Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Multimedia Reporter Enlightens Multimedia Reporting Students

Standing before the class, cameras hanging from his neck, pockets full of smart phones and a police/fire scanner, Andrew Knapp looked and talked the part of the 21st century multimedia reporter. It wasn't hard for him to do since that's exactly what he is.

They're called different things: sojos (solo journalists), mojos (mobile journalists), e-journalists (electronic journalists), one-man-bands (no explanation needed) and multimedia reporters. Knapp represents the new breed of journalist who can, by himself, do all of the types of reporting that in the past required several skilled professionals. At Charleston's The Post and Courier, Knapp writes, photographs, videotapes, edits, posts, blogs, tweets and will voice reports too if there's the need. 

Andrew Knapp of Charleston's The Post and Courier
I could not think of a better guest speaker to talk to my class of 20 multimedia reporting students. On Feb. 13, Knapp lead us along his career path, shared some news coverage"war" stories, and brought and talked about the various electronic tools of his trade.

A native of Princeton, Maine, Knapp graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maine with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He went in interested in sports reporting but came out more interested in news.

"A teacher persuaded me to switch to hard news," he said. "I had the police beat and that kind of got me hooked. It's more hard-hitting than sports journalism. When you write about public service agencies, it tends to affect people more."

After graduation, Knapp decided to go right to graduate school. He chose American University in Washington, D.C. where he earned a master's degree in journalism and public affairs. "I wanted to expand to a more vibrant media market," he said.

In Washington covering news, Knapp met senators and congressman but his interest continued to grow in crime and police reporting. His professors and courses also helped enhance his multimedia skills with photography, blogs, website design and video editing. "My teachers said you really need to know how to do these technical things." Knapp said. "Staffing levels are not what they used to be. You may not have a photographer with you. You may be expected to do what two people did in the past."

From graduate school he was recruited by USA Today owner Gannett, which is headquartered in the Washington area, to work at Florida Today, its paper in Melbourne, Fla. There he started as a copy editor but eventually was asked to be a crime reporter when editors recognized his passion and potential from journalism through Knapp's blog, The Offlede. Named for an obscure newspaper term referring to the day's second top story, The Offledge is a showcase for Knapp's writing, photography and overall passion for journalism.

In one essay he says even Gold Bond can't stop his itch for journalism, confessing that he is "addicted" to the news business. Knapp's growing reporting and multimedia skills helped him move from the copy desk out "into the field" and then brought him to Charleston when an editor with The Post and Courier offered him a job in 2011.

In discussing his approach to covering Charleston-area crime news, Knapp espouses his paper's online first approach. He says his first objectives at a crime or other news scene is to start taking photographs, looking for people to interview and as soon as possible email a short report, sometimes just four sentences, to his editor who will place the story on The Post and Courier's online site.

Knapp also writes Twitter messages, sending those to an editor who retweets them to the paper's followers.

For his next day stories, which appear in the regular "paper paper," Knapp says he tries to do something different, since he's reported the basic facts and quotes already for the online and social media formats. "The second-day story is more magazine style, more 'feature-ee'" he said, "in trying to tell a story." 

Knapps says some older reporters have had trouble adapting to today's multimedia requirements. "Traditional reporters have said taking photos and video take away your observations, that you lose track of the details when you're doing all of those things" he said. "But I think shootings photos is a good way to take notes."

Knapp says he takes written notes too and always tries to voice record interviews (when people are willing to let him) on his smart phone to help back up his written notes.

"I can do everything in the field that I can in the office," Knapp said. 

Spoken like the true 21st century multimedia reporter!

Students interested in news reporting should seek out classes and internships in the field. The College of Charleston has ongoing internship opportunities with The Post and Courier, the Charleston City Paper, Patch.com, Charleston magazine, Skirt! and other publications, as well as the local television and radio stations. Contact Prof. Kirk Stone, Department of Communication internship director, for details at stonek@cofc.edu or 843.953.7017.

Knapp's quick response to breaking news can
sometimes lead to dramatic photographs,
video and interviews, such as this scene in Florida
when the police offer on the screen had just
shot a man in the driver's seat who
was stabbing the woman next to him.
Click to see Andrew Knapp's coverage of this
incident in Florida Today.


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