Articles about "Narrative journalism"


At annual narrative conference, storytelling’s power remains as it changes

It begins with “once upon a time.” The stories she tells and wants to tell through “Frontline” all start that way — as stories. There’s journalism embedded inside that phrase, Raney Aronson-Rath told Poynter in a phone interview. And for Aronson, deputy executive producer of “Frontline,” one of her once upon a times happened in Taiwan.

Aronson was just 22, a young reporter attracted to journalism through economics and politics, watching democracy unfold in Taipei. She couldn’t get at the big political stories, though. There was a senior reporter for that. So she found another way. Aronson started spending time with a group of young Taiwanese. They’d vote for the first time, their parents never had that chance. Through them, she told the story of mainland China and Taiwan.

Before then, it never occurred to Aronson that she could tell a story about real people that would resonate beyond just those people and their lives. But it did.

After that, “I just wanted to do narrative storytelling with journalism inside.”

Aronson is a keynote speaker for the Power of Narrative conference at Boston University April 4 through the 6 (Poynter is a co-sponsor). The conference, in its 16th year, has its own story.… Read more


How two young journalists are highlighting longform journalism written by women

Kaylen Ralph and Joanna Demkiewicz want to help change the under-representation of women in longform journalism.

The two young journalists have created an online and print magazine called The Riveter, which highlights longform pieces and narratives written by women. They crowdfunded the project through a site called Indiegogo and raised $2,000.

A little over a week ago, they published the first print issue of The Riveter. The magazine includes four longform pieces — which are also published on The Riveter’s website — as well as some bonus content, including a photo essay by freelance photographer Alex Potter, who’s based in Yemen; book reviews; an interview with Texas Monthly Executive Editor Pamela Colloff; a book excerpt from Holly Grigg-Spall; and “a Not All-Inclusive History Timeline of Women in Journalism (think black feminist Gertrude Mossell in the late 1800s and Gloria Steinem in the 1970s)” as The Riveter’s site describes it.

I talked with Ralph and Demkiewicz via email to find out more about the project and what they hope to accomplish.

How did the idea for The Riveter come about?

Ralph (left) and Demkiewicz. Photo by Sally French.

The Riveter has been a long time coming.… Read more

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Longform journalism morphs in print as it finds a new home online

As technology has renewed attention to longform journalism with platforms, apps and sites like Instapaper, Longreads, Byliner, The Atavist, Kindle Singles and The Longform iPad app to name a few, I wondered: Does longform journalism still have a place in print?

Rethinking how we define longform

What do we mean when we say longform journalism? Is it defined by length, by quality, by the time it took to write it? Some journalists say the way we define longform journalism — particularly in print —  needs to change.

Oregonian Senior Writer Anna Griffin says that because of limited resources and a smaller newshole, “longform” no longer means a 200-inch story.

“The days of a big, four-column double truck in a daily paper are over. You can find a way to write longform, but you have to be much more judicious about how long it’s going to be,” Griffin said by phone. “There is magic to a really great 50-inch feature that we’re learning to appreciate. But even 50 inches has become a hard thing to get.”

Neil Brown, editor of Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times, says he’s become increasingly concerned with the phrase “longform” — particularly given that print longform stories are so often accompanied by multimedia online.… Read more

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New longform science journalism site ‘Matter’ launches today

Matter, a site that publishes longform stories about science and technology, launched today. The site, which will publish one story per month, is open to people who sign up as members. For 99 cents, they’ll get access to monthly stories, along with ebook and audiobook versions of the story.

Members are also invited to online question and answer sessions with the site’s editors and writers to find out more about the reporting that went into each story.

The site launched with a story about Body Integrity Identity Disorder, which affects people who want to remove some part of their bodies — often a limb or two. Anil Ananthaswamy profiled a man who has the disease and accompanied him when he got his leg amputated in Asia. The 7,700-word story explains a complicated disorder through the eyes of someone who suffers from it.

“This story was put together by great people who worked hard and went the extra mile to do a level of reporting you don’t find in too many places,” Matter Co-Founder Bobbie Johnson said via email.

But will people be willing to pay for it?… Read more


How the Internet is giving the quest narrative new relevance for journalism

From Odysseus’ journey home to Mario’s mission to rescue Princess Peach Toadstool, the basic template of the quest narrative has been used again and again to command our attention. Joseph Campbell famously dubbed it the “Monomyth” — the one story to rule them all — ascendant across every human society, in every age.

Ever since journalists moved beyond the inverted pyramid and into the world of narrative, they’ve found themselves in the inescapable thrall of the quest. When Gay Talese turned Frank Sinatra into a sniffling, irritable Everyman trying to vanquish the common cold and reclaim his untouchability, he joined a long line of narrative journalism structured, in essence, as a quest. And for good reason — the format remains hugely popular.

