I recently attended an excellent conference at Boston University on narrative storytelling in journalism. first of all, kudos to my employer for supporting a "staff development" trip like this -- I was pretty stunned that the conference was approved, but the fact that i came back re-inspired to put my nose to the grindstone and put out some quality content at work is testament to the value of investing in your employees, but ... i digress :)
at the conference, Jay Allison, a radio producer who founded The Moth and the "This I Believe" series on NPR, told a beautiful account about the fourth of july. his 4-year-old son sat in his lap watching fireworks, but continued to insist on, "story, story." Despite the incredible pyrotechnics going on right in front of his face, Allison's son wanted the fireworks to be narrated, to be told as a story.
something draws us to narrative. storytelling/story listening is in our dna.
not only is that good news for journalists, but it's also a challenge: how do you take an issue, a fact, a situation and retell it in a way that is compelling, visceral, and true? how do you tell a good story?
Stories are our prayers. Write and edit them with due reverence, even when the stories themselves are irreverent.
Stories are parables. Write and edit and tell yours with meaning so each tale stands in for a larger message, each story a guidepost on our collective journey.
Stories are history. Write and edit and tell yours with accuracy and understanding and context and with unwavering devotion to the truth.
Stories are music. Write and edit and tell yours with pace and rhythm and flow. Throw in the dips and twirls that make them exciting, but stay true to the core beat. Readers hear stories with their inner ear.
Stories are our soul. Write and edit and tell yours with your whole selves. Tell them as if they are all that matters. It matters that you do it as if that's all there is.