Worth a Thousand Words: Visual Storytelling and the Future of News

Ever heard the saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words”?

This phrase has taken on a whole new meaning in terms of news stories with the ever-growing trend of visual storytelling. Due to its myriad of forms (encompassing everything from individual snapshots to infographics to video interviews) as an ever-evolving medium, the technological and communicational possibilities of visual storytelling seem nearly limitless, making its title of ‘the news medium of the future’ no surprise. And, with the omnipotence of video sharing websites such as YouTube and constant visual stimulation of 24-hour news channels, it isn’t hard to perceive the trend toward the visual in today’s society. In fact, an article on the website Videomind.com states that ‘video will make up approximately eighty-six percent of web traffic by 2016’. As the general population grows increasingly tech-savvy, media consumers are actively outgrowing the black-and-white newsprint of yesterday: they want emotional motivators, visually stunning graphics, and the immediate gratification of a news story that literally tells itself through picture and video.
Another benefit of visual storytelling is that it allows for a far more personal and multifaceted news experience. For example, the Detroit Free Press’s video, “The Truth about Asian Carp,” presents the niche issue of a possible Asian carp invasion threatening the Great Lakes and makes it attention- grabbing, personal, and interesting to a wider audience. By bringing viewers directly into the boats of the fisherman personally affected by this issue, we are able to get a sense of how these people look and speak (with heavy accents and all) and what they think about the issue in their own words, while seeing videos of the fish themselves. These factors cause us to become personally invested in the story in a whole new way, making it compelling in a manner that would be nearly impossible to achieve through passive written description alone.

To see more about the visual effectiveness of the Asian carp story, visit: http://www.freep.com/article/20110717/NEWS06/307170001/With-video-truth-about-Asian-carp

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About alissacravens

Squirrel enthusiast; lover of bad jokes; English/ Political Science student at the University of Michigan (class of 2016)

4 Responses to “Worth a Thousand Words: Visual Storytelling and the Future of News”

  1. Also to add on to the features you mentioned that comes along with using videos to share stories, it also lends itself to the potential of transparency. As with any picture or video, it can be doctored and presented in a way that skews its perception in a way that can be very different from reality. However, there’s less of a chance for the content to be doctored when it’s instantly posted and when many have posted about the same thing with similar footage. This is something that some social media sites and applications have taken advantage of, for example, Instagram. It allows users to ‘validate’ their pictures or short videos with GPS location tracking and also with tags that are linked to pages with other similar content of the same subject. For example, when a major event happens, it is not uncommon for many Instagram users to quickly snap a photo or quick video and upload it with an identifying tag and location-tracking, and with multiple users, a photo album of the event can be instantly established.

  2. I completely agree with your commentary on the documentary, “The Truth About Asian Carp.” I felt like this piece was beautiful done, but not necessarily for the same reason. I feel like video allows the creative and artistic traits, like print never could. I’ve read books, and articles that can reach the same level of heart wrenching stories, and can guide the viewer with dialect in a similar matter to what they have in this documentary. But what I felt the video did was encourage aesthetics. The footage was beautiful. Some of the perspectives were mind-blowing, like then opening shot of the man riding on his boat with asian carp flying up from all sides. This terrified me. But it was also beautiful. The filmmaker had an obvious eye for aesthetics. I feel like it is so much easier to consume this knowledge because it was not only informative, but it kept me wanting to watch more. Print doesn’t allow for this artistic adaptation of the news.

  3. This piece you wrote really got me thinking about our assignment of thinking of a new way to deliver news. I never really considered how likely it is that news will be photo and video-based soon. Especially since news is more often being reported on computers and phones, where it’s easy to use many photos and videos, and in good quality. Print news makes it hard to visualize and really feel the story. As we realized in class, having an emotional connection to the story makes it a lot more fascinating. If we are reading an emotional article, it would help us to see the people they are talking about.

  4. I decided to watch the video before reading the article, but after doing so, I almost wish I would’ve done it the other way. After watching the video, even the words in the written article were full of emotion. I couldn’t get the voices of the fisherman out of my head. The visual (and by extension emotional) aspect of the carp debate is what makes it relatable and worth caring about. I feel like just reading about a carp invasion is just like reading about any one of thousands of environmental issues plaguing this world. But when I see the fisherman standing next to a river that I’m now associating with MY Great Lakes and there are dead fish piling up on the shore, I feel compelled to take action.

    When they show the spread of the invasion and I can see it inching toward the lakes I grew up with and played in, I feel protective and defensive for this great state. That personal aspect that can only be portrayed through the voices and the video of the men in the middle of this issue breathe life into something that would otherwise fall into the background of thousands of similar debates.

    I completely agree with you when you say that it really is nearly impossible to capture this compelling story through written description alone. I think one take-away from this topic as well as the others we’ve discussed in class, is that the human side of every story is the most effective side.

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