come across as authentic. Try to photograph people while they are doing something so the picture looks more natural.

3) For each image, you want to capture, shoot vertical (portrait) and horizontal (Landscape) versions of each image: To be on the safe side, it’s good to take multiple images of a particular subject in both vertical and horizontal formats to give you some leeway on how you may want to use them for your story.

4) Rule of the Thirds: This is a general guideline many photographers use as an off-center composition is supposed to look more visually appealing. Do take note most smartphone cameras provide this grid function to help the user frame photos according to this rule. It is best applied to wide landscape shots. It does not necessarily have to be applied to every photograph.

5) Beware of backgrounds: Avoid having something odd behind your subject as this can be distracting.

Editing photos for news stories

In general, photographs for news should be minimally touched-up. Cropping and adjusting brightness and contrast for greater clarity is generally permissible in most newsrooms. Other than that, your images should be as close to reality as possible in line with how journalism attempts to be objective and truthful.


Well-written captions are important in getting readers hooked to a story. Since readers often look at the image first when reading a story, what you say about those pictures leaves a deep impression. Captions have the potential to transform even a rather dull image to something fascinating if the content speaks to the readers’ emotions. It is a key tool to help the photographs tell a story. At the very least, it provides context/factual information in terms of how the photographs connect to the story.

Making the most out of audio

In general, it’s good to record interviews to ensure accuracy when you want to quote your subject in a piece of news. At the same time, recording interviews to be broadcast adds depth to a standalone print news story. Audio clips can also be used as part of a video or a stills slide show. Having good audio helps make a multimedia story more dramatic and authentic.

The simple approach of recording good audio

1) Record somewhere quiet: Many sounds that may not bother you in real life (e.g. pages turning, ticking clock, whirring fan, etc.) can be distracting when recording for broadcast. If you are recording interviews, do ensure all these potential distractions have been removed. If you are recording from your smartphone, do remember to divert your phone call as the recording will be disrupted if a call comes in in the middle of an interview.

2) The importance of natural sound: Natural sounds effects add to the atmosphere of a story. If you think this would enhance your story, it might be good to record an interviewee in his or her natural settings (e.g. interviewing a kindergarten teacher with the ambient noise of children singing in the background). You might also want to record audio tracks of just natural sound which you can overlay with your videos or photographs to give readers a stronger sense of place.

3) How to conduct your interview: Try to ask more open-ended questions to avoid getting one-word yes or no answers. For easy comprehension, ask about only ONE thing per question to encourage focused answers. Start with the easier questions first to “warm-up”.

4) Edit for succinctness: Often, you may end up only using 1-2 minutes from a 30-minute interview recording. It’s best to record “extra” and then edit out the unnecessary bits while you are putting your story together.

Tip: do transcribe your audio interviews –from there it is much easier to pick out what sound bites should be in the news report. Choose quotes that are interesting, memorable or add depth or emotion to the story.

Telling a story through videos

On a news website, online videos vary from live-streaming an important event such as the General Elections, short excerpts of politicians’ speeches to a fleshed-out “mini-documentary” that uses a variety of media to highlight a particular public affairs issue.


For video, it’s hard to just “wing it” (unless you have an unlimited supply of budget and time). Because of the technical considerations, it is essential to do some strategic planning before producing your multimedia news video in an efficient and clear-cut manner. But before we get to these technical considerations, it’s important that you have already done the necessary research, decided on the story angle and found suitable interview subjects for your report