Kevin Marsh thinks story telling is dead. He says in “Death of the Story” that the story — you know, that thing with the lede the nut graph and the quotes — has no place in the future of journalism. The sky is falling and the future is bleak. Isn’t that what we always hear about journalism? Marsh seems to mistake the story’s change for its death.
Sure, the traditional story format has its shortcomings. It’s often too long to hold readers’ interest in today’s era of instant gratification. Sometimes it shows an incomplete picture of things as writers leave out certain voices and angles in order to work their information into the perfect story. People like formats such as Twitter, SMS text updates and news tickers because they get to the point without all the fuss.
But Marsh’s own words explain exactly why the story will never die: “We like narrative because the conscious part of our brains works in a linear way: we can take in first one thing, then another, then another.”
Instead of burying the story and delivering all news in 140-character snippets, maybe we should just adapt our stories to fit new formats. The story needs more, not less. Timelines, maps and other infographics help readers digest the specifics of a story. Photo galleries and video clips help them visualize the events and get a better feel for the characters involved. Interactive elements like polls, comment boards and live chats allow readers to really engage with the story.
Mark S. Luckie of 10,000 Words understands how the Internet can enhance journalism. He does a great job of explaining how to use new technology to enhance a story. In this Nov. 19 post, he gives readers a peak at an investigative story about overcrowded classrooms in California. An interactive graphic shows how student-teacher ratios in California compare to those in other states. A video clip depicts teachers affected by the crowding and really gets at the human element of the problem. Finally, an interactive map shows trends in classroom size. Now tell me this isn’t good storytelling.
But ineffective use of the Internet can be a killer. Luckie blogs with wit about rookie mistakes journalists make with Twitter and other forms of “new media.” His recent post, 7 Reasons why your readers hate your blog, is certainly something I’ll keep in mind as I embark on my new blog.
So why is Luckie exploring the latest tools while Marsh is mourning a so-called death? It’s not age, exactly, but it is. Marsh’s allegiance to the old way of doing things is so strong that he refuses to acknowledge the possibility that the story is evolving and even thriving. While younger journalists might be, generally speaking, better able to adapt to changing technology, it isn’t age that holds Marsh and his compatriots back. The older generations of journalists can — and should — master today’s storytelling tools, but the newest generation can’t match the wisdom and experience that come from decades in the field. If we want journalism to survive, we’ll need both.