Posted on March 8, 2011
Is your story actually a story?
“The problem with many news stories is that they’re not really stories at all.” (Source: Advancing the Story, an excellent blog about broadcast journalism and multimedia.)
This is true not only in TV news but across the board — and not only for student work! Sometimes the material is new (or at least news), but it lacks story. It lacks the quality of a story.
I like to say a lot of journalism is merely reports. A report is NOT a story. The act of reporting can produce a story, but usually, it doesn’t.
The five W’s and an H produce a report, a listing of facts. A good reporter shapes them into a optimum bundle, with a sensible order and no unnecessary chatter, no repetition — and no factual errors (we hope). Around the world, that reporting bundle is called “a story,” and I’m not trying to change the vocabulary. What we call that bundle is not the issue.
The issue is that when I ask students to go out and find a story that is interesting, that is fresh, that has something new or provocative or engaging to offer — they come back with a report. A report about a fund-raising event, a band practice, a street-corner protest. But there’s no story there.
I think that in the process of teaching them reporting, we may kill their instinct for finding and telling real stories.
Is that the problem? Or have they never known what a story is?