I can’t think of a single journalist I’ve ever worked with ever admitting they wanted to be a storyteller.
“Reporter” just sounds so important. It conjures images of the neatly coiffed Chet Dimplechin bearing witness to the mess the tornado made while standing in a pile of twisted metal and fluffy yellow insulation. “Reporter.” It sounds like someone we should pay attention to. Someone on whose every word we should hang.
“Storyteller” sounds like Uncle Fred after a couple eggnogs. But let’s look at the two.
Just what is a reporter? If we wanna look at it literally, a reporter is someone who compiles or prepares official reports. In the news business, that means pretty much anyone who works in the newsroom.
The water gets a little muddy when we look at what reporters do. In their simplest form, reporters present facts about issues, policies, ideas, and events that effect us. Yawn.
Now, what is a storyteller?
As the name would imply, stoyrtellers tell stories. . . And what are stories? They are tales of character, conflict, surprise. Storytellers use things like plot and conflict to convey universal truths. They hold our attention with twists and turns and the unexpected. They give context to our world through the worlds they create.
Which sounds like more fun? To do or to read/watch?
I get it. We’re journalists. Our business is event-driven. We deal in facts, officials, victims, perps, and men-on-the-street. These people are our characters. Their stories are our plot. Their gripes our conflict. Their lessons our universal truth.
The sooner we journalists start thinking of ourselves as Uncle Fred instead of Chet Dimplechin, the sooner we can begin transforming our product from a report to a work of art.
But leave the eggnog at home. . . The suits frown on juiced talent be they reporters or storytellers.