Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why humans need narrative (and other good stuff from ex-Washington Post editor)

Former Washington Post editor Tom Shroder, who's worked with Gene Weingarten and David Finkel among many others, has some instructive, compelling, inspiring and above all realistic thoughts on narrative journalism and its future in a digital age at Nieman Storyboard.

Two I'd point out:

Narrative is the way that human beings are genetically coded to understand the world. From the very beginning of the human ability to communicate, the way we’ve understood each other is through story. You can get a bunch of information together and try to communicate something, but you aren’t going to feel you really grasp an issue until you see it unfold in story form. The most meaningful conversations you have with your friends are you telling them stories of your experiences. People who are good at telling narratives will always be valuable. 


Any really great narrative journalist understands that there are no bad stories, there are only incompletely understood stories. That idea—that everything in life is going to be one hell of a story—is what drives the best. And what makes them deliver so consistently. If you look at somebody like Gene or Finkel, you might ask, “How is it that something perfect always seems to happen to them to make the story great?”

Gene and I call that the god of journalism. But the god of journalism pays off the persistent.

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