In a course I’m taking at my university, Multimedia Storytelling, we were assigned a Multimedia Story Package to analyze and discuss. I was given one created by the Washington Post called, Refugee: 18 Stories from the Syrian Exodus.
Right away the animated cover photo catches your attention as you enter the page. It takes up the whole screen with a mixture of black, grey and white people walking across then pulls back to reveal they make up a face with the title of the story next to it. Writer Kevin Sullivan traveled to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon with photographer Linda Davidson back in October of 2016 to report on the Syrian refugee crisis, which is, “One of the largest forced migrations of people since World War II.”
The focus of this story is to describe 18 unique and personal stories from a variety of refugees. Their goal is help others understand “one of the most daunting human crises in recent memory” and to showcase just a taste of what these Syrian refugees are dealing with as their lives and all the countries involved with never be the same.
After reviewing the entire story package, I honestly just had to sit in my chair for a few minutes to process what I had just read and viewed. There was a moment while just reading the first of eighteen stories, the cover story titled, “Changing region, changing lives,” where I became physically emotional over what I read.
“For five months, he has been sleeping on the floor in the hall, or sometimes outside on the grass. His son Mahmoud, 8, sleeps where he can find space. They have no money. The hospital gives them food. Their only possessions are a few clothes stuffed into a small plaid bag. Dania’s mother, Ghada Amroosh, has slept every night in the armchair beside her daughter’s hospital bed. She doesn’t mind. ‘After what happened, nothing is really difficult anymore.’”
Just this short section above puts into perspective, and again just a miniscule glimpse, of what life is like for these refugees. It’s easy to take so much for granted like all the material items we own or even just a bed…yet when I read how an eight year old sleeps wherever he can find space my world feels turned upside down. I feel utterly and completely selfish..
So yes, this piece is extremely effective and describes the refugee crisis in one of the best story and packaging formats I have seen thus far. The forms used to tell this story were articles, photos, videos, interactive graphics, high-resolution maps, navigation panel at the top of the page, automatically updated graphic piece at the bottom of the page describing how many Syrians have left the country since you’ve been reading, and a location to donate to this cause. You can also use the interactive cover image to switch from article to article.
The focus of each story was as follows:
Cover Story-Changing region, changing lives: Dania Amroosh, 7-year-old, and her family
Stitching a Life-Mouneer Kalthoum: Kalthoum, 34-year-old
Scraps of Life-A junkyard camp: About a non-official refugee camp hosting around 50 Syrian refugees
Born into Exile-Khalid al-Saawdeh: Hanana Assaad, 32-year-old and newborn baby
A Businessman at 11-A child goes to work: 11-year-old boy
Downwardly Mobile-Khaled Habib: Habib and family living in old refrigerated truck trailer, 26-year-old
Sniper Victim-Baraa Hamid: Hamid, 18-year-old, shot by sniper
Wedding Day-Samah al-Saud: al-Saud, 24-year-old, getting married
After a Century-Abdul Rahman Ahmed: Ahmed, 105-year-old
Medical Misery-Ahmed al-Khalid: al-Khalid, 2-year-old, lost left eye
War Widow-Huda Khalaf: Khalaf, 31-year-old, lost husband
Sadness in the Slums-Fathiya Ahmed: Ahmed, 45-year-old, living in slums
New Orphans-Najiba Abdul Rahman: Rahman, 56-year-old, took in her son’s kids after he was killed
Buried in Foreign Soil-Ramtha Cemetery: Describing those buried on foreign soil
A Lifestyle Lost-Mohammad Faham: Faham, 54-year-old, richer refugee and his family’s story
A Familiar Fate-Mahmoud Toufik Jaber: Jaber, 68-year-old, Palestinian refugee since three years old
Turned Back-Ahmed Mahmoud Mansour: Mansour, accused of loyalty to Assad, forged documents
New Camp Rises-A desert settlement: potentially one of world’s largest refugee camps
As you can see, each of these stories does in fact contribute to the overall goal of this piece, which is to showcase the different lives of Syrian refugees. The design and navigation of this piece was effective and easy to follow. The first page has each story in a square you can choose from, or you can switch from story to story on the interactive cover header or navigation panel above that. On each story, there are unique pictures and videos related as well as some other links like a map to describe areas or people in more detail. It is convenient as well that each video shows how long it is before you click on it, and the graphic at the bottom (describing how many refugees have left Syria since you began reading) is consistently at the bottom updating.
The packaging is engaging because of all the story forms involved and how it is full of high-quality pictures and videos. The articles are extremely well written with a bit of descriptive writing involved to give better pictures of the scenery. The strengths of this package are definitely its multiple story forms, high-quality graphics/images/videos, and variety of content available to read all coming from a unique perspective to keep the reader engaged. The weaknesses would be that some of the articles are very long and a reader may not want to read the entire piece and when clicking on the comments button, it takes you to a page where nothing appears.
This piece left me feeling slightly satisfied as though I got an inside view into the lives of refugees, but it also leaves me wanting more because I realized how little I know about this crisis. It astounds me that all this is going on in the world and yet we are so detached here in the United States. One significant concept I learned from this package regarding multimedia is how adding graphics can at times explain something better than writing about it, no matter how great of a writer you are. For example, the graphic at the bottom of the page that updates the longer you are on the site of how many refugees have left is more effective than if the phrase, “Three thousand refugees leave a day.” It leaves me with such a different feeling and “eye-opening” gut check when I see that number consistently going up as I am sitting in the comfort of my apartment reading about these people, who are just that, people…like me.
(Feature Photograph Credit: Linda Davidson, Washington Post)