Multimedia News Storytelling as Digital Literacies

A Genre-Aware Approach to Online Journalism Education

by Yang Song (Author)
©2019 Monographs XX, 308 Pages


New media has brought constant evolution to professional journalism practices and news genres. Online news practices challenge the occupational jurisdiction of journalism with a multiplicity of conflicting and competing journalistic ideals. In order to prepare journalism students to meet the demands of online journalism today, journalism schools have developed courses that emphasize journalistic practice on online news platforms and tools, such as Twitter, WordPress.com, Soundslides Plus, etc.
Drawing on the theoretical lens of digital literacies, Multimedia News Storytelling as Digital Literacies problematizes the emphasis on transmission of certain professional values and news formats without raising students’ critical awareness that there can be diversity of values. Methodologically, the present study proposes a genre-aware, semiotic-aware, critical framework that aims at analyzing digital literacies required and practiced by online journalists. It simultaneously encompasses dimensions of professional culture, professional practices, and abstraction of instantiated meaning making via multimodal semiotic resources.
Multimedia News Storytelling as Digital Literacies is ideal for courses in journalism and mass communication, curriculum studies, and digital literacies. The book is a valuable resource for online journalism educators, journalism students, and online journalism practitioners.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • Research Background
  • Significance of the Research
  • Structure of the Study
  • Terminology
  • New Media
  • Platforms, Tools and Techniques vs. Media Formats
  • Online Journalism
  • Genre
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 2. Literature Review
  • Introduction
  • The Occupational Ideologies of Online Journalism
  • The Objectivity Ideal
  • The Transparency Ideal
  • The Participatory Ideal
  • Media Logic of Online News Production
  • Emergence of Online News Genres/Formats/Techniques
  • Online Feature/Literary Genres
  • Data Visualization
  • Twitter Journalism
  • Multimedia Packages
  • Online Journalism Education
  • Theoretical Conceptualization on Online Journalism Education
  • Empirical Survey Studies on Online Journalism Education
  • Classroom-Based Research on Online Journalism Course Design
  • Content Analysis of Online Journalism Course Syllabi Collected from the Internet
  • Summary
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 3. Theoretical Framework
  • Rationale for the Selection of Theoretical Traditions
  • Fairclough’s Framework of Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Genre Analysis
  • The New Rhetoric Tradition
  • English-for-Specific-Purposes (ESP) Tradition
  • The Sydney School Tradition
  • Compatibility Among the Three Traditions
  • Multimodal Discourse Analysis (MDA)
  • Kress and van Leeuwen’s Framework of MDA
  • Baldry and Thibault’s Framework of Multimodal Transcription
  • A Digital-Literacies-Informed, Genre-Aware Model for Online Journalism
  • Pedagogical Theories
  • Genre Pedagogy
  • Community of Practice
  • Outcomes-Based Teaching and Learning and Constructive Alignment
  • Research Question and a Framework of Online Journalism Course Analysis
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 4. Methodology
  • Introduction
  • Case Study
  • Triangulation of Methods
  • On-Site Observation
  • Interviews
  • Objectives of Interviews
  • Selection of Informants
  • The Number and Duration of Interviews
  • Interview Processes
  • Methods of Textual Analysis
  • Content Analysis
  • Transcribing Qualitative Data
  • Coding Families, Selective Coding and Open Coding
  • Develop the Codebook
