Monday, September 21, 2009

Coming to York a bittersweet tale

If you haven’t already, be sure and check out Melissa Nann Burke’s narrative from Sunday. See it here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Storytelling in a headline

I really like this headline/readout, from today's paper (and I'll find out who committed this act of creativity and honor that person here)*:

Police: Driver hit cars for blocks
Then she kicked an officer in the groin.

The word 'then' makes this feel like a two-sentence story by making the action a sequence of events. It answers the unstated (but felt in a reader's mind) question, 'then what happened?' And that makes it pleasing to read -- more so than if, say, the readout had been 'She also kicked an officer in the groin.' That would have made it feel a bit more like a list.

Can we do more of this kind of headline storytelling?

*Jess says it's Matt Negrin, the second-newest addition to the desk. Nice work, Matt.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nice turns of phrase

This from David von Drehle's profile of Glenn Beck in Time magazine. I like both the food metaphor in the line about bipartisanship, and the financial one about trust & good faith.

Does anyone think it detracts from the picture he's trying to paint by using two metaphors back-to-back that are so different? Just a thought. They still work for me.

Glenn Beck: the pudgy, buzz-cut, weeping phenomenon of radio, TV and books. Our hot summer of political combat is turning toward an autumn of showdowns over some of the biggest public-policy initiatives in decades. The creamy notions of postpartisan cooperation — poured abundantly over Obama's presidential campaign a year ago — have curdled into suspicion and feelings of helplessness. Trust is a toxic asset, sitting valueless on the national books. Good faith is trading at pennies on the dollar. The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called "the paranoid style" — the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country — is aflame again, fanned from both right and left. Between the liberal fantasies about Brownshirts at town halls and the conservative concoctions of brainwashed children goose-stepping to school, you'd think the Palm in Washington had been replaced with a Munich beer hall.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jacqui to study the future of storytelling

News from the U. of Missouri (thanks to Nickie for flagging it) is that Jacqui Banaszynski will study the future of storytelling during her 2009-2010 Donald W. Reynolds Fellowship.

Excerpt from the story linked above:

“One thing getting lost in the combination of cutbacks and Twitter speed is the kind of in-depth storytelling journalists were encouraged to do in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” says Banaszynski, who holds the Knight Chair in Editing at the Missouri School of Journalism. And that impacts the public, not just those who make a living crafting the stories. “Stories define us as human beings. They were written on rocks, and maybe some day they will be written on the stars. Story telling is how people connect,” she says.

Banaszynski wants to figure out how people in 2009 are using journalistic stories in their own lives. “What do they get from them? What’s missing?” she says.

Never give up

This story made me think about all sorts of people who have turned down interviews.

Usually, they fall by the wayside. Forgotten. They said no.

For me, this serves as a reminder to keep trying for those really intriguing stories.

Mick Taylor, the guitarist who quit the Rolling Stones during their heyday, would not talk to reporters. He lives in a run-down house. He has never collected a royalty check. He's never publicly explained why.

Until now.

(Photo of Mick Taylor via

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When it's not your fault

A few years ago, we had interns in Washington, D.C. through a deal with Medill News Service (under the auspices of Northwestern U.'s j-school). We had one each semester, resulting in quite a few different bylines.

Lauren Fitzpatrick was one of the best, if not the best, Medill correspondents we had. I remember her as curious, smart, a good bullshit detector, pretty much fearless, and able to find good storylines in the often grinding, plodding world of the federal government.

She's now at the Southtown Star in Chicago (been there for a while, actually, I believe) and is in the middle of a media controversy of sorts: She wrote a story about a tragic event; a local TV station lifted her story and re-ran it, but made errors in the process; and when the family got mad, they got mad not at the TV station but at Lauren.

The Chicago Reader has now written about this, and I call your attention to it not just because it's an interesting story about journalists and their jobs, but because I love how Lauren is handling the situation and what she says about doing what we all know can be a really tough job sometimes.

Speaking of multimedia, listen here

Anyone listen to Radiolab? Just heard about it this morning. Two guys, Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad (Krulwich being a former national-level science reporter, not sure about Abumrad's resume), talk deeply but informally about science and other things that talking about science leads you to.

I'm going to check it out to see what there is to learn about audio storytelling (and not just because I love freaky nature stuff, like the video that's on the web site right now titled "Zombie cockroach revived by brain shot.")

If you've listened to it, or listen to it after reading this, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Journalism prof's guide to multimedia journalism

... and, of course, to multimedia storytelling.

Mindy McAdams of the University of Florida blogged
on how journalists can "transform themselves," as she puts it, into multimedia journalists. She collected those 15 posts and put them in a PDF. It's available here, but it's long, so I thought I'd do a quick abstract, based at least in part on Mindy's text, to help. If you want more, see the whole document; it's pretty good stuff.

1. Read blogs and use RSS -- Read blogs, especially ones about online & multimedia, to help you understand changes in media, keep up with the changes, and adapt. Set up an RSS reader (e.g., Google Reader)

2. Start a blog -- Helps, or in some cases makes, you search for new information and connect with other online/multimedia sites & people.

3. Buy an audio recorder and learn to use it -- In our case, see Chris Glass. A number of you have added audio to your reporting/storytelling already. Anyway, audio adds another level to your work.

4. Start editing audio -- Again, some of you have done this here. Great. And you know it can be time consuming. But it's similar to editing your notes or notebook as you turn from reporting to writing ... so you already have some skills. As McAdams notes, this also forces you to broaden your computer skills, a necessity if you're embracing multimedia.

5. Listen to podcasts -- You need to hear good audio stories to have something to model yours on, to have something to shoot for.

6. Post an interview (or podcast) on your blog -- So you're saying, Blanchard, why haven't you posted an interview or podcast on your blog? Guilty. But this is another area where doing this forces you to broaden your journalistic skills.

7. Learn how to shoot decent photos -- Because, as McAdams says simply, every journalist ought to be able to get a basic spot news photo. You might be the only one there.

8. Learn how to crop, tone and optimize photos -- Check in with Chris or Brad on this one if you want to learn. Again, McAdams is approaching this from the standpoint of, if you're going to be a fully-developed multimedia journalist, you've got to know how to work with your own photos.

9. Add photos to your blog -- This is quite easy in Blogger, but Movable Type drives me up a wall. Maybe I'm doing something wrong ... but in any case, if you have a blog, try to get art on it the same as you would try to get art with a story in print.

10. Learn to use soundslides -- This is a different, and usually very cool, way of storytelling, and something that our photographers do very well. Making your own might even be fun.

11. Tell a good story with images and sound -- If you have a story that's worth telling this way, you ought to be able to pull it off.

12. Learn to shoot video -- The natural extension of No. 11.

13. Edit your video -- The natural extension of No. 12. Again, many of you have done this. Chris and Brad and probably others can coach you.

14. Publish your video on your blog -- Tom Joyce seems to have taken to this nicely. Blogs are better when they have more than just headlines and text. (I need to find a picture to go with this post).

15. Maintain/udpate your skills -- To crib from McAdams: Get over your fear, learn to fail, find good tutorials. From me: Keep pushing yourself. You're not going to master any or all of these things in a couple of weeks, or after one coaching session or a three-day seminar. But by making time to work at them, you'll first learn, then get better. That's the point.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's late, so what the heck, I'll do an edit on the NYT

I called up the New York Times story Nickie flagged in her post below to get started. I read the first sentence, then the first graf, then returned to the first sentence:

"The smell of death was overpowering the moment a relief worker cracked open one of the hospital chapel’s wooden doors. Inside, more than a dozen bodies lay motionless on low cots and on the ground, shrouded in white sheets. Here, a wisp of gray hair peeked out. There, a knee was flung akimbo. A pallid hand reached across a blue gown."

I thought, couldn't the first sentence have been smoother, active, tighter with an edit such as:

"The smell of death overpowered the relief worker who cracked open one of the hospital chapel's wooden doors."

Agree? Or is there something about the words "the moment" that make that sentence hum, and I'm out of tune here? Let me know what you think. (And I would add ... the rest of the graf is pretty darn good ... )

On short writing

Poynter's Roy Peter Clark on telegraphs, poetry, writing short, and, yes, Twitter. As usual, he has a great take on this, linking the art and utility of short writing through various forms and over decades.