Tag Archives: everyman

Journalism fast and slow

For the past three years I have been writing, speaking and lecturing about narrative or “slow” journalism as one authetic and viable form of literary antidote to the bells and whistles of live feeds, multimedia storytelling and the cacophony that is today’s media landscape. I see it not as an either or situation, but a both.

In my 2008 book, Everyman News, I wrote about the popularity of longer narrative in newspapers and magazines:

“News can be delievered more quickly to the audience by other media than by a newspaper in at least a hundred, perhaps a thousand ways. ..Narrative journalism is an attempt to make the newsworthy print stories more permanent or at the very least to have the stories so painstakingly reported and written last longer than a junk email before it hits the trash bin.”

Today I read about the new British magazine,Delayed Gratification, debuting in January 2011 and celebrating what it calls “Slow Journalism” with the clever tagline, “Last to breaking news.” From its premiere issue, the editors define the magazine’s mission: 

“Print is not dead. For all the wily charms of the digital world with its tweets, feeds, blogs and apps, there is still nothing like the pleasure created by ink on paper.”

I hear a lot of people — mostly at cocktail parties– pontificating about the death of print media. Mostly they do not know what they are talking about, only quoting bloggers misquoting other people who speak third about unnamed sources who swear it is so.

It’s a big informational universe, and a duality to the needs of a varied and fickle audience. Sometimes we like our information in real time. Sometimes we want to devour 10 videos of the crime scene or the rescue or the avalanche as it is happening. And sometimes we want to read 5,000 words in a glossy, thick magazine written by a superb phrasemaker about a theory of what happened 100 years ago and its impact on popular culture.

Sometimes we want to hit delete before we are finished reading the post. Sometimes we want to save the article and keep it on th enightstand for a couple of years.  

There is room for it all. I tell that to my students at the Medill School of Journalism. And I remind myself of this as I tweet, blog, polish a magazine article or fix up a chapter in an upcoming book of 95,000 words.

Journalism can be fast. And sometimes it is not best to be first.

Journalism can be slow. Sometimes it is best to be the most thoughtful.

A combination of the two, thank you, dear Goldilocks, is journalism that is just right.  

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America Speaks But Who Listens?

Can 3,500 “regular Americans” come up with at least one good idea?

At a robustly informative event at the University Club in Chicago in late July hosted by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation about the fiscal future of America, MacArthur president Robert Gallucci explained America Speaks, a project partially funded byMacArthur along with other private foundations.

The innovative and inclusive project, headed by Carolyn Lukensmeyer, “discussed ways ordinary Americans can deal with problems,” Gallucci said.

America Speaks is an Everyman solution to every America’s financial concerns. The project was a 21st Century Town hall meeting launched in Philadelphia with 3,500 participants across 60 American cities in late June.

Chicago’s Navy Pier  was one site that attracted 500 eager participants. From Detroit to Des Moines, Louisville to Dallas, a diverse group of Americans came together to brainstorm for ways to secure our nation’s future fiscal health.

According to Gallucci, “A nation that does not control its finances does not control its destiny.”

Great democratic idea creatively executed, but will policy makers hear any of it? Really? Or will the results, painstakingly gathered, organized and streamlined, just be more everyman anecdotes for political stump speeches?

We’ll see.

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Storytelling and bigtime validation

“Chicago, we tell your stories” was the headline of a folded announcement over page one of the Chicago Tribune this morning.  ALL CAPS. Inside, editor Gerould Kern wrote: “We bring you stories about people who are part of the everyday drama of life in Chicago, stories that reveal who we are and what we value.” The backpage introduced the writers, columnists and photographers labelled “Chicago storytellers.”

Everyman news.

I had not heard or seen it so blatantly articulated before in a major newspaper. It validates all that I have researched and observed and continue to see in newspapers, not just in this country, but around the world. And not just in print, but in digital media formats, from blogs to broadcast outlets and long form text.

It’s about the story.

At the Medill School of Journalism, where this quarter I am teaching the freshmen in Reporting & Writing, one assignment was a speech story. Students needed to cover a newsworthy speech for credit sometime during the quarter, but regardless of when it happened,  it was due on Friday, November 20. Of course, about 12 of the 16 from my lab came in right on deadline. And three of the stories were about Gerry Kern’s speech at NU a few months ago. I graded those this morning.  

I was in the audience, too, for Kern’s speech and students got the basic gist. But today’s announcement on the Sunday front page from Kern was more than what he discussed back then. Today’s explicit declaration of a company-wide pursuit of everyman  narrative validates my assertion that everyman news is the direction of media, regardless of platform.

The story is king.

The audience craves stories that are personal, more in depth and categorized as human interest. They want a face to the news. They want the value-added journalism that is more than an opinion-soaked blog or an instant update from Twitter.

It gives me fodder for an essay I am working on for a magazine: the future of digital narrative. Far beyond the finite boundaries of a front page, journalism is emerging as a dim sum of narrative from a multitude of sources. Readers find the story they want, regardless of host outlet. The appetite is for a la carte narrative. Everyman news.

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