Fall in love with the story, not the storytelling technique

It is great to see a new era of digital storytelling innovation and experimentation, and it isn’t just one form of storytelling but several.

  • Social media has become an important way to engage audiences around content, and social tools also give reporters an excellent way to report stories in real-time.
  • Data journalism has expanded dramatically over the last decade. We have data APIs, data visualisations and new forms of data-driven interactives. At the same time, data journalism has become more accessible with tools like Google Spreadsheets and Fusion Tables, Datawrapper and Tableau Public, just to name a few.
  • New forms of video journalism mixed with animation and data visualisations, what the BBC has called visual journalism. One of my favourite examples of this kind of journalism was the New Yorks series of animated data stories around the 2012 London Olympics, such as this one comparing Usain Bolt to other runners.
  • Of course, we also have a lot of experimentation in new styles of long-form journalism, with the New York Times’ Snowfall spawning a huge range of experimentation and excitement amongst journalists.

The biggest challenge for most media organisations is to choose the right technique for the story. Large organisations are deploying all of these techniques, but even large organisations need to prioritise their resources. For smaller newsrooms, the demands of digital often seem overwhelming and prioritisation is essential, especially as they work heard with smaller staffs to feed the goat.

To prioritise, news organisations need key members of editorial management who can choose the right technique for the story. Social media can be used to engage readers around most stories, but not all stories arise out of the conversations audiences are having. Long-form journalism only works for certain kinds of stories, and for news organisations to invest the amount of time and resource to do these, they also need to know that the story will resonate with audiences.

For me this all comes down to something that John Waters recently said on NPR as he was promoting a new book about a cross-country hitchhiking adventure he took. He said:

If I never make another movie, I’m fine. I’ll write another book, I’ll do another spoken tour, you know. I have many ways to tell stories that I like equally the same.

Fall in the love with the story not the storytelling technique. The best thing you can do for the story you love is to tell it in the way it was meant to be told. That will give the best chance that it will be read, viewed, shared, discussed and interacted with by audiences.

2 thoughts on “Fall in love with the story, not the storytelling technique

  1. I think an extra an has crept in. Shouldn’t it be?

    the demands of digital often seem overwhelming and prioritisation is essential, especially as they have to work harder with smaller staffs to feed the goat.

    Others a thoughtful piece.

    1. Thanks Jonathan, yes, you’re correct. I’ve edited it. Thank you for the copy editing. Hope you’re well.

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