by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) A multimedia journalist for the Tiso Blackstar Group, Anthony Molyneaux (@AJGMolyneaux) won a Bookmark Award earlier this year for his groundbreaking video that mapped the final hours of Stellenbosch student Hannah Cornelius, leading up to her brutal murder in 2017. Molyneaux talks about the ways in which multimedia can be used to draw attention to crimes that may otherwise become mere statistics in people’s minds.
Q5: Could you take us through the process of creating the video?
Anthony Molyneaux: I initially started the process of mapping to get a sense of where Hannah Cornelius and Cheslin Marsh were when they were kidnapped, and then determine where they were taken in the hours that followed… trying to figure out what the culprits were intending to do and why. I gathered all the information available and, as the court case unfolded and the accused testified (even though they had differing stories at times), it was possible to more accurately plot a probable sequence of events. The last piece of the puzzle came with the CCTV footage that showed where the culprits stopped, and to glimpse their demeanour. Surprisingly, Hannah could be spotted in one of the CCTV videos — a haunting image of the young girl sitting in the passenger seat of her grandmother’s car, with no idea what would end up happening to her. By collating all this information, it was possible to narrate the event in a way that could inform the public, and engage them.
Q5: The process seems very involved — how did you manage it from a psychological perspective?
AM: If you are referring to how I managed my psychological wellbeing while covering this case, I’d say I don’t think you can come away from cases like these unaffected. But it’s necessary to feel these things in order to create a truly authentic and honest piece. I guess everyone has their own limits, and this case definitely affected me — whenever I drive through Stellenbosch, I notice the places where Hannah’s last moments played. Whenever I see a blue-and-white Citi Golf, I immediately think of the case. These things do fade over time, but it’s the occupational hazard you need to endure if you report on crime. It’s nothing compared to what the family of the victims have to go through.
Q5: How did this project compare to your regular day-to-day tasks?
AM: I am a multimedia journalist but I predominantly work with video. Daily, for the past two to three years, I’ve covered hard news. However, I now have greater scope to create longer-form videos, and investigate more in-depth topics — which is wonderful. I really enjoy going to court and, although reporting on crime is not easy, I feel it’s where I should be. There are, however, strict rules when it comes to filming in court, and the setting can be quite limiting in a visual sense.
Q5: In your opinion, how can multimedia be used more effectively in the coverage of crime?
AM: The old-school ways of telling a story through a visual piece are still great but I want to do something new. TV-style crime pieces are fantastic and they are well-known but there is a difference between the TV and the digital audience. I want to be glued to my screen for as long as possible because, in my opinion, that’s when you feel connected to a story. Luckily, in the multimedia world, we are still experimenting and finding new ways to engage audiences, which makes it an exciting place to be. However, it’s important to not think there is a ‘proper way’ of telling a story — it’s a kind of postmodern approach, I guess, but the key is confidence and working hard to make it look good and keep the viewer interested. The techniques we can use now in the digital world are growing rapidly, so I’m excited to see how we will be telling visual stories in the next five years.
Q5: How did readers engage with the style of storytelling you used in the video?
AM: I received amazing feedback. People were obviously affected by the story but that was because they engaged in an emotional way with the crime that took place. It served the purpose of giving power to the victims (Hannah, and Cheslin Marsh, who was brutally assaulted), and allowing Hannah to be remembered, rather than becoming just another statistic.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her new regular column “Q5” aims to hone in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with experts in media, marketing and design.
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