  • Researcher Reflexivity
  • Research Ethics
  • References
  • Chapter 5. Analysis of Stated Course Curriculum from the Perspective of Outcomes-Based Education
  • Introduction
  • Analysis of CILOs (Course Intended Learning Outcomes) and Course Syllabus
  • Analysis of Assessment Tasks and Grading Criteria in the Stated Curriculum
  • Analysis of the Measurement Methods
  • Analysis of the Alignment Between the TAs and the CILOs
  • Analysis of the Course Grade Descriptor
  • Summary
  • Note
  • Reference
  • Chapter 6. Analyzing the Teaching and Learning of Audio Slideshows
  • Introduction
  • Description of the Enacted Curriculum
  • A Digital-Literacies-Informed, Genre-Aware Analysis of the Teaching and Learning of Audio Slideshows
  • Knowing the Field: Occupational Ideologies and the Multimedia Logic of Online Journalism
  • Construction of Genre Knowledge on the Character-Driven Narrative
  • Framing of Multimodal Meaning Making Strategies
  • Analysis from the Perspective of Genre Pedagogy
  • Analysis from the Perspective of the Outcomes-Based Teaching and Learning Framework
  • Analysis of Students’ Audio Slideshow Making as Process and Product
  • Mono-Character, Intuitive Story Structuring
  • Content-Based Trans-Modal Mapping and Over-Dominance of the Auditory Track
  • Sample Analysis and Innovative Exploration of Multimedia and Multimodal Storytelling
  • Mystification and Inequality: Implications from the Perspective of Genre Pedagogy
  • Summary
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 7. Evaluating the Teaching and Learning of Multimedia Packages
  • Introduction
  • Description of the Enacted Curriculum
  • A Genre-Aware Analysis of the Teaching and Learning of Multimedia Packages
  • Knowing the Field: The Journalistic Ideal of Participation and the Commercialization of News
  • The Media Logic of Interactivity: Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) as User Experience
  • The Multimedia Package as Text-Dominant Technical Space
  • “Old Wine in New Bottles”: Techniques and Formats of Online News Stories
  • Analysis of the Teaching and Learning of Twitter Journalism
  • Section Summary
  • Analysis of Students’ Multimedia Package Making as Process I: In-Class Consultation
  • CILO1: Critically analyze online news content and their presentation
  • CILO2: Create, produce and package journalistic content for online consumption using multimedia tools
  • Analysis of Students’ Multimedia Package Making as Process II: Student-Initiated Use of Facebook for Group Work
  • Richard
  • Emily, Rebecca and Christina
  • Adeline
  • Analysis of Students’ Multimedia Package Making as Product I: Images as Interpersonal Hyper-Themes and Visual Punctuates
  • Analysis of Students’ Multimedia Package Making as Product II: Social Purposes Guiding Multimodal Structuring of News Story Pages
  • CILO3: Identify and discuss ethical and social issues in online journalism and take them into consideration in practice
  • CILO4: Write news reports specifically for the web and mobile devices
  • Analysis of Constructive Alignment of the Enacted Curriculum
  • Summary
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 8. Conclusion
  • Research Question: How Could the Digital-Literacies-Informed, Genre-Aware Framework of Online Journalism Course Analysis Inform Journalism Education?
  • Theoretical Implications
  • Pedagogical Implications
  • Limitations of the Research
  • Suggestions for Future Research
  • Note
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Appendix I: Semi-Structured Student Interview Protocol
  • Appendix II: Semi-Structured Instructor Interview Protocol
  • Appendix III: Multimodal News Analysis of Shine for Life
  • Appendix IV: The List of Online Journalism Course Syllabi for Content Analysis
  • Appendix V: Student Interview Time Log

