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Archive for the ‘storytelling’ Category

LifepostsI’ve shifted much of my writing time from blogging about journalism to personal storytelling. So I thought I should blog about personal storytelling and its place in journalism.

My work days are still filled with journalism matters: leading LSU’s student media operations and teaching journalism classes (though didn’t teach a summer class). But I used to spend considerable time on weekends, early mornings and evenings writing on this blog, where I am certainly practicing journalism, usually about journalism. I spent less time, but occasionally considerable time, on two other blogs that are types of journalism, my Hated Yankees blog about baseball and Mimi’s and my 2 Roads Diverged blog about travel.

More and more, I find that personal writing is crowding journalism out of my non-work writing. And it’s not all related to my experience with cancer. Certainly, since my 2014 diagnosis of lymphoma, I have chronicled much of my treatment and observations about cancer on my CaringBridge journal. That, and the treatment itself, have cut into my time spent here.

But another project recently, unrelated to my illness, also took many hours. Steve Waldman called my attention a while back to a new product he’s working on called LifePosts, and I thought it would be a great tool to tell my father’s story. Dad died in 1978 at age 56. He died before his oldest two grandchildren’s second birthdays, so none of his 22 grandchildren has any memory of him. So I spent a few weeks earlier this year developing a timeline of Dad’s life. It was a mix of writing and research, and I enjoyed working on it immensely, stirring up many fond memories of Dad and learning (or relearning) things about him from various family documents. (more…)

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Thanks to all who joined today’s Online Media Campus webinar, Interactive Storytelling Tools.

The tools I demonstrated during the webinar were Storify, Google Maps and Infogr.am. The tool Elaine Clisham mentioned in her tweets (below) was Tableau. Elaine (a friend from our days at the American Press Institute together) made some of the same points I did, about how easily and quickly you can learn to use a new tool.

Examples I used during the webinar:

Holiday lights map

Fireworks map

Carrie Jewell Dugo Atavist story

Chasing the Beast

Here’s the link from my 2015 Interactive Storytelling Tools class, with my students’ tutorials on various tools and examples of how they used them.

Here is an earlier post with more examples of interactive stories:

Examples of stories using interactive tools

Here are my slides from the webinar:

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Here’s why journalists need to master visual storytelling and interactive storytelling tools: They work.

Tyler Fisher analyzed user engagement data for projects by the NPR Visuals Team, and the deeper engagement, compared to the hit-and-run visits to most news stories, presents a stunning contrast.

I recommend reading Fisher’s full post, but this passage best explains how visual, interactive storytelling results in better journalism:

Ultimately, making people care is about the quality of the story itself, not about the format in which we tell it. But I think that, with stories where text plays a large role, we are capable of making people read stories longer than they normally would because of how sequential visual storytelling allows us to pace the story.

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Today more than two dozen veteran journalists share a lot of advice on interviewing, especially about dealing with nerves.

It turns out the journalism student who started the conversation has a lot of company. Even veteran journalists get nervous when they interview, sometimes extremely so. But lots of us learn to overcome our nerves and invite people to tell their stories, and we’ve enjoyed careers even though the nerves never go completely away.

The conversation started this week in a private Facebook group, where a journalism professor sought aid from some former colleagues, asking for advice on helping a student who “is really struggling when he has to interview people in his intro to reporting class. He gets very nervous and just can’t do it.”

Veteran journalists in the group offered great advice. I updated an old handout on interviewing and sought still more advice. Some of the advice overlaps, but I regard that as reinforcement, not repetition.

The responses here (lightly edited, often at the writers’ request) come from the original conversation on Facebook and comments on yesterday’s blog post from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email (comments and photos used with permission):

Advice for the student

Yvonne Beasley

Yvonne Beasley

Yvonne Beasley

Yvonne, city life reporter and Reno Rebirth digital project manager at the Reno Gazette-Journal, gave this tip:

A wise, introverted photog once told me “you can put on another personality. You’re acting. Be a great actress.” Another thing is: That uncomfortable feeling goes away with age.

(more…)

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Steve Buttry interviewing Mikhail Gorbachev

Yes, I was nervous when I interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev.

In a Facebook group, a journalism professor this week asked a bunch of veteran journalists for help with a student who “is really struggling when he has to interview people in his intro to reporting class. He gets very nervous and just can’t do it.”

The resulting discussion thread was interesting and uplifting: lots of excellent journalists confessing to their own nerves and discussing how they gained the confidence (and the skill) to overcome the nerves and/or to interview effectively in spite of them. I’ve asked their permission to share some of their advice on my blog.

I posted that advice separately. I’d welcome your advice, too, either in a comment on this blog or by email (tell me what you’re doing now and please send a photo you have rights to): stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com.

Today’s installment will be my advice on interviewing (not just nerves, but techniques, too). Here I’m updating and reposting the handout from a workshop on interviews that I haven’t led in years. But it was a popular choice back in my writing-coach days. I posted it more than a decade ago on the No Train, No Gain website, but I’ve updated it a bit (the Word doc I had it on was dated 2003).

In my response to the discussion thread, I suggested that effective preparation would help the student struggling with nerves. (more…)

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Rolling StoneInvestigating an allegation of rape is one of the most difficult things for a reporter (or police detective or prosecutor) to do.

I’m not going to dwell here on the Rolling Stone reporting about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity party. Lots of excellent journalists have commented on Rolling Stone’s faulty reporting and the related issues, and I’ll link to some of the pieces I have seen at the end of this piece.

I will say this about the Rolling Stone story: If men from the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity didn’t rape “Jackie,” the Rolling Stone’s central source, the story irresponsibly smeared any innocent men in the fraternity. If “Jackie” was raped, the story irresponsibly gave millions of rape survivors one more reason not to tell their stories. Rape is the most underreported violent crime in our society and the greatest tragedy of this journalistic travesty is that the outcry over the Rolling Stone story will undoubtedly cause some rape survivors to keep the crimes against them secret, out of fear that they won’t be believed. When writing about rape, journalists have to get their facts right. Being wrong in either direction is grossly irresponsible.

My point here, though, is not to write one more commentary on the sins of the Rolling Stone. I am writing to provide advice for journalists writing about rape and other intimate and/or traumatic topics. (more…)

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In some emails last week and in my post on a workshop last Friday, I asked for examples of effective use of interactive storytelling tools.

Below are examples sent by some friends. I haven’t had a chance to check them all out, but I trust these friends’ judgment, so I pass them along enthusiastically. With the exception of Mike Reilley, all the examples come from my former colleagues at Digital First Media. I was seeking enterprise examples, but they sent interactive stories from a variety of situations. I think in many of these cases, other colleagues were involved. I wasn’t asking just for their own work, but for good work they had seen lately. With light editing, the list is pretty much what they sent me.

Buffy Andrews’ interactive stories

Buffy, assistant managing editor at the York Daily Record and a novelist, sent along these: (more…)

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I’ll be leading a workshop today on digital planning for enterprise stories at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Nashville.

Much of the workshop will revolve around the questions for planning enterprise stories that I blogged about earlier this year.

Other links relating to the workshop:

Five Satins: A ‘Sunday’ story published digitally the Monday before

‘In the Still of the Night’: Five Satins recorded biggest hit in New Haven church basement

Sunshine Week project showed digital-first enterprise approach

Sunshine Week project

10 steps toward a mobile-focused culture for your news organisation

Denver Post’s Chasing the Beast

Denver Post’s The Fire Line

Nola.com’s then-and-now Hurricane Katrina photos

ProPublica Patient Harm Facebook group

Gettysburg 150 app

Cost of Dying app

Daniel Victor’s post on infusing community contribution throughout the reporting process

Carrie Jewell-Dugo project, story by Paula Ann Mitchell, photos by Tania Barricklo, design by Ivan Lajara, using Creatavist

Ed Stannard and Angi Carter interactive map on Yale’s tax-exempt property in New Haven

I’ll probably update this with some more examples. I welcome any you might want to suggest, whether by you, colleagues or competitors:

Here’s my first update, a Spundge from Buffy Andrews of the York Daily Record, explaining a variety of digital tools.

Here are my slides for the workshop (also subject to updating as I get more fresh examples):

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I led a webinar today on digital approaches to enterprise stories. It mentioned these links as advice and examples:

Questions to help newsrooms unbolt enterprise reporting from the ‘Sunday story’

Five Satins: A ‘Sunday’ story published digitally the Monday before

‘In the Still of the Night’: Five Satins recorded biggest hit in New Haven church basement

Sunshine Week project showed digital-first enterprise approach

Sunshine Week project

Denver Post’s Chasing the Beast

Denver Post’s The Fire Line

Nola.com’s then-and-now Hurricane Katrina photos

ProPublica Patient Harm Facebook group

Gettysburg 150 app

Here are my slides from the webinar:

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When traumatic stuff happens in a community, journalists are some of the first on the scene, along with the cops, fire fighters, paramedics and other emergency workers.

These tragic events that end and disrupt lives can propel a journalism career forward. The phrase “great story” invariably slips from some journalist’s lips (usually out of earshot of those for whom the trauma is evident). We often cover these stories, though, without a full understanding of what trauma is, how it works and its impact on those who experience trauma, including the journalists who cover it.

At a workshop for Digital First journalists this month in West Chester, Pa., Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, led an exploration of the uncomfortable issues of how we get great stories from tragic events and how we process the trauma that we experience.

Scott Blanchard and Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record journalists, organized the workshop and helped Shapiro lead it. They proposed this training to me after attending a Dart program as winners of honorable mention for a Dart Award for their coverage of the lasting impact of a violent, traumatic event. I supported their suggestion and Claire Gaval, Digital First Media’s Vice President of Learning and Organization Development, helped make it happen.

Scott blogged about the workshop yesterday. I was able to attend only the first of two days of training, and Bruce told participants the workshop would be off the record, to encourage people to talk freely. So I won’t blog much about the workshop itself (though I encourage others to consider holding similar workshops).

What I will do here is share some of my advice from years of reporting and editing on stories about disasters, murders, sexual and domestic abuse and other traumatic situations.

Some of these are tips or anecdotes I shared during the workshop. Others I thought of during the discussions but kept to myself because I thought it was more important for others to talk. I’m not on the front lines of our coverage of traumatic news, and the point of the workshop was to get those on the front lines talking, so they could learn from each other about covering these difficult events and about dealing with the personal impact of that coverage. (more…)

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I’m leading workshops today on doing better stories. In two 90-minute workshops, we’re going to cover a lot of ground at the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association Symposium in Calgary.

The workshop will cover material in these blog posts:

Finding and developing story ideas

Suggestions for livetweeting

You don’t tip competitors on Twitter, you beat them

Tips on verifying facts and ensuring accuracy

My version of Craig Silverman’s accuracy checklist

How to verify information from tweets: Check it out

Organizing a complex story

Make Your Story Sing:  Learn from songwriters how to tell stories in just a few words

Strong from the start: advice for writing leads

Make every word count: Tips for polishing and tightening copy

I’ll discuss these stories:

The Homecoming

The Farragut Admiralettes

Roy Wenzl’s “mystery child” story

The rescue of the twins

Here are my slides for the workshop:

I’m going to use some songs and a video clip to make some points. Here they are (this will be more helpful for the people in the workshop; if you weren’t there, they might not all make sense):

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I used to start workshops by telling reporters the most important thing they could get from an interview was the “Walmart sack.” I carried a blue plastic Walmart sack loaded with my workshop handouts and dropped the sack with a thump onto a table, hoping to intrigue the reporters and grab their attention.

Finding a character’s Walmart sack should be the point of an interview, I said. You needed to learn what the character’s Walmart sack was and you needed to get the character to entrust the sack to you.

The Walmart sack was a metaphor in my workshops, but it was a real sack when I interviewed Vanessa Forsberg in 1995. I had a riveting, powerful interview with Vanessa, but the Walmart sack held papers that could tell part of her story even better than she could. (more…)

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