Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

5 reasons why UK newspapers still don’t get multimedia

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on September 24, 2009

I wrote last week about the growing gap between the US and Europe in the quantity and originality of multimedia journalism.

But as well as lacking style, originality, interactivity, some UK papers still have a worrying lack of quality.

I’ve put together some general examples so show what I mean. A couple of disclaimers though:

  • they’ve been collected from two local papers owned by one group, but the same issues seem to¬† exist in other groups in other parts of the country.
  • these are local/regional papers and it must be noted they have smaller budgets and prefer to give their print journalists a camera, rather than bringing in multimedia expertise
  • the following is not a criticism of the journalism, the quality of which is exceptional; rather the way it is presented

5 reasons why UK papers still don’t get multimedia

01. poor pictures


Newspapers have a big advantage with pictures: they have professional photographers to take them. So why are the photographs on this website compressed so much? And why can’t we click on them to get a really big high quality version? (the answer I suspect lies in the fear of copyright)

02. weird web domains


My website is not called Let’s call a spade a spade and maybe more people will be able to find the website. It’s a strange choice too, because the “This is…” brand, although used on all the local websites owned by this group, does not relate to the print version’s brand at all.

03. bizarre breaking news


This example shows three “breaking news” updates, on the same page, on the same story. As well as filling up the page with repetitive stories, it also diminishes the value of using “breaking news”. The solution: just update the single page – that way your readers can find all they need on a story in one click. (Again I suspect it’s designed to get more clicks rather than benefit the reader).


And I don’t need to explain why this “breaking news” is anything but.

04. uncontrolled comments


This particular newspaper seems to have no problem with allowing comments on every story, including some legally contentious ones. I have read the likes of ‘the scumbag should rot in hell’ on coverage of murder trials, where the verdict is yet to be reached, as well as the quite frankly tasteless and upsetting comments allowed on the above example.

Notice too, how small and out-of-the-way the photograph is. It tells the story more than the words, and should be full size and central.

05. virtually invisible video


This newspaper group takes its online video seriously and was one of the first in the UK to get its hacks trained. I have seen their small lightweight cameras appear at many crime scenes and press conferences. And while it is rarely cinematographic, it does deserve to be more prominent than the banner adverts which surround it. Shouldn’t it be in the central column?

It may seem otherwise, but I am really not trying to single out one paper or one group. These papers as you can see on some of the mastheads, actually won multimedia awards two years in a row! But we have to start recognising poor use of multimedia, discussing it, and improving it. The longer it remains amateurish, the fewer eyeballs it gets and ultimately advertisers/subscribers cash.

And as much as it may pain the wallets upstairs, these five examples will only get better with more cash, more investment and some multimedia trained journalists.