Here are some reflections on the websites we used as tools during our Multimedia Journalism degree course. Getting familiar with all of this has been necessary for content creation and publishing. The platform dictates the kind of content published. The final item is a site called JournoPortfolio which allows the student to bring together their published work from various platforms, presenting a substantial body of work.
Early in the course we learnt to collaborate using Google Drive. Each of us could write and edit the same document simultaneously. We could have done this from anywhere online, not just one classroom. Later during the Pandemic, this kind of tool would become invaluable. We learnt to create our own websites from scratch, using Notepad Plus Plus.
At one time, branded pens were freely available for writers. Photo: Clare O’Beara.
During second year, we started individual WordPress blogs. This is a free to use, opensource platform, with many templates. Plugins can be purchased by those who want bells and whistles. WordPress was a way for the lecturer to view our assignment work (this site). We built on the web development skills we’d been taught in first year; inserting links, photos and formatting. At this point, nobody asked us to make websites phone-responsive. The lecturers were accessing them from desktops so that was all they needed.
During my final year I was also editing two official college WordPress blog sites, one for the Journalism Society (which won Blog / Vlog of the Year in the National Student Media Awards) and one for the Sustainability Society / Green Campus. People can follow blogs to be notified of new posts, which is useful. I could also view the stats and report to other students. I recommend locking down the comments so they have to be approved before appearing, as merchandisers are desperate to peddle their wares and dodgy links.
We used Squarespace in second year. This is a commercial platform which allowed us to work as a class editing one website, as a news site would need. We could upload podcast files. The educational version was free to use, but at the end of the year the site vanished. I did not find Squarespace intuitive. Some more complex aspects looked worth a try, but I just ended up reverting to the page I’d started with; I expect it’s best for people who use it a lot. However, the site gives a nice, shiny, clean look.
My photography website in third year was a Wix site, as Wix can handle a larger content upload. This comes with several pages ready for use. I picked a theme and had to go all over the site changing bits of that theme to the colours I wanted. I kept finding more, like a text box at the bottom of a page and a side bar on another page. The site worked out well and I could embed a video. We had originally been supposed to get a photography book instead, but did not, due to the pandemic. A limited number of people could see a single book, whereas my work on a website is visible to everyone. Wix doesn’t vanish.
Daffodils – I always enjoyed nature photography. Photo: Clare O’Beara.
During third year we wrote article content and published on Medium, to give us a body of work on a major, widely accessed writing platform. At the time the profile tailoring options were few, but they have since been expanded. Medium lets us upload illustrative images, and some people use free options from Unsplash, which the college allowed in assignments, but I always tried to take my own photos if possible. I wanted to own more of the content and practise my photojournalism.
Our podcast and film work were submitted as files, and I uploaded them to my author webspace. Later the films could be uploaded to our YouTube channels if we wished. YouTube gives a customisable home page and options to help film makers, now including approved free music, though at the time we just had to hunt for music we could use.
My thesis choice in fourth year was to create a website of environmental multimedia journalism, and I opted for Wix to use the larger upload allowance. I was able to embed YouTube video links and infographics on PDF downloadable files. I wrote HTML code to load podcast files onto each article page, as the site was defaulting to a separate podcast page for the purpose, which I didn’t want. By now I knew that sites had to be phone-first responsive.
I used Adobe Spark, which is yet another website, to create the actual thesis articles. Then I embedded a link to each Spark on the Wix site. Adobe had photos available but I did not use any, as I wanted to take all my own photos for my articles. Spark is strong for visuals and works impressively on phones. One of these articles won the National Student Media Awards, and the other three gained a nomination to the SMedias.
The work became more varied and complex. Fruit and veg photos: Clare O’Beara.
I taught myself to use Canva which is extremely helpful to create infographics. This site provides templates, and the more I did, the more complex my work became. I could upload my own photos or make use of their photo library.
To keep my supervisor informed I used Trello, a free educational tool for us two to drop notes and content and collect links. My files were uploaded to Google Drive, as I found Trello only takes a ten megabyte upload. Multimedia files are usually a great deal bigger. This dual facility was extremely useful during the Pandemic.
Among the tools introduced to us student journalists by lecturers, was the site JournoPortfolio. One of our third year assignments required us to acquire a page, tailor it and upload links to content produced during the year. This page thus displays work from several platforms in one place. As JP mainly provides links and brief previews it doesn’t occupy a lot of space or time – the work has already been done. I found JournoPortfolio much easier and more intuitive than Squarespace, though they have some features in common, like moving blocks, and a shiny appearance.
Home screen on JournoPortfolio. Screenshot.
One feature of particular use is that I can upload a photo and write the credit on the top of the image, for display as the headline image of each story. This gives me great incentive to take my own photos – getting a double credit.
The site offers a version free to students, which would normally be charged for annually. I signed up for that immediately, but my classmates all went for the basic one-page – a reflection perhaps of the time they had available to work on the content. I certainly didn’t regret having a board-like page which I could alter at will, moving blocks of stories up and down, with an extra page for my bio and CV, and another to display some of my Fresh Fiction book reviews. People who have more content already on the web will get the most out of this feature, but anyone who wants an incentive to get content published will enjoy filling in the spaces.
Any time I’ve had a query, which has only been a couple of times, the site owner has got back to me within a few hours to help resolve the issue. I can check the viewing stats, create categories, and set a featured article.
Page on JournoPortfolio displaying my work from various content platforms in one place. Screenshot.
From JP I can place links to other platforms. The social media I use is the professional site LinkedIn. Content here is mostly unavailable after three months, except to those paying extra to view lengthy histories. A simple JournoPortfolio link from my LinkedIn profile provides my written articles from the various sites collected on one page. I’ve also placed reciprocal links between JP and my author’s website, which helps for search engine optimisation (SEO). Thus, I consider JournoPortfolio to be a good professional platform, as recommended to us by our multimedia journalist lecturer, and I am now recommending the site to others.
I have found the skills and tools I gained invaluable. The world is moving extremely fast nowadays, and if you don’t keep moving forward, you are not standing still; you are getting left behind. I was delighted to take a postgraduate Data Visualisation certificate, using Tableau, which was made much easier by being familiar with all the skillsets described. I’ve placed fresh content on Medium and linked it with JournoPortfolio. When I continue my studies, I will be placing college work on sites again and I’ll link that to JP again, so check in from time to time and see my progress.
Sky over Coolock. Sky over Dundrum. All photos: Clare O’Beara, 2023.