The Power Of Narrative Biz (7minutes)Webinar Transcript
The Power of Narrative Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University
What is narrative …
… at a minimum, writing with set scenes and characters…
… action that unfolds over time…
… the interpretable voice of a teller, a narrator with a somewhat discernable personality…
… and all arrayed to lead the audience toward a point of realization.
-- Mark Kramer, Nieman Narrative Program
What is narrative…
… a simple thing, at bottom: chronology with meaning.
-- Jon Franklin, author of “Writing for Story’’
What the studies show
ASNE Literacy Committee Report – 1993.
Over a thousand interviews yielded statistically significant evidence that:
traditionally organized news stories are the least effective at imparting information;
readers stayed longer with stories written in a narrative mode;
articles that made an effort to explain assumptions and contexts attracted younger and less well-educated readers.
Summary from Dr. Georgia Green, Professor of Linguistics, University of Illinois
What the studies show
Readership Institute Impact Study 2001
Many readers are turned off by the inverted pyramid style that is used in 70 percent of newspaper stories
Feature style, defined essentially as narrative, “increases satisfaction’’ and improves “brand perception.’’
Readers say newspapers that use this approach seem more “honest, fun, neighborly, intelligent, in-the-know and more in touch with their values.’’
Narrative Around North America
Los Angeles Times
“ In the vast migration that is changing the U.S. thousands of children travel alone seeking the mothers who went before them…
“ This story (a six-part series) chronicles the journey of a teen who traveled alone from Honduras in search of his mother.”
Reporter: Sonia Nazario; photographer: Don Bartletti
One thousand e-mails; Pulitzer Prize for feature writing 2003, plus 20 other awards. It will soon become an HBO mini-series.
Telling anecdote: Nazario got calls and emails from people who were angry that the series did not run on consecutive days, people calling saying they got up early to go get the paper wanting to know "Where the hell is today's installment?"
Jacqueline Saburido is a young woman whose old life vanished in flames on a September night in 1999.
An 18-year-old drunken driver veered over the yellow line. Two passengers in Jacqui's car died, and Jacqui was left burned over 60 percent of her body.
Staff writer David Hafetz and photographer Rudy Gonzalez spent nearly a year, chronicling Jacqui's life and the devotion of her father, Amadeo, for this 5,000 word feature story that became an instrument of public service in the community.
“ We got hundreds of e-mails from all over the world, from a tiny village in Colombia to big media outlets in Mexico City.
“ Just last week (March 2004) we got another order for 100,000 copies of the reprint that will be distributed in schools throughout Texas by the Dept. of Transportation. That brings our reprint total to about a half million.
Web page views for the project May 2002-July 2003 were 6.98 million.” -- Maria Henson, AME, projects.
Four-hundred-fifty e-mails and about as many phone calls. Pulitzer finalist 2003.
Telling anecdote: Schultz said that she was about three months into the reporting for the series when one of the main characters she was reporting on was standing on the lawn watching her get into her car and he said, "I can't believe you keep coming back here and it's not because someone got murdered."
Sukhwinder Sing Dhillon lied, cheated, committed bigamy _ and murdered using strychnine. The immigrant had gone back to find wives in his native India, and returned with them to his new home in Canada.
Then he killed them.
For years he got away with it, until an insurance investigator and two determined detectives brought him to justice.
On Jan. 25, 2003, two days after Dhillon went to prison, the Spectator began publishing Poison , a 31-part series that ran two broadsheet pages each weekday and SIX in the weekend edition.
Reporter: Jon Wells, photographer Scott Gardner
Five percent increase in daily single copy sales for the Spectator, a newspaper with about 105,000 daily circ and 15,000 single copy. Fifty-eight thousand hits on Spectator’s website.
Telling anecdote: “Prior to launch our circulation director predicted that such an unwieldy piece would send our readers fleeing in droves.
“ Before the series was over, the circ. director was asking if we could somehow extend it.” -- Kevin Cavanagh, training and development editor.
http://www.thespec.com (click on feature reports, then poison)
Several hundred e-mails, numerous phone calls and letters.
Telling anecdote: “Many readers were moved to shared their own stories with us. Some of them were opening up about family secrets for the first time. Their stories were often as dark as my mother’s yet they held nothing back.” – Howard Reich