I’ve spoken to a few college journalism classes on the future of news and how they have to be prepared to be a part of the new world. I’ve left many students shaking in their sneakers when they’re brought to the realization that storytelling is no longer just writing a number of words on a keyboard.
One commented that the future journalist will be packed up like a soldier going to war. An interesting comparison, and not that far off. Like a good soldier, the good journalist has a plethora of tools and methods to get the job done.
A good soldier won’t use everything at his beck and call, but instead chooses the weapon or weapons that will best accomplish the mission. Likewise, a good journalist won’t necessarily use everything in his toolbox to best tell the story. Instead, he will choose the tool or tools that will best tell the story in a way bthat will inform and amaze readers, and maybe even compel them to act.
Whether it’s words, audio, video, or a combination, the new journalist will have a far more options than previous generations of storytellers to get the story out. The trick, however, will be not to always rely on words, but decide on what platform the story can be best told. After all, readers won’t look twice at a story if it doesn’t immediately interest them.
Here’s a great example from the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, IL. Which format best tells this story? The first was in the print edition as a photo with caption:
Rubik’s master: Tim Klein, 11, shows his mastery over a Rubiks’s Cube at a talent show at St. Thomas of Villanova Elementary School in Palatine. With classmates in awe and “Flight of the Bumblebee” serving as dramatic background music, Tim solved the iconic puzzle in about 80 seconds. “Most people freak out, but it’s always the same thing,” said Tim, whose personal best is 64 seconds. “I start with the green edge pieces and work from the bottom up.” Tim, who got the touy at Christmas, said he used instructions for some sequences and figured out the rest himself. Many would think he definitely is an inspiration to the millions who’ve ever wanted to take a sledgehammer to the 3 x 3-inch cube. (Photo by Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald)
Now, here’s how the story is told online:
Which best tells the story?
Yes, as long as different platforms exist, and as long as there are different audiences for each platform, the new journalist will most likely need to create multiple versions of the same story. But, having the option to tell the story without words, or with words as a supplement to a powerful visual or audio, creates a potential never seen before in newspapers.
And in that respect, it’s a wonderful time to be a journalist!