Tell great stories

As a journalist, I was often told to be quick to report the news. Get the facts straight. Ask the right questions. Get them out quickly. That was how I was trained in the university and later in newsrooms by my tough editors.

However, as I got used to doing reports and news, I felt I was missing the point of doing journalism. While I was still out to expose the truth and to inform the public, I wanted to tell great stories. Thus, I remember one colleague telling me about what’s missing in the 5Ws and 1H. It was the SW–So What?

Today, I was reading this little yellow book called “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon who also wrote an earlier bestseller titled, “Steal Like an Artist.” I’m not big in self-help books nor do I endorse them, but sometimes I feel that we all need to be reminded about some universal truths about the universe.

Kleon–I believe–reads a lot of books, and one of the books that he came across was Significant Objects by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. He quoted from the book this line: “Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given object’s subjective value can actually be measured objectively.”

Kleon went on to narrate an experiment done by the duo where they picked insignificant objects from a thrift shop and got good writers to tell a story about them. They sold these objects on eBay along with invented stories about them. It turned out, people connected to stories behind these objects. Both sold about $100-worth of trinkets for $3K!

Telling good stories have always been my oft-repeated point when I talk about publishing in my class. What makes a news story better than the other? It’s great story telling–and with today’s technology, the means of telling that great story can help reach more people (think social media). But it’s the essence of a great narrative that takes people through a journey. Stories about paintings bring or even add more value to a piece of art. People value stories behind objects. As Kleon pointed out in his little yellow book: Work doesn’t speak for itself.

We need words! We want to know the story behind everything and anything. That’s human nature. We’re just too curious to know.

My top 5 favorite resource for digital publishing

There’s so much information out there. I’m drowning in it everyday. But there are at least five sites that I keep going back to because  of (1) compelling content and insightful writers; (2) variety and practicality stories; (3) useful insights and information you can take with you after reading. Of course, it’s up to you if you act on these information.

NiemanLab: According to this website, “The Nieman Journalism Lab is an attempt to help journalism figure out its future in an Internet age.” Stories here are quite long, but mostly worth the read. TL;DR be damned. “We want to find good ideas for others to steal. We want to help reporters and editors adjust to their online labors; we want to help traditional news organizations find a way to survive; we want to help the new crop of startups that will complement — or supplant — them. We are fundamentally optimistic.”

 Medium.com: My daily diet for stories about technology, the industry, arts, culture, science, money, television, or whatnot. It’s just a treasure trove of good writing in long or short-form. What’s good about Medium is that you can *follow* people and topics, and you can annotate articles via a unique system of commenting. Finally, Medium allows you to become part of this growing community if you pass their standards of writing. From a content consumer, you can become a content producer here.

 Digiday.com: I stumbled upon this site just last year as I was researching on publishing topics. This website is fairly a newcomer. But it features a lot of insights, interviews, and features on brands, publishing, agencies, and digital platforms. The writing is short, some are even in bullet-point style. Lots to bookmark from this site. So, go.

PBS MediaShift:  As the site’s kicker says, this is “Your Guide to the Digital Media Revolution.” There’s so much information here, including your usual “must-reads” on digital publishing, journalism education, links to more resources, etc.

CJR.org. Call me traditional, but this academic website that is produced by the world’s top journalism school remains a daily dose for those wanting to understand the context of media. Insights, commentaries, and news analysis are provided here. Also, they offer fresh and basic perspectives on digital media.

Its mission:

Columbia Journalism Review’s mission is to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society. Founded in 1961 under the auspices of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, CJR monitors and supports the press as it works across all platforms, and also tracks the ongoing evolution of the media business. The magazine, offering a mix of reporting, analysis, and commentary, is published six times a year; CJR.org weighs in daily, hosting a conversation that is open to all who share a commitment to high journalistic standards in the US and around the world.

There you go. If you have your own list of top sites to go to for digital publishing, please do share with me or leave a comment below. Thanks!