Adopt A Multimedia Journalist: Richard Koci Hernandez


This is a video project by Hernandez examining the reality of students in Iran who speak their minds and the potential punishments for doing so. The combination of moving pictures, video, and stylized text make this a multimedia project, and one that works because of how it is edited to create maximum impact on viewers and get across the danger these students face.

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Taken from Hernandez’s personal blog and the Soul of Athens site, this infographic examines the concept of a “swing state” in a political election, using the state of Ohio to examine the factors that make Ohio such a “swing state.” This is a multimedia project due to its use of images, video, text, and interactivity, and is successful due to its simplicity in design in order to clearly lay out its purpose.

The Cannon and The Flower is an ongoing multimedia project Hernandez is one of the directors of. Part documentary, part series of articles, it is the multimedia story of the power of music in Vietnam and the famed first classical music family in Vietnam. What makes it effective so far is the excellent use of images and text and Frederic Chopin’s music to build the contrast between the peace of Chopin/classical music and the loudness of war.

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This is perhaps Hernandez’s most famous piece – a multi-part documentary on a trailer park’s stuggle for independence that won Hernandez an Emmy. What makes it multimedia is the combination of elements in the documentary – interviews, photos with voiceover, narrated film footage – and what makes it effective is the brilliance with which weaves its tale together via editing and direction.

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This is a piece Hernandez did for CNN, on the use of Instagram in photojournalism. What makes this multimedia is the blending of text, Hernandez’s own photography, and video, and what makes it effective is Hernandez’s images used to prove his point about Instagram and its potential positive effect on journalism as a whole.

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This is a slideshow Hernandez created of his own photography covering 10 years in Silicon Valley, and what makes this multimedia is the inventive formatting and use of many photographs and light text to convey the span of time, along with the interactivity of being able to jump forward and backward to witness changes.

This is Hernandez’s documentation of 54 days with 54 pictures on the bus he takes to work every day in Oakland. The multimedia elements of this are fascinating as it is a film told entirely through still photographs of almost no recurring elements, but still manages to tell an interesting story of those who wander in and out of this bus over the course of 54 days.

This is a lot like the flipside of The 54; Hernandez’s documentation of a trip to London combines the multimedia elements of graphics, photos, and experimental editing alongside video footage of London to create a unique emotional atmosphere for the story he is telling, a great work of multimedia journalism/storytelling that could only be done using multimedia techniques.

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This is a piece Hernandez did on a new photography app called Hueless, and what makes it multimedia is the use of technical shots from inside the app itself alongside final product images and Hernandez’s text, effectively illustrating its effects on photography and the story you can tell via technical descriptions.

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This is an informative piece Hernandez did on the essentials of being a multimedia journalist in the field, showing his field kit with a technical graphic and text to make this a multimedia piece that benefits from the approach thanks to the orderly visuals that aid the reader’s understanding of what the individual pieces are.


What I think makes the work of multimedia journalist Richard Koci Hernandez, a national Emmy award winning journalist formerly of the San Jose Mercury News and now a professor of new media at UC Berkely, work is contrast.

What has made Hernandez known in the journalistic realm is his work with Instagram, work that has gotten him covered in WIRED and The New Yorker, among other places, and what defines that work is the contrast in his imagery. We can see, in his CNN piece, his explanation for the use of filters in his work – use the modernity of the subject matter and the modernity of the technology he is using plus the filters to create a retro visual that gives a classical vibe. That classical vibe, Hernandez describes, makes his photos seem like your own memories. And he accomplishes that through contrasting elements, and that is how he tells his stories.

In The 54, his story of the Oakland bus over 54 days, the contrast is in the mechanics of how he’s shooting versus what he is shooting. Hernandez’s starts the video with a hyper-kinetic series of images to convey the route the bus will take, to imply the motion of the bus, before resorting to purely static images while on its journey. The contrast between the motion and the still images creates the piece’s unique mood, the mix of shots of people and environment enhancing the contrast between that which changes and that which does not. In turn, Hernandez’ On The Road uses the contrast between his hyper-stylized editing and graphic design with the serene nature of his black and white photography and otherwise standard trip footage, using contrasting multimedia elements to a specific purpose, an emotional impact.

In his documentaries, Uprooted and The Cannon and The Flower, the contrast comes from the content. The peacefulness of the music in The Cannon and The Flower against the backdrop of war in Vietnam. Uprooted’s serene photography against the drama of the trailer park, the episodic nature dividing the story in an interesting way, and the way Hernandez dives between video and still photography an excellent use of multimedia storytelling.

But the thing that cannot be ignored in regard to Hernandez is when he is able to use multimedia to avoid contrast. His short documentary on the struggles faced by Iranian students speaking their minds invokes no serious contrast – he plays the story completely straight, using each multimedia element (still images, graphic design, video) in concert with each other rather than deliberately opposing them. The “swing state” piece is the most straightforward piece of multimedia journalism possible – light interactivity, use of video, images, and text in a purely informative manner, with zero contrast in elements.

So maybe what makes Richard Hernandez’ work, well, work isn’t necessarily contrast – it is versatility. Hernandez is a format agnostic multimedia journalist, who uses whatever tools and methods are best suited for the story at and. If that requires contrast, so be it – if not, so be it too. If there was any better mark for what makes a good multimedia journalist storyteller, I haven’t found it.



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