| xiii →


Table 2.1: Coding Scheme for Content Analysis of Online Journalism Syllabi.

Table 4.1: Coding Families for Transcripts of Student Interviews and Course Lectures.

Table 5.1: Analysis of the Online Journalism Course Syllabus.

Table 5.2: Alignment Between ATs and CILOs in the Stated Course Curriculum.

Table 5.3: Course Grading Scale.

Table 5.4: Course Grade Descriptors.

Table 6.1: Session Design in the Enacted Curriculum.

Table 6.2: Analysis of the Instructor’s Construction of Occupational Ideologies and the Multimedia Logic of the Audio Slideshow.

Table 6.3: Analysis of the Instructor’s Construction of a Repertoire on Generic Structure (Potentials) of Character-Driven Narrative.

Table 6.4: Evaluation of the Instructor’s Construction of a Repertoire on Mono- and Multimodal Coherence-Enhancement Strategies. ← xiii | xiv →

Table 7.1: Session Content Planning in the Enacted Curriculum.

Table 7.2: Multimedia Package Examples Shown in the Course.

Table 7.3: Difference Between “Big Stories” and “Small Stories.”

Table 7.4: Shot-by-Shot Analysis of the Filling Up Data Visualization Video.

Table 7.5: Relations Between Media Formats, Commentary Focus, and Platforms/Tools of Online News Storytelling.

Table 7.6: Topics & Perspectives Covered and Pedagogical Activities in the Sessions on Twitter Journalism.

Table 7.7: Story Titles, Multimedia Elements and Their Selection Rationale in Group One’s Multimedia Package Project.

Table 7.8: Participant Types and Affinity Space.

Table 7.9: Students’ Strategies of Story Structuring in Relation to the Placement and Combination of Multimedia Elements of Story Pages.

| xv →


Figure 3.1: A Digital-Literacies-Informed, Genre-Aware Model for Online Journalism.

Figure 3.2: Genre Hierarchy.

Figure 3.3: A Genre-Aware Framework of Online Journalism Course Analysis.

Figure 6.1: Evaluation of Repertoire Coverage in the Undergraduate Course.

Figure 6.2: Over-Dominance of the Auditory Track.

Figure 6.3: Three Stages of Narrative Structuring.

Figure 6.4: Interplay Between the Dual Tracks of Shine for Life.

Figure 7.1: Mapping Session Contents onto the Different Dimensions of Online Journalism.

Figure 7.2: A Snapshot of the Students’ Interaction in Their Facebook Group.

Figure 7.3: Each Participant’s Total Number of Actions.

Figure 7.4: Distribution of Four Types of Participant Actions.

Figure 7.5: Average Number of Comments Received Per Initiative Post.

| xvii →


This book comes out of my first interdisciplinary research project that bridges educational linguistics and journalism. My greatest debt is to all the instructors and students who made the book possible by lending their time and support to my project. Without meeting in person ever before, the instructors kindly responded to my emails of research inquiry and agreed to shoehorn me in the media lab where the weekly classes on online journalism were conducted. It was their warmth, friendliness, and open-mindedness that pulled me through the anxious, self-doubting period as a novice classroom ethnographer. Being a participant-observer in class, I was deeply touched and inspired by their commitment to professionalism as both experienced journalists and journalism educators. All the student informants have spared precious time out of their busy schedules during and around the examination weeks of the semester to participate in my research interviews. Their reflexive engagement in both the interviews and coursework brought along an abundance of insights about the emergent and ever-changing field of journalism education in response to soico-technological innovations.

Nor would the book be possible without the funding support for research posgraduate students sponsored by the Faculty of Education, the University of Hong Kong, and a research faculty startup grant sponsored by the Fundamental ← xvii | xviii → Research Funds for the Central Universities, China (JJH3152034, Fudan University, Shanghai).

As the book is developed on the basis of my doctoral dissertation, I owe a great deal to Professor Angel M. Y. Lin, who was my supervisor when I was studying as a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education, the University of Hong Kong, from 2010 to 2014. Angel has given me the freedom to venture into new research areas while contributing valuable advice. Her academic expertise and knowledge enabled me to approach online journalism education by integrating a variety of theoretical traditions and methods. Her detailed and thought-provoking feedback on earlier drafts of my dissertation has fostered my skills of critical thinking and academic writing. Her passion and dedication to critical-theory-informed, interdisciplinary research in the fields of educational linguistics, communication studies, and cultural studies have been constant inspirations for me as an early-career researcher after graduation.

Professor Grahame Bilbow, Professor Mike Yao, and Professor Susan Bridges, who read earlier drafts of my doctoral disseration, have provided incisive suggestions on integrating the theoretical traditions of multiliteracies and New Literacies into my analytical framework, which later inspired me to draw on digital literacies as the overarching theoretical lens to analyze online journalism practices in this book.

My thinking was also informed by editors and anonymous reviewers of Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism and Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. Their comments on my manuscripts derived from the present study have helped me modify the theoretical model on online journalism analysis initially proposed in my doctoral dissertation. Chapter Six and Chapter Seven of the present book have been substantially enriched by incorporating edited versions of my two articles respectively published in those two journals with permissions granted by SAGE publications. The anonymous reviewer for Peter Lang Publications has also provided constructive comments on full versions of the manuscript, which helped improve its logical cohesion and academic regidity.

I also owe my gratitude to Professor Qu Weiguo, who introduced me into the exciting fields of discourse analysis and sociolinguistics when I was studying as a postgraduate student at Fudan University, Shanghai. His works on critical literacy and identity politics have also helped with my revisions on earlier versions of the book. As my colleague, he gives me constant insights and inspirations to foster a critical, caring and courageous way of becoming while never forgetting to infuse everyday life with a sense of light-heartedness. ← xviii | xix →

I would also like to thank all the teachers who have taught me in the Faculty of Education and the Journalism and Media Studies Center (JMSC) at the University of Hong Kong, especially Carol K. K. Chan, Ying Chan, Daniel Churchill, Andy Xuesong Gao, Gary Harfitt, Jasmine Luk, Li Yongyan, Lu Jingyan, Miguel Pérez-Milans, Miklos Sukosk, and Qian Gang. Their courses have provided me with interdisciplinary training indispensible for the present study. Thanks also go to Tony Tsui who prepared and lent video shooting hardwares to me on a weekly basis during my class observation.

Knowledge, encouragement, and practical advice have also been shared by my friends and classmates at Fudan University and the University of Hong Kong. They are: Feng Zhaozhao, He Peichang, Hu Jing, Gina Chang, Jasmine Chiu, Jiang Yan, Caroline Gao, Jin Guangmei, Li Can, Li Nan, Lin Feng, Lisa Onland, Lu Wenjing, Pei Changgen, Tang Jia, Wang Na, Wu Jingjing, Xie Yimeng, Yuan Lun, Yuan Zhen, Zhang Peihua, Zhang Qianye, and Zhong Yi.

Last but not the least, I would like to thank my parents for their unfailing support and eternal love.

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Research Background1

Technology has brought along constant evolution to journalism (Pavlik, 2001). With the emergence of online journalism in the 1990s, online news practices challenge the occupational jurisdiction of journalism with a multiplicity of conflicting and competing journalistic ideals, including objectivity (Schudson, 2003; Tuchman, 1978), transparency (Karlsson, 2010), and participation (Hujanen, 2013; Lewis, 2012). The new tools of news production and presentation afforded by the new media have inevitably brought along negotiations of journalistic rules, norms, or values in news institutions as well as genres of news storytelling defined by specific platforms and formats.

Along with the transformation of journalism practices comes the re-configuration of journalism education. In order to prepare journalism students to live up to the demands of online journalism today, journalism schools have developed courses that emphasize journalistic practice on online news platforms and tools. The majority of existing studies on online journalism education have adopted a skill-based paradigm,2 which regards the central task of online journalism education as equipping journalism students with necessary skills in order to be “work-ready” (Becker, Vlad, & Kalpen, 2011; Deuze, 2001). These skills include (1) technological skills of operating online ← 1 | 2 → tools, software, and platforms, such as SoundSlides Plus, WordPress.com, and Twitter; (2) traditional journalism skills or duties of sourcing, verification, text-based reporting, and editing; and (3) news packaging skills in relation to newly emerged formats, such as audio slideshows (photo slideshows with audio), animated information graphics, news tweets, and live streaming (Wenger, Owens, & Thompson, 2014).

Admitting the importance of online skill training, some journalism educators also call for incorporation of conceptual and critical issues on journalism profession in online journalism curricula (Blom and Davenport, 2012; Du and Lo, 2014; Mc Devitt, et al., 2018). Recent studies have proposed a variety of pedagogical methods in order to foster critical thinking in the inherent context of online news reporting (Bor, 2014; Cochrane, Sissons, & Mulrennan, 2012; Woolley, 2014). Meanwhile, a few studies (Lipschultz, 2012) highlighted that storytelling, the essential craft of journalism, needs to be prioritized in online journalism courses.

The afore-reviewed literature has emphasized one or more of the three major aspects in designing and teaching online journalism courses, including technological and news packaging skills, critical thinking, and news storytelling. However, it remains a challenge to discern the relationship among those aspects of online journalism practices in both research and pedagogy. More important, what is lacking is an understanding of how online journalistic products are created from the perspective of the creators as well as its potential implications for online journalism education and journalism education in general. Therefore, this study proposes a genre-aware, semiotic-aware, critical framework informed by digital literacy studies and embeds a case study in the theoretical framework in order to understand the “literacies” that are required for multimedia news storytelling.

The notion of digital literacies is defined as the “the practices of communicating, relating and ‘being’ associated with digital media” (Jones & Hafner, 2012). It is built upon two inter-related traditions of literacy studies—New Literacy Studies (NLS) and Multiliteracies Studies. NLS adopt a sociocultural approach to literacy studies (Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Gee, [1990] 2012; Lankshear & Knobel, 2011). The “newness” of the NLS lies in three aspects. First, New Literacy researchers regard literacy as social practice or practice embedded in social and cultural contexts. Gee ([1990] 2012) argues that literacy is always situated in Discourses. Discourses refer to “ways of behaving, interacting, valuing, thinking, believing, speaking, and often reading and writing, that are accepted as instantiations of particular identities (or ‘kinds of people’) by specific groups” (Gee, [1990] 2012, p. 3). Any literacy practice by ← 2 | 3 → an individual simultaneously enacts an identity affiliated to one or more Discourses, whether in harmony or in tension. Second, NLS emphasize the critical awareness of the discourse community members toward their own literacy practice, their beliefs, and values, as well as institutional codes of conduct that have been internalized and recognized by these members. It requires learners being socialized in any kind of literacy practice to not only achieve mastery in performance but to learn meta-knowledge about (1) the Discourse(s) that they subscribe to and (2) how the Discourses come into being historically and evolve under specific social and cultural contexts, and to learn a meta-language to articulate and to share their understandings about the meta-knowledge so as to make possibilities of revising the Discourses together with the underlying power relations (Gee, 2014). The cultivation of meta-knowledge and a meta-language makes new literacies inherently akin with critical literacy and critical pedagogy (Gee, 2014). Third, NLS have led a “digital” turn in literacy research by emphasizing how digital technologies drive changes in literacy practice (Mills, 2010). Ethnographic studies have revealed innovative use of digital technologies among children both in school and at home (Gilje, 2010; Vasudevan, Schultz, & Bateman, 2010). Their attention to the juxtaposition of multiple types of semiotic resources (written and spoken texts, images, sounds, voices, etc.) overlaps with the tradition of multiliteracies studies (New London Group, 1996).

New London Group (1996) argues that the textual literacy is increasingly integrated with other modes of meaning making, including “the visual, the audio, the spatial, the behavioral, and so on” (Cazden et al., 1996, p. 64). Apart from linguistic meaning, five other equally important elements, including “visual meaning, audio meaning, gestural meaning, spatial meaning, and the multimodal patterns of meaning that relates to the first five modes of meaning to each other” (Cazden et al., 1996, p. 65), are incorporated into the making of meaning (or design). Multiliteracies researchers (Kress, 2003, 2010; Kress & van Leeuwen, 1996; van Leeuwen, 2005) have also contributed substantially to the development of multimodal discourse analysis (MDA), which provides the meta-language for both ethnographic and textual studies in both traditions of literacy studies reviewed above.


XX, 308
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (May)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Vienna, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XX, 308 pp., 12 b/w ill., 22 tbl.

Biographical notes

Yang Song (Author)

Yang Song received her Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong. She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Fudan University, China. Her research interests include digital literacies and identity formation.


Title: Multimedia News Storytelling as Digital Literacies
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