Innovative Individuals: Regina McCombs
You may recognize the name Regina McCombs from her past work at StarTribune where she covered large-scale events such as the devastating 2007 bridge collapse, or from her current role at The Poynter Institute where she is continually reshaping the way visual storytellers think about multimedia production. Her dedication and contribution to the field, both past and present, garnered her this week’s selection for “Innovative Individual.”
Regina has written a number of insightful articles at Poynter, including a recent series about the ethical decision of adding music to multimedia projects:
“Music in Multimedia: Add Sparingly, Not as a Crutch”
“Ethics Policies Regarding Music Use in News Stories”
“See How Music Changes a Story”
Her collection of top multimedia sites from 2008 was also a must-read. I am already looking forward to reading her picks for 2009! For a complete list of other articles you may have missed, scan through Regina’s article archive. You can also follow her digital trail on del.icio.us or read her multimedia musings on twitter.
Q) How do you drive innovation in your work?
A) Multimedia isn’t a mature medium yet, in my opinion, and I’m always trying to figure out how we can improve both the storytelling and the user experience. How can we tell compelling stories that grab people even if they’re at their desk at work, and how do we make the story forms seamless for the user? “Click here to view the videos” takes the user out of the storytelling, and we need to do a lot better than that. By looking at what other folks are doing to push the medium, I’ve tried to figure out what we can take from that and carry it another step further. What I love about multimedia is that there are no set rules for how it should be done. Every time we did a new project, we tried something we’d never done before. Now that I’m teaching, I spend more time cheering others on and less planning my next project. I miss that, but I love when people email me after attending a seminar with the very cool projects they’ve created.
Q) What piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
A) I’m very proud of a lot of things we did at StarTribune.com, but probably the standout for me is still “A people torn: Liberians in Minnesota“. I was the producer, but the process our whole team used to create the project was really outstanding. From the beginning, the reporter, photographer, designers and multimedia producers all worked together very thoughtfully and collaboratively, and I think it showed in the final project. It was a story that we all believed in, we tried some things we had never done before and pulled them off, and it brought some positive results for the community. It drove a lot of time on the site, and it won a regional Emmy, which was icing on the cake.
Q) Please provide a brief educational and professional history.
A) Currently, I’m multimedia faculty at The Poynter Institute, where I’ve been for just over a year. Most recently I was senior producer for multimedia at StarTribune.com in Minneapolis, where I worked for 11 years. When I went there, I was one of the first people I knew that came to a newspaper web site from television. It’s great to see that it’s getting much more common for people to move between platforms. Prior to the Strib, I was a television photographer and field producer at KARE-TV, the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis. My undergrad degree is in communications from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and my master’s is in journalism from the University of Minnesota.
Q) Where do you believe multimedia fits into today’s society and how will that role change over time?
A) Multimedia has the tremendous ability to inform, and to engage the users, to get them deeply involved in information and stories. In a society that is moving from the page to the screen, it’s an amazing storytelling tool. A huge number and variety of tools, really, rather than any single one. And it’s an outlet for all journalists equally, if they dive in and figure out how to best tell stories in multiple platforms. As for where it’s going, I’m intrigued by the idea of people being able to move fluidly between all the screens in their lives. If you haven’t seen the videos from NYT research labs, they’re worth your time to watch. It’s fascinating stuff. It points to the idea of a truly seamless experience (see previously mentioned obsession).
Q) What is one thing on your “To-Do” list?
A) Unfortunately, I’ve got about a dozen things on my to-do list. Right at the top, I’m trying to learn about where news on mobile phones is headed, and also how programmers and journalists can work together more effectively. I believe the smart phones are going to completely change how we interact with information and I think it’s happening fast. The sooner news organizations can use mobile technology well, the better. And programmers are now so vital to journalism that I’d like to be able to help make newsrooms a great place for them to work. We’ve got seminars on both next year, for anyone interested!
Want to nominate a deserving colleague, friend or inspirational figure to be highlighted in this series? Confidential nominations can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org on an ongoing basis. Self nominations are also welcome. A person will be featured every Friday, so look for the next “innovative individual” Friday, November 20th!
Tags: Innovative Individuals, Regina McCombs, series, The Poynter Institute