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Posts Tagged ‘narrative journalism’

A complex story should not be challenge to the reader or viewer, however challenging it is for the writer. Careful work in organization of your reporting, digital production and writing will help readers make sense of stories that deal with cumbersome economic or technical issues, or with soap-opera tales that present multiple characters and confusing turns. These techniques will help keep the complex story clear.

Use digital storytelling tools

Reporters with long print experience tend to think they need to squeeze everything into the text story that they love to write. Digital First journalists need to think about the best tools for telling each part of the story.

The bigger the story, the more different digital storytelling tools you should consider. But an important part of organizing the story is to avoid overwhelming the reader or viewer with every fact and every tool you might use. Choose the most important information and then decide which tools share that information the best. Much of the success in a complex story is in those difficult decisions of what to leave out.

Videos and photos

For the strongly visual aspects of the story, use the best visual storytelling tools. Instead of writing a sidebar on a topic with visual appeal, or squeezing it into your text story, make it a Tout video or a longer video and give it prominent play in the package.

Or tell a story in a photo gallery. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an effective photo gallery saves you a lot of writing and lets the writer concentrate on the points that are best conveyed in words. (more…)

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Narrative journalism will survive the Manti Te’o hoax. In fact, the sports stories that spouted and perpetuated the lies of the hoax were not narrative journalism. They were shallow journalism.

Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden imagines that the backlash against sportswriters who failed to check out things they were told about Te’o’s fake girlfriend may “lead to fewer narrative stories, period, and that would not be such a great thing.”

The notion that coverage of the fake girlfriend’s death was narrative journalism is as bogus as her car crash, her leukemia, her Stanford enrollment or her death.

Here are a couple of key passages from Layden’s lament (Layden responded to my post on Twitter; I have embedded our Twitter exchange later in this post): (more…)

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Consider how storytelling has evolved through the centuries in art and literature: oral storytellers, epic poems, myths, legends, parables, fables, fairy tales, tall tales, campfire stories, ballads, sonnets, tragedies, comedies, mysteries, biographies, novels, short stories, free verse, comic books, operas, soap operas, animated cartoons, situation comedies, TV commercials, and on and on.

Storytelling in journalism has evolved, too: inverted pyramid, news briefs, columns, reviews, charticles, timelines, series, Q&A’s, narrative journalism, and on and on.

In a recent blog post, Jeff Jarvis committed journalistic heresy, questioning the use and future of the article, the most common product of newspaper journalism. “An article can be a luxury,” he wrote. (more…)

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This is another Training Tracks blog post from the archive of No Train, No Gain, originally published Oct. 25, 2004:

My initial reaction when an editor asked me to adapt my “Becoming a Storyteller” workshop to stress stories under 12 inches was cynicism.

I thought (and still think) that newspapers risk shooting themselves into the foot when they set arbitrary limits on stories. Certainly too many stories (not necessarily the longer stories) in newspapers are too long. I have developed a workshop to teach writers and editors how to tighten their stories. But I’ve always believed that newspapers need more, not less, of those spellbinding stories that the reader just can’t put down. (more…)

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One of my former newspapers, the Omaha World-Herald, has posted one of my best stories online. I wrote a 1997 narrative of the rescue of 3-year-old twins Jennifer and Kourtney Woracek. The story from the World-Herald archives was republished Sunday as a related link to an update on the twins (now 17), written by World-Herald columnist Mike Kelly, a friend for 18 years.

I don’t know what was my best story ever, but this one was close, if not the best. This was a story about heroic police and medical workers saving 3-year-old girls (both doing well now, as Mike reports).

In the years since I wrote that story, I have used it on occasion as an example in teaching narrative journalism. So I’ll repeat here some of the lessons that I learned or practiced in this story: (more…)

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This is the handout for my workshop on short narrative writing. I used to do this workshop quite often, but haven’t done it for a couple years. The handout was originally posted at No Train, No Gain. I am posting some of my NTNG handouts here, with some updating, because NTNG is no longer online.

A common conflict in newspaper newsrooms today is newsholes getting tighter and writers complaining about space limitations on their stories. While space is not limited online, busy digital readers still favor tighter stories. Without question, some stories lose important substance as they get cut for tighter newsholes. But writers should not assume that length restrictions preclude quality narrative writing. Listen to some of your favorite ballads. Study the storytelling of the songwriters. They tell powerful stories in fewer words than the average daily news story. Use those techniques in your stories. (more…)

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This is the handout for my workshop on personal interviews. I used to do this workshop quite often, but haven’t done it for a couple years. The handout was originally posted at No Train, No Gain. I am posting some of my NTNG handouts here, with some updating, because NTNG is no longer online.

Narrative writing grows from narrative reporting. The foundation of any narrative is the writer’s authoritative knowledge of what happened. Some of the most powerful narrative stories require special care in finding sources and arranging and conducting interviews. Narrative is a powerful way to tell stories in writing as well as in multimedia and especially in packages that use both effectively.

Some of the best narrative stories come from deeply personal stories that often are difficult to tell. Many people are especially reluctant to tell the compelling stories of such intimate or traumatic personal matters as rape, abortion, domestic violence, incest, faith, sexual orientation, bigotry, illness, betrayal, crime, divorce, corruption, family stress, war, disaster, immigration, substance abuse or the death of a loved one. These stories present obstacles, but they are not insurmountable. The challenges tend to fall in four areas: getting the interview, conducting a successful interview, collecting narrative material and telling the story. (more…)

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