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Monday, August 17, 2015
Digital Media Toolbox

Tips for digital storytelling abroad

By May Zayan

Travel journalists who want to cover foreign countries and produce compelling multimedia for visitors face challenges such as language barriers, unknown customs and unfamiliar geographies.

Besides having a passion for exploring exotic locales, meeting the inhabitants and discovering unique facets to share with visitors, travel journalists need a solid understanding of how best to capture the essence of the place for their audience, especially in the digital era.

Plan before you go

Thrilling coverage starts with exhaustive research. Before you jet, learn as much as you can about the place you'll be headed to.

See if any special events or holidays will be observed during your stay; some of the most enchanting content can be produced around such happenings. Find out if and where Wi-Fi or other Internet connectivity are available.

Try to learn a few key words and phrases in the native language, along with at least a few cultural do's and don'ts. Get a feel for what conditions warrant the use of your phone, camera or microphone, and when a notepad and a good memory are more appropriate. The better prepared you are before you get there, the more likely you'll blend into your environment, enabling you to produce more dynamic and lively content.

Immerse yourself

When covering a new place, the first thing you should do upon arrival is to get familiar with the layout as soon as possible. Get a map (or two) and begin by designating regions or sections to explore each day.

Familiarize yourself with the area(s) by employing a variety of transportation methods, if possible. Walk through the streets, rent a bike or mo-ped and use public transit. If there is an opportunity to use distinctive transportation — camels, horses, rickshaws — go for it. These elements are all ways to immerse yourself within the fabric of the place, but be sure to take note of which modes work best during certain times of day and for certain groups (couples, families, the elderly).

Try to incorporate your maps as part of your journey and your online content. Make notations that correspond with your experiences, images and video so you have an organized breakdown of sections you've visited. Also be sure to explore areas that are not necessarily common destinations for tourists; locals-only spots tend to be brimming with unique and stirring images and stories.

Showcasing lesser-known neighborhoods or districts invites your audience to view these places through a more unconventional (and unpredictable) lens.

Get with locals

The best way to get to know a place — and to share that experience with others — is to get to know those rooted within the community. This is where your research kicks in; the more interest, enthusiasm and knowledge you can demonstrate to the locals about their country and its culture, the more likely you'll be invited to share in activities and conversations (and meals!) that could color your reporting and help you produce exciting multimedia.

Talk to the inhabitants about how they view their city and its societal norms, conventions and politics. Ask about how they view other people and places, and make sure you record as much of these encounters as possible (and with their permission).

Developing this type of content to share with your audience can help to engage them in unconventional ways outside the realms of typical travel writing and expose them to the foundation of that country's society: its people. You'll see that many locals are eager to share their country, culture and cuisine with interested outsiders.

Keep your smartphone handy

Making sure to snag eye-catching imagery or moving audio and relaying it to your audience are essential in producing engaging travel content. And you don't necessarily need to lug around a ton of equipment to do it. Your smartphone can be an effective all-in-one production studio and newsroom when traveling.

Tap into apps like YouTube Capture and KineMaster for easy-to-use, professional-quality video, as well as Instagram and VSCO for great photo editing and sharing. Even apps like Lapse It are available for your smartphone to capture time-lapse and stop-motion videos for breathtaking outdoor scenes.

Being able to quickly document and share your experiences on the go is essential for producing captivating real-time travel content. After all, you’ll kick yourself for missing the perfect photo op or not being able to capture a one-of-kind native ritual on video because of a lack of equipment. Plus, using apps that have a social media component entices your audience to interact with your coverage as you produce it, exponentially exposing your content and inviting others to explore a new locale along with you.

Exposing an audience to the ins and outs of a foreign place can be tricky, and producing captivating media to entice people to visit can be even trickier. Tackling this type of storytelling with an immersive approach could help make both the newsgathering and content sharing processes more vivid and enjoyable — for both readers and the reporter.

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