After Atul Gawande employed the quest format in the New Yorker to explore why health care costs differed so widely among similar cities, his piece quickly became required reading in the White House. It was “one of the most influential health care stories in recent memory,” according to Kaiser Health News.

When Adam Davidson and Alex Blumberg adopted the form to investigate why the world economy exploded in 2007, they ended up producing one of the most popular public radio stories ever.… Read more


Jack Hart offers tips for writing better narratives

There is no editor or writing coach in America who has done more to encourage good storytelling than Jack Hart.

After a distinguished career as a journalism professor at the University of Oregon, Jack reverted to the newsroom of the Oregonian, where he nurtured some of the best narrative writers in journalism, and became a writing coach with a national following.

Jack has compiled all that know-how into a new book, “Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction,” which deserves a spot on your book shelf right between “Writing Tools” and “Help! For Writers.”

What I like best about Jack’s book is the recognition that stories are different from reports. It is one thing to imagine yourself as a storyteller. It is quite another to fulfill all parts of the process with narrative in mind.

During this week’s writing chat, we talked with Jack about his new book and his tips for narrative writers. We hope you’ll join us with your thoughts and questions.

You can replay the chat here:

<a href=”″ mce_href=”″ >Jack Hart offers tips for writing better narratives</a>… Read more

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New Read it Later data show more people are saving ‘longform videos’

Read it Later
Apps like Read it Later have made it easier for people to save not just longform articles, but longform videos. New data released this morning show that video saves on Read it Later increased by more than 138 percent from January 2011 to January 2012.

The median length of Read It Later’s top 1,000 saved videos was nearly 30 minutes. Of the top 1,000 videos, 32 percent were more than five minutes long.… Read more


What do we mean by ‘longform journalism’ & how can we get it ‘to go’?

A Kickstarter project run by two journalists raised $50,000 in just 38 hours last week and has raised a total of $87,297 so far. The goal of the project, called “Matter,” is to “publish a single piece of top-tier long-form journalism about big issues in technology and science. That means no cheap reviews, no snarky opinion pieces, no top ten lists. Just one unmissable story.”

The project raises interesting questions about what constitutes longform journalism. We know that technology has renewed attention to longform journalism in recent years. But it’s also changed how we think about it.

Do we define longform by the quality of the writing? By the amount of time it took to write? By the research it entailed? Or do we define it by length? The longform journalism site Longreads, for instance, asks people to “post their favorite stories over 1,500 words.”

These conceptual differences matter, says New York Times science reporter Natalie Angier. When I asked her about the “Matter” Kickstarter project, Angier said she’s been wondering what people mean when they say “longform” journalism. She tends to equate it less with length and more with depth of reporting.

“Even as the editors have cut back on the column inches they’ll allot to my work (or anybody else’s), I continue to treat every piece I write as though it were an in-depth feature,” Angier said.… Read more

A Pakistani man walks past graffiti, "Osama Bin Town" which people woke up to early Friday May 6, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, over a wall near the house, where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed by a U.S. military force of SEALs. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Schmidle defends sourcing in New Yorker’s ‘Getting bin Laden’ story, while narrative editors suggest improvements

In his recent New Yorker piece, “Getting Bin Laden,” Nicholas Schmidle shares a powerful account of what happened the night that Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The details in the story, however, didn’t come from the SEALs themselves but from others who had debriefed them. Several readers have since criticized Schmidle for not being clearer about this in the story.

The criticism renews attention to the challenges narrative journalists face when they rely on second-hand accounts, and it raises questions about what they can do to let audiences know more about how they got their information.

Schmidle, a freelance writer who’s written a book about Pakistan, doesn’t think he led readers astray.

From the cover flap (‘Nicholas Schmidle talks to the people who planned the mission to find out exactly what happened that night in Abbottabad’) to the language inside, at no point did we mislead the reader into thinking that I had, in fact, interviewed SEALs directly,” Schmidle told me via email. “It would be unusual, in an article about a highly classified subject, for the reporter to list who he did NOT speak to.” (New Yorker Editor David Remnick has made a similar argument.)

But it’s not a matter of listing who Schmidle didn’t talk to; it’s a matter of describing in greater detail the people he did speak with.… Read more


New York Times begins weekly showcase of its best long-form journalism

The New York Times
Starting today, New York Times editors are picking the week’s best long-form journalism and packaging them into a “Long Story Shortlist,” posted on the Times Magazine’s blog. They’ll include one pick from the Times’ archives, too. (This week’s archive pick is a story from last fall about British tabloid hacking.) People who follow the #Longreads hashtag on Twitter can find the picks that way. || Related: How technology is renewing attention to long-form journalism.… Read more