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April 6, 2009, 9 a.m.

Richard Koci Hernandez: Embrace online — or I’ll drink your milkshake

We’re finishing up posting the videos we shot with speakers at the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. Over the next few days, we’ll be posting excerpts from our session with Richard Koci Hernandez — ex-newspaper photographer, multimedia maven, and now a fellow at UC Berkeley. He was one of the big hits of the conference, and he spoke to us directly about the adjustments journalists have to make when they are confronted with work online.

Here he talks about how he tries to convince recalcitrant journalists to invest time into learning the online medium:

And that’s what I tell people now. I say: “You know, if you even have the slightest notion that you want to [tell stories], then in some sense you need to get with the program and do something in this new medium that you love. Because you’re going to be competing with me.” In two years, when [my time at] Berkeley is up, I’m back out there. And so you know, I try and…appeal to that kind of sense of urgency, that they need to start thinking about these things.

Full transcript after the jump.

I don’t think that you can really force someone into this, what I think of as kind of this new journalism. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. The approach that I take now is to tell people — I know one thing. One thing I know in my life: I’m going to be a journalist until they put me in the ground. I know that. I’m going to tell stories. I’m a storyteller, and whatever new brush that technology throws in my little jar to paint with, I’m going to use it. I love it. I’m going to leverage every — and I’m not going to be afraid of the new ones.

But there is fear. There are a lot of us — there’s absolutely no question out there. And I tried to convince people, “Come on! This is fantastic!” And people are like, “No, this is not what I want to do. I didn’t sign up to be a videographer, a photographer. I want to be a writer.” Or vice versa! Listen — “I’m a photographer and I don’t want to shoot video.”

Finally I just decided, you know, that wasn’t really working. So what about the tack of: if nothing else, think about the people you’re going to be competing against. The people who do buy into this. So whether you believe it or not, you want to be a part of it or not, is somewhat irrelevant if you look at the students that I’m teaching — if you look at someone like me, for example, who knows they want to tell stories, who isn’t afraid of it.

And if you’re sitting there going, “Gosh! I want to tell stories too!” then you’re going to be competing with me. You’re going to be competing with these superhuman — I don’t even know if they’re human, these students that are coming in that have this in their DNA to produce stories on this multiple level, this kind of multi-tasking level. And that’s what I tell people now. I say: “You know, if you even have the slightest notion that you want to do this, then in some sense you need to get with the program and do something in this new medium that you love. Because you’re going to be competing with me.” In two years, when [my time at] Berkeley is up, I’m back out there. And so you know, I try and tell people, you know — maybe appeal to that kind of sense of urgency that they need to start thinking about these things.

POSTED     April 6, 2009, 9 a.m.
PART OF A SERIES     Nieman Narrative Conference 2009
PART OF A SERIES     Richard Koci Hernandez
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