4 ways to tell video stories about difficult topics

A journalist from The Oregonian newspaper offers tips on how to report visually on complicated or hard-to-shoot subjects.

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Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

Teresa Mahoney, a video journalist at The Oregonian newspaper, faced a challenge: how to tell the story of threats to steelhead habitats in Columbia River tributaries.

Solution? She selected a small set of representative data—the story of three fish tagged and tracked by scientists via radio transmitters.

Mahoney even named the fish to tell the story of their migration from the sea up the Columbia to a river whose water levels had dropped drastically because of agricultural irrigation.

“Humanize it with characters,” she says.

The story—part of a Ragan Training presentation “Visual journalism: Simple tricks for telling human stories in visually appealing ways”—exemplifies how she solved a problem that is also common in the numbers-heavy world of corporate storytelling.

Her work encompasses everything from animated investigative explainers to social media-friendly breaking news and feature videos.

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