Multimedia packages such as NSA Files: Decoded, Glitter in the Dark and, of course, Snow Fall have set a new standard for online storytelling. They combine high-quality images, video, beautiful typography and interactivity to pull readers into stories.

How are these stories produced? Once media have been captured, how can they be assembled into a compelling multimedia storytelling?

These are the questions we tackled in a one-day workshop hosted by Journalism and Media Studies on July 21, 2015 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Alexandra Christy and Monica Ancu

Alexandra Christy and Monica Ancu. (Chris Campbell / Courtesy VideoWorks)

In the morning, we focused on HTML and CSS essentials. Then, we moved into installing and customizing Bootstrap, a popular frontend framework. Along the way, we covered how to build responsive stories that look great on all devices, make typographic changes to enhance readability, and create stylized block quotes.

Salem Solomon and Shawn Fok

Salem Solomon and Shawn Fok. (Chris Campbell / Courtesy VideoWorks)

Some attendees had experience with web development fundamentals. For others, these were new skills. That presented a great opportunity to talk not only about the technical details of writing markup but the conceptual differences between the tools used to make websites. We spent a good deal of time exploring how HTML adds structure and semantic meaning to our content while CSS affects the presentation.

Jennifer Nesslar and Randy Carlson

Jennifer Nesslar and Randy Carlson. (Chris Campbell / Courtesy VideoWorks)

In the afternoon, our attention turned to the use of a grid system to create complex layouts for web pages and new stories. We practiced storyboarding layouts and then developing them in Sublime.

Casey Frechette

Casey Frechette. (Chris Campbell / Courtesy VideoWorks)
Casey Frechette

Casey Frechette. (Chris Campbell / Courtesy VideoWorks)

A favorite moment came late in the day when a participant asked about the purpose of learning these techniques, especially given the ubiquity of publishing tools like Medium and WordPress.com.

That gave us a chance to talk about the value of developing technical skills for reporters and editors.

The ability to customize a story beyond what’s possible with templates like the one Medium offers came up. But we also considered how learning technology makes it easier to collaborate with developers. And we talked about how deeper technical skills help journalists envision new and fresh storytelling possibilities.

Ultimately, though, these skills aren’t just about telling better stories. They’re about becoming more marketable.

Bobby Bishop and Laura Mulrooney

Bobby Bishop and Laura Mulrooney. (Chris Campbell / Courtesy VideoWorks)

Workshops like these present an opportunity to experiment with new ideas for courses and modules. They’re also a great way to bring our students together. It was terrific to see participants from our online masters program, face-to-face masters program and undergraduate program learning together. Many of the students were meeting for the first time.

Laura Mulrooney

Laura Mulrooney. (Chris Campbell / Courtesy VideoWorks)
Shawn Fok
Shawn Fok. (Chris Campbell / Courtesy VideoWorks)

Special thanks to Chris Campbell for taking the time to document the event, and thanks to all the students for showing up. Thanks also to my colleague Monica Ancu for attending and helping guide students to success along the way.

Salem Solomon and Shawn Fok

Salem Solomon and Shawn Fok. (Chris Campbell / Courtesy VideoWorks)
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