This is what you’ll look like after reading all of these books… (“Study of a Man Reading” by Alphonse Legros)
This latest in the frequently asked questions series is an answer to an aspiring data journalism student who asks “Would you be able to direct me to any resources or text books that might help [prepare]?” Here are some recommendations I give to students on my MA in Data Journalism…
Books on data journalism as a profession
Data journalism isn’t just the application of a practical skill, but a profession with a culture, a history, and non-technical practices.
Middles and endings of long features are no less tricky than the beginnings you can spend so much time writing and rewriting. Often people fall back on particular habits which may not quite ‘work’ for the story being told.
Telling a story in chronological order, for example, is not always the most effective approach. Stories where the action is not equally dispersed chronologically can ‘sag’ in these cases and the momentum of a strong beginning get lost.
In those situations a storyteller with a varied toolbox might use places, or themes, or scenes, to keep that momentum going instead. Continue reading →
Beginnings are notoriously tricky for any writer. For news reporters the advice is simple: start with the ‘new’ thing in your story, and make sure there is a verb in there: a person has said something; a report has revealed something; authorities are looking for someone, warning about something, planning to do something; and so on.
But in longform and feature writing the approach is more subtle. Although we can choose to report that something has been ‘revealed’ right at the start, this risks removing tension from the story and leading the reader to abandon it before they have the full picture.
Instead, then, journalists use a number of techniques to keep the reader engaged across a longer format — with the important implied promise that the story is going to be worth it.
So, for anyone struggling to think of a way to start a longer story — or feel that you can improve the approach you’ve chosen — I’ve pulled together seven types of beginning that are used in longform reporting and feature writing, with some considerations to bear in mind — and plenty of examples. Continue reading →
When I saw Danish broadcaster TV2 Østjylland’s innovative meme-driven Instagram strategy to reach younger audiences, I immediately wanted to know more. So I spoke toHead of News Louise Petterson and Art Director Kristine Helms to find out how the organisation took on the challenge of a new language on a new platform — and what they have learned along the way.
With TV audiences ageing and public service broadcasters struggling to retain mass appeal, many news organisations have looked to new platforms to reach younger audiences. At TV2 Østjylland, Instagram was part of the mix — but they were acutely conscious that the organisation could no longer rely on traditional approaches to storytelling that journalists were used to.
“We couldn’t take a TV narrative and just put that onto Instagram or Facebook,” explains Louise Petterson. “We had to define a new narrative, a new way of communicating with a younger audience. Continue reading →
We needed to be able to take a collection of words such as “11 years and 5 months’ imprisonment” and convert that into something that could be used in spreadsheet calculations (specifically, comparing the lengths of time represented by two different phrases).
This year I’ve been working with my MA Data Journalism and MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism students on techniques for telling longer form stories. In this post I explain how a consideration of story structure can help you clarify the sources that you will need to talk to in order to gather the elements needed for an effective longform story.
In a previous post I discussed how different plot frameworks identified by Christopher Booker in his book ‘The Seven Basic Plots‘ – such as the ‘quest’ or ‘tragedy’ – can help a journalist think about longer investigations. In addition to those types of story, however, Booker also identifies 5 stages of a story. These are:
Anticipation: setting, character and – crucially – ‘problem’ are introduced.
Dream: we begin exploring/solving the problem.
Frustration: we hit more problems.
Nightmare: this is the ‘final battle’ of fiction narratives.
Miraculous Escape/Redemption/Achievement of the Prize or (in the case of Tragedy) the Hero’s Destruction.
How the 5 stages work in journalism
I would argue that you can see these stages at work in most longform journalism, too. Here’s how: Continue reading →
This year I’ve been working with my MA Data Journalism and MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism students on techniques for telling longer form stories. In this post I explain how a consideration of seven common plot types can help you clarify what story it is you’re telling – and what you might need to tell that.
There are many ways to tell a story, and many stories to tell. An investigation can be trying to establish the cause of a problem, or solutions to that problem; it can be revealing previously hidden unethical behaviour, or shining a light on issues which are ‘hidden in plain sight’; it can be holding a mirror up to a part of society to reveal its scale; or giving a voice to that part of society as a step towards a more sophisticated understanding of problems affecting it. And depending on the type of story, you might adopt different approaches to telling it. Continue reading →