Story-Telling is Only Human, so the News Media gets into the Act

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

A narrative is a story that has a beginning, middle and end. It engages the reader’s mind and heart. It shows actors moving across its stage, revealing their characters through their actions and their speech. At its heart, a narrative contains a mystery or a question-something that compels the reader to keep reading and find out what happens.


A traditional news feature starts with an anecdote or scene, moves to a nut graph that tells the reader where the story is going and then spends the rest of the piece explaining and supporting the nut graph.

A narrative, on the other hand, lets the story unfold through character, scene and action-usually without summing up the story and telling readers what it’s about. A narrative also attaches a little story  to a big story — it is built around theme.

In journalism, a Nut graph is a paragraph, particularly in a feature story, that explains the news value of the story. […] ie, “in a nutshell” paragraph……

News Feature v. Narrative: What’s the Difference?

Rebecca Allen — January 9, 2006

In a Nutshell, People like Stories.  

In a Nutshell, People like Stories.

The yearly ritual of the Oscars, illustrates that fact.

Stories are an excellent way to communicate lessons, and values, in a very memorable way. Indeed some would say that each one of us has “a story” — although for most of us that story usually finds only a limited audience, unlike the fictional tales of the silver screen.

Stories form the back-drop of our lives. They can become the frame onto which we project ourselves to find solace, and strength, and catharsis. Films can provide meaning, in an otherwise often meaningless world.

So when the News Media, willing adopts the technique of the News Narrative, to play upon our fondness of Story-Telling, shouldn’t we be worried?  Or is it simply a “better way” to reach a wider audience, with the “truths” that our Newsroom Editors wish to convey.

Are “News Narratives” creating the News, the same way Jim Cameron creates a character, and unwinds a Storyline. Or are they simply taking dull boring facts, and making them more palatable for our Fact-filled noggins?

News Narratives and Television News Editing

Keren Esther Henderson, B.A., University of Toronto, 2000

August 2007

Narratives and News [pg 6]

While an account is merely a recollection of facts, a narration is the process of telling a story in such a way that the story itself takes on meaning outside of its details. According to Fisher (1984), storytelling is the very essence of being human. Fulton (2005) notes that, “as long as human beings have had the power of speech, they have been speaking in narratives…” (p.1).

Humans produce narratives, or what Barthes (1972) calls “myths,” as a way of categorizing and making sense of the society in which they live. “The act of narrating,” Ryan (2004) explains, “enables humans to deal with time, destiny, and morality; to create and project identities; and to situate themselves as embodied individuals in a world populated by similarly embodied subjects” (p.2).…

News Narratives, sound a lot like “framing” to me. When the Republicans can repeat value-added phrases like, Cornhusker Kickback, Louisiana Purchase, and GatorAid — and they get reported verbatim, by the News Narrators, without question or follow up analysis — as just part of “today’s storyline”haven’t they crossed over from Reporting to Drama?

It makes for ‘Good TV’ I guess — but does it make for well informed Citizens?

Here’s another first-hand News Narrative, about first-hand News Narratives. This time the fall-out of such up-close Story-telling may have led to more dire consequences, than initially intended:

Home Fires: Narrative and Memory at War

By ROMAN SKASKIW, NYTimes — March 6, 2010

This is the last of a five-part series, “Retelling the War,” in which veterans discuss how books, movies and other tales of combat shaped their perceptions of themselves and of war.

I remember Iraq, 2003-04. This was before the swarms of reporters left in search of riper piles. The well-crafted story then, as now, involved the struggles of well-intentioned soldiers, though back then it contrasted more starkly with how I think I remember feeling.

Morale in my unit was generally high, especially early on, and I resented the efficiency with which reporters seemed to sniff out the young soldier among us who was having a hard time. I resented the constant parade of them on the news.

The reports were honest, of course, but as I’ve written before, the problem with war narratives isn’t lying. The problem is there’s too much truth. Everything you’ve ever heard or suspected about armed conflict is likely true. The enterprise is so vast that writers, myself included, can choose whichever truths support a particular thesis. So yes. We struggle. We struggle famously, and probably more so as our wars approach the decade mark.

But who will tell the story of those who don’t struggle to adjust?


Although it puts me and many of my personal friends in a flattering light, I fear the narrative of the reluctant, well-intentioned soldier because, along with similar reverence for all things military, it seems a requisite for endless war. The misguided motives of empire hide behind the sympathetic portrayal of its servants.


The way a story gets told — matters.

We were told lots of Stories about WHY we had to go to war — Stories that our News Media willingly helped to re-tell (without question, without follow-up).

But after nearly a decade of telling those tales, perhaps the News Media should take a moment, after thanking their many patrons — take a moment to stop and ask:

Just how many of those Stories were True?

Perhaps they should even ponder, Why is it that “The Hurt Locker” is still a story that needs to be told

IF the Stories they sold us about “Mission Accomplished” actually had that “Happy Ending” portrayed by those former actors, and the well-worn stage craft, that they were all to eager film? … all to willing to celebrate.

It seems a LOT of Questions should be asked, looking back.  But that would ruin the Storyline, now wouldn’t it?


    • jamess on March 8, 2010 at 02:07

    Who gets to tell the stories,

    about the Story Tellers?

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