Mark Stencel’s Whirlwind Trip to UMass

24 Apr

When Mark Stencel asked our Multimedia class how many people had already seen him speak on Thursday, almost everyone raised their hands. Stencel, the Digital News Editor for NPR, had been making the UMass Journalism rounds all week.

Not only did he sit in on a number of classes, he also gave a stellar presentation the night before he spoke to our class. On Wednesday evening he spoke in front of a large group of mixed Five College journalism students and faculty in Herter Hall.

He talked the crowd through a Power Point slide show where he talked in depth about the changing trends in listeners and readers media digestion.

“When you look at these cars, you see traffic. When I look, I see listeners.”

After he gathered that most of our class had already heard him, he was excited to change gears away from his usual spiel. He walked us in great depth through a unique piece NPR published last March. The story was about Brock Savelkoul, a returning veteran from Iraq and his showdown with North Dakota State Troopers.

Stencel explained how this story had two unique formats. One was the NPR-patented radio story, which he described as a “format breaker” at over 20 minutes long. The other was an interest buffet of multimedia that was specially built for the website. The online story contained:

  • Photos
  • Video
  • Interactive Map
  • Interactive Timeline
  • A heavier use of found source than the radio story

As Stencel started the video, he joked about how you should never do an internet presentation. Sure enough, the internet didn’t work for him. He had trouble with his site’s map and video and was forced to show us the video on YouTube instead of NPR. He explained the transitional nature of NPR’s digital site and how glitches were still being worked out.

The class was captivated by the story of the traumatized soldier’s fall from glory to madness, that ended in a police standoff. As the video ended, Stencel was visibly moved by it. He apologized,

“I’m sorry, it still gets me every time.”

He tried to deconstruct the video with the class, asking us about our expectations as viewers. Did we think the soldier would be killed? Did we think it would end badly? Stencel kind of slyly proceeded to tell us that without our noticing, they had already alluded to the Brock’s survival through NPR’s highly produced photos of the man.

Stencel talked in depth about the importance and abilities of a good photojournalist, and how impressed he was with the photos from this story. He went on to discuss the differences between the radio and the video version. The radio story focused on a personal interview with the troubled soldier, whereas the video followed the police.

We compared the end of the radio piece to the video, and the use of Brock’s newly adopted dog, ‘Lucky’. It was at this point that Stencel gave us one of the best tips I’ve ever been given by a journalist: When you talk about a dog, you must tell your audience the dog’s name.


2 Responses to “Mark Stencel’s Whirlwind Trip to UMass”

  1. markstencel May 4, 2012 at 2:04 am #

    Remy: I think the “name of the dog” rule got its origins at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. More, in case of interest:

    Nice to run into you last week. — Mark

  2. stevejfox May 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    Nice voice, well-written….perhaps a few more links?


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