Storytelling and reporting

From the Journalism and Democracy blog.

While reading the chapter about making the significant interesting and relevant, I couldn’t help but think about a lecture we had last semester in Advanced Reporting. This discussion focused on the difference between storytelling and reporting. In other words, the difference between reading a story and reading a report. The question was: Are the two different? Yes, at a fundamental level, there’s a difference between how you write a report about a shooting that occurred over the weekend. That strategy is different from how you may go about telling the story of a 12-year-old dying boy’s last four weeks, as is the example Kovach and Rosentiel give us.

Yet, the two are strangely similar. The chapter quotes Howard Rheingold as saying there’s one aspect that is most important; are taxes going up, is there going to be a war? “The other end of the spectrum is just what’s purely interesting … And most stories are something of a mix of the two,” Rheingold said. I think we have to try to remind ourselves of this when we’re covering what may seem to be a minor story. Many times it’s a reflection of something bigger, and it is a journalist’s job to bring that out. That’s where the rule of making the significant interesting and relevant comes into play.

Kovach and Rosentiel discuss the lack of time journalists have today as a factor to why this type of in depth journalism is harder to do today. Newsroom cutbacks have strained journalists all over. Many just don’t have the time to dedicate to a thorough, Pulitzer prize winning piece. When they do though, it doesn’t go unnoticed. There will always be a need or desire for these types of storytelling in journalism. Journalists just have to be careful moving forward and not forget how to tell intricate stories. Kovach and Rosentiel suggest to experiment with different storytelling techniques. It’s not just A to Z, but maybe it would be better to start with L, M, or P.

While a report on a fire or shooting may seem routine at first, there’s always a level of storytelling that can be done. The hard part is finding that story. You can start with the basics such as why the fire occurred or the amount of damage it caused. But there is also most likely a story that can be found. The key is to always keep an observant and open mind about your reporting to be an effective story teller.

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