I recently picked up a copy of Multimedia Journal by Richard Koci Hernandez. The book came out in 2008, but I couldn’t find a review of it, so I thought I’d write about it here.
Multimedia Journal is not the typical online journalism book. It is only 60 pages long, measures 7” x 7”, and contains no HTML tutorials or manifestos about the future of journalism.
In the introduction, Hernandez, who worked at the The San Jose Mercury News and is now a fellow the University of California, Berkeley, writes:
“If you are looking for answers to journalism’s big questions put this book down. Trying to answer or even ponder the questions on the future of journalism are a huge waste of time and stop you from doing what you’re good at: being creative.”
Multimedia Journal, which was self-published using Blurb, is a series of exercises aimed at tapping into the creative process. Each chapter contains a series of activities (i.e. keep a visual journal, start a vlog, use a flip-book, take a picture every day for a year, collect audio sounds from daily life) and lists of inspiring online resources and books. One of my favorite exercises is called “Document Something You Think Is Boring.”
The value of the book is not an argument, information or research; it offers a series of starting points and the reader must create the value for herself.
Hernandez also makes a case for being anonymous when posting online for the first time, arguing that criticism can stifle inspiration.
Anonymity isn’t something I’d advocate in a classroom, but Hernandez isn’t writing lesson plans. He is concerned about separating one’s ego from one’s creative work – which is a difficult task for anyone. In this context, I like Hernandez’s advice. A few years ago, I kept an anonymous blog about a subject I was passionate about. After a year, I deleted it. I enjoyed writing and posting photographs and sharing it online without worrying about reaction. I wasn’t doing it to advance my career or to build my online “brand.” It was fun. And the fun allowed me to be creative in ways I could not be on the job.
I had an idea of what I was getting when I ordered Multimedia Journal. The first 20 pages can be previewed online. I regularly read Hernandez’s blog Multimedia Shooter, (which is currently being revamped). And I’d seen some of the work Hernandez’s students have created.
If I have a complaint about the book, it is that I was left craving more of Hernandez’s advice and insight. I suggest that readers supplement the book with other resources. Watch some of his video pieces, which help illuminate the exercises and offer concrete examples of how to break out of standard ways of thinking about presenting news.
Also The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University has a four-part video interview with Hernandez, which is worth watching: