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Kim Komenich

01: July 2009

Kim Komenich is an assistant professor for new media at San Francisco State University. Komenich worked as a staff photographer and editor for the San Francisco Chronicle (2000-2009) and the San Francisco Examiner (1982-2000). He was awarded the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Spot News Photography for photographs of the Philippine Revolution he made while on assignment for the Examiner. Komenich has photographed the ramifications of conflict in the Philippines, Vietnam, Guyana, El Salvador, the former Soviet Union and most recently in Iraq, where photos from his three trips to the Sunni Triangle in 2005 earned him the Military Reporters and Editors' Association's 2006 Photography Award.


In 2010 he received the national Sigma Delta Chi award for Independent Digital Media Presentation (with reporter Kwan Booth and editor Josh Wilson) for Newsdesk.org's "Bay Area Toxic Tour." He also received the National Press Photographers Association's 2010 Humanitarian Award.


He has received the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the 1983 World Press Photo News Picture Story Award, and three National Headliner Awards.


From fall, 1998 to winter, 2000 he was a visiting instructor at the University of Missouri, where he taught the capstone "Picture Story and the Photographic Essay" course. While at Missouri he received the Donald K. Reynolds Graduate Teaching Award.


He is a 2005 recipient of the Clifton C. Edom Award from the National Press Photographers' Association.


He was a 1993-94 John S.Knight Fellow at Stanford and a fall, 2001 teaching fellow at The Center for Documentary Studies at U.C. Berkeley. He was a 2006-07 Dart Ochberg Fellow at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, now based at Columbia University.


In 2007 he received his MA in Journalism from the University of Missouri, where he studied the history and practice of multimedia photojournalism.


Kim participated in the July 2009 MediaStorm Methodology Workshop. He had the following to say about his experience:


The Mediastorm Methodology Workshop exposed me to the inner workings of one of the most celebrated multimedia houses in the history of the medium. I watched as MediaStorm multimedia producers and interactive designers created cutting-edge multi-platform multimedia in real-world environment where creativity, technology and economic survival meet.

My hypothesis about teaching all the skills necessary to do original, compelling multimedia were validated--the student needs to found their career on a core competency. There are processes that students need to understand and there are prosesses that students need to know, to know as well as a jazz musician knows their instrument.

The temptation is to try make multimedia students "jacks of all trades", but the MediaStorm experience shows that graduates who are "masters of one" seem to be getting the good jobs. Students with a rich portfolio and an original point of view will have an advantage over those who have "shown competency" in all of the multimedia disciplines.

In short, there are things to know and there are things to truly understand. The multimedia project should be thought of as a production, so we should be educating "producers" who are proficient to the point of originality and insight about their multimedia core storytelling competency (video, audio, stills, etc.), and knowledgeable enough about the other skills needed to be able to assemble the best team of interactive designers, video editors and coders, to get the job done.

For the multimedia teacher, the first day of class might best be compared to the first day of football camp or the first day of band camp. Who is a natural-born quarterback? Who aspires to play the trumpet? Once this is decided, the process of teaching music and football can begin.

As much as multimedia teachers don't want to believe it, there are natural-born coders and back-end people in other departments who need story content for their projects.

And that's what it's all about, really-- telling a story. The only people calling this "new media" are the teachers. Most of our students have grown up with digital photography. Some might have already shot and edited a short video. To add too much weight to the teaching of the technical aspects of multimedia, to the detriment of the fieldwork and storytelling, is the equivalent of spending a semester teaching a group of aspiring writers to be better typists.

The Mediastorm Methodology Workshop gave me the confidence to set these priorities:

--Find a student's core competency and light a fire.
--Encourage collaboration.
--If you are practicing true multimedia storytelling, the story will tell you, as producer, how it should be told and what the proportions of video, audio, stills, and interactive design will be.
--Encourage entrepreneurship. There will never be a time in your students' lives when it will be easier to crash on a friend's couch and eat Taco Bell while inventing the next breakthrough in multimedia storytelling.

What a week! Do it!