But the discipline of gathering the audio to make those pieces work is a great and important part of successful multimedia because a lot of multimedia falls short, particularly on audio. And you know if you can’t hear it, it’s particularly hard on the Web where speakers are small and people are distracted. Our goal was to really have an enhanced audio experience. I think one of the better successes of the project is that the audio was quite clear and quite good. It’s all natural, it’s all occurring, there’s no journalistic line being crossed there, that was real and live and we just had to find the great moments to make it all come together. Even the music is real; the music that accompanies it is not canned music that we took.
AF: What are the ethical questions there if it weren’t authentic, ambient sound?
CS: I think it lessens the journalism. When you know you have authenticity to every aspect of your reporting I think that comes through. I think people are aware when they’re in confident hands. [In the Stonecutter Street piece] we’re not vaguely showing you Afghanistan fifteen years later and today—we’re showing you precisely the same street, and doing so with real audio from that street. And I think it all feels very authentic that way and really captures one of the goals of GlobalPost, which is to do great multimedia using all of the new developments and breakthroughs and creative new designs and development of different Web landing pages, but also do it with really old-fashioned journalistic standards in what I call Shoe Leather 2.0, good old-fashioned reporting but taken to new heights on the Web.
AF: I thought it was worth noting that the multimedia pieces did have a print counterpart that a lot of multimedia presentations on the Web don’t. They’ll have a text block to set it up, but they don’t always have a written story.
CS: The idea is to complement the Sally Goodrich story about the school; if you watch that video it’s two minutes, like a tease [for the print piece]. We wanted to hook you. Because the visuals were so powerful with Seamus Murphy’s photography with the “One Family, One Street” feature about Stonecutter Street, we felt like we had the visual goods to bring you on a six-minute journey. Our goal was to be honest with the viewers of the site about what we have, and when we have strong audio and strong photography we will have it threaded together as a long narrative. When we have good audio and good visuals, we will make it shorter and try to point you toward the reporting that is really undergirding that story, and where the detail can come out through solid reporting and through the time it takes to get really great narrative journalism from the ground in a war zone.
AF: Speaking of the time it takes, something like the Stonecutter Street piece —
CS: Fifteen years (laughs).
AF: Right, tell me what’s behind that piece beyond the planning to show up exactly at the right spot on the street to match the original photo.
CS: Seamus is one of the most respected eyes on Afghanistan and the world as a journalist, as a photographer. Seamus really knows the story; he’s been covering it for fifteen years. And I have as well; I first started reporting on the Taliban in 1995. Seamus first started reporting on Afghanistan in 1994. We both went back to our starting points. We’re colleagues and friends and we’ve reported together in Iraq and Afghanistan and Ireland and elsewhere. I really respect his photography and was honored to be working with him and excited that we had an opportunity to have him work for GlobalPost.