When Flash, the animation authoring software distributed by Adobe, first made its way into the hands of journalists, newsrooms everywhere seized the opportunity to create interactive stories that combined text, photos, audio, and video into one neat package. The novelty of the program led to the use of Flash for everything — even for stories that could be told successfully with just text and pictures — and sometimes requiring staff with no previous experience in design or computer programming to begin learning the program.
That said as wonderful a program as Flash is and despite its limitless possibilities there are several reasons why newsrooms should just say no.
1. Flash projects take a long time to create
When brainstorming how to incorporate Flash into upcoming multimedia projects, many journalists and editors don’t take into account how time-consuming it is to build even the most basic Flash project. Whereas with a print story, the writer can simply stop writing at any moment and not include further points or ideas, the process of creating keyframes, tweens, and coding a project takes a significant time to create complete. Flash is only done when it’s done.
2. Many projects don’t need to be animated
Journalists get excited when they see Flash projects with eye-catching animation and thus are tempted to make everything move, swish, zoom or fly across the screen in their own projects. Journalists should first decide if the multimedia project even needs to be built in the program and that Flash isn’t being used just because it’s cool. If it is decided that Flash is a great fit for a particular story, the producer should restrain his or herself and not go overboard with animation. At its foundation, a Flash project is still about telling a story.
3. Most journalists are not designers
Flash is okay to use as long as the conventional rules of web design are not ignored. Those who interact with Flash projects expect the layout and navigation to mirror traditional websites with the added bonus of interactivity. Because the average journalist isn’t schooled in the fundamentals of design or user interaction, a Flash project should first be sketched or storyboarded by professional designer who is well-versed on how readers interact with visual stories or graphics.
Of course there are many reasons why journalists should use Flash, among them its versatility and its power to draw in the passive user. The following are three multimedia journalism stories that are proof of the power Flash has to bring stories to life.
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