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Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

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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My move to Journal Register Co. and Digital First Media and my work for my new companies dominated my writing this year on this blog. I’ve reviewed my blogging each of the past two years, so I’ll do it again in a post that clearly is self-indulgent. Still, I think it’s good to look back on a year’s work, and as long as I’m doing that, I might as well blog it.

The most notable posts of the year were a series I wrote the week before Christmas, explaining aspects of Digital First journalism. The piece on the workflow of a Digital First journalist became my second most-read blog post ever in just a week. While it’s more than 3,000 views behind my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, I’m sure it will eventually become my most-read blog post. It took the C3 blueprint nine months to reach 5,000 views. The Digital First workflow topped that in just over a week. Three other posts in the series topped 1,000 views quickly.

My work for JRC and DFM contributed to the blog in lots of other ways. I explained what community engagement means. More than a dozen blog posts offer tips, links and slides for workshops I did in visits to Digital First newsrooms. I also blogged frequently about how Digital First Media colleagues are using social media and engaging the community: (more…)

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This will be a long post about storytelling in journalism. It starts with a story I wrote in 2000 that was never published. This was from a trip I made to Venezuela as a reporter for the Des Moines Register. In this version, I identify the Venezuelans I interviewed only by their first names. I used their full names in the version I submitted for publication then, but I don’t feel comfortable using their names a decade-plus later (though some are identified in the published story linked below). Other editing of my original draft is minor. I’ll discuss some current issues relating to storytelling in journalism after I finally publish this story.

Blanquita de Perez, Venezuela — Like the houses and buses and mountainsides, the language barrier stood no chance against La Tragedia.

Even a journalist who needed a Spanish-English dictionary to look up his own trade (periodista) could understand the stories I heard as Ramon took photographer Gary Fandel and me walking through this village on the edge of the devastated seaside resort of La Guaira on a Thursday morning in February.

No interpreter was available, but the wide swaths of mud and boulders we had seen on the bus ride along the coast beckoned. We needed a close look at this carnage, known here simply as La Tragedia, The Tragedy. (more…)

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Alex Howard has weighed in on the storytelling discussion that I recounted here yesterday.

He likens tweets to amuse-bouche, blog posts to appetizers (which, he notes, can be light or heavy), long-form narrative to the entree and links to dessert. Dan Conover suggested video or comments as side dishes. I added that an interactive database might be the recipe.

I like food and I like storytelling, so I like the metaphors. They’re not precise; sometimes the video or blog post might be the entree. But metaphors are for understanding, not precision. I hope this helps you understand that Twitter and blogging don’t endanger narrative. They add to our storytelling feast.

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I recommend three pieces on narrative journalism to your attention.

I addressed the future of storytelling in a recent post, Storytellers are challenged, not limited, by Twitter and other digital tools. That post, if you missed it before, might provide some helpful context for this one.

Joel Achenbach, an outstanding writer for the Washington Post, wrote lovingly about long narrative (focusing on Sports Illustrated überstoryteller Gary Smith) and condescendingly about digital communication: (more…)

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