A lot of journalists got into this business because they like to tell stories.
I think that’s one fundamental reason why so many journalists have a hard time adapting to the changing news landscape. For me, it was never about the story — it was always about the information and news.
So, if the format changes, it doesn’t really bother me. I’m not married to the format or the medium. I’m not here to weave intricate narratives and tell stories.
In fact, I’m not very good at telling oral stories. But I can tell you a lot of facts, figures and information.
This post was brought on by two things. First, the other night I was getting some drinks with some journalists and one said, “I’m not a journalist. I’m a storyteller.” He talked about how he had trouble keeping his stories short and didn’t like taking out quotes and information for brevity.
Obviously, his work was more for himself than for his readers. That’s does not serve our readers well, and it certainly doesn’t help journalism.
The second part of this post was inspired by a post by Howard Owens, “Not all information needs to be crafted into a story:”
Storytelling, whether written or visual, then becomes something that is more about serving your own ego than serving your readers.
So check your ego, whether writing or shooting, and give people useful or entertaining information in an accessible package. Save the storytelling for when you really have a story to tell.
A lot of journalism seems to be ego driven. Some journalists report on what they want to cover, in the mediums they want to report in. It has very little to do with what people actually want.
But we’re in a business. We have to produce a product that people want. And most people just don’t read the whole story (thanks to Owens for the link):
But here’s the thing: journalists have always been far more entranced by ‘the story’ than audiences. Less than a quarter of newspaper readers claim to read to the end of a story, even one they’re interested in … and of those, over two thirds don’t read every word.
Yes, sometimes journalism is storytelling, but as Owens notes, we should save the storytelling for when we have really good stories to tell. I see so many feature, anecdotal and other non-news ledes on stories that are really just news stories.
Let me tell you something: I have stopped reading a lot of news stories because I didn’t want to put up with another boring feature lede on a news story. I wanted the news, and I wasn’t willing to wait for some journalist’s ego to go by. And I’ve read some great non-news ledes and they were usually on great feature stories.
If you’re a storyteller, it’s no fun to have to truncate your stories. Is it really a good story then? Is blogging a good storytelling medium? Probably not.
But if you’re in the business of providing facts, figures, information — news — you’ll find blogging and Web journalism to be amazing. The Web (and its mobile cousin) provide a great deal of immediacy and depth that print never could. The Internet is an awesome vehicle for information.
Too many journalists think of themselves as storytellers and not as journalists. People ultimately want journalism so they can be informed. I think if we concentrate on making journalism that people want, we’ll find ourselves and our industry in much better shape.
And sometimes people want great stories, but let’s not force every news item into the storytelling format.