Friday, August 20, 2010

Looking Back with Archival Images

USA Today invested time and resources into assembling a noteworthy multimedia package, showcased on KobreGuide this week, that looks at the rebuilding of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina five years ago.

Anniversaries of major events and catastrophes offer news organizations an opportunity to both look backward, and to examine present-day circumstances. The juxtapositions and lessons can be illuminating. Audiences love historical reviews, especially when accompanied by visual artifacts. For video purposes, it's obviously impossible to travel back in time to shoot footage, so that's when photographic archives prove especially valuable.

Here's how two other newspapers, with fewer staff and resources at their disposal, cleverly incorporated video in recent anniversary-themed stories.

To travel back 15 years, Tulsa World staffers offered their own on-camera perspectives, accompanied by archival images, and TV newscasts, of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building where 168 people were killed.

Spokane's Spokesman-Review reached back a full century to revisit the Big Burn of 1910, which obliterated entire towns: "Three million acres burned. At least 85 people killed." In a narrated voiceover, incorporating archival images, a staffer "looks back at the forest fires of 1910 in Idaho and Montana, the largest in U.S. history."

News organizations should think about how they can create compelling video stories of major historic events by using invaluable photojournalism images from yesteryear